By Andrew Mills
DOHA (Reuters) – A gleaming white World Cup stadium looms large at the end of the street in the quiet suburban neighbourhood of Al Thumama.
In three weeks, tens of thousands of soccer fans will file past the tidy villas, mosques and shops that line the route to the stadium due to host eight matches during the tournament.
On Tuesday, the quarter was bracing itself for the Nov. 20 kickoff of the World Cup: crowd control barriers on sidewalks, portable toilets beside houses and heightened home security.
“We have to be careful. We have to secure our houses…all the year we leave our front doors open. So for one month now, okay we will close it,” said resident Ahmed Al Kuwari.
Qataris, used to living in one of the world’s safest states, are increasingly concerned about potential vandalism, theft and unruly behaviour when some 1.2 million visitors descend on the tiny nation, which has a population of 3 million.
“Curiosity may spark and maybe people would just wander into villas…anything can happen,” said Sara Al Ansari, a Qatari lecturer whose family and friends have installed security cameras, concerned about their valuables.
Other changes were evident in the capital Doha on Tuesday when temporary measures for the World Cup took effect including altering traffic flows in and around the city.
A major thoroughfare along the seafront corniche closed and will be shut until after the tournament ends on Dec. 18. Workers are transforming it into a 6km (3.73 mile) long fan zone.
Traffic flow will be especially critical during the event’s group stage when four matches will be played each day at stadiums around Doha. Organisers, in an unprecedented World Cup promise, say fans can take in multiple games on the same day.
In an effort to reduce cars on the roads, the government ordered 80% of its employees to start working from home as of Tuesday. Schools will reduce hours for the next two weeks before shutting for the entire tournament, frustrating working parents.
“The little ones will just be having a party and will be driving us nuts,” said a Qatar-based parenting blogger.
“It’s going be challenging for sure, especially for families with both parents working,” added the blogger, opting to remain anonymous to avoid any trouble for openly airing frustrations.
(Reporting and writing by Andrew Mills, editing by Ed Osmond)