The gold line at 10 to 8 on Thursday evening in Doha. A crowded metro prepare is heading west in opposition to the Khalifa International Stadium for Japan v Spain. A handy guide a rough inventory take of the carriage finds the next: one Filipino girl from Hong Kong in a Spain blouse and baseball cap; two Japanese girls in face mask speaking to 2 Nepalese buddies (one in all whom flew to Qatar only for the sport), each dressed in Japan kits; 3 Korean-Americans in search of tickets; a circle of relatives of Mexicans (a sombrero offers it away) rooting for Spain; 3 rowdy Saudi Arabia supporters; and above the door a calling card from the Argentinians who’re by no means a ways away – a Panini decal of Diego Maradona from USA 94.
It used to be an not going aggregate, however no longer an ordinary one within the town those previous few weeks and here is the argument: the Doha Metro is where to be at this World Cup. If you need to spend time chatting with folks from internationally, if you wish to know about their hopes and fears (principally football-related), if you wish to chuckle, to sing and be reminded how a lot human beings have in not unusual, then take the prepare. Or march up and down the escalators, or congregate within the concourses. Really, in truth, it is the place it is at.
There are numerous explanation why, beginning with a considerable feat of engineering. The Doha Metro has 3 traces: the Gold or Historic line, which runs east to west in the course of the older portions of the town; the Red or Coast line, which heads north to south linking the guts of Doha with the brand new construction of Lusail, about 40km away; and after all, the Green or Education line, which takes in Qatar University, the National Library and, neatly, the Mall of Qatar.
It serves 37 stations alongside 75km of monitor and, 12 years in the past, no longer a unmarried little bit of it existed. A project involving Qatari planners, German rail operators, Japanese prepare producers, American engineering and development, French IT programs and British insurers, the venture price about $36bn and used to be delivered in 9 years from the time the primary tunnel dull device activated its thrust device . It opened in 2019, in time for the Club World Cup, and round 60 extra stations are deliberate to be added via 2026.
The revel in of using the trains is simply as spectacular. As an revel in it’s unfailingly delightful. Driverless trains flow between stations with nary a bump. They arrive each 3 mins (perhaps 5 at 2am) and provide you with sufficient time to get on with out speeding. “Event team members” at the platforms save you overcrowding.
For the period of the match, commute at the metro has been unfastened to any individual with a Hayya card, the visa-turned-ID card obligatory for guests. The gold-class carriage, a lovely useless top quality phase (you might be hardly ever at the prepare for greater than 20 mins), has additionally been democratised for the month. The gold-class lounges, then again – tiny ready rooms on the station the place rich shoppers can take a seat in a stiff-backed chair – stay subscriber-only.
If all this sounds slightly train-spottery, it used to be for sure of hobby to Hassan, a person answerable for a bunch of Morocco lovers heading to the Canada sport on Thursday. He, like any individual else who would communicate at the topic, used to be a large fan of the metro however he had his lawsuits.
“The carriages are too small, you have to break the group in two,” he mentioned.
“And the signage is confusing – you don’t know which direction you’re going in sometimes or which side the door is going to open. It is important that you agree a place to meet before you travel, otherwise you might get lost.”
All related data, however Hassan, who traveled with a 40-strong gang from Casablanca, used to be additionally indulging within the extra necessary task of in-train banter. His Moroccans were joined within the carriage via two Canada lovers, one dressed in the fascinating (and sold-out) bushy headdress that combines Arab custom with the smiling options of the World Cup mascot La’eeb. The different wore a Canada baseball cap with a Ghana paper celebration hat on most sensible.
Hasan used to be instantly into them: “Canada? Go home!” he mentioned. “Don’t you know it’s Christmas time? It’s time you went back for your presents!”
When the Red line prepare arrived at Oqba Ibn Nafie station, the Canada lovers were given their very own again, (beneath) waving a huge maple leaf flag within the faces of the Moroccans as they handed down the escalator, making a song a refrain of “Olé Olé Olé “.
One Moroccan fan, Osama, also from Casablanca, insisted on giving an interview. He didn’t have much to say, describing the metro as “very well organized”, but he was certainly memorable. Skinny as a rake and wearing rose-tinted John Lennon spectacles, he also had a pair of inflatable moose antlers on his head, given to him by a Canadian.
At this point it is perhaps important to pause. On 28 February 2016, a construction worker from the Philippines, Juanito B. Pardillo, died while working on the metro project. In April of that year the Building and Wood Workers’ International union said that his family were still waiting for an official explanation of what happened, though media reports suggested Pardillo had been helping to excavate a tunnel while it was raining when it collapsed, something that went against safety rules. Four other workers were injured. They were part of an estimated 18,000 workers working for a construction contractor on the project at the time.
For most users of the metro, however, any contact with migrant workers is likely to be with a Kenyan. They are the men who, exclusively it seems according to the foibles of the subcontracting process, fulfill the role of directing tourists in and out of the stations. Working long days, monitoring crowds that manifest only at certain times, it’s a tough gig, but these “customer service executives” have taken an earthly process and grew to become it into one thing extra.
It started with Abubakr Abbass, the 23-year-old whose job it was to direct crowds at the busy Souq Waqif station. Instead of issuing instructions in the time-honored officious manner, he turned his directions into a chant: “Metro? This way! Metro? This way!” In a city full of people looking for a communal experience, it caught on.
Crowds would start the chant as they arrived at stations or stepped off trains. Abbass became a hit on TikTok and was a guest on the pitch during the England v USA group-stage match. Other young Kenyans then took the idea on, creating dance routines (complete with pointy finger foam hands) and writing longer songs. “Dear customer. Where are you going? went one example. “You can opt for the metro, or the tram, you’ll pass this fashion, this fashion, this fashion.” Some who heard that model reported it nonetheless being caught of their heads days later.
What the Kenyans tapped into was something that could be lacking in the official spaces of the Fifa World Cup in Qatar 2022: a sense of humour. And that they were able to practice it in and around the metro was perhaps not a coincidence.
Not only is the train network one of the few places free to use in Doha, it’s also a space where you can stand still and just be. Even better, you might be able to sit down on a comfortable chair (rather than, say, the tarmac of the official Fifa fan park). It’s a space that is occupied by the public, where people all over the world gather in unexpected combinations.
I’ve watched fits there, mentioned politics, in comparison costs and sought pointers. I’ve sung and I’ve danced and maximum of all I’ve laughed. The metro has been an actual excitement.