Ritesh Pallod

My trip to Qatar for FIFA WC

Credit to the main man, Ian Anderson, friend & boss at work who arranged and planned the whole world cup trip. Only bumm part of the trip was that you couldn't join us! We'll do the next Euros together!

Day 0: To go to Qatar, you go to Abu Dhabi first

Having spent so much on the WC tickets for 5 matches, superb seats I tell you, and getting a good accommodation, it was natural that Abhijith & I would find the cheapest flights available from Bangalore to Qatar . We got the flights ~60% cheaper with a layover at Abu Dhabhi.

That is how we ended up at Abu Dhabhi for our World Cup trip. Our layover was more than 14 hours, enough to do significant sight seeing.

Day 1: Abu Dhabi - Cars & Culture

Right after landing to Abu Dhabi, Abhijith & I got a sim card, got ourselves a couple of metro / commute cards. A map of the bus routes. Old school style. And decided to head to the Grand Mosque first & then Louvre Museum.

While Abhijith preferred to follow the map & the bus routes to the core, I wanted to experiment by roaming around the city in the peak noon hours. We both had good & stupid reasons to support our plan. Ended up being a mix.

Things that stood out from our mini 1 day Abu Dhabhi trip -

  1. HEAT, its crazy hot
  2. SUPER CARS. WTF! So many premium, sports, luxary cars on the road!
  3. SKYSCRAPERS! First time in a new country, this was unreal to say the least.

We were so smitten by the above three that I don't even have photos to express this.

Following are photos from Grand Mosque & Louvre Museum

Day 2: Netherlands vs Ecuador & Souq Waqif

We were in Qatar! Met Farhat at the accomodation. Picked up some yoghurt, apples, diet cokes from the nearest 24/7 grocery shop. Had to do some rice shopping for my "soaked in water somehow" work macbook.

We headed to Al Corniche via Metro. Intent was to check that place out, one of the first "corniche" we'd be seeing. While it was super sunny, we also later realized that the place wasn't much to look at. We took a cab, and headed to Souq Waqif.

What is Souq Waqif ?

Souq Waqif is a marketplace - food, spices, souvenirs, clothes - literally everything you'd want from Doha, its here! During the World Cup, lots of fans of all nationalities come there to eat the food, buy souvenirs, have sheehsa, or simply have fun. The place truly captured the world cup spirit. It is highly likely that Farhat, Abhijith & I spent more time at Souq Waqif than our apartment.

What is a corniche?

A corniche is a road on the side of a cliff or mountain, with the ground rising on one side and falling away on the other

At Souq Waqif, Farhat gave us a walk around, him being there the previous day, we ate some really delicious kebabs & met fans from Japan. We headed to the stadium and for the first time (what would be every day) we had to learn how to enter a stadium. Walk 40 mins inside the stadium to reach the seat. It was surely irritating but can imagine it being an effective way to manage such huge crowds.

And then, the match started. I couldn't enjoy the match as much as I would have wanted to, as I was too busy getting intimidated at the feeling of watching a football game for the very first time from the stadium, from the 5th row seats with stars like van Dijk, Blind, Ake, Depay, Gapko, de Jong just in front of you. Little did we know that every game we saw, was better experience than the previous.

Day 3: Tunisia vs Australia, Souq Again

Ok, this was an early afternoon 1PM match. We were expecting heat and not expecting much from this match, imho its Tunisia & Australia. Only 2 players I know from their entire squads combined.

But boy were we wrong.

Little did we know this would be our first introduction to extremely passionate fanbase brought to us by the Tunisians. Within the first few minutes of the game we knew Aussies did not stand a chance. Stadium was filled with red colour & constant loud buzz in support of Tunisia. Everytime Australia had the ball, the booing started. A complete obliteration was expected. Ok, we were wrong again. That's cruel & football I guess.

But the fans continued to cheer for their team till the very end and that was super sweet. That's how much it means to support your national team.

Later we went back to Souq, had sheesha, I headed home to catch the Spain vs Germany game, while Farhat & Abhijith continued to stroll in the fan villages.

Day 4: Belgium vs Morocco & The Pearl

Ok. Do you know what The Pearl is? I didn't. Knowing now - its like Pune's Lavassa or Palm Islands from Dubai? A man made city attraction.

The Pearl Qatar is a man-made island near Doha's prestigious West Bay District. Featuring Mediterranean-style yacht-lined marinas, residential towers, villas, and hotels, the area also offers a luxurious shopping experience with premium designer boutiques and showrooms. The Island is also home to modern dining spots - from refreshing ice creams to five-star culinary experiences, and stands out for its pedestrian-friendly squares and plazas along with its wide range of landscaped gardens. The Pearl is a popular visitor attraction by virtue of its elegance, inviting descriptions such as the 'Arabian Riviera'.

The Pearl was beautiful. I wish I could have stayed there much longer. Vibes & all.

So we went to The Pearl. Had a coffee, strolled around. Went to watch the Belgium vs Morocco match.

