Doha's Souq Waqif is a World Cup winner as traders enjoy business boom

Thousands of football lovers have flocked to the quaint market, with shop owners reaping the rewards

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Business is booming for traders at a bustling Doha market, which has been at the heart of the action during the World Cup.

Tens of thousands of footballer lovers have filled the narrow streets of Souq Waqif throughout the tournament to rejoice over famous victories and commiserate after heartbreaking defeat.

It has provided a welcome boost for shopkeepers, who have reaped the benefits of the festival of footfall by selling everything from shirts, flags, souvenirs and Qatari attire to those eager to immerse themselves in the culture of the Middle East.

Mohammed Tahir, an Indian salesman at the traditional souq, said he had sold hundreds of national team shirts each day.

“I sold 500 shirts in 24 hours. I have been selling hundreds of team shirts every day during the tournament. Prices are about 50 riyals [Dh50] per shirt,” Mr Tahir told The National.

Morocco lead the way

The biggest seller in the first days of the event was the Saudi Arabia shirt, with many fans keen to wear the green colours after the side's stunning 2-1 win over Argentina.

It was soon overtaken by the red and green of Morocco as the Atlas Lions embarked on a history-making run to the semi-finals.

“We used to sell many Saudi jerseys and now the most wanted shirt is for Morocco,” said Mr Tahir.

“Prices went up for Morocco shirts from 30 riyals at the beginning of the tournament to 60 riyals these days.”

The happy trader has kept his shop open until 3am to meet demand.

One fan who travelled from the US to attend Morocco's third-place play-off with Croatia on Saturday had to settle for an older version of the national shirt, such has been the support for the North Africans.

“I arrived tonight at the airport from the US and came to Souq Waqif to buy a Morocco shirt for the third-place match but I only managed to get the former jersey,” said Abdelhafidh Saeed.

“I wish I had purchased the new shirt online.”

The souq is believed to have been established more than a century ago, and was already a beloved tourist destination in Doha.

It has been a popular port of call not only for supporters but for global TV stations who have trained their cameras on the area to offer a taste of old world Qatar charm to viewers around the globe.

Reporters from Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports have been regularly stationed at the market for fan interviews.

In high demand

Abdulqasim Mumtaz said many fans were buying the traditional Qatari 'thobe' dress and some bought customised versions featuring their country’s flag.

“The business has been very good in the last four weeks. Sometimes we can hardly rest or have a meal because of high demand by football fans and tourists,” Mr Mumtaz said.

He said many fans purchased the ghutra headdress adorned with the flag and name of their national team.

“They buy these items for themselves and relatives as gifts. Prices range from 30 to 60 riyals depending on quality.

“It has been a remarkable month in Souq Waqif.”

Messi and Ronaldo are stars of the souq

It comes as little surprise that in Doha, much like the rest of the world, Argentine hero Lionel Messi and Portugal forward Ronaldo are the stars of the show.

“We have many people who bought Argentina jerseys with Messi's name. Ronaldo fans came to buy Portugal jerseys with Ronaldo's name. The price for each is about 45 riyals,” said Maanav, a Bangladeshi salesman.

With the World Cup party soon to be over, the souq is gearing for one final weekend of roaring trade.

“Besides selling the shirts, flags, scarf and dresses, people now coming to buy souvenirs as they are leaving Doha after the world cup,” said Maanav.

“We will be missing the benefits of having football fans here.”

Updated: December 16, 2022, 1:05 PM