A city built for the World Cup in Qatar

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Less than a month after it was scheduled, World Cup Finally, Lusail City is strangely quiet.

Twenty kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital, Doha, the sophisticated district is riddled with wide streets, deserted lobbies and construction cranes, attracting dozens of World Cup fans and host nation Qatar. It was built to accommodate 10,000 inhabitants.

But with more than one million football fans leaving the Gulf Arab countries after the tournament, with football’s biggest event taking place, it’s not clear how much of the infrastructure Qatar has built for the event will be used. The future city in the sky raises questions.

Elias Garcia, a 50-year-old business owner from San Francisco, visited Lusail City from Doha with friends. One day there was no football match going on in the city’s bowl-shaped golden stadium.

“We’ve come to check it out, but there’s not much here,” says the giant crescent-shaped superman behind him, designed to look like the curved sword of Qatar’s coat of arms. Garcia said, looking up at the skyscrapers.

Across the street, a building site was hidden by a low fence with a desert landscape. “Everything seems to be under construction,” said Garcia. “It’s just an empty lot with little walls put up to make it look like it’s working.”

Drive north from Doha to see Lusail City’s glittering skyline and marina. A pastel-colored tower that looks like a pile of wooden boxes rises from the desert. Wide streets give way to clusters of zigzag buildings, glass domes and neoclassical residential blocks. It is unknown if anyone lives there. Most are advertised as luxury hotels, apartments or commercial office spaces. Cranes hang over many buildings.

Plans for Lusail City began in 2005, but construction sped up after Qatar won the right to host the World Cup five years later.patronage Qatar’s $450 billion sovereign wealth fundthe city is designed to be compact and pedestrian-friendly, and is connected by Doha’s new metro and light rail.

Fahad Al Jahamri, who manages the project at Qatari Diar, the real estate firm behind the city backed by Qatar’s Investment Authority, calls Lusail City a self-contained “extension of Doha.”

Officials also say the city is part of a broader plan in which natural gas-rich Qatar must build a knowledge economy.

But reaching the target of 400,000 people in Lusail could be difficult in a country with only 300,000 citizens, many of whom live in camps rather than fancy towers. poor immigrants.

Even during the World Cup, Lusail City is much quieter than Doha. Doha itself has seen a staggering amount of construction over the past decade in preparation for the World Cup.

Not many stores have yet opened in Place Vendôme, an exclusive mall named after the grand square in Paris. On a recent afternoon, several tourists took pictures of the Lusail City skyline from a shopping mall while cashiers were discussing. At the downtown building housing the Ministry of Culture and other government offices, security said nearly everyone had left by 11 a.m.

“Even on the subway, if you go on a non-match day, there are probably five to 10 other people on the subway besides you,” Garcia said.

On the man-made Al Maha Island, World Cup fans and locals lounged at exclusive beach clubs, pulled on shisha tobacco pipes and soaked in pools.

Timothy Bert-Riley gave instructions to workers at an art gallery that opened later that evening. A French gallery director said the city of Lusail, or at least the island of Al Maha, with its amusement park, luxury boutiques, restaurants and lounges, will become a gathering place for locals.

“This is a completely man-made island,” Burt Riley said.

He said Qatar could find a way to take advantage of the infrastructure it built for the World Cup, including seven new football stadiums, but admitted it “may take time.”


Follow Suman Naishadam on Twitter. @Suman Naishadham


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