Few notable takeaways about the match

  1. Match full of stars - Courtois! KDB! Hazard! Ziyech! Lukaku! Hakimi!
  2. Abhijth & I had front row seats. FRONT ROW. I also touched the World Cup ball :)
  3. I screamed at Trossard while he was getting ready, wished him all the best and he winked & did a thumbs up. One of the moments I will never forget.
  4. This was more fun the earlier Tunisia vs Australia match. Could have never imagined a match more fun. But here were we. Morocco fans were something else. I can't wait for India to be amongst these teams for me to do the exact same thing the people from Tunisia & Morocco did - pour their hearts out.

After the match I went to my mom's friend's place. While Farhat & Abhijith headed back to The Pearl as Pearl at night was something of a sight.

Some tweets & media

Day 5: Portugal vs Uruguay & Lusail Boulevard

THE DAY HAD ARRIVED. I WAS ABOUT TO WATCH BRUNO, DALOT, CAVANI & OFC THE GOAT HIMSELF - CR7

Since this match was at night & closer to where we were staying - Lusail, we went there first. Strolled around, decided it was not that fun, if I am being honest, it felt like a zombie city, apparently very newly created too, headed to The Mall of Qatar. After having food there, we came back to Lusail Boulevard in the evening, walked around amidst the whole football fanfest.

Then, went early to get Portugal flags & all ready to see the game. Obviously I went nuts while watching the game, as Bruno had a masterclass & could have scored 4 goals, but settled for a brace.

Few live tweets

Day 6: England vs Wales & Solo Trip

Ok, (un)surprisingly, every match we saw till now, was better than the last one. I know I am repeating myself, this is what our reaction was for every game we saw.

And since this one had Kane, Rashford, Maguire, Shaw & literally every other player I have been following forever - I knew it was going to be a good one. And yes, we were braced with Rashford's epic spell. And what a gorgeous freekick that was!!!

In the morning, Farhat, Abhijth & I had wanted to do some shopping. Souvenirs & magnets. Naturally, we went to Souq, again. This day though I was roaming along the streets of Qatar alone. Visiting shops, haggling my way into getting some gifts for family, grabbing a snack, taking few metros, checking out what the shops & malls in Qatar had different to what we had in India. On my way to the stadium, I strolled on the streets of Msheireb Downtown I saw a Corvette parked and had to pause for a few set of minutes to grasp what it meant to be close to something so cool (and rich). Wait, isn't this the theme of the entire trip?

Msheireb Downtown Doha is a developing area with contemporary architecture, gleaming white mosques, and a cluster of history museums housed in elegant, Arabic-style mansions. Qatari family life is portrayed in Radwani House, while Bin Jalmood House has exhibitions on worldwide slavery. Eating options include global dining in high-end hotels, while the popular souvenir stalls and arcades of Souq Waqif are nearby

We regrouped at the stadium, saw an England & Rashford masterclass, headed back tired, and slept.

Few live tweets

Day 7: Flying back.

Abhijith & I woke up. Left for Doha Airport. Abhijith had a sandwich at the airport costing around 1100 INR. Took flight to Abu Dhabhi, roamed around in the Duty Free area, which is literally like a giant mall ffs! Flight back to Bangalore & that is it :)

I also decided to be frugal that day (probably has to do with some shopping at the airport) and so had a diet coke for the dinner.


Expenses & Distribution

I obsessively log my expenses and analyse them later. Call it having the Data Analyst / Excel trait in me or being frugal but not miser (OK?).

Food expenses

Because of the meat domination, I had to replace a meal per day with apples, yoghurt & diet coke. Might have had more diet coke than water. Strictly due to my inability to digest high protien food.

Cab expenses

Qatar's metro, bus shuttle & tram network was perfect. It was efficient, well managed, timely, reliable. And also free (hayya hayya). We did most of our travelling within Qatar via this superb public transport. While took cabs from and to Metro from our accommodation.

Gifts

What is it that I could get for my mom, bhabhi (sister in law) & brother from a foreign country.

Opening 20 pages on tourism and shopping in Qatar will tell you to buy gold, perfumes, local sweets, dates, spices, gold, pashmina. I can explain why getting each of them is not special or useful.

My approach to gift shopping was the solo trip to Souq Waqif and checking what is it that I couldn't procure in India, that would suit the person getting the gift, is aesthetically pleasing and with utility and safe to carry back home via an airplane.

Finally

After hours of strolling through the market, bought a set of handwoven (and absolutely gorgeous) pouches for mother & bhabhi. And earrings that were fine AF. For brother (and also Ian) - I got them the mini replica of the FIFA trophy

Summing it up

This trip was first of manys! First time

  1. going out of the country
  2. watching football up close
  3. experiencing an event like World Cup
  4. trip with the Abhijith, Farhat, Ian (virtually only this time).

And yes, Ian, watching the remainder of the World Cup back from home, it did feel personal & an experience that honestly can't ever be replicated.

Twitter URL

#worldcup #fifa #qatar

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