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Qatar hotels strive to balance National Day and Christmas festivities

All photos by Chantelle D’mello

With final preparations and pre-celebrations for Qatar National Day in full swing, many hotels across Doha have swapped out green and red color schemes for maroon and white.

National Day decorations will take precedence across most establishments for the Dec. 18 event, in line with guidelines issued by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) last week that urged hotels to show their patriotism. In a statement, the authority said:

“QTA called on all hotels in Qatar to fly the Qatari flag in front of their hotels and distribute Qatari flags to their guests, and decorate their entrances and reception areas in special ways to reflect the country’s festive atmosphere.

QTA also urged hotels to come up with new ideas to create a special national look and feel on the National Day.”

The tourism body is also organizing a competition to find the best-dressed hotel front, adding, “Hotels are invited to take part to lend some stylish elegance to the occasion and add to the spirit of the celebration.”

Christmas on hold

As such, Christmas festivities have been put on hold in most hotels this week.

Some establishments, including the Ritz Carlton, the Four Seasons and St. Regis, kicked off December with elaborate Christmas events including tree lighting ceremonies and visits from Santa Claus.

And while gingerbread houses, baubles and tinsel can still be seen in most lobbies, the trees themselves have either been taken down or will be temporarily covered up in deference to Qatar National Day.

National Day at Four Seasons

Four Seasons hotel/Facebook

National Day at Four Seasons

This juggling of festivities is in contrast to last year, when some hotels canceled Christmas-related events after receiving a directive from the Qatar Tourism Authority about National Day celebrations.

The opulent, white and crystal-themed tree that stands in the St. Regis lobby will remain in place, but will be covered with a Qatari flag for Dec. 18, “out of respect for National Day,” PR and Communications Manager Kaaren Pfeffer confirmed to Doha News.

The Ritz-Carlton, which is part of the state-backed Katara Hospitality group, held a very well-attended Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 3, with carols, mince pies and a 15ft high tree outside in the garden.

However, a hotel employee confirmed that the tree has been removed ahead of National Day. An official spokesperson declined to discuss the issue with Doha News and would not say if it would be re-instated after Thursday’s celebrations. A gingerbread house remains in the lobby.

The Four Seasons hotel also held Christmas festivities on Dec. 3 on its lawn, with Santa arriving on the beach by jet ski. Its tree, which was in the garden, was taken down due to several other events being held at the hotel.

It will be re-installed in the hotel lobby on Dec. 19, a hotel official said.

“It’s all about striking a balance,” Marketing Director Julian Crane told Doha News. 

While the hotel’s other Christmas decorations will remain throughout its public areas, the lobby will be dedicated to National Day with a centerpiece of flowers in the color of the Qatari flag.

“We really wanted to get behind National Day, and some time ago decided to have a week of celebrations rather than just one day,” Crane said.

“But this is not at the expense of Christmas. We support both celebrations and I feel we have found the right balance,” he added.

And in a move that avoids a clash of celebrations, the Doha Marriott hotel – which is also part of Katara Hospitality – has planned its tree lighting event for Dec. 19.

A Christmas display at InterContinental Doha – The City.

Chantelle D'mello

A Christmas display at InterContinental Doha – The City.

Christmas-focused celebrations will get fully underway in many of the international hotels after National Day, with gingerbread house decorating sessions and carols accompanying afternoon tea as popular features.

The spiced, sweet biscuits that are popular at this time of year take pride of place in several lobbies, with an entire gingerbread village adding a festive flair to the atrium at the Intercontinental – The City.

Where will you be going to enjoy the upcoming festivities? Thoughts?

PHOTOS: Getting into the Qatar National Day spirit

With Qatar National Day just around the corner on Dec. 18, the country is in full patriotic mode, with flags and pictures of the Emir popping up all over the place.

And this weekend, many residents were treated to a preview of the upcoming parade, as organizers held (impressive) rehearsals on the Corniche:

Some also caught the aerial show practice:

For those who want to enjoy some QND fun ahead of Dec. 18, check out our guide to the festivities here.

Notably, the Qatar Tourism Authority is launching free shuttle services today to take visitors from Souq Waqif to Darb Al Saai, via the Doha Bus.

Thoughts?