Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Qatar: Happy National Day 2017!

A little girl celebrating at the parade for National Day
Qatar just finished National Day or "Founder's Day." This year's theme was "Promise of Prosperity and Glory." The country celebrates when Jasim bin Mohammed Al Thani united the tribes on the Qatar Peninsula on December 18, 1878--conquering all external forces, such as Britain. Most everyone is given off the day of work and school. In fact this year, the emir gave two days off for everyone.

Crowds of expats and Qataris waiting at the parade for the emir to come.
This is my fourth year of being an expat in Qatar. Last year National Day was canceled due to the Battle of Aleppo in Syria. With an economic blockade that is now into its seventh month, this year was meant to be unifying--to bring stronger connections between Qatari residents and expats. About 2.5 million people live in Qatar, about 80% of them being expats from all over the world. Even with huge crowds, people from all sectors came out to celebrate.

Kids watching the parade at the Corniche in Doha.
This year we headed to the Corniche (the harbor where there was a National Day parade, to the Souq Wakif (a huge outdoor market with hundreds of stalls and restaurants), a festival (think state fair), and watched the school National Day celebrations. More than any other year, I observed tremendous pride--among the Qataris and expats. One American visitor who watched the parade was surprised at the complete and total solidarity--especially among the expat community too.

The entire country is decked in maroon and white, Qatar's flag. Flags hang from cranes, freeways, and some are fix or six stories high on skyscrapers.The celebrations last for about a week with festivities all over the country with parades, concerts, Quran readings, sword dancing, fireworks, camel riding, and being with family and friends. Here are just a few glimpses of National Day here in Qatar:

One student singing from the Quran.

Young boys practicing their sword dance, an ancient way to banter and speak with a sword.

Elias at his school celebrations on National Day.

At the Souq Wakif, the largest outdoor market in Qatar--a place that is like an endlessly fascinating outdoor museum.

All kinds of planes and gliders promoted national unity. 

At a wall near my house where many walls were covered with Qatari pride.
Flags and the picture of the emir were everywhere to celebrate Founder's Day.

Elias in front of a huge flag made of flowers for Qatar National Day.

At a large festival or carnival, you can get free camel rides.

Children dress in maroon and white or in military attire for about a week. 

Balloons for the kids at the carnival. 

A photo of Sheikk Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with one of his sons. The emir was born on June 3, 1980, making him the youngest current sovereign worldwide. He has increased Qatar's profile worldwide with his emphasis on sports, especially with the attainment of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

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