Everything you need to know about Qatar National Day – 2015 edition (updated)
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.
Celebrations for National Day have already begun at some venues around town, including Darb Al Saai in Al Sadd.
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).
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.
You can find a full run-down of what’s on and when at the official Qatar National Day website here.
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.
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.
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.
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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are your plans for National Day? Thoughts?
We’re collecting and verifying as much information from as many sources as possible in the run-up to QND, but it is possible we’ve missed some activities. If you know of something we should add, please let us know in the comments below!