Culture and Sport Meet at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar: A Complete Guide
I attended the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Doha and Qatar have stunning desert and city landscapes that shouldn’t be missed, whether it’s for a quick stopover en route to another destination or a longer stay in Qatar. In this first post of a multi-part series, I’ll discuss where to eat, what to do and see, as well as some considerations for travelers of all kinds whether or not they’re going for a sporting event.
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Where to stay
Banyan Tree Doha
Banyan Tree Doha is a luxurious urban resort in the heart of Qatar's capital, offering a serene oasis with world-class amenities and exceptional service.
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Pullman Doha West Bay
Pullman Doha West Bay is a contemporary 5-star hotel in the heart of Qatar's business district, providing a stylish and convenient stay with top-notch facilities and services.
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Park Hyatt Doha
Park Hyatt Doha is a luxurious 5-star hotel in the heart of Qatar's capital, offering an elegant retreat with exquisite dining, spa, and a prime location near the Corniche waterfront.
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Brief Hotel Review
I stayed at the Banyan Tree Cigale Mushaireb in downtown Doha. I selected it not only due to its proximity to the metro, cultural sites and FIFA Fanfest, but also because it was much more affordable than most other options. Particularly during the World Cup, this holds true in normal times, while still delivering outsized value. Rooms typically have views of either the old city an ancient markets like Souq Waqif, or the new city (glitzy skyscrapers) depending on which side of the building you’re on. The hotel has many excellent amenities, including a full-service spa, three restaurants (Thai, Italian and Indian cuisine), a patisserie with an Asian flare and an indoor rooftop lounge for drinks, snacks, stargazing and city views. Overall, the Banyan Tree Doha boasts a luxurious but relaxed vibe. The staff were absolutely incredible and went out of their way to make sure every guest’s stay was memorable.
Games, Logistics and Transportation around the city
There’s no experience quite like the World Cup. Regardless of whether you’re a die-hard fan of a particular national team or the more casual observer who enjoys watching a game or two on TV every four years. There is nothing that compares to the magic, buzz and energy that pumps through a city and country when they’re hosting a World Cup match. To experience firsthand the passion of fans and drama of every game is something I think anyone who has even a moderate interest in futbol/soccer should prioritize attending at least once in their life.
I was fortunate enough to attend four games during my time in Qatar. I was very fortunate to witness some of the most dramatic and historic matches of the tournament. I’ll admit I’m a fanatical supporter of Argentina and Brazil, having seen both teams play on three continents. I waited longer to buy my tickets to ensure I’d be able to see both play later on in the tournament. You can read more about ticket strategy and the nuts and bolts of attending the World Cup in this post.
The specific games I attended were:
Quarter Final: Brazil v. Croatia at Education City Stadium
Quarter Final: Argentina v. Netherlands at Lusail Stadium
Quarter-final: Morocco v. Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium
Semi-final: Argentina v. Croatia at Lusail Stadium
Getting to and from each stadium, and around Doha generally, was easy, efficient and very affordable via the metro. There are three simple lines running to all the major areas and attractions in the city as well as to the airport. Doha metro is extremely clean, modern and safe.
Uber is widely available in Qatar. I did have to take an Uber between Education City and Lusail Stadiums. Two games were on the same day and one started within an hour of the other ending. Taking the metro would have made me miss some of the first half. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend taking an Uber anywhere that requires going near the city center because of traffic and congestion.
I was enormously impressed with Qatar’s infrastructure both in terms of managing the flow of people at the tournament, and physical, permanent infrastructure like roads and highways. All signs were in both English and Arabic, everything was intuitive and clearly marked. If you were lost or needed some help finding the right direction, every local I encountered was more than happy to point you in the right direction or even walk you there.
Desert Safari Review
I went to Qatar primarily for the World Cup but did find time to partake in some cultural activities while I was there. The highlight was absolutely the Desert Safari! On this tour, we took a four-wheel drive into the deserts of the south of the country to go dune bashing and sledding down the building-sized dunes. The tour also included a camel ride and a stop at the beautiful Inland Sea that separates Qatar from Saudi Arabia. Our guide was incredibly fun, knowledgeable and personable and had great taste in music that kept the entire group bopping through the desert.
Other Cultural Recommendations
Souq Waqif Market - translating directly to “standing market” in Arabic. It is an ancient, labyrinthine few city blocks of shops, cafes, restaurants, live music and shisha lounges. You can shop for everything from expensive clothes and jewelry to touristy knick-knacks. You can also get up close and personal with the falcons. Falconry is a traditional sport in Qatar. I also highly recommend dropping into one of the pearl shops and asking for a brief history of pearls in Qatar. Pearls used to be one of the primary economic drivers of the Qatari economy before the discovery of offshore oil and gas.
Museum of Islamic Art is an absolutely stunning building on the waterfront, a short walk from Souq Waqif. A tour through the five floors will take you on a tour of Qatari and Islamic art through the ages. After walking around and taking it all in, drop by the museum cafe for a coffee or tea and incredible views of the skyline and waterfront.
Katara Beach/Night Market boasts incredible handmade traditional Qatari ships called “dhow," live music and lots of stalls to buy everything from clothes to spices. Excellent for an evening stroll after dinner at Mamig.
Considerations for travelers to Qatar
As an LGBTQ+ traveler and futbol/soccer fan, I am thrilled that I had such a positive experience in Doha. I spoke with many Qataris during my stay and was consistently impressed by their openness to talk about a wide range of issues. I was fortunate enough to have very productive conversations about controversial topics. Discussing the consumption of alcohol, LGBTQ+ rights and the status of women in Qatar was gratifying. We also had considerably less controversial conversations, such as where they would like to travel, what types of experiences they had with the entire world flocking to their country for a month and who they expected to win the World Cup.
Personally, I find the portrayal of Qatar by international, and particulary Westwern media, to be largely unfair. No country is perfect, and yes, there are more than a few policies and human rights problems I personally disagree with. Overall, I think the media unfairly represented Qatar in the lead-up to and during the World Cup. That said, there are a few considerations I’d recommend thinking about before going:
Alcohol consumption is permitted for non-Muslims at designated bars and facilities. These tend to be located in large Western hotel chains, are often very nice, and often have incredible views of the city. Foreigners residing in Qatar can get the equivalent of a driver's license for purchasing liquor. This allows them to go to a state-run liquor store to pick up the alcohol of their preference.
As an LGBTQ+ traveler myself, I did not have one even slightly negative experience in Qatar. While official laws against homosexuality and same-sex relationships are very strict, they are very rarely, if ever, enforced, particularly for foreigners. The last instance I could find of repercussions for same-sex sexual behavior for a non-Qatari was in 1998.
Female travelers to Qatar
Qatar does have laws that restrict the rights and freedoms of Qatari women under a certain age in regard to travel abroad and the ability to get married. Since the 1990s, there have been many strides toward gender equality, with prominent political figures advocating for greater representation of women. All foreign travelers, but women in particular, should dress modestly, covering everything from your shoulders to your knees. Head scarves are not required.
Qatar Airways Stopover Program
Qatar Airways – aside from being one of, if not the best airlines in the world, has an excellent stopover program that represents an excellent value. If you have an extra day or two on your itinerary and some of the activities I mentioned above seem interesting, it’s worth considering a brief stopover.
Need to Know
This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Qatar. In need of further inspiration? Check out the guide, Planning Your Ultimate World Cup Adventure: My Qatar 2022 Experience and What to Expect for 2026.
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