Doha Introductions

We land in Doha on Sunday evening as the sun sets in a dusty orange glow. Transfer to the hotel complex is seamless, and Ansar (Sri Lanka) helps us navigate the Souq Waqif to our room at Al Jasra. Our first football match is the next morning at Al Janoub stadium, south of Doha. Cameroon and Serbia battle it out in an elegantly designed structure by the late Zaha Hadid, world-renowned architect from Iraq. We follow the game with a long walk along the Corniche — the pulsating promenade of lights and music set up to welcome World Cup fans, featuring a fireworks show every night. We dive into the nearby Fan Zone and watch the last match of the night, invited to sit with an Iranian family who offer to share their picnic blanket. We return home well after midnight, strolling in awe at both the city skyline and our luck in being here. It is by far the MOST international event I’ve ever experienced. Within the first 24 hours in Doha, we’ve met people from Japan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Iran, Zanzibar, Philippines and Nepal, and we’ve seen people of countless other nationalities as indicated by their jerseys and flags.

Tuesday arrives and we meander east to the National Museum of Qatar — a marvel of creative architecture, designed to resemble a “desert rose” which forms from gypsum salt and sand grains. The museum interior and permanent exhibit are equally stunning, diving deep into Qatari history and culture with highlights ranging from nomadic ingenuity to whale sharks to pearl diving to the discovery of oil. We end our journey with a stop to see the view from the terrace of the Alain Ducasse restaurant, and we leave agreeing that the NMQ is one of the best museum experiences we’ve ever enjoyed.

Back at the hotel, it’s just a few hours until the USA vs. Iran match at Al Thumama stadium. We dress up in our red, white and blue, hop on the metro and go five stops in the wrong direction because we’re so excited we forget to transfer to the other metro line. Thanks to a kind man from Kerala who helps us get back on track, we finally connect from the metro to the bus to the mile-long walk to the stadium. Along the way, we meet more people — Canada, Poland, Mexico and Iran. Iranians have brought their drums, their noisemakers and their collective gusto which rings out in coordinated songs and chants as we all walk together. Americans and Iranians, draped in flags with faces painted, stop for photos together and wish each other good luck. The stadium is electric with fan energy and kickoff brings more drums, more noise, more chants from both sides. The US eventually wins 1-0 in a well-played match with few penalties and — more importantly — in a big win for humanity, 42,000 fans have come together peacefully in the name of sport. It gives me hope for the world.

I look forward to writing way more about all of this when time permits. For now, it’s football every day, with Australia vs. Denmark tomorrow and a short souq tour on the side. See you back here soon! Go, Team USA! Inshallah.

13 comments

  • I have to admit I never even thought about going to the World Cup, but you are making me realize what an oversight that was! I can’t wait to hear more about it!

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    • You would love the World Cup! It has blown my mind so far, and this particular location has concentrated everyone in a relatively small city — lots of mingling and great people watching. The next World Cup is spread out across North America. I’m not sure it will have the same vibe as what we’re feeling here. Can’t wait to see you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I echo what Lex said. I never really thought of going to the World Cup. But you made an excellent point why it’s something I should not overlook. The part where you said you met people from all over the world, rubbing shoulders peacefully despite the tensions between their governments, is really beautiful. It’s something the world should be. Oh, and I’d love to visit the NMQ. It looks stunning! Have a blast in Qatar, Kelly!

        Liked by 1 person

  • The architecture must be so interesting-you are so lucky to experience this!

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    • Yes! The architecture… old and new, the souq and the city, a maze of market alleyways and a cosmopolitan skyline. It shares similarities with Singapore — a tiny nation, past and future, with big aspirations. Agreed — we are so grateful to experience this!

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  • Thanks for the FT during the US/IRAN match today! Watching the match live together was like sitting right next to both of you. We need to work on lip reading or “Signing” to overcome the crowd noise. Looking forward to our next match together…POP

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  • I have to admit, football’s not my thing, but your enthusiasm sweeps me along and almost makes me envious. Certainly of the place and the many treats in store.

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    • Jo! Thank you. It’s interesting… the matches last just 90 minutes but all the fanfare goes nearly 24 hours. Incredible to see people from so many nations. You might enjoy the World Cup for this reason alone, regardless of football being the focus. Will do a post of fan photos soon! 🙂 Great to hear from you!!

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  • I wondered why Doha had this superior cosmopolitan feeling compared to the big western cities where all origins mix. There is also the festive spirit around football with the uncertainty of the competition bringing anxiety and joy in stronger bursts than in ordinary life. And here we are, it makes for an explosive cocktail where everything is experienced more strongly. I am happy for you that you can live it fully with the generosity to share it.

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  • I admit, I probably wouldn’t have much interest in the “football”, but the international flavor and overall party atmosphere sound like fun.

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  • How fantastic, I would love to be there doing exactly the same. Maybe next time. Really looking forward to reading the rest of your experiences at “the greatest show on Earth”…

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  • What a rich exciting magical time! Football’s not my thing, but from your post I totally get the excitement and joy of connection. How wonderful. So good to be reading about your experiences again.
    Alison xo

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