A Dubai super fan is gearing up for an unforgettable World Cup road trip after splashing out thousands of dirhams to take in five games in less than a week in Qatar.
Dr Ali Khayat, from Iraq, has secured match tickets for himself and his wife and 14-year-old son, and an official Hayya vehicle entry permit to allow them to cross the Saudi border into Doha in his trusty Range Rover.
A specialist in family medicine, Dr Khayat said it will be a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience as he embarks on a six-hour journey from the UAE to the neighbouring Gulf nation on Saturday.
He and his family will see some of the tournament big hitters in action, including favourites Brazil, three-time winners Germany and a Belgian side keen to capitalise on their much-vaunted golden generation of stars.
“It’s like a vacation for me and my family. It is an expensive vacation but it’s worth it as it is once in a lifetime,” Dr Khayat told The National.
The 47-year-old doctor bought category 1 match tickets for himself and his family for the group matches, with tickets costing Dh800 each.
He said the cost of accommodation and transport costs will leave him with a Dh30,000 bill, but also priceless memories.
A dream to see Brazil
“I kept monitoring the Fifa website and managed to get these tickets. Being a Brazilian fan my dream will come true when I watch them live in the stadium.”
The football lover moved to Dubai from Iraq in 2003 and has worked for a government hospital in Abu Dhabi since 2006.
It will be Dr Khayat's first World Cup, and he is making the most of the event's Middle East debut.
“It is a great chance for me as the tournament is close to the UAE. I will drive for six hours to reach Doha,” he said.
“I booked two bedrooms in a hotel apartment in Doha for one week. It cost Dh10,700.”
He applied for Saudi Arabia visas for Dh500 for each family member.
“I purchased car insurance in Qatar for Dh160 and paid Dh5,000 to get a vehicle permit to enter Qatar with the Hayya card.
“There will be more expenses once we reach Doha like food, souvenirs etc. I will attend one match per day but we have one day free of matches to go and enjoy the atmosphere,” he said.
Dr Khayat will make a 700km desert drive from his home in Dubai, entering Qatar through the Abu Samra land border crossing with Saudi Arabia.
Witnessing the global spectacle in person with his loved ones will make all the time and expense worth it.
“My wish was to see the Iraq national team playing in the mega-event but unfortunately we didn’t qualify. I support Brazil and believe they can get the title,” said Dr Khayat.
“It will be an unforgettable memory for my son as he is also a football super fan.”
One Dubai family's World Cup itinerary
Sunday, November 27: Belgium v Morocco, Al Thumama Stadium (4pm)*
Tuesday, November 29: Ecuador v Senegal, Khalifa International Stadium (6pm)
Wednesday, November 30: Denmark v Australia, Al Janoub Stadium (6pm)
Thursday, December 1: Germany v Costa Rica, Al Bayt Stadium (10pm)
Friday, December 2: Brazil v Cameroon, Lusail Stadium (10pm)
*All match kick-offs in local time, Doha.