World Cup fans overcome strict hurdles to find 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, fastidiously checking passports and permits earlier than permitting anybody inside. But this is not a jail or a high-security space related to the continuing World Cup.

It’s the liquor retailer.

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

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

“Not to say that you need alcohol to fuel your life, but it’s a good time,” mentioned Ed Ball, an American who created a web-based map for imbibers in Doha to find bars. “The idea being passed around that you can’t drink in Qatar is wrong. There are places.”

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One state-owned liquor retailer

In addition to 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. Located subsequent to an Indian faculty in Doha’s dusty Abu Hamour neighborhood, it’s run by the Qatar Distribution Co., a state-owned enterprise below the umbrella of Qatar Airways, which holds unique rights to distribute alcohol and pork in the nation.

The retailer — presently the one one promoting liquor in Qatar — operates on an appointment system, harkening again to the strict coronavirus rules that ruled this nation prior to simply earlier than the World Cup.

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

At the tip of a chlorine-scented walkway, clients attain the doorway to the shop. Inside, the cabinets and stands are stocked with bottles of wine largely operating from $12.50 up to $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 normal Budweiser cans prices practically $52.

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“Not that big of a deal”

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

Customers stuffed their carts or carried bottles and cans in their arms, checking in opposition to procuring lists or texting relations to double examine what was wanted. Several wore FIFA passes for the event round their necks.

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

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

She added that she thought the restrictions on gross sales for the matches additionally made sense. “I’m British. I know what it’s like to to be around drunk people all the time.”

Complex historical past

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

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

Both 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.

Visitors should not allowed to deliver alcohol into the nation. Many inns are dry and prohibit friends from bringing alcohol to their rooms.

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Millions of liters offered regardless of restrictions

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

Meanwhile, Ball’s on-line map of bars in Qatar has been seen over 875,000 occasions. An accompanying Twitter account reveals him downing two pints of beer in 10 seconds.

“For me, drinking is just like eating. It just goes along with the culture,” Ball informed the AP after returning house to Seattle, the place he works for Boeing Co. “I know it’s not part of Qatar … but it’s also part of the World Cup. One of the biggest sponsors is Budweiser so it just goes to show you it kind of goes hand in hand.”

Bars in Qatar sometimes scan IDs of these heading in, with many engaged on a voucher system in the course of the event to be certain that fans spend a minimum of certain quantity.

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

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

“It’s very enjoyable, you can get a drink here if you want in the evenings,” O’Callaghan mentioned. “You do have a cohort of fans roaming around, looking for a drink.”

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