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


It’s 9:30 p.m. and Mohamed, slumped in a leather pouf, in the middle of the cricket stadium in Doha’s industrial zone, doesn’t feel like going to bed. Her alarm clock rings in less than six hours. Like every day of the week, he will have to be driving his asphalt plow at 4 a.m. on one of the construction sites in the Qatari capital.

Inside the fan zone, during the Poland-Mexico match, in Doha, Qatar, on November 8, 2022.

But this Saturday, November 19, the Pakistani from a village near Peshawar, with a stringy beard and a cap on his head, cannot look away from the giant screen erected in the middle of the field. A succession of Indian dance and rap clips are broadcast there, with glamorous dancers and bad boy muscular, in a deluge of special effects and decibels. “It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this”, confesses the flabbergasted forties.

This Bollywood-style show, organized the day before the opening of the World Cup, marked the inauguration of the fan-zone intended for immigrant workers in Doha, in the south-west of the capital. Like foreign fans – who gather in Al-Bidda Park, near the corniche – migrant workers, who make up nearly 90% of the country’s three million inhabitants, have the opportunity to watch matches from this stadium. arranged cricket. Between two broadcasts, these spectators can also play football games on mini-fields or cool off at a refreshment bar.

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On Wednesday evening, thousands of workers watched Spain’s show of force against Costa Rica from the stands and the stadium lawn. “I ran after my service, says Islam, a Bangladeshi, responsible for the maintenance team of the Hamad government hospital. 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 dreary and neglected outskirts of Doha. A maze of factories, repair shops, warehouses and workers’ dormitories; parking lot for bulldozers, tankers and forklifts… the industrial zone, populated exclusively by men, is the engine room of Qatar. The place no one sees, but everyone benefits from: invisible and essential.

Within the fan zone, during the Poland-Mexico match, in Doha, on November 8, 2022.

It is 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 zone is the negative of West Bay, the business district with hypermodern towers; behind the gleaming backdrop sold in World Cup promotional videos. “It is one of the vital organs of Doha, but it is an organ that is sick”, 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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