Qatar World Cup: Football-mad Saudi walks 1,600km from Jeddah to Doha

Abdullah Al Sulmi bought food at petrol stations and bathed at mosques during his 55-day journey

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A football fan from Saudi Arabia has finally reached Doha after walking 1,600 kilometres from Jeddah to attend the Qatar World Cup matches.

Abdullah Al Sulmi, 33, an experienced trekker, arrived on Monday after 55 days.

All he carried was a backpack, trekking pole and Saudi and Qatari flags.

Mr Al Sulmi said he could have taken a 2-hour flight from Jeddah to Doha but he wanted a different kind of experience and to get the world's attention on social media.

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I’m a big fan of Messi and Argentina's national team but will support my country in the match
Abdullah Al Sulmi

“Being in Doha was a dream when I first started two months ago and I accomplished my mission,” he wrote on his social media account.

Mr Al Sulmi said the idea of walking all the way to Doha came to mind after he watched a television show in which a senior Qatari official promised an exceptional experience during the World Cup.

“I told myself that I should go no matter what, even if I had to walk to Doha,” he said.

He said his relatives thought it is a crazy idea when he started to plan his solo trek.

“There were difficulties such as hot weather and difficult terrain but I managed to overcome the obstacles,” he said.

Mr Al Sulmi documented his journey for his thousands of followers on Snapchat and TikTok.

Abdullah Al Sulmi said the trek was a good experience as he met many people on the way. Photo: Abdullah Al Sulmi

His social media posts capture details of life on the trail — his daily search to camp at night and the time when he spotted a scorpion crawling dangerously close to his tent.

He said he started walking after sunrise and continued until 10.30am, when he took a break for a few hours. He then resumed his journey in the afternoon and continued walking late into the night

He said he bought food at petrol stations on the way and showered and washed his clothes at mosques.

“It was a fun experience as walking makes you meet different people and see new places. I decided to have an exceptional trip to watch the World Cup matches and support the Saudi Arabia team,” he said.

Mr Al Sulmi said he always wore a tracking device that was synched with the phones of his friends and brother.

In the past, Mr Al Sulmi said he has trekked in Canada and Australia, where he lived for some time, but the trek in the Arabian Desert was a very different experience because of the heat and the difficult terrain.

He said he will make videos in different parts of Doha to show that Arab nations can host major events like the World Cup.

“I’m proud that the Gulf region will be hosting a major event like the World Cup. We should support Qatar to show the world that we can host major tournaments,” he said.

He said he hopes to attend the opening match of Saudi Arabia against Argentina on November 22.

“I’m a big fan of Messi and Argentina's national team but will support my country in the match,” he said.

Final preparations as Qatar gets ready to host World Cup — in pictures

Updated: November 02, 2022, 2:46 AM
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