Football and travel are two things KVT Ashraf is most passionate about. And for the last 23 days, the Keralite and his family have been on the road to reach Qatar and watch matches in the ongoing Fifa World Cup.
The patriarch of the family, driving from Kerala, India said he decided to set off on the road trip so the family could have time to bond. “The last month has been amazing,” said KVT Ashraf. “We have spent all the time talking, teasing and enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes we forget to switch on music because we are so busy talking to each other.”
Ashraf, his wife Shahanas, his son Abdulla Ibnu Ashraf and his nephew Mohammad Faraz set off in their Toyota Innova from the southern Indian town of Kannur on October 30. After travelling through India for over two weeks, the family arrived in Dubai last week, where Ashraf’s daughter Aksana Beegam and her husband, Irfan, joined them.
From UAE, the family will drive through Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi before reaching Qatar. There, they will stay with Faraz’s parents, who are residents in Qatar.
Once they arrived in Dubai with Kerala registered right-hand driver vehicle, they were stopped at multiple places by football lovers. “One day, we were at a roundabout when an Arab man started flashing his lights,” said Abdulla. “When we pulled over, he asked us if we were going to Qatar and chatted with us for a long time. It has been an amazing experience. We have met and befriended so many people. So many have come to take photographs with us.”
The family has booked tickets to watch Germany take on Costa Rice on December 1. “We hope to get tickets for the quarter-finals and semifinals as well,” said Irfan.
“I have always been a football fan,” said 56-year-old Ashraf. “So when we heard that the World Cup was taking place in Qatar in 2022, I decided we must watch it live.”
The family had initially planned to fly to Qatar. “We booked the match tickets much ahead of the tournament,” said Abdulla, an entrepreneur. “My father started talking about going to Qatar by road. At first, I didn’t take him seriously, but then I started contemplating it as the days passed. So, I spent the next couple of weeks researching and getting all the necessary permits.”
The initial plan was to drive the entire length by road. “However, it soon became evident that getting permits for Pakistan would be an issue,” said Ashraf. “So we decided to travel to Mumbai and ship the car to Jebel Ali.”
Before setting off, the family got the car painted and stickered for the journey. “We also got all the machinery checked, and necessary repairs were done,” said Faraz.
For the family, the trip across India was smooth and easy. “People were extremely nice to us, and we enjoyed our journey,” said Shahanas. She was in charge of snacks. “I always like to carry nuts and dried fruits,” she said. “Also, I love trying out the local fruits everywhere we stop. That has been the highlight of my trip.”
Covering approximately 250 kilometres in a day, the family stayed in hotels and home rentals throughout their trip. Since arriving in the UAE last week, they have made it a point to visit every emirate and check out the sights. “The whole point of the trip was to visit iconic places that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” said Ashraf. “So we have gone to Jebel Jais, seen the Burj Khalifa, and drove all around the country in our car.”
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For Abdulla, this isn’t the first time he has gone on a long trip in his car. “I have travelled to 18 states across India in this car,” he said. However, his father complained that Abdulla always travelled with his friends. “The minute there is a vacation, he sets off with his friends,” complained Ashraf jokingly. “This time, I asked him to come with us so we could spend some time together.”