An architectural setting at unlimited cost, Al Thumama is located in the southwest of the megalopolis, far from the buildings of the West Bay business center, the organized bazaar of Souq Waqif, the artificial island or the « new city » of Lusail. Between him and the Khalifa stadium, which sits next to the giant Aspire sports complex, another Doha: dustier, between completely deserted land, buildings emerging from the ground and an industrial zone. “Sud Ouest” surveyed it.
1 Barwa City, Wednesday 1 p.m.
Along the main avenue, the flags of the qualified countries fall in banners. Here, two kilometers west of Al-Thumama, everything smells new: the cloned six-storey buildings standing out in the middle of a desert, the palm trees and green spaces with “Wimbledonian” grass, the supermarket. Like its older brother Barwa Village, or the Barwa Towers, the district is part of a vast real estate program by the company of the same name, posting 8 billion in assets in 2015. A second part is being finalized and a panel at the entrance to a vast piece of land heralds the emergence from the ground of an entire new district in the “Qatar 2030” development plan launched by the Emir. The number of construction workers is estimated at 1 million out of the 2.8 million inhabitants, including 2.5 million foreigners.
Primarily residential, the new space targets a population of wealthy workers. Witness the Newton British School, a private academy that sits there. Attached also, a small football field: in Qatar, without the federal system, the sport is practiced via private schools. A few hours before the decisive match against Mexico, Osama and three friends carry the flag of Saudi Arabia. At the windows, two children – on vacation during the competition – shout « Saudia, Saudia ». The four young men come from Ryad and « discover Qatar » while the two countries took advantage of the World Cup to warm up their diplomatic relations.
“Coaches and minibuses dump workers in uniform who poach”
More unexpectedly, while workers are having lunch in the shade, Anastasia and Anatoly are getting ready to leave. Ukrainian refugees in Poland, they form a musical duo. They applied and were chosen by Fifa to perform at the Lusail fan zone, an hour away. They are not alone: several recruited artists are housed there during the competition in rather opulent apartments.
2 Asian Town, Wednesday 3 p.m.
The road from Barwa City to “Asian Town” runs alongside the Mesaimeer Muslim cemetery, the largest in the city. The Mosque is one of the most popular there. As the prayer approaches, pick-ups of Qataris in thoba, the traditional dress, arrive in large numbers in the huge parking lot. Three are going to stop to propose to advance the visitor walking in the sun. Attached not far, to the south, is the Qatar Racing Club and its circuit, one of Qatar’s great passions: car racing.
Just next door, Asian Town is a district built by the Qatari state to accommodate migrant workers in a country where 2.5 million out of 2.8 are foreigners. There is a shopping center, a cinema with a « Bollywood » program (Indian comedies), and a 13,000-seat cricket stadium transformed during the event into a fan zone, with a giant screen and DJs. The buildings, with their well-maintained exterior, are made up of apartments or dormitories. A flag of Morocco sits in the square, but the nations represented here are not qualified: Kenya, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Pakistan. Coaches and minibuses pour out the workers in uniform who poach and recover those who hire. Some wear outfits in the colors of the World Cup.
“I arrived here 15 years ago, there was nothing in the street. It’s being built »
Samuel, a Kenyan who works for the national transport company whose head office is adjoining, arrived “a year and two months ago” to “earn more money. “During the event, he drives the shuttles that transport the supporters to the stadium. He was not able to see a match on the giant screen but is behind “all the African teams”, selling bead bracelets in the colors of the countries on the sly. Like him, Peter, who arrived a year ago, wants to see the positive in the media coverage and the promised improvements. Taxi driver from Bangladesh, Jawed, present for six years and who was able to return for two months to see his family, does his accounts: during the ordeal, in one day, he realizes the newly fixed monthly minimum wage for workers (265 euros , plus a compulsory rest day) whose working conditions and treatment have been denounced by NGOs.
3 Industrial zone, Friday 1 p.m.
It is an anarchic place where car garages, site warehouses, car wrecks, forgotten garbage cans, but also a mosque or a medical center are mixed together. The laundry dries in front of the windows of dilapidated buildings or barracks, the sidewalks are gravel or earth, far from the controlled aspect of the Asian Town. Here settle the most disadvantaged migrant workers. The World Cup is also present there through the necklaces of flags hung on the walls. Symbol of great differences, just cross the expressway of the East Industrial Road, 2 kilometers away, to discover the district of Umm Al Seneem. He sees the villas bloom. A green park with an air-conditioned promenade was inaugurated there. On this Friday, the equivalent of Sunday in Muslim countries, Qatari and foreign families come to picnic there.
In the industrial zone, on the other hand, as in Asian Town, almost only men. Apartment buildings begin to rise. Almost atypical in the place, a closed and new residence with the logo of an air conditioning company which houses its staff there, denotes. Owner of a grocery store where his peers seek freshness, an Indian trader wants to be positive. “I arrived here 15 years ago, there was nothing in the street. It’s being built. He is one of the few who was able to buy a ticket. « South Korea – Ghana, so I encourage Ghana ». He admits it: expansion is “good for his business. For some of its neighbors, the road remains long.