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Soccer fans: leave the booze out of the bag for Qatar 2022

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Qatari fans celebrate at Aspire Park in Doha December 2, 2010, after the announcement that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. 

FADI AL-ASSAAD / Reuters

A girl celebrates at Souk Waqif in Doha December 2, 2010, after the announcement that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup.

By Charlene Gubash, NBC News Cairo producer

Doha is a great place for rest and sun, but soccer fans heading to the 2022 World Cup, beware: Qatar is not a place where you BYOB. All bags are x-rayed at the airport for any banned alcohol.

Qatar subscribes to the same brand of conservative Wahhabi Islam as its neighbor Saudi Arabia, and forbids drinking alcohol, but it is much more easygoing about applying it. You can  imbibe at the many luxury five-star hotels, as well as any other hotels with liquor licenses, in the peninsula nation bordering the Persian Gulf. And for the lucky few, the Ritz Carlton executive lounge serves a bottomless glass of good scotch. Qatar has also reclaimed land from the ocean to create Pearl Island, similar to Dubai's famous Palm Island. Many of the two dozen  restaurants on the glamorous island also serve liquor. 


 

Residents say Qatar is a great place to raise a family. There is no evidence of prostitution and a low crime rate.

After all, fun is in the eye of the beholder. If soccer fans like shopping at huge air-conditioned malls, jogging the ocean-side boardwalk or setting sail in a traditional wooden Dhow, they can have a good time off the soccer pitch too. Maybe a bit highbrow for rowdy football fans, but residents recommend the renovated old market, the Souk, and the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art. 

Those craving a little more excitement can also take to the desert in 4-wheel drives and dune buggies for some “dune bashing,” or try their hand at camel riding and falconry.

But don't expect Dubai-style glitz. “I like it because the management is excellent,” said one expat, who asked not to be named. “Going forward, they are not like Dubai counting on prostitution [for revenue], but on sporting events, business conferences  and education.”