Last week FIFA announced that the small peninsular nation of Qatar would play host to the 2022 World Cup Finals. Naturally, there was much rejoicing in the country, as they beat out the world powers of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the United States. Also naturally, there was immediate skepticism with many in the press thinking the bidding was rigged. Granted, Qatar used the starpower of former French footballer and one-time shameful headbutter Zinedine Zidane to help them land the Cup, so they had that going for them (Ed. note: which is nice). Still, many aren’t pleased that a nation that hasn’t even qualified for the World Cup, ever, gets to host the biggest party of 2022.
Another issue that surfaced almost immediately after the bid was announced was drinking. While Qatar has more liberal drinking laws than most Muslim countries, it’s still a difficult process for even a foreigner to grab a drink. Consider this little tidbit from Sportsgrid.com (via Wikitravel) on how to get a drinking permit:
To purchase [alcohol], you must have a license that can only be obtained by having a written letter of permission from your employer. You can only get a license when you have obtained your residency permit and you will need to get a letter from your employer confirming your salary in addition to paying a deposit for QR1000 (about $275.)
Even worse was FIFA’s deal-cutter and talking head Sepp Blatter, who controversially answered a reporter’s question about gay fans traveling to Qatar by saying perhaps they “should refrain from sexual activity” while visiting. While he followed up by defending Qatar’s ability to host a discrimination-free cup, the statement did raise some eyebrows.
So, right at this moment, if you’re a soccer football-loving drinker, or gay football fan, or especially a football-loving gay drinker, then you are probably a little concerned about visiting Qatar in 2022 and might wonder what the heck to do with all the $$$ you’ve saved up to travel to the World Cup. Fear not! NileGuide is on top of it, and we’ve created a fantastic list of the top 5 alternate destinations for World Cup viewing. These hotspots are drinker-friendly, gay-friendly, and all-around fantastic places to visit.
Image: WBN workshop/Flickr
According to one of our own NileGuiders, the party scene in Tel Aviv is “ah-may-zing” and Israelis are big football fans too. Plus, it has a vibrant gay community and has been consistently rated as one of the top places for gay travel in the world – sounds like the perfect mix for a World Cup holiday! It’s tough not to find places to have a drink and socialize, especially on weekends when Israelis and travelers from all over descend upon Tel Aviv’s epic nightlife. The city also has the leading gay community in all of the Middle East, including one hotel dedicated toward serving gay clientele and the famous “Hilton Beach” which is packed with young gay Israelis soaking up Mediterranean sun.
You can’t think World Cup without thinking of Spain, the winners of the 2010 championship in South Africa, so why not go somewhere you’ll be able to party and cheer on your favorite team like a fanatic? Barcelona has arguably the coolest nightlife in Europe, with bars that will show every World Cup game, and clubs that will carry you through till 6am, just in time for you to catch some sleep before the next round of games– not to mention culture, food, beautiful people, the football tradition with Camp Nou and FC Barcelona… shall we go on? Also, if you’re looking for an excellent gay scene, check out Sitges which lies about 20 miles south of Barcelona which has walkable, colorful beaches and is one of Europe’s top gay resorts.
Image: manuel MC/Flickr
Amsterdam seems to be the opposite of conservative, that’s for certain. Between the liberalization of marijuana, the famous De Wallen Red Light District, the variety of bars and clubs, and the cheerful Dutch fans dressed from head to toe in Orange, cheering on their 2010 runner-up heros, Amsterdam has got to be top on the list of places to go to party. Amsterdam’s gay scene makes it a perfect place to play host to one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world. The city was also the first in the world to build a monument to those who were persecuted in World War II, the Homomonument.
Image: Roshon Vyas/Flickr
While there’s a bit of bias in choosing NileGuide’s hometown as a destination for the World Cup, we must admit that there’s no denying this city has it all when it comes to catering to gay travelers and party-goers. San Francisco’s famous and vibrant gay and international communities frequent the city’s many bars (more than you can shake a World Cup trophy at), most notably Kezar Pub, Martin Mack’s and Mad Dog in the Fog, to name a few.
Ok, so you’re not going to take no for an answer. You’re going to the World Cup whether you can drink or not. Plus, Qatar is fascinating, modern Middle Eastern country with fantastic cuisine and great shopping and outdoor activities, right? Sounds like you’re looking for the best of both worlds, so here’s a compromise: the tiny Kingdom of Bahrain sandwiched in between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is a liberal island oasis where many in the Middle East come to play– and drink, especially visitors from nearby “dry” countries. Now, we aren’t sure if there is a vibrant gay scene or not (we’re thinking not). However, you’re probably better off partying here than partying in Qatar. Plus, the short 45 minute flight between the two countries starts at about $100. Go Qatar for the culture, stay for the games, then go back to Bahrain for the party!