Check out a $200 a night 'room' during the World Cup in Qatar

Check out a $200 a night ‘room’ during the World Cup in Qatar

DOHA, Qatar — After Sheng Xie, a 33-year-old soccer fan from Vancouver, booked his flight for the World Cup, he set out to find accommodation.

Using the tournament’s official website, he quickly settled into a relatively affordable location called Fan Village. The room in the photo looked functional and clean. It had two twin beds, Wi-Fi, AC, and a fridge, all for about $200 a night.

He didn’t realize it was, essentially, inside a shipping container.

“What have I booked?” Xie has wondered in recent weeks, as he started seeing photos of his homes under construction on social media.

What he found when he arrived was a sea of ​​colored metal boxes, lined up side by side in neat rows, lettered and numbered, stretching as far as the eye could see. His container/trailer was one of thousands hastily set up in a dirt field near the airport. Workers said there were 4,000. A map at the entrance showed plans for more than 7,500, plus a section reserved for employees. It was like a one-story Lego town.

And on the well-lit acres of artificial turf laid on the stony ground, in front of the giant tent that serves as a dining room and the large box that houses a grocery store, and all the little boxes that sell food or coffee or produce pharmaceuticals or ventilator equipment, and not far from the outdoor gym and soccer field-sized spaces where people can gather to watch soccer matches on the big screen, Xie found his room , in section E8, behind a metal door.

Inside it looked like the photo. The AC kept it cool enough and the Wifi worked. There were two small windows to let in some light. He was relieved to know that the doors were locked.

Tuesday night was his fifth night. Would he book it again?

Xi thought. He had just suggested that the accommodations he had chosen might provide a valid model for housing the homeless in places like the United States and Canada, which is hardly a solid endorsement for a vacation setting.

“I would probably say yes,” he said.

Qatar only has a population of around three million, and fans from around the world who flock to Doha’s World Cup stadiums for four games a day have to stay somewhere. Most found hotels, and Doha offers a host of luxury brands. Others have reserved places on one of the few docked cruise ships brought in for the occasion.

For many fans, however – especially the more adventurous or frugal among them – the place they’ve found is in an area that mostly looks like nowhere.

Qatar, after all, knows how to build vast tracts of utilitarian housing for temporary residents. The dusty outskirts of Doha are filled with sprawling neighborhoods like this, with names like Asian Town and Industrial Area, which are permanent encampments for the migrant workers who do most of the construction and service work in Qatar. World Cup organizers appear to have used the concept as a solution for fans.

Not all options were as square as a properly fitted shipping container. In a more upscale fan village called Al Khor, a 40-minute drive north of central Doha near the beach, the concept is “Arab camping.”

Visitors stay in canvas tents adorned with furniture, plumbing, televisions and a refrigerator. There’s a pool, restaurant, collection of pop-up shops, and an “entertainment zone” with a large fire pit and big-screen TVs. Advertised prices this week were over $400 a night.

At the lower end of the spectrum is Caravan City, a collection of 1,000 square white trailers on wheels. Prices there started at around $115 per night.

But the most common choice was containers, which the organizers cleverly renamed “cabins”. They are basically pop-up trailer parks, football-themed campgrounds, and there are three of them around Doha.

The one called Free Zone, where Xie stayed, has a hushed vibe, between low-flying planes entering and leaving the nearby airport, largely due to the lack of alcohol on the premises. (Hotels are among the few places in Qatar where the sale of alcohol is allowed.) There is a kind of main street, a yellow grass road that acts as a gateway for a diverse mix of football fans.

Towards the horizon, the yellow grass ends in a construction area where, days after the tournament began, heavy machinery was arranging even more containers. In the darkness of Tuesday evening, brigades of workers hooked up water and electricity, moved furniture and cleaned units for incoming guests.

When Xie arrived on Friday, he was one of the first to check in. On Tuesday, the village was teeming and disorganized. Simply waiting for check-in took hours. Electric carts brought in to transport people to their remote rooms – Xie said he had tipped the man who took him to the temporary home a few days ago – were parked with dead batteries.

Gihana Fava and Renan Almeida, engaged next year, arrived from Brazil. Like Xie, they booked the village not sure what to expect, but the price was right. Downtown hotels were either booked or way over budget, Almeida said.

After a long flight (and a failed flight), they spent nearly three hours in a check-in line on Tuesday. Fava and Almeida finally got a key, arrived in a room and saw that it was already occupied.

A new coin – literally – has been found. It was at the edge of development, however, far to S4, far from everything. There were twin beds, not the queen they had reserved. Everything was covered with a perceptible layer of dust. The cleaners had not yet reached their unit.

Fava expressed concern that someone else might get the wrong key and enter his unit in the middle of the night. Could they leave their belongings safely here when they went to games?

Someone knocked on the door. Fava and Almeida were sure it was another guest, sent by mistake. But he was a worker who made sure the fridge was working. It seemed to work.

The two tried the shower. He sprayed a strong stream of hot water. They smiled.

“I told Gihana that we should lower our expectations, expect the worst,” Almeida said. “Because it’s not a hotel.”

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