by Raphaëlle PELTIER
Lusail, Qatar – Doha days are hot but the nights are cold and while some World Cup fans have taken to bargain basement apartments and luxury hotels, some are cool, $200-a-night (about R3 400) tents on an isolated island.
Tens of thousands of supporters arrive each day in Qatar to discover their beds – which have been the subject of months of speculation over cost and availability before the tournament.
About 1 800 heavy plastic tents are set out row after row on Qetaifan, a windswept artificial island off the new city of Lusail where some occupants complained about the austere conditions.
When AFP visited this week, stacks of furniture waited to be built and quilts to be distributed.
The company that runs the site said it was full for several days as the number of fans at the World Cup reached its peak this weekend with up to 350 000 people in the city.
Qetaifan is one of many ambitious developments in energy-rich Qatar where new homes and luxury hotels will eventually be built. Construction is a work in progress.
Each tent has two single beds, one lamp, electric plugs, a fan and just enough room to leave some bags.
Pedro Barajas, an 18-year-old from Mexico, said he would put up with one night and then go to a friend’s hotel room.
“It seems pretty deserted. There is not an actual shower – that’s a toilet with a hose in it,” he said. For $207 a night, “it feels like it’s not very worth it”.
Miyoshi Sakai, from Japan, said the campsite was very hot during the day and very cold at night. But he enjoyed the beach entertainment and said 35 riyals (about R150) for a beer was much cheaper than other fan zones where beer was on restricted sale.
An official for Qetaifan Projects, the owners, insisted the price was “good for the money” and “if people have concerns we will rectify them”.
“We never said it would be a five-star hotel in the city centre,” the official added. “Everything we advertised is in the camp and there is more.”
Al Khor Fan Village further north offers extravagant tents with air conditioning, televisions, fridges and access to a private beach, but at the luxury price of between $400 and $1 000 a night.
Jonathan Hernandez, a Mexican staying with his pregnant wife, said he wanted comfort and the price was “not too high”.
Some fans are paying more than $1 000 a night for a room on an Arab dhow boat in Doha harbour or in a luxury villa. Some hotel suites are costing several thousand dollars a night.
But at Barwa Barahat Al Janoub, a new dormitory village for migrant workers 30km south of Doha, 11 000 fans are paying $80 a night for a room with two metal beds and a shared kitchen. It is the cheapest place on the official accommodation website and it is full.
Pawel Poprawka, a 37-year-old Poland fan, said that looking at the website, Barwa did not appear "inviting" but that it had proved good value for money, even without a table and chairs in the room.
Natalie Alvarez, a 20-year-old American supporting Ecuador, said the supermarket was open 24 hours and she had been struck by the campus atmosphere.
"You have different people from different countries and they are all united."
Many fans, like Amr Elserty, are staying with family and friends. The 39-year-old Egyptian spent 900 euros on "the cheapest flight possible" from France and another $1 000 for tickets to four matches.
To pay for a hotel room on top would have been "impossible", so he stayed with a cousin.
Ahmed El Ghoul, another Egyptian living in Doha, said three people would be staying at his home during the World Cup. "I love to help my friends who love to come but cannot afford the accommodation," he said.
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