Qatar National Day

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As countries across the world struggle to maintain their national identity in the face of increasing globalisation and the seemingly continuous erosion of tradition and culture, the State of Qatar uses its National Day celebrations to reinforce the importance of heritage, culture and traditional values.

On December 18th, Qatar celebrates its National Day in commemoration of the historic day in 1878 when Sheikh Jasim, the founder of the State of Qatar, succeeded his father, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Thani, as a ruler and led the country toward unity.

National Day is considered an opportunity for all Qatari citizens and expatriates to recognise and celebrate what it means to live in modern-day Qatar, a state whose vision is to strengthen Solidarity, Loyalty, and Pride in National Identity. Organised by the State National Day Celebrations Organizing Committee (SNDCOC), National Day festivities actually began in October with the launch of Ad Al Qaseed (National Day Poetry Competition) which is breathing new life into the inspiring works of Qatar’s old poets by highlighting their heritage and Arabian traditions.

From December 12th to 16th, the desert sands of Rawda Umm Rouman (located to the south of Al Rayyan Club) are transformed into a huge 10,000 sqm traditional Qatari arena – or Darb-a-Saai (pronounced ‘darb-a-saigh’) Camp – for a festival of traditional events with a unique Qatari atmosphere. Camel competitions in a 1,000-seat arena, recitals bringing Qatar’s rich history of poetry to life, National Day Photo Exhibition, handicraft stalls, and a traditional Food and Coffee Shop help visitors understand and appreciate Qatar’s rich cultural heritage.

Capturing the exciting spectacle of Arab horse racing, Darb-a-Saai hosts the second Masseela Horse Race as more than 50 Arabian horses in costume and Qatari riders in traditional uniforms compete over three gruelling days.

Come Friday December 18th and there’s only one place to experience the excitement, ceremony and sheer joy of Qatar National Day – the 7-kilometre Doha Corniche. The National Anthem signals the start of the National Day Parade. After a recitation from the Holy Qura’an, the Parade will be led by a group of Qatari children wearing national costume, accompanied by horsemen and camel riders in traditional dress, a re-enactment of a 1961 car convoy, followed by Infantry Forces, Police, Internal Security Force, and Emiri Guards. A breathtaking air show by the Qatar Emiri Air Force brings Qatar’s National Day Parade to a spectacular finish.

The SNDCOC has a treat in store for all motor fans with the National Day Vintage Car Display; a collection of 20 Emiri Guard vehicles including cars, motorcycles, convertible Land Rovers, and trucks displayed on the Corniche near Al Mourjan Restaurant.

Children and young people play a big part in National Day activities. Sheraton Park welcomes children of all nationalities to join in traditional games that used to be played by children throughout history.

Since October, thousands of schoolchildren have been competing in the National Day Schools Painting Competition, and the Top 10 entries will be projected onto towers along the Doha Corniche.

“The SNDCOC aims to develop and grow a strong sense of loyalty, solidarity and pride in Qatar’s national identity, especially amongst our youth. This will, in turn, deepen the younger generation’s understanding and appreciation of the qualities that make a person truly Qatari and appreciate the sacrifices that were made by the founder Sheikh Jasim bin Muhammad Bin Thani and the loyal Qatari men who laid the first stones to establish and build the unity of Qatar,” explains an SNDCOC Chairman.

As darkness falls over Doha, revellers get to experience life at sea as it was for Qatar’s pearl divers and sailors more than 200 years ago by jumping aboard one of 20 traditional Arab dhows setting sail across Doha Bay.

Beginning on December 11th and building to a crescendo on the eve of National Day, a spectacular light show graces the Doha landscape, as light projections telling the story of Qatari life both past and present illuminate buildings and parks across the city.

Qatari culture takes centre stage when an Oud player delights audiences with a selection of famous Qatari folk songs, accompanied by a sand painter whose artwork adorns buildings along the magnificent Doha skyline.

“National Day celebrations give Qataris the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be Qatari and to strengthen national identity. It provides Qataris the opportunity to rejoice in our rich and diverse nation, our traditions and characteristics and to hold them dear whilst moving forward as a modern progressive nation state,” reveals an SNDCOC spokesperson.

One of the highlights of National Day 2009 is the return of the Al Doha TV channel with a new slogan, ‘Wide Coverage through a Qatari Lens’. Broadcasting every minute of the celebrations, Al Doha TV goes ‘on air’ in December with a mix of inspiring films, all-new documentaries, action-packed entertainment, and cultural programmes in Arabic and English which highlight typical Qatari traits of an inspiring spirit, contribution, and forgiveness.

The SNDCOC have been instrumental in getting Al Doha TV on air. “Al Doha TV is a great opportunity for everyone in Qatar, citizens and residents, to see entertaining television which has useful lessons and strong cultural messages”.

Events reach a thrilling conclusion with a 17-minute pyrotechnic extravaganza as the Doha night sky sparkles, amazing the crowds with a spectacular display telling the story of Qatari life through fireworks and music in a dazzling climax to Qatar National Day 2009.

National Day 2009 is Qatar’s most important and enjoyable day of the year, so if you’re in Qatar on December 18th, come and join the fun!

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