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.
Celebrations got started early this year, and plan to run a few days past QND, until Dec. 20.
To make it easier to enjoy the festivities, the Qatar Tourism Authority has announced the launch of a free shuttle bus service to take visitors from Souq Waqif, passing by the City Center and stopping at Darb Al Saai.
The bus will be available every 30 minutes from 3pm to 9pm starting Sunday, Dec. 14 and running until Saturday, Dec. 20. The service is operated by Doha Bus.
Uber is also offering free rides up to QR100 on QND:
Here’s a guide to what’s going on around town.
Doha’s Corniche will once again be one of the main locations for National Day celebrations. The waterfront road has already been decorated with lights and flags, and residents report that practice runs for the big parade are already underway.
However, in the run-up to the actual holiday, not much is going on this year, compared to last year. Fireworks were initially planned on the Corniche from Dec. 8 to Dec. 20, but the displays appear to have been scrapped, and removed from the official National Day website.
A fireworks show was also slated be held from 10pm to 10:15pm on the Corniche on National Day itself, but it appears that show has now been moved up and will be now be between 8pm and 8:10pm, according to organizers.
Meanwhile, Al Raya reports that the Corniche will be closed Friday morning, Dec. 12, for parade rehearsals, at least between 6:30am and 7:30am.
And this coming week, from Dec. 15 to Dec. 18, parade rehearsals will take place from 4pm to 9pm on the Corniche. Commuters should expect access to the road to vary, based on the activities.
The actual parade – one of the most popular QND celebrations – will take place on National Day itself. The event will be held opposite the under-construction Al Rumailah and Al Bidda parks from about 8am to 9am.
It usually includes marches by the armed forces, civil defense and other governmental bodies. Qatar’s Emir and Father Emir will likely make appearances, and Qatari students often sing a few songs, while aerial and sea displays by the air force and navy will be conducted.
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.
Designated parking spots are usually set up, with a shuttle service taking people to and from the main parade area from 5am to 8am and from 10am to noon.
This year, parking is available at Fanar, Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, RasGas, the State Mosque, Ezdan, Qatar Sports Club, the Qatar Petroleum building and Souq Waqif, among other locations.
Notably, the parade appears to be a family-geared event. Last year, hundreds of single men who turned up to watch were turned away from the celebrations by police.
According to the Peninsula, buses will also transport people to the Corniche for afternoon activities, which run from 5pm to midnight.
However, it’s important to note that traffic can become pretty snarled during the evening hours on National Day, as many young people choose this time to form celebratory convoys, honking and expressing their Qatar pride.
Darb Al Saai
For pre-festivities, the main attraction this year is definitely Darb Al Saai, a large area that has been set up in Al Sadd and is hosting numerous