Everything you need to know about Qatar National Day – 2015 edition (updated)
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Alex Gill/Flickr
With reporting from Lesley Walker
The annual Qatar National Day (QND) holiday falls on Dec. 18, and marks the date in 1878 when Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani rallied the tribes of the peninsula into a unified people.
This year, the holiday falls on a Friday, so many schools are giving children Dec. 17 off. At the last minute, Sunday, Dec. 20 was declared a national holiday by the Emiri Diwan.
Doha Bus Gazanfarulla Khan
Celebrations for National Day have already begun at some venues around town, including Darb Al Saai in Al Sadd.
Like last year, the Qatar Tourism Authority will be providing rides to Darb Al Saai from Souq Waqif, Aspire Park, Sheraton Park and The Pearl-Qatar on the Doha Bus.
There will be a team of tour guides at the grounds to show visitors around the various activities, and explain the significance of each in the context of Qatar’s history, traditions and heritage.
Buses will depart from their stops every day at 7am, 9am, 3pm, 5pm and 7:15pm and run through Dec. 20.
For those wishing to get into the QND spirit, there are plenty of clothes and merchandise for sale around town.
Lots of people also decorate their vehicles ahead of the holiday, though this year there are even stricter guidelines than in previous years:
Here’s a guide to what’s going on around town:
Doha’s Corniche is once again one of the main locations for National Day celebrations, and has already been decorated with lights, flowers, plants and Qatar’s flag.
Though announcements haven’t been made yet about timings, expect parade rehearsals to cause temporary Corniche closures this week (there was already a three-hour early-morning closure on Friday).
Crowd at this 2014 Qatar National Day celebrations. Mohamad Nuski/Flickr
The annual parade will take place on National Day itself. It will be held opposite the under-construction Al Rumailah and Al Bidda parks from about 8am to 8:40am. The preliminary show will be from 7am until 7:40am.
Seating for thousands of people has been set up, but because so many people throng the event, organizers always urge attendees to arrive well before 7am.
Notably, the parade appears to be a family-geared event. Each year, hundreds of single men who turn up to watch are turned away from the celebrations by police.
National Day 2015 Corniche events map
You can find a full run-down of what’s on and when at the official Qatar National Day website here.
For those who’d rather enjoy the celebrations from home, you can follow the action on both Qatar Television and Al Rayyan Television, which will run live web streams.
The parade includes marches by the armed forces, Ministry of Interior, Lekhwiya, Civil Defense and other governmental bodies. There will also be aerial and sea displays by the air force and navy.
Fireworks Thasleem MK/Flickr
Qatar’s Emir and Father Emir have made appearances in previous years, and Qatari students often sing a few songs.
During the evening of Dec. 18, a fireworks display will be held on the Corniche from 8pm to 8:10pm.
Darb Al Saai
Darb Al Saai, a large area that has been set up in Al Sadd, is hosting numerous activities, performances and cultural offerings until Dec. 20.
Chantelle D'mello / Doha News
Darb Al Saai 2015 Chantelle D'mello / Doha News
Though there are no fireworks this year, the grounds have been improved and have expanded their offerings, which are divided into different sections and tents. There’s lots of food, clothing, handmade items and other merchandise.
Several ministries and government organizations have stepped up their presence this year, including the Supreme Council of Health, which is conducting health check ups at its tent, measuring blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as offering flu shots.
Security is tighter at the grounds than in past years, as all visitors now have to go through a checkpoint. The main gate is inaccessible, and entry is made through various peripheral gates.
Below are some of the activities. Unless otherwise noted, the activities are held while the grounds are open from 8am until noon and from 4pm to 11pm, except on Fridays, when the site is open from 2pm until 11pm.
Note: On Sunday Dec. 13, Darb Al Saai will be open to women only.
Al Nassa qatar.qa
Visitors can learn the basics of shooting, under the supervision of specialized trainers.
This section includes a collection of tents that depict Bedouin life, where Qatari food is made, rugs are sewn and coffee and snacks are served to visitors.
People can also take pictures with falcons and learn how they hunt.
In the background, there are storytellers and musicians playing traditional instruments.
Qatar’s maritime heritage is on display in this section, which features sunken boats in the sand, photos and information on how fishermen and Qatar’s pearl divers used to live centuries ago. Displays include the kinds of ships they used and fish they’d catch, as well as special competitions such as a tug of war, checkers, raising the sails of dhows and a cultural trivia competition.
There will be a display of classic cars inside the Darb al Saai grounds.
Khalifa ‘traffic city’
Mini Doha Metro Qatar.qa
This children’s village includes a track where kids can peddle cars and bicycles on streets with traffic lights and police supervision. There’s also a room that includes driving simulators and driving-related games.
This includes a futuristic rail track that gives kids a chance to get used to riding the upcoming Doha Metro.
Ministries and government authorities have events in the Doha tent, including the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya), Kahramaa, and the General Authority for Customs.
MMUP will hold workshops on recycling and present a play called ”long live cleanliness.” Kahrama will have activities to replace light bulbs with LED bulbs that save energy, as well as electronic games that enhance the concept of rationalization of use, for both children and adults.
Visitors can also learn how to make their own films using smart phones, while Doha Film Institute is making a two-minute movie, Champions of Qatar, with children as the stars.
Visitors to Qatar Foundation (QF)’s tent will receive a “passport” to guide them through a series of games and events organized by the various QF-related organizations. Children can play the role of radio presenters and conduct interviews for broadcast on QF radio.
There will be games about healthy eating and the chance to cook with prominent chefs, while children can learn body parts, the flags of other countries and how to plant seeds and nurture them as the grow.
Specialist trainers from the Al Shaqab stables will be on hand to teach some basic horse-riding tips, as well as giving advice on how to care for and breed horses. There will also be traditional displays of Arabian horses.
Katara Cultural Village will be hosting two days of celebrations on Dec. 18 from 1pm to 10pm and on Dec. 19 from 10am to 10pm at the Esplanade and at other points throughout.
National Day 2015 Katara
Some activities include a falconry show by the Qatari society of Al Gannas on Katara beach. There will also be a kids’ art workshop, from 4pm to 9pm in front of building 15. It will be conducted in both Arabic and English, and is free.
Here’s the full program of events:
A fireworks show is scheduled to start at 07:30pm on Dec. 18 in Porto Arabia/Marsa Arabia. Additionally, there will be a traditional tents area at 12 Croisette in Porto Arabia.
Also, on Dec. 17 and 18 from 11am to 11pm, photographers are invited to capture the best moments of National Day from vantage points at the parking lots of Pearl-Qatar roundabout and Medina Centrale.
Footage from National Day will be broadcast on a water screen at the Pearl-Qatar roundabout parking lot, from Dec. 16 to Dec. 20, from 5.30pm until 11pm.
Meanwhile, a pop-up karak booth will be at Medina Centrale from Dec. 16 til 20, and will be open from 11am to 11pm.
Visitors to Hyatt Plaza can learn more about traditional Hadar and Bedouin life, take part in stage shows and get involved in kids’ activities with Hyatt Plaza mall’s Hawiyati (“My identity”) festival, which runs until Dec. 18.
The free event will take place in the food court daily from 5pm.
The mall in Al Sadd hosts two days of National Day activities including face painting and henna painting, balloon modelling and paint-your-own Qatar flag t-shirt on Dec. 17 and 18 from 6pm.
Hotels throughout the city are expected to dress up their lobbies and put on activities in the run-up to National Day, following a QTA directive issued earlier this week:
“As part of celebrations QTA will collaborate with hotels to ensure the spirit of Qatar National Day is shared with the country’s visitors and tourists. Hotel establishments are encouraged to decorate their rooms and reception areas in maroon and white, and to ask their staff to dress in national dress,” the statement said.
Events for expats
On Dec. 17 and 18 there will be a number of different activities arranged at four separate venues – Al Wakrah Sports Club, Al Rayyan Sports Club (on Dukhan highway), Asian Town cricket stadium and Barwa workers’ recreation complex in Al Khor.
These range from cultural shows and sports events to musical performances.
Expat events – QND 2015 MOI/Facebook
There is also set to be a T20 cricket match between Qatar Stars and Pakistan Stars is scheduled to take place at Asian Town International cricket stadium from 3pm on Dec. 18. Call 7788 0877 for more details.
Everything you need to know about Qatar National Day 2012
If you’re in Doha, it’s pretty hard to miss the fact that Qatar’s National Day (#QND) is fast approaching.
Chairs, lights and sound systems are being set up on the Corniche; advertisements and posters around town proclaim corporations’ support for Qatar and its people, and maroon flags are being hung from offices, residents and construction sites alike.
In fact, QND celebrations have already begun in some parts of Qatar (scroll down for more details).
Since it can be a little hard to filter through all the information and figure out what you need to know, here’s a guide to help you celebrate.
When is QND, and what’s it all about?
Qatar National Day takes place every year on Dec. 18.
It marks the day in 1878 that Sheikh Jassim Bin Mohammad Bin Thani succeeded his father as leader of the tribes of Qatar.
Fighting for independence from the Ottomans, the British and other Arabian Peninsula tribes, Sheikh Jassim is considered the founder of Qatar for unifying oft-divided local tribes under his leadership, and winning autonomy for them.
So is it independence day?
Technically, no – it’s more of a figurative date for the establishment of a Qatari people. Qatar didn’t gain independence from the British Empire until Sept. 3, 1971.
That day was previously celebrated as a national holiday until 2007, when the Emiri Diwan decreed Dec. 18 would be marked annually instead.
What happens on National Day?
Typically, everyone is given the day off as a public holiday and Qatar goes big with a parade of military and other government personnel down the Corniche early in the morning.
This year, the National Parade will run from 8am-10am on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
In addition to a show of armored vehicles and battalions from the Armed Forces, the Emiri Guard, the ISF and the Ministry of Interior, there are also usually some cultural displays.
Overhead, you can expect to see the Air Force performing with colored jet trails, and over the bay, the Coast Guard will put on a show with speed boats and traditional dhows.
Mind you, the Corniche is usually packed for the event, and if you want to get a seat, you’ll have to be there before 7am. No cars will be allowed near the parade grounds, but there will be buses to get people to and from nearby parking lots.
Video of this year’s rehearsals on the Corniche by Gazanfarulla Khan
This year, Corniche visitors are in for a special show of daytime “powder” fireworks being shot off at Palm Tree Island at the top of every hour between 11am and 4pm.
At night, there will be the more traditional Fireworks at 8pmwith an accompanying Qatari heritage musical score.
Bear in mind, though, that Doha roads are usually thrown into chaos on National Day with revelers holding up traffic for slow processions and street stunts. Qatari authorities have discouraged such overt shows this year, and security forces will be deployed on the roads to help facilitate the flow of traffic.
However, the Traffic Department has said a parade of private cars will be permitted on the corniche from Ras Abu Abboud flyover to Sheraton Roundabout on National Day starting at 5pm.
There’s also been a rumor that women wouldn’t be allowed at the parade this year. QND organizers and police confirm it isn’t true.
In the run-up to the big day, you can expect various rehearsals to take place along the parade route on the Corniche.
Here’s the Corniche map for National Day events (click through for a larger version):
Will there be a video stream of the events?
Yes. Al Rayyan Channel will be livestreaming the events online and showing them live on TV.
There are also mobile apps available for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows phones that will let you stream the show and view details of the organized activities.
Are there any other activities?
Yes – the Corniche will be packed with activities starting this Saturday, Dec. 15 through 18.
Classic cars have been setup for display along the Corniche, palm trees have been illuminated, and traditional Qatari dhow boats will be on show. A lit-up flag-colored “pearl” has also been setup on Palm Tree Island.
Kids activities have been organized at the Sheraton Park at one end of the Corniche, at the Orry/Balhambar plaza, and elsewhere down the strip from 4pm to 10pm. These include workshops for kite and paper plane making, sand painting, dough play, origami, drawing, coloring and face painting.
There are also food and drink stands (for sale) and information tents setup in various spots on the Corniche.
A little bit away from the Corniche, there will also be a lot of activity at Darb Al Saai.
What’s this Darb Al Saai place?
A whole pavilion has been set up next to Sports Roundabout (opposite the Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel) to mark National Day and show some of Qatar’s past. Numerous activities have already started (as of Dec. 8), and will continue through QND.
The grounds are called Darb Al Saai and include a number of areas to explore:
- Al Izbba: A desert campsite, where men would traditionally look after the camels;
- Al Nasa: A shooting gallery, where professional trainers will teach you about rifle shooting;
- Al Shaqab: A spot for horse shows and riding;
- Al Doha: An exhibition area for various government agencies and state-sponsored institutions;
- Al Maqlat: The dining area / food court;
- Al Maqtar: Tents demonstrating desert activities from Qatar’s nomadic past;
- Al Mshabayh: Qatari Oryx on display;
- Al Hafeez: A classic cars exhibition;
- Housh Al Yahal (Kids Yard): An area for younger kids to play and paint;
- Souq Waqif: A showcase of traditional handicrafts like baskets, dolls and engraving, plus Qatari “food tasting;” and
- Al Beda: An exhibit of traditional marine life, like sailing, pearling, traditional games and coffee.
Here’s a map of the grounds (click through to see it larger):
Will you be participating in National Day events?
Credit: Top photo by Mohamed Benmessaoud; second and fourth photo by Omar Chatriwala; third photo by Do7a Chic; all other images courtesy of QND