Qatar Uber drivers want to come to England – ‘boring and expensive’

World Cup 2022 briefing: Day 5

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As soon as you climb into an Uber in Doha, the inevitable question comes. “Where are you from?” they ask curiously, detecting my accent – and pale skin and ginger hair. When I tell them I’m from England, all three drivers have had the same response so far. “I want to come one day.”

There has been plenty of controversy around the World Cup being held in Qatar, and rightly so too.

FIFA awarded them the honour of hosting the globe’s biggest sporting event back in 2010 under dubious circumstances, with controversy refusing to go away in the years since.

Over 6,000 migrants have tragically lost their lives constructing state-of-the-art stadiums. They’re not even full, not even remotely close, and it’s even more of an insult to the families who have sadly been left behind with only precious memories to hold on to.

With the eyes of the world watching Qatar have, so far, put on a good enough show.

I have mainly relied on the Metro system, which is pristine and perfect at the same time, to get around during my time in Doha after arriving last Friday.

But with some of the stadiums awkward to get to, especially with timings between each match tight, Ubers have started to be used on a more frequent basis.

So far, I have used the app three times. It’s something I often use back in England and, as per back home, each driver is ready to have a natter.

As soon as I speak, they ask where I’m from. For a bit of fun, I tell them to guess. One driver guessed Germany, which took me by surprise.

But when they’re informed I’m from England, big smiles break out. They’re fans of our country, believing it to be the land of opportunity as America once was.

My first driver, named Muhammed, told me he was hoping to visit one day.

“It is a great country,” he said. “Everybody from England is so nice. I have friends there, they say it is a brilliant place to be.”

They’re right of course. England, for all of it’s glaring problems, remains a place to be proud of. Sometimes, going away makes you appreciate what you come home to.

My second chauffeur, named Mesfin, was even more glowing in his praise of the country.

Like Muhammed, he appreciates the United Kingdom. With excitement, he asks me whether he’d be allowed in.

Politics isn’t my area of expertise, so I tell him as long as he goes through all the right channels I see no reason why not. We’re welcoming to foreigners, another good thing about our nation.

But my third driver, Kashif, is the most interesting of the lot.

He tells me he’s 20 years old and I’m stunned. He looks at least 30, certainly older than myself at 28. When I tell him my age, he laughs. “You look nearer 24, 25 bro,” he says.

I ask him what Qatar is like. He moved here from Pakistan a few years ago with his wife and young child.

When I’ve asked that question to other residents, they usually smile and say they love it. With the sunshine, cleanliness and the like, it’s understandable if you’re inclined that way.

But not Keshif.

“It is boring,” he tells me. “I work, eat, go to sleep. Everything is expensive. There is nothing else to do.”

It is a criticism I consider fair. Whereas in the UK you can go to the pub, cinema and other such things in your downtime, that doesn’t really seem possible here.

Pubs do exist but, so far, they’ve been packed full of tourists. Given some sell alcohol, many locals seemingly don’t even want to be on the premises.

Keshif says he has spent the last couple of years perfecting his English. He applied for a visa in 2019 but was declined yet he feels he’s ready to make another attempt to live in England once the World Cup is out of the way.

I wish him good luck and all the best. But he has one last question for me…

“Where else in Europe is good?”

I’ve done some travelling myself, but it’s all taste dependent. I like the Netherlands, I like Spain, France is OK and Turkey was, from my six-year-old memory, pretty good as well.

I settle on Spain, due to the climate. If I’d lived all my life in this sunshine, that would seem a logical move.

“It rains alot in England and it’s cold,” I warn him. But Keshif wants to come because he wants to work, foreseeing a better life for himself and his family. And nobody can begrudge him that in the slightest.

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