“We are in blood and spirit with Palestine,” one tourist told Doha News.
The day, December 18, has long been a highly anticipated one for Qatar’s citizens and residents alike, where celebrations echo from one street in Doha to another.
Last year’s celebration came at a special time for Qatar as it coincided with the 2022 FIFA World Cup final in the Gulf host nation – when the country turned into a city that hardly slept.
However, the circumstances have drastically shifted one year on and the celebrations this year are largely muted.
The vibrant Lusail Boulevard that bustled with millions of football fans last year, with hardly any place to walk as Argentina’s star Lionel Messi paraded through the attraction, is now silent.
The iconic corniche went from having long cues of cars honking and playing national Qatari music out loud from the morning until the evening to a much quieter street.
The scenes reflect the fact that the celebrations this year have come during a time of regional mourning, as the world witnesses the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza.
More than a month into the brutal Israeli war on Gaza, Qatar’s Ministry of Defense announced on November 20 that Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani ordered the postponement of the Armed Forces’ celebration of its National Day, in solidarity with Gaza.
Similarly, the Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C., cancelled its upcoming National Day celebration in November, the embassy informed guests in a notice obtained and reviewed by Doha News.
While the announcements came amid ongoing hopes that the hostilities in Gaza would come to an end, Israel has only persisted in its killing of Palestinians in Gaza. Since October 7, Israel has killed at least 18,800 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestine’s health authorities.
Euro-Med reported a much higher figure on Sunday of 25,612, including 10,091 children and those who are presumed dead under the rubble.
The region has also been in a state of mourning since Saturday with the passing of Kuwait’s late leader Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who died after ruling the Gulf country since 2020.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani ordered three days of national mourning.
While tourists still flocked to Qatar to mark the National Day, they have only come carrying their pain and grief over the non-stop killings of Palestinians in Gaza while mourning the death of Kuwait’s leader, who was also a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause.
“We hoped to see the Qatari celebrations on this happy occasion, but with the passing of Kuwait’s amir and the events in Gaza, the atmosphere has been sad,” an Algerian tourist told Doha News while strolling through Msheireb Downtown Doha.
The tourist, who has asked to remain anonymous, came to visit her two sons who work and live in Qatar to mark the National Day and New Year’s. As she spoke about the current regional circumstances, the Algerian tourist could not help but share her country’s unwavering support for Palestine.
“As Algerians, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinians and we are always standing with Palestine. We hope for its liberation and freedom and that it regains its freedom. We also hope from the Arab leaders to unite for Gaza’s freedom,” she said.
Algeria is among the most vocal and staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause. One of the reasons behind the deep-rooted solidarity comes from Algeria’s 132 years of French occupation between 1830 and 1962.
“We are in blood and spirit with Palestine,” the tourist noted.
The sense of solidarity has also been clear during this year’s National Day, with the Palestinian flag and armbands seen in every corner and raised by Qatar’s citizens and residents. The scenes echo those of last year during the World Cup, where Palestine was even branded as the “33rd” competing team despite not qualifying for the tournament.
Fatima, a Qatari citizen, told Doha News on Monday that the local population is marking the National Day while keeping in mind the regional situation.
“We’re obviously really sad about what’s happening in Gaza, in Palestine, and obviously with the death of the amir of Kuwait, but as a Qatari, we stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine as well as Kuwait,” she said while walking around the Katara Cultural Village with her family.
“We came here to Katara today just to show that we still want to celebrate our National Day, but still want to think about the people of Gaza and the people of Kuwait. We are here wearing the Qatar National Day colours as well as the Palestinian symbol[…]we’re just calling for a ceasefire right now,” Fatima added, echoing the global calls for the end to the genocide in Gaza.