In the “engine room” of Qatar, where immigrant workers live that Doha does not want to see

It’s 21:30 and Mohamed, slumped on a leather ottoman, in the middle of the cricket stadium in the industrial area of ​​Doha, doesn’t feel like going to bed. His alarm goes off in less than six hours. Like every day of the week, at 4 in the morning, he will have to be driving his paver, in one of the construction sites in the Qatari capital.

Inside the fan zone, during the Poland-Mexico match, in Doha, Qatar on Nov. 22, 2022.

But this Saturday, November 19, the Pakistani from a village near Peshawar, with a shaggy beard and a cap on his head, cannot take his eyes off the giant screen erected in the middle of the field. There, a series of Indian dance and rap clips are broadcast, with charming dancers and bad boy muscular, in a deluge of special effects and decibels. “It’s the first time I’ve seen such a thing”, confesses the stunned forty-year-old.

This Bollywood-style show, organized the day before the opening of the World Cup, marked the inauguration of the fan-zone intended for migrant workers in Doha, in the southwest of the capital. Like foreign fans – who gather in Al-Bidda Park, near the corniche – migrant workers, who make up almost 90% of the country’s three million inhabitants, have the opportunity to attend the cricket matches organized by this stadium . Between broadcasts, these viewers can also play football on the mini-pitch or refresh themselves at the café.

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On Wednesday evening, thousands of workers watched Spain’s show of force against Costa Rica from the stands and lawn of the stadium. “I ran after my serve, says Islam, a Bangladeshi, head of the maintenance team at the government hospital in Hamad. The screen is gigantic, it allows you to follow the actions well. The atmosphere was excellent. »

“A vital but sick organ of Doha”

With its clamor, booming sound system and lighting effects, the Fan Zone introduces a bit of World Cup fever to the usually desolate and neglected suburb of Doha. A labyrinth of factories, workshops, warehouses and workers’ dormitories; parking for bulldozers, tankers and forklifts… the industrial area, populated exclusively by men, is the engine room of Qatar. The place that no one sees, but from which everyone benefits: invisible and essential.

Inside the fan zone, during the Poland-Mexico match, in Doha on Nov. 22, 2022.

It’s clogged with sand and dust when the rest of the city exudes maniacal cleanliness. Built horizontally in a country that prides itself on its skyscrapers, the industrial area is the negative of West Bay, the business district with hypermodern towers; behind the glittering backdrop sold in World Cup promo videos. “It is one of Doha’s vital organs, but it is a diseased organ”says Mustafa Qadri, director of the NGO Equidem, which specializes in defending workers’ rights. The Qatari authorities did not respond to the request for a reaction from the World.

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