Windsurfing, Kitesurfing & Sailing

Qatar On Film | What Are They Building And Who Is It For?

Ahead of this winter’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the country is clearly investing a lot in making sports part of its offering. We headed out there to check out a new kitesurfing facility, and get a sense of what's happening

The announcement of a world-class kite beach resort in Fuwairit, Qatar, has raised all sorts of things: eyebrows, questions, but most of all kites.

“Why Qatar?” seemed to be the main question at the signing ceremony earlier this year and, in truth, you can’t really blame people for asking it. The same question has been repeatedly asked since the country was announced as the hosts of this year’s FIFA World Cup back in 2010, so well-prepared answers were to be expected.

“Well tested and well reviewed by some of the best kitesurfers in the world”

The response here was a fairly simple one; Fuwairit’s conditions were described by the people we heard from as a “kitesurfer’s dream”. The kite beach has been well tested and well reviewed by some of the best kitesurfers in the world, and it seems like some people can’t wait to raise their kites to Qatar’s skies. In Fuwairit, the winds are consistent, the water’s warm, and the beach is golden. The country is on a mission to capitalise on these conditions, and who can blame them? 

Credit: James Roe
Credit: James Roe

When it comes to connections, Qatar has them sorted. In its new 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, you’ll find boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali, Lionel Messi’s seventh Ballon d’Or trophy, and shrines to other personally donated sporting memorabilia from all over the world. For some people, distancing the twinkle of Messi’s memento from the controversies around the biggest sports tournament in the world isn’t easy and, arguably, nor should it be. With this museum, a brand-new Formula One track, and of course the buzz of the World Cup, there’s no denying that sport is a big part of the country’s plans though. They want to do it all, they’ve got the financial muscle to make it happen, and they’re undoubtedly in a rush to get there.

Qatar’s capital city, Doha, only saw its first burst of expansion as recently as the 1970s. The country successfully hosted the Asian Games in 2006 and has held annual sporting events ranging from its own Tennis ATP Tour, the Qatar Golf Masters, and the IAAF Diamond League in athletics.

“It might not get the headlines the way the football does, but Qatar is on a mission to generate a buzz among the kitesurfing community”

The biggest test and brightest spotlight so far, though, has come as part of this year’s FIFA World Cup process. Organisers have faced reproval for the manner of the new stadiums’ constructions, and the conditions faced by migrant workers. The country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, hot climate, and shortage of accommodation have all been elephants in the room whenever the tournament is discussed. With the clock ticking down on match one kickoff, there’s also a sense of urgency now around even getting all the building projects done in time.

The World Cup is being held in winter for cooler temperatures (mid 20°Cs, not bad), the tournament’s CEO has claimed that everyone is welcome”, and they’re calling in two massive cruise ships to help accommodate the thousands of travelling football fans who are set to descend on the country (which is roughly the size of Yorkshire). Whatever your thoughts about Qatar, and its motivations for such moves, it’s safe to say that it’s a nation that is well-and-truly in sports mode now. The introduction of a new kitesurfing beach resort, up on its north-east coast, is another line on a long list titled ‘Sporting Projects Happening In Qatar Very Soon’

During the summer we travelled over to the Gulf state to check out the kite beach facility, where the partnerships between Qatar Tourism, Qatar Airways, and the Global Kitesports Association were confirmed through a number of handshakes and signatures.

Credit: James Roe

H. E. Akbar Al Baker, Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways group chief executive began the talks by underlining the clear links between kitesurfing and travel. “Kitesurfing is a travel sport where adventure seekers compete in beautiful destinations across many continents around the world,” he told the congregation of journalists and onlookers.

With Qatar doing everything they can to capitalise on their moment, the incorporation of another fun, potentially tourism-boosting, sport into their project does make perfect sense. Major plans around the staging of world championship watersport events in this part of the world also underlines the level of investment, and the seriousness of their commitment. It might not get the headlines the way the football does, but Qatar is on a mission to generate a buzz among the kitesurfing community. 

“Kitesurfing is a bath for the soul,” Dr. Jörgen Vogt, Secretary General of the GKA, tells us. “You can jump, then fly; it’s a feat of humankind.” He’s right, of course, but it takes a lot of time and effort to get good at it. “If you want to be president, don’t kitesurf” Vogt declares later; a comment that sees Al Baker say to Vogt with a half-serious smile, “Well, don’t try to be the president of Qatar because we have only one ruler!” 

Credit: James Roe
Credit: James Roe

Relative to the size of Qatar, Fuwairit is a village well away from Doha. It’s an hour’s drive north from the capital, and with most Qatar things happening in and around Doha it’s not unsurprising how quiet of a location this spot is. It’s the hope of the people behind the FKB that this solitude could play a part in making it an even more attractive proposition for kitesurfers. As well as providing a new space for the sport to flourish, backers are hoping that its introduction and construction will encourage some healthy, community-based, human investment. The facilities are impressive, a stage set. 

Qatar’s partnership with the GKA is another move in the country’s mission to become a “recognised leader for global sports tourism”. In principle, this serious level of investment, both in terms of finances and time committed, is how sporting communities can form and thrive in new places. Whether this can happen, to its fullest and most inclusive, in Qatar though remains to be seen.

Credit: James Roe
Credit: James Roe
Credit: James Roe
Credit: James Roe
Credit: James Roe

Doha is a fascinating city of heated construction. Soundtracked by a hot buzz, the streets here are lined with moments that a film camera person simply has no choice but to stick their lens at. See more of my photography @brokenxa2, and remember – film is not dead.


For more information on Qatar as a destination, see

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