Russia is gearing up for the World Cup this summer

February 04, 2018
Renad Ghanem

Saudi Gazette

CAIRO — Russia is ready to welcome millions of football fans this summer at the World Cup that is to be held in Russia, said Ahmed Fayez, an Arabic tourist guide based in Moscow.

Fayez, who has joint Egyptian and Russian nationality, spoke to Saudi Gazette on what Arab fans, especially Saudis, can expect when visiting Russia. Three Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, will be participating in the World Cup this year, with matches held in Moscow, Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Saransk, Rostov na Donu, Sochi and Yekaterinburg.

Q: You are an Egyptian Russian and you’ve been working as a tourist guide for Arab tourists who visit Russia. Could you tell us about your work and how you began as a tourist guide?

A: I have lived in Moscow for 20 years and I earned Russian citizenship during this time. I used to organize trips for tourists and noticed during that time an increasing number of visitors to Russia. I then decided to become a certificated tourist guide and started in the field. I found that most Arab visitors knew only about Russia’s recent history and believed that Russia and the Russian people are not friendly. I therefore worked to clarify the true image of Russia and Russians. They are friendly, hospitable and very educated.

Q: The world’s eyes will be on Russia during the World Cup. Can you tell us more about how they have prepared for this huge event?

A: 12 stadiums have been selected in 11 cities to host 64 matches. All of the cities that are going to host matches are in European Russia. They are located in the western part of Russia, specifically in the western Ural Mountains, except for Yekaterinburg, which is about 1,792 km from the capital Moscow. These cities were chosen to ease the transportation of fans between them, which fulfills FIFA requirements. The roads have been paved, there are trains to transport fans, and there are hotels that are getting ready to accommodate fans from all over the world. The fans will be able to travel around the Russian cities free of charge using their fan ID cards.

Q: Which Russian city is considered an attractive destination for tourists?

A: Moscow is at the top of the list. It is the capital of the Russian Federation and where the government sits. It is at the heart of the country’s economy, culture, religion, finance, education and transportation. The opening match of the World Cup between Saudi Arabia and Russia will be held on the most beautiful stadium in Russia, the Luzhniki Stadium on the Moscow River. Moscow is one of the country’s largest and most vibrant cities. It has the best and most luxurious shopping places in the world as well as nightlife, restaurants and culture.

Q: What kind of transportations can Saudi fans use during the World Cup, especially between the cities that will host the matches?

A: The Russian government will provide fan ID holders free train tickets. There is also a large fleet of airplanes for domestic flights and public transport is also available. This includes taxis and private cars like Uber.

Q: What are the top attractions that you advise Saudis to visit during their stay?

A: I advise them to visit Moscow, its public parks and also those parks in all of the cities where matches will be held. These parks are spectacular. There are museums in all of these cities as well. They tell a lot about each city and their history. There are also many good river cruises that people should try.

Q: There is a Muslim and Arab community in Russia. Tell us more about the mosques there?

A: There are many mosques in Russia. You can find four Mosques in Moscow, including Moscow Cathedral Mosque that has a capacity to house 10,000 people. The outside courtyard can house some 20,000 people.

Q: Saudi people love shopping. Where can they go for this?

A: There are many good places in Moscow to shop. There are many malls and shopping centers that stock luxury and international brands. I also advise visitors to try black Russian caviar. It has an incredible taste that cannot be found anywhere else.

Q: Russian is a difficult language. Do you advise Saudis to use Arabic speaking tourist guides or just English one?

A: I believe it’s better for them to find Arabic speaking tourist guides because that will save time and money for them and will give them a chance to know Russia closely.

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