Al-Rayyan, Qatar – A group of friends and family gathers every day for a majlis in a house a short walk from their home in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha.
It’s a tradition that has been going on for years and is part of everyday life here in Qatar. Majlis is a place in a house or a separate building that is used for all kinds of gatherings, from daily calls to important events.
But now, with the World Cup in town, it has taken on another theme: a football viewing party.
Most of the middle-aged and elderly people who attended the majlis were there to watch Sunday’s opening match of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar v Ecuador.
In Qatar, they have been waiting for this moment for years. Across the country, in majlis like this, Qataris looked to see themselves in the world.
Not that anyone was here for the game.
“Honestly, I’m not a football player,” said Nasser Al Thani, who lives here most days. They have all come to play, but I have come for the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony, with a presentation of Qatari history, brought the guests back to their childhood. One moment, in particular, brought them back when a video was shown of the former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani playing football in the desert where the visitors were said to have been in the early 1970s.
“We used to play in the sand like this,” Al Thani said. “Barefoot, toes are bleeding.” When I see these old pictures, it reminds me of the old days. People were simple and nice back then. “
Al Thani and other visitors reminisced about their trips to the desert when they were young.
One of them, Mubarak al-Naeemi, used to play with the Qatari football team Al-Rayyan and Al-Gharafa in the 1980s. He also said that one of his teammates at that time was Hassan Afif, the father of the current star of the Qatari team. , Akram Afif.
“I will play on the left side; I was good, but Hassan can take the ball to anyone, wherever he is on the pitch,” al-Naeemi told Al Jazeera.
You have been interrupted in the game
Qatar conceded an early goal, setting the tone for the game.
Therefore, instead of wasting their time focusing on the success of the Qataris, the guests of the majlis returned to thinking about the changes they have seen in the last 20 years in Qatar, especially since the World Cup was awarded. Gulf countries in 2010.
It is well known that Doha has changed rapidly since then. But listening to the guests who are here, who have seen the change, it is clear how things are very different.
“Look at these metro stations,” said one of the visitors, Sultan Johar. “Four underground rooms. It’s amazing. We got the World Cup, but even if we hadn’t, these changes would have been enough. When you get off at every stop, you see something new.”
Al Thani points out that this change has passed through civilizations and spread to the people.
“To be honest, we didn’t have a strong sense of nationalism or national identity,” Al Thani said. “The World Cup, this project, has helped create this. Now you hear even some Arabs who are growing up here, they speak with a Qatari accent. They are starting to be proud to be in Qatar.”
But this does not mean that the group accepts all changes.
They remembered that the Qatar of their childhood and youth was small, but the people were tough and they could live on their own.
And not only that, the weather was cold, and the rain was less but more than today, they said.
Now, as many World Cup visitors will know, the temperature is hotter than ever.
“It’s climate change, and it makes us worry about the future,” said Johar. “We did not understand things like being careful or protecting the environment. Now we go to the desert and pick up trash. We are getting it now but look at the prices. They have disappeared in some areas due to lack of rain. And the animals we used to hunt, you have to go deep into the desert to find them now.”
On television, Qatar conceded a second and then showed little in the second half, the game ended 2-0 to Ecuador.
Most of the guests at the majlis had already left before the end of the game, and jokes had already started to enter everyone’s phones, lamenting the loss.
At the end of the day, the result was not very important to the guests here, but the sign of the arrival of an important event at their door was. And yet, when the race is over, the majlis will continue, and these friends will still gather, wondering how they will see their world change in the years to come.