Saudi fan treks to Qatar for World Cup

Crossing the Arabian Peninsula on foot for the World Cup in Doha: this is the “crazy” idea of ​​Abdallah al-Salmi, a 33-year-old Saudi, who hopes, through his journey, to convey his enthusiasm for this first World Cup organized in the Middle East and promote hiking in the Gulf.

“I’m going to Doha no matter what, even on foot!”, he remembers thinking while listening to a Qatari official promise an “exceptional” event.

Abdallah al-Salmi then embarked on an adventure considered “crazy” by some of those close to him: a solo journey for two months and over 1,600 kilometers, from his city of Jeddah, in western Saudi Arabia, to Doha, the capital. Qatar, which hosts the World Cup from November 20 to December 18.

Followed by thousands of subscribers on Snapchat, his trip aims to convey the region’s enthusiasm for this World Cup, the first in the Gulf.

“We want to support the World Cup,” the former logistics supervisor told AFP, under the shade of roadside shrubs in the town of Al-Khasrah, 340 kilometers southwest of Riyadh. , the Saudi capital.

“I feel like a Qatari who is very interested in this World Cup and its success,” says Abdallah al-Salmi, carrying a backpack on which the flags of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are enthroned. , two countries that were in diplomatic cold until last year.

– Heat and scorpions –

The young Saudi is a regular in hiking, a sport he practiced in Canada and Australia, where he lived. But, he says, crossing the Arabian Peninsula is another matter.

He usually leaves at dawn and walks until ten o’clock, the scorching midday heat forcing him to take a break before resuming the journey until sunset.

On social networks, he recounts the details of everyday life, from the most banal to the most disturbing, such as his search for places to camp at night or the time he saw a scorpion near his tent.

Abdallah al-Salmi also notes conversations with Saudis he meets along the way, many of whom offer him food or promise to follow him on social media to support him in his project.

“There are ups and downs, but when I meet people and hear these comforting words, it encourages me to continue,” says the young football fan.

This experience also allowed him to realize the diversity of the landscapes of his country, “sand dunes, then mountains, then wastelands, then farms”.

– Hope for Saudi Arabia –

Abdallah al-Salmi’s goal is also to inspire other Saudis to do more hiking in the country.

“Hiking and walking is a beautiful sport, even if the weather is difficult here in Saudi Arabia, even if the terrain is difficult. You can do it,” he said.

“It’s a sport for simple people. All you need is a bag, simple little things, a tent and nature,” sums up the young man.

Abdallah al-Salmi hopes to reach Doha in time for his country’s first game on November 22 against their favorite football team, Argentina.

The Saudi team, which will also face Poland and Mexico, have qualified for six World Cups but only reached the round of 16 once, in 1994.

“This year, we have good players. The coach is the great French coach (Hervé) Renard”, he assures, hoping for “an exceptional performance”.

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Saudi fan treks to Qatar for World Cup

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