DOHA, Qatar ― In a dusty neighborhood on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, guards stand obligation at a gated compound ringed with razor wire, rigorously checking passports and permits earlier than permitting anybody inside. However this isn’t a jail or a high-security space related to the continuing World Cup.
Inflexible limits on alcohol are a reality 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 received 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 bins at video games. Followers are filling pints from beer towers at dozens of resort bars, lounges and nightclubs with liquor licenses. Gross 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 seek out bars. “The idea being passed around that you can’t drink in Qatar is wrong. There are places.”
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. Situated 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 within the nation.
The shop — at the moment 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 latest 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 car 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 as much as $45. A liter of Absolut vodka goes for $42, whereas a liter of Jack Daniels whiskey units a client again $70. A 24-pack of normal Budweiser cans prices almost $52.
A small part of the shop presents 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 arms, checking in opposition to procuring lists or texting members of the family to double examine 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 identify, given the connotations consuming can carry in Qatari society, however dismissed criticism surrounding consuming 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.”
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 Satan.”
However the area as an entire has a protracted 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 obligation. Qatar says it makes use of the tax income to enhance well being care, infrastructure, schooling and different public companies.
Guests aren’t allowed to carry alcohol into the nation. Many motels are dry and prohibit company from bringing alcohol to their rooms.
Even with these restrictions, Qatar bought 23.2 million liters of alcoholic drinks in 2021, in response to information from Euromonitor Worldwide. Although dwarfed by the United Arab Emirates’ 115 million liters bought 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 considered 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 residence 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.”