The diary of the World Cup in Qatar: Qatar's dubious foreign exchange deal in the desert hospital

Where the immeasurable wealth of Qatar bubbles up, the glittering world of the capital is far away.

The diary of the World Cup in Qatar: Qatar's dubious foreign exchange deal in the desert hospital

Where the immeasurable wealth of Qatar bubbles up, the glittering world of the capital is far away. Halfway, in the middle of the desert, there is a hospital. It is part of the Qatar system. The Caribbean state of Cuba generates urgently needed foreign exchange here.

Shortly before Dukhan begins Cuba. After a ride past the camel racetrack in Al Sheehaniya with the large stables, past the Bedouin tents, past military installations hidden behind high walls, further west. There is no more traffic here, the glittering world of Doha becomes a barren desert landscape. The world as a backdrop for a Star Wars film. Only the air conditioning makes it bearable. And then Cuba begins. Here, a good 45 minutes away from the last signs of the soccer World Cup, the Cuban Hospital stands in the middle of nothing.

The hospital may formally belong to the Qatari government, but it is staffed exclusively by Cuban staff. Over 450 Cubans ended up here. The Nepalese come to build. The Cubans to heal. Their drive is similar, the danger to life and limb is certainly different. But whether they are Cubans, Indians, Nepalese or Bengals: they want to escape the poor conditions. Take care of the families.

The Cuban Hospital has been there since 2012, just east of Dukhan. It's a top-class hospital, with salaries that are impressive. According to the Guardian, Qatar is expected to pay Cuba between $5,000 and $10,000 per employee. But only a fraction of it reaches the doctors, the nursing staff and the technicians. Only around 10 percent of the money paid is mentioned.

The rest, it is said, because nobody here officially confirms anything, goes into the pockets of the Cuban government, which brings fresh foreign currency into the country. Doctors are a popular Cuban export. They are not only in Qatar but also in the countries of Latin America and currently in 37 countries worldwide. The doctors are a way for the island nation to exercise a kind of soft power.

Soft power is also one of the overriding themes of this World Cup. The power of the tournament increases the visibility of the emirate in the Gulf. The tournament is not only an attempt to cleanse oneself through sport, but also to protect oneself from the larger states of the regions through visibility. As powerful as the military installations are, as present as the security apparatus is in Doha and Qatar, it would not help them in the event of an attack.

The immense wealth of Qatar makes the shield possible. The immeasurable wealth is fed from the gas fields north of the peninsula - Qatar shares the gas fields with Iran. Immeasurable wealth bubbles up from the earth just a few kilometers from the Cuban Hospital. Flames point the way towards the oil fields, which nobody is allowed to photograph and which are heavily guarded. A McDonalds, a small supermarket, a gas station, a freshly bottled liter of petrol for just under 50 cents, and endless police stations. There is nothing more here. Then Qatar ends.

There at the end of the country, on Dukhan Beach, a few families are sitting, smoking shisha, barbecuing in a shady spot. You lie on your back in the Arabian Gulf, let yourself drift. The salt content is high enough here. Float on the water as two jet boats crash over it. They race out of the second stretch of beach hidden behind a gigantic wall. Qatar Petroleum, the lords of the oil city, decide who gets access here.

A family from the United States got lost at Dukhan Beach. The son wears a Sargent printed Norwich City shirt. The former Werder Bremen striker is also in Qatar. The family looks at each other: "We should have chosen the beautiful beach better," they say and turn around. A little later, the red ball falls spectacularly into the sea just off the coast of Saudi Arabia. It takes maybe three minutes. Then the kitsch is over.

Nobody says a word, only the jet boats crash through the last rays of the sun. Darkness falls over the land. The glitter of Doha can be seen from far away. In the Lusail, Messi scores to make it 1-0.