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World Cup 2022: inside the visitor accommodation in Qatar, from £4000-a-night hotels to luxury cruise liners

The MSC World Europa in Doha (Giuseppe Cacace/ AFP via Getty Images)
The MSC World Europa in Doha (Giuseppe Cacace/ AFP via Getty Images)

The World Cup kicked off this week, propelling players, fans and workers in their millions to Qatar.

So far, three million tickets have been sold for the tournament, despite international calls for a boycott over Qatar’s criminalisation of homosexuality and treatment of construction workers, 6,500 of whom are reported to have died since the country was awarded the right to host.

With a population of almost three million itself, there have been concerns about accommodating the influx of visitors, prompting Qatar to create camping and cabin sites, turn cruise ships into hotels and encourage fans to stay in neighbouring countries.

Qatar is reported to have spent $200billion on preparations to host the World Cup, making it the most expensive World Cup in history.

Initially, ticket holders were only able to book accommodation via the official Qatar Accommodation Agency 2022, before it was opened up to third parties in September.

From cruise ships to eco-farms, here is where fans, players and workers are staying while the World Cup is on in Qatar.

Souq Al Wakra hotel: the players

Souq Al Wakra hotel, where the England team will be staying (REUTERS)
Souq Al Wakra hotel, where the England team will be staying (REUTERS)

The England squad will be staying at the Souq Al Wakra hotel in Doha for the duration of the tournament, where they arrived last Tuesday.

The five-star hotel claims to “blend artful Qatari tradition and top-end contemporary leisure”, being based in an “up-and-coming seaside district near central Doha”.

There are 101 rooms onsite, along with five restaurants and lounges, a spa, treatment centre and gym. It’s a dry hotel, but there are mocktails, soft drinks and hot beverages aplenty for the boys.

Top rooms are 463 square feet, inside thatched-roofed heritage houses with prices listed online starting at £124 per night. The cheapest rooms start at £70, although it is unclear how much rooms cost during the tournament.

During the World Cup, the hotel will only be open to guests with match tickets, with all reservations approved by the accommodation agency or tournament committee.

All guests entering Qatar for the tournament also need a Hayya Card, which grants an entry permit, stadium access, and free travel on the Metro and bus network. It costs £25.

MSC World Europa: the WAGs

One of the MSC World Europa’s seven swimming pools (AFP via Getty Images)
One of the MSC World Europa’s seven swimming pools (AFP via Getty Images)

The partners of the England football squad –including Kate Kane, Megan Davison and Sasha Attwood—are rumoured to be staying on a 2,626-cabin cruise ship during their stay in Qatar.

The brand new MSC World Europa is a 216-tonne vessel which sleeps 6,762 passengers and employs 2,138 crew members. During the World Cup, it will be docked off the coast in Doha and used as a floating hotel.

At 22 decks high, 47 metres wide and covering 430,556 square feet of public space, the boat bills itself as an “ultramodern urban metropolis at sea”.

Prices start at £289 per night, with the plushest rooms furnished with balconies, private whirlpool baths and up to 840 square feet of space.

There are 13 restaurants on board, all open 24/7, including Chef’s Garden Kitchen, run by Michelin-starred Niklas Ekstedt.

The ship also has its own micro-brewery, along with a selection of bars, tea houses and coffee shops.

There are seven swimming pools, a spa and wellness centre and a 104-metre promenade which features the longest dry slide at sea – yes, you read that right. Made of stainless steel, the enormous Helter Skelter can take you down 11 decks in height.

The player themselves will not be allowed to visit the WAGs at sea, as they are believed to be living in a strict Covid bubble throughout the tournament to prevent the chance of infection.

The MSC World Europa’s smaller sibling, the four-star MSC Poesia, will also be used as a floating hotel for the World Cup. There are 1,265 cabins, three swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, bars and restaurants on board, and prices start at £148 per night.

The Fan Villages

Cabins

This Fan Village sleeps up to 12,000 people (AP)
This Fan Village sleeps up to 12,000 people (AP)

Resembling shipping containers, thousands of brightly coloured portacabins have been erected to house fans during the tournament. There are two such camps in Doha and one in Al Rayyan Municipality, all operated by Al Emadi and starting at £171 per night.

Unveiled last week, the fan village closest to Doha Airport has 6,000 cabins and can sleep up to 12,000 people.

Cabins include one or two beds, a shower, tea and coffee making facilities, two bottles of water per day and a fridge. And, for in between games, there’s a cinema, fitness centre, tennis court and food outlets onsite.

Caravan City

Fan Village Caravan City, where rooms start at £94 a night (Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images)
Fan Village Caravan City, where rooms start at £94 a night (Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images)

Starting at £94 a night, the three-star Caravan City is what you might expect: a selection of caravans on a plot of dusty land. Each caravan is fitted with a bed, shower, air conditioning, TV and a dining area.

Tents at Qetaifan Island North

There are 1,800 tents in this two-star fan village on a northern Doha peninsula. Costing upwards of £172 per night, each comes with two single beds, a nightstand and free breakfast. In true camping style, bathrooms and toilets are communal.

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Guests also get access to the nearby Qetai-Fan Beach Festival, which runs every day of the tournament until 4am. There are more than 120 international musicians, performers and DJs, including Ceelo Green, French Montana and Ryan Castro, plus screens to watch the football and more than 50 food and drink outlets.

Earlier this week, a video showing fan accommodation went viral after it was posted on Snapchat and circulated on Twitter.

Seemingly taken at Qetaifan Island North, it showed rows of white plastic tents with bare beds, prompting comparisons to Fyre Festival, the 2017 influencers’ festival in the Bahamas which became infamous for its failings.

Glamping

Al Khor is marketed as a more luxurious accommodation option, with prices beginning at £350 per night.

Located on Farkiah Beach, tents are decorated “in a style reminiscent of a traditional Qatari tent”. All rooms are kitted out with air conditioning, tea and coffee facilities, TVs, hairdryers, irons and fridges.

There is a “Fun Zone” with a communal campfire and large outdoor screens, as well as food kiosks, tennis and basketball courts, a gym and outdoor swimming pool for guests.

Sarab Camp by the Torch is another option for more boujee campers, set about an hour south of Doha. Advertised as a family friendly option, it is a “traditional Arabian camping village” with air conditioning, activities and BBQ facilities.

Luxury hotels

The most expensive option listed by the Accommodation Agency is the W Doha Hotel and Residences, at upwards of £4,263 per night.

It’s followed by Le Mirage Village (£2,793 per night) and Al Fardan Residential Tower (£2,586).

The Century Marina Hotel in Lusail, where the Canadian national team are staying (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images)
The Century Marina Hotel in Lusail, where the Canadian national team are staying (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images)

Beyond the Accommodation Agency, however, prices are also soaring. On Booking.com, a luxury villa in Lusail is currently the costliest option at £5,541 per night, or £171,775 for all 31 nights of the tournament — more than the average property in northeast England costs to buy. That money gives you four bedrooms, a private pool, garden, spa, wellness centre and tennis court.

Private accommodation

After the option to provide accommodation for visitors to the tournament was opened up to Qatari residents in September, a large number of private lettings were listed.

As it currently stands, the average price for an Airbnb in Doha for the entire month is £50,251, equivalent to £1,621 per night. The cheapest option, a shared room in a rental unit, costs £1,315 for the month – or £42.42 per night.

At the top end is a basic two-bedroom apartment which sleeps five, costing £35,930 for the month, or £1,159 per night (before Airbnb service charges).

Like many other aspects of the World Cup, accommodation offerings have proven controversial. Reuters reported in October that Qatar had emptied apartment blocks housing foreign workers in central Doha in order to create space for visiting fans. More than 12 buildings were said to have been evacuated and shut down by authorities, forcing their largely Asian and African occupants onto the streets.

One worker told Reuters: “Who made the stadiums? Who made the roads? Who made everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they are making us all go outside.”

Yachts

A yacht, docked in Dubai Harbour, that can be rented by fans during the World Cup (AFP via Getty Images)
A yacht, docked in Dubai Harbour, that can be rented by fans during the World Cup (AFP via Getty Images)

With space on land at a premium and hundreds of miles of coastline in Qatar, some well-heeled fans are opting to charter yachts for the tournament.

There aer plenty of options. The 135-foot Sunseeker VIP sleeps 14 and costs more than £200,000 to rent for a week during the tournament with Yacht Rental Dubai.

The 296ft superyacht, LAUREN L, sleeps 26 guests and a crew of 40. There’s a helipad, cinema, conference room, gym, steam room and beauty salon on board, all available for a princely £604,643 a week with YachtCharterFleet.

Other options

Sambook Ship Dhows are traditional sailing vessels which have been kitted out for guests. Docked in Doha Old Port, prices start at £850 a night.

A yoga teacher at Heenat Salma Farm (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)
A yoga teacher at Heenat Salma Farm (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

Heenat Salma fan village is a farm and education centre which is billed as a rural escape. There are 20 guesthouses on offer, based on traditional nomadic architecture in design. Costing upwards of £850 per night, there are wellbeing workshops, craftsmanship classes and treatment sessions available for guests.

Neighbouring countries

With the price of accommodation in Qatar skyrocketing, some fans are heading further afield. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman are operating daily shuttle flights to transport fans to the matches.

From Dubai there will be 60 daily flights on match days, along with 60 from Saudi Arabia, 48 from Oman and 20 from Kuwait.

A shuttle flight from the UAE ahead of Wales’ match against USA on 21 November (PA)
A shuttle flight from the UAE ahead of Wales’ match against USA on 21 November (PA)

In June 2021, FIFA produced a report which estimated that the tournament would produce 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, with travel, especially international flights, accounting for more than half. However, that report was produced before the shuttle flights were even unveiled, prompting further criticism from environmental organisations.

Carbon Market Watch labelled claims of carbon neutrality as “greenwashing”, with Khaled Diab, communications director, telling Reuters that shuttle flights would “stretch the credibility of the tournament’s elastic carbon-neutrality slogan to snapping point.”