World Cup fans overcome tough barriers to find alcohol in Qatar

In a dusty neighborhood on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, guards stand on duty at a gated compound surrounded by razor wire, carefully checking passports and permits before letting anyone inside. But this is not a prison or a high-security zone associated with the ongoing World Cup.

It is a liquor shop.

Strict limits on alcohol are a fact of life in this conservative Muslim nation on the Arabian Peninsula, which follows the same strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam as its neighbor Saudi Arabia. Soccer fans coming to Qatar for the World Cup got a taste of it just ahead of the tournament as authorities canceled the sale of beer in stadiums.

Yet the popup of cork in luxury boxes continues in sports. Fans are filling pints from beer towers at dozens of hotel bars, lounges and nightclubs with liquor licenses. $14 Budweiser sales continue unabated at Doha’s FIFA Fan Zone.

“Not to say you need alcohol to fuel your life, but it’s a good time,” said Ed Ball, an American who used an online map for drinkers in Doha to find bars. Make. “The idea being spread that you can’t drink alcohol in Qatar is wrong. There are places like that.”

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a state-owned liquor store

In addition to the bar, there is a liquor store where non-Muslim residents and visitors can make purchases after applying for a license issued by the government. Located next to an Indian school in Doha’s dusty Abu Hamour neighborhood, it is run by Qatar Distribution Company, a state-owned enterprise under the umbrella of Qatar Airways, which has exclusive rights to distribute wine and pork in the country .

The shop – currently the only one in Qatar to sell alcohol – operates on an appointment system, which is getting stricter coronavirus rules The one who ruled this country just before the World Cup.

On a recent visit, guards double-checked an Associated Press reporter’s identity and appointments. Razor wire tops the compound’s high walls, preventing the public from peeking inside. Signs warn that any misbehavior aimed at the guards can result in the revocation of a liquor license. There are empty silver colored beer kegs in the parking lot.

At the end of a chlorine-scented walkway, customers arrive at the store’s entrance. Inside, shelves and stands are massively stocked with bottles of wine, running from $12.50 to $45. A liter of Absolut vodka sells for $42, while a liter of Jack Daniels whiskey will set a shopper back $70. A 24-pack of standard Budweiser cans costs about $52.

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“Not that big of a deal”

A smaller section of the store offers frozen pork pepperoni pizzas, slabs of bacon, Spam and cans of pork and beans.

Customers filled their carts or carried bottles and cans in their hands, checking them against shopping lists or checking family members to see what was needed. Many wore FIFA passes around their necks for the tournament.

Outside the shop, a 31-year-old British woman working as a school teacher in Qatar filled the trunk of her car. He declined to give his name given the meaning of drinking in Qatari society, but dismissed the criticism surrounding drinking and the tournament.

“It’s not really a big deal,” she said of the licensing system in Qatar. “It’s like going to the supermarket—for the wine.”

He said he felt the ban on the sale of matches was also correct. “I’m British. I know what it’s like to be around drunk people all the time.”

complicated history

Across the wider Persian Gulf, alcohol is banned in Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the sheikhdom of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Drinking alcohol is considered haram or forbidden in Islam. Imams point to a verse in the Qur’an calling alcohol “the work of the devil”.

But this entire region has a long history with wine, which itself is an Arabic word. The 8th-century poet Abu Nawas was also known for his “Khamriyat” or “poems of wine”.

Alcohol and pork both attract 100% import duty. Qatar says it uses the tax revenue to improve health care, infrastructure, education and other public services.

Visitors are not permitted to bring alcohol into the country. Many hotels are dry and prohibit guests from bringing alcohol into their rooms.

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Lakhs of liters sold despite restrictions

Despite those restrictions, Qatar sold 23.2 million liters of alcoholic beverages in 2021, according to data from Euromonitor International. Although dwarfed by the 115 million liters sold by the United Arab Emirates over the same period, Qatar’s numbers represent a 14.6% increase as the pandemic subsided.

Meanwhile, the online map of Bar’s Ball in Qatar has been viewed more than 875,000 times. the accompanying twitter account shows that to drop Two pints of beer in 10 seconds.

“To me, drinking is like eating. It just goes with the culture,” Ball told the AP after returning home to Seattle, where he works for Boeing Co. “I know it’s not part of Qatar … but it’s also part of one of the biggest sponsors of the World Cup Budweiser So it just goes to show you that it kind of goes hand in hand.”

Bars in Qatar usually scan the IDs of people who are on the voucher system during the tournament to ensure that fans spend at least a certain amount.

Saturday night, a group of Russians shouted at the American team during its match with netherlands as they downed shots and posed for photos with servers at Doha’s Irish Harp.

Dermot O’Callaghan, a 66-year-old soccer fan from Dublin, Ireland, enjoys a quieter pint at the bar while grooving along to Cuban band Chicas Melao.

O’Callaghan said, “It’s so pleasant, you can have a drink here if you want in the evening.” “You have a bunch of fans hanging out for drinks.”

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