Football fans descend on the capital Doha packing tourist spots and festivals as Qatar World Cup 2022 starts on Sunday.
Doha, Qatar – For the past few weeks, a foretaste of what Qatar will look like during the World Cup – set to kick off on Sunday- have been playing out on its streets.
Restaurants are becoming packed and queues at checkouts in supermarkets are getting longer, thanks to football fans who have started to arrive.
World Cup branding has engulfed everything from office buildings to lamp posts and walls.
At the newly opened Lusail Boulevard, children in football jerseys run around while football enthusiasts strolled under a giant canopy of flags of competing nations, making it a field day for Instagram influencers and photographers alike.
One of the key attractions at the boulevard is a giant installation of the World Cup mascot La’eeb pouring out a cup of Arabic coffee.
Families queue up, waiting patiently for their turn to pose for photographs next to the smiling La’eeb.
Celebrations have also kicked off at the popular Corniche area. Families and individuals are walking up and down the coastal promenade – listening to DJs play techno music and enjoying light shows.
The waterfront site will be an important tourist hotspot where daily leisure events will take place throughout the World Cup.
At the country’s top attraction Souq Waqif, shops and restaurants are crammed with people late into the evening. One coffeeshop worker, Athar, says people have queued up outside their small establishment until midnight in the past few days.
“We barely have a chance to take a break. We are serving non-stop,” he says.
Security enhanced, construction ongoing
Police patrols around places like Corniche and Souq Waqif have increased, with roadblocks popping up in the past two weeks.
The Corniche has been pedestrianised, with no private vehicles allowed until December 19, the day after the final.
Barricades around metro stations are visible in an obvious attempt to better manage crowd lineups.
The underground network is likely to be the primary mode of transportation for more than a million visitors expected in the country – free for all Hayya Card holders.
Amid more security and transport bottlenecks, congestion on roads has also increased.
Ahmed Nasir, a 30-year-old resident told Al Jazeera it takes him “double the time” to reach his office by car making it more expensive, and has therefore switched to using the metro in recent days.
Construction workers can still be seen working for most hours of the day. Some buildings still look far from being completed.
At some sites, FIFA branding seems to be serving a double purpose – concealing unfinished construction sites, while simultaneously promoting the 29-day-long event.
Ismael Cadus, a teacher at Qatar Foundation, said the World Cup was not just a proud occasion for Qatar, but the entire region.
“Football fans will now get acquainted with Arab culture. This is not a moment of pride just for Qatar, but across the Arab world,” he told Al Jazeera.