Blogging from Doha where right this moment a football match is on for the World Cup FIFA 2022. And what a quiet as I sit here when November brings in the first chills of the season. The West Bay with its tall skyscrapers in the Corniche is closed for traffic but is accessible via metro rail. This end of the city is where the real action is, even if the stadiums are spread across Qatar. Qatar is but a tiny nation, larger than Doha only by sizes. You can summarize, the whole of the country as Doha Plus. The only airport is the Doha International. Airports (the old one is opened up temporarily to handle the crowd) reportedly did see the crowds. Crowds in millions are arriving as of this minute and the hotels are full. The neighbouring countries like the UAE are chipping in with accommodation, with some forty plus flights operating between Dubai-Abu Dhabi and Doha every single day to bring in the football fans who may fly back to other GCC nations after the match. It is one hour flight. Cruise ships and the desert tents make up for exotic stays for the fans who are descending here from all across the globe. As a resident of Qatar for fifteen years now I know we have some of the finest infrastructure here. While the European nations normally would pledge some $5 billion in the world championships, Qatar has pumped in over $200 billion and has left no stone unturned to make the FIFA world cup the grandest success.
I am from India and as an expat living in Qatar I have enjoyed the benefits this government disburses to all the residents even if we are not citizens. I received the booster dose for Covid in the government clinic in Doha when the year started and I am eligible for complete free medical treatment as resident of Qatar. I would not have had the golden chance of viewing the original Picassos exhibited for avid art enthusiasts for an exorbitant price by the government who also let me savour MF Hussain in some of the finest galleries without having to shell out a penny. The latter’s works contained those of the Hindu gods that would have been a big ‘no no’ in India. I have access to finest library and museums and restaurants and malls here and the standard of living in Qatar is par excellence. World media paints the entire Arabian gulf in very bad light which is deplorable. If it is that bad, some hundred nationalities would not be working and living in the GCC nations including in Qatar, from America, Australia and Europe among other world nations.
We observe unruly mobs in football matches normally but the way the sport is enjoyed here in Doha is really beautiful. Even in the countdown to the world cup, I noticed no holdup anywhere, no hassles, no fusses, no glitzy glamorous show-offs. Life went on as usual. I did spot some foreign nationals in the malls and in supermarkets who were grocery shopping. Then there were those walking besides me in the park in the evenings. I always revel in the quiet of Doha; it has grown on me and I soak in its laidback tranquility. It gives me the elusive peace that I cannot even find in my mother country India. Now is no different. It doesn’t look like a global sporting event is afoot just right across the city. We are having our regular day. The 974 stadium is close to my residence. A couple of hours before yesterday’s match, traffic was partially diverted but the plans were very well laid. Qatar is new to this crowd handling unlike mammoth nations like India, the States or even Italy or Saudi. The Catholic and Islamic religious centers draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that the host nations are adept at handling with practice and ample geographic territory. Picture Qatar doing it with local residents (most of who are expats like us) who have taken up the volunteer roles to serve as security personnel, ticketing staff, grounds person, media staff, etc. FIFA world cup 2022 is very well organized event with a lot of thoughtfulness gone into making it a hassle-free and a memorable gala. Remarkable! The fans zones do cater to beer and other beverages and snacks and memorabilia from FIFA. The metrorail has very good connectivity with frequency to transport thousands of fans from one end of the city to the other. The sightseeing tours and packages are best tailored for short visits ideal for small countries like Qatar. My bet is on Desert safari (which is unlike Dubai and a lot more different on a varied terrain) and on Desert camp life. The beaches are pristine and are shallow, suitable for water sports and camping overnight. Some do offer tents for stay. The water scooters and camel safaris and buggy drives on the sand dunes are recommended. I am a museum and art gallery person so I do know Qatar has an impressive collection to cater to our aesthetics if we are that kind of indoors person. The souq is also unmissable with its old world charm. I have loved Doha always for its quaint unflashy lifestyle and those who moved here from the noisy Dubai first were put off by the quiet. Doha takes time to grow on you but when it does, you will never go back to Dubai. My friends who moved here from Dubai can vouch for that. The food is Arabic, Mediterranean, Continental, Indian among others. I am not a seasoned traveler but I have toured a handful of countries. Qatar I can rate as one of the safest havens where law and order is meticulous and shopping is very pocket friendly and great experience. You can never shop the way you can for brands in Europe or America the way you can in Doha.
I was here during the Gulf crisis that saw the tiny peninsular nation isolated as they took on bravely a couple of hostile GCC nations that closed in on them menacingly. Now peace reigns but how in twenty four hours the government made alternative arrangements to see that the residents did not want for anything was amazing. Within a week four thousand Jersey cattle were flown in from down under and thus was born the local dairy farms. Until five years back, even milk and milk produce reached here from across the one land connection from the neighbouring country. No price hikes, no passing on the extra burden to the residents. I have nothing but utmost respect for Qatar for the way they handled the political crisis that had the potential to flare into a serious global crisis. World media in fact was fanning the fire exactly for that. It must have taken all their wit for Qatar not to be provoked when the stoking went vigorous. Their patience and tolerance finally won through. Not a single loose talk to ignite passions. Such a humility is rare to come across. We can take a leaf out of this great nation. The kind of maturity you find in the statesmen here is worth emulating. It was Trump’s time in America. And it always hit me then how the tiny speck of Arab country had such a responsible and grounded leadership when the largest democracy in the world had a loose cannon for the president who shot his mouth out of turn whenever opportunity presented. Diplomacy of this finesse is the real Raj tantra if you ask me.
Qatar since has become a lot more self-sufficient using the crisis as a life lesson. Their airways have more direct flights now to destinations around the world than ever before. Local manufacturing got a boost and Qatar is determined to stay as much independent as possible in all fronts. Organic farming has also caught on in a big way. Doha has received a magnificent face lift and city living has never been this clutter-free and convenient. Every facet of life in the city got upgrade thanks to FIFA world cup. Quality of life for expats in Doha is one of the best in the world.
Qatar has gas reserves for next two centuries apart from oil. Oil wells can dry up and the world can shift to green energies but the LPG will continue to stay in demand. Yet Qatar is prudent and i have never seen wealth splashed carelessly which is pretty impressive. So low key. Not even the Eid is loud and raucous. The islamic festival is only marked by silence with the one sound of the azaan piercing the quiet sky to call for prayers. It always fascinates me how muted even the celebrations are here that normally may bring the roof down in my own country India where we do not know how to enjoy an occasion without playing it up to the hilt with maximum decibels, pomp and riot. In Qatar I see that we can have a good life without having to announce it from roof tops.
Expats love working, living in Qatar not without a reason. We are a family who have prospered with Qatar. I have nothing but absolute gratitude for Qatar. I keep this my second home away from home always in my prayers. Long live Qatar! Congratulations for wonderful master handling of FIFA World Cup 2022! Wishing you many more laurels in future dear Qatar! God bless!