World Cup followers overcome strict hurdles to search out booze in Qatar


In a dusty neighborhood on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, guards stand responsibility at a gated compound ringed with razor wire, rigorously checking passports and permits earlier than permitting anybody inside. However this is not a jail or a high-security space related to the continued World Cup.

It is the liquor retailer.

Inflexible limits on alcohol are a truth of life on this conservative Muslim nation on the Arabian Peninsula, which follows the identical strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam as its neighbor Saudi Arabia. Soccer followers coming to Qatar for the World Cup acquired a style of that simply earlier than the event as authorities cancelled beer gross sales at stadiums.

But corks proceed to be popped in luxurious packing containers at video games. Followers are filling pints from beer towers at dozens of lodge bars, lounges and nightclubs with liquor licenses. Gross sales of $14 Budweisers at Doha’s FIFA Fan Zone proceed unabated.

“To not say that you simply want alcohol to gasoline your life, nevertheless it’s a very good time,” stated Ed Ball, an American who created a web based map for imbibers in Doha to search out bars. “The concept being handed round which you could’t drink in Qatar is flawed. There are locations.”

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One state-owned liquor retailer

Along with the bars, there’s the liquor retailer the place non-Muslim residents and guests can store after making use of for a government-issued license. Positioned subsequent to an Indian faculty in Doha’s dusty Abu Hamour neighborhood, it’s run by the Qatar Distribution Co., a state-owned enterprise beneath the umbrella of Qatar Airways, which holds unique rights to distribute alcohol and pork within the nation.

The shop — at present the one one promoting liquor in Qatar — operates on an appointment system, harkening again to the strict coronavirus laws that ruled this nation prior to only earlier than the World Cup.

On a current go to, guards twice checked an Related Press reporter’s identifications and appointments. Razor wire tops the compound’s excessive partitions, which bar the general public from a peek inside. Indicators warn that any abuse aimed on the guards can lead to an alcohol license being revoked. Empty silver-colored beer kegs are piled up within the parking zone.

On the finish of a chlorine-scented walkway, prospects attain the doorway to the shop. Inside, the cabinets and stands are stocked with bottles of wine largely operating from $12.50 as much as $45. A liter of Absolut vodka goes for $42, whereas a liter of Jack Daniels whiskey units a consumer again $70. A 24-pack of ordinary Budweiser cans prices almost $52.

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“Not that huge of a deal”

A small part of the shop provides frozen pork pepperoni pizzas, slabs of bacon, Spam and cans of pork and beans.

Clients crammed their carts or carried bottles and cans of their fingers, checking in opposition to buying lists or texting members of the family to double test what was wanted. A number of wore FIFA passes for the event round their necks.

Outdoors the store, a 31-year-old British lady who works as a college trainer in Qatar, crammed the trunk of her automotive. She declined to supply her title, given the connotations ingesting can carry in Qatari society, however dismissed criticism surrounding ingesting and the event.

“It is actually not that huge of a deal,” she stated of the licensing system in Qatar. “It is like going to the grocery store — for alcohol.”

She added that she thought the restrictions on gross sales for the matches additionally made sense. “I am British. I do know what it is prefer to to be round drunk individuals on a regular basis.”

Advanced historical past

Throughout the broader Persian Gulf, alcohol stays banned in Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the sheikhdom of Sharjah within the United Arab Emirates. Ingesting alcohol is taken into account haram, or forbidden, in Islam. Imams level to a verse within the Quran calling wine “the work of Devil.”

However the area as a complete has an extended historical past with alcohol, itself an Arabic phrase. The eighth century poet Abu Nawas even was identified for his “khamriyyat,” or “wine poems.”

Each alcohol and pork face a 100% import responsibility. Qatar says it makes use of the tax income to enhance well being care, infrastructure, schooling and different public providers.

Guests will not be allowed to carry alcohol into the nation. Many resorts are dry and prohibit friends from bringing alcohol to their rooms.

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Hundreds of thousands of liters offered regardless of restrictions

Even with these restrictions, Qatar offered 23.2 million liters of alcoholic drinks in 2021, in line with knowledge from Euromonitor Worldwide. Although dwarfed by the United Arab Emirates’ 115 million liters offered in the identical interval, Qatar’s numbers present a 14.6% progress because the pandemic waned.

In the meantime, Ball’s on-line map of bars in Qatar has been seen over 875,000 instances. An accompanying Twitter account exhibits him downing two pints of beer in 10 seconds.

“For me, ingesting is rather like consuming. It simply goes together with the tradition,” Ball informed the AP after returning dwelling to Seattle, the place he works for Boeing Co. “I do know it is not a part of Qatar … nevertheless it’s additionally a part of the World Cup. One of many largest sponsors is Budweiser so it simply goes to indicate you it sort of goes hand in hand.”

Bars in Qatar sometimes scan IDs of these heading in, with many engaged on a voucher system throughout the event to ensure followers spend at the very least specific amount.

On Saturday night time, a gaggle of Russians screamed expletives on the U.S. crew throughout its match with the Netherlands as they downed photographs and posed for images with servers at Doha’s Irish Harp.

Dermot O’Callaghan, a 66-year-old soccer fan from Dublin, Eire, loved a a lot calmer pint on the bar, swaying alongside to the Cuban band Chicas Melao.

“It’s totally fulfilling, you will get a drink right here if you need within the evenings,” O’Callaghan stated. “You do have a cohort of followers roaming round, in search of a drink.”

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