Skip to main content

World Cup 2022: Which Middle East leaders were at the opening ceremony?

Tournament opens with who's who of regional rulers, some recent foes, enjoying glitzy launch event
International leaders and dignitaries during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Qatar World Cup at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on 20 November 2022 (AFP)
International leaders and dignitaries during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Qatar World Cup at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on 20 November 2022 (AFP)

Qatar’s grand opening ceremony to the long-awaited World Cup on Sunday delivered a message of unity and overcoming divisions.

That same message may have resonated for the dignitaries who turned up - with several leaders of countries, some of whom have been hostile to each other in recent years, pictured smiling and embracing.

Chief among them was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who met and shook hands for the first time at the ceremony on the sidelines of al-Bayt Stadium in al-Khor, on the outskirts of Doha. 

Relations between Ankara and Cairo have been fractured for nearly a decade. Turkey refused to recognise Sisi as Egypt's legitimate leader following a 2013 military coup that ousted his predecessor Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was filmed speaking at length with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, just weeks after he skipped the Arab League summit in the North African country citing health concerns.

The de-facto Saudi leader wore a Qatar football scarf, clapping and listening intently as Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani opened the tournament with a speech in Arabic. 

Five years ago, the crown prince led an economic and political blockade of Doha, accusing it of meddling in internal affairs and supporting terrorism, charges that Doha denied vehemently.

The rift, which also saw Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cutting diplomatic ties, came to an end in January last year. 

Other leaders from the region in attendance included King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. 

Also present was Kuwait Crown Prince Mishal Al Ahmad Al Jaber and Omani Culture Minister Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, son of Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq. 

The leaders, as well as over 60,000 fans, enjoyed performances from Qatari singers Dana and Fahad al-Kubaisi, as well as Jung Kook, a member of South Korean boyband BTS. 

American actor Morgan Freeman also delivered a message of unity and overcoming divisions with disabled Qatari influencer Ghanim al-Muftah.

Hosts Qatar were comfortably beaten by Ecuador 2-0, thanks to two first-half goals by former West Ham and Everton forward Enner Valencia. Many seats remained empty after half time, and a flat second half prompted further walkouts before full time.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.