Here is Stuart Weir’s column on Doha. I think you will find it enjoyable! After nine days in Qatar, Stu has kept his sense of humor or humour, however one spells it.
This is my ninth day in Doha, Qatar and I have yet to meet a Qatari. The duty manager who checked me into the hotel is from Romania. The receptionist who has helped me a few times – Ukrainian. The catering team in the media centre – Filipinos. The bus drivers Kenya, Bangladeshi, Algerian, Pakistani. The media helpdesk people Sri Lankan and Moroccan. I got my accreditation from an Iraqi.
The population of Qatar in 2013 was 1.8 Million. 278,000 Qatari and 1.5 Million expats. That is 13% of the population of Qatar are Qatari. It is as if each Qatari has 7 expats to run the country for them. One expat described it as “living in parallel universes. We do the same things but never meet”.
Everyone drives a large car and 75% of cars are white. I suppose in an oil-rich state they don’t have to worry about fuel costs! Traffic is difficult with regular jams. One bus driver explained to me that a Qatari family of six would have six cars – all on the road at the same time. Roads are almost all dual-carriageways, requiring a lot of doubling back to get anywhere.
A real challenge would be to take a photo of the city which did not include a crane or other evidence of building work. There are building sites everywhere.
Shuttle buses for the event work well, which is good as, someone told me, there are no public buses. A metro is being dug at the moment. Hotel staff, for example, live in hostels with a private bus taking them to and from work. Taxis are plentiful and hotels have their own cars called limousines – but in reality they are average saloons – which can be used instead of taxis.
There are two restaurants at the athletics stadium – Burgerking and Appleby’s. I saw a sign to MacDonalds. American culture lives!
I googled a Christian church. Before I could access the site, a warning screen popped up: “This website contains content of a Christian nature. Please proceed at your own discretion”. OK then.
Sport is clearly big in the country. The newspapers have a large section covering national and international sport – from European soccer to NFL with reports on the PGA tour and the latest tennis open.
Qatar will host the 2015 World Handball Championships, tickets have just gone on sale for the Qatar Golf Open 2016 – Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson are among past winners. As far as local sport goes I can tell you that Al Rayyan are still in a strong position for the Qatar Stars League!
There are rumours that Manny Pacquiao may fight Amir Khan in Doha. Khan says “Qatar would be a perfect place for the fight. Qatar is moving forward with sport”. There is no doubt that that is true; Qatar’s commitment to sport is very noticeable at all level. This week as well as Amir Khan, the President of Kazakhstan is in Doha. He too is on the sports pages, signing a football agreement of co-operation between the two countries.
The commitment to sport is beyond question.
PS After writing the above I did get to meet a real live Qatari, a member of the Royal Family no less. Read what she had to say about the Qatari attitude to sport tomorrow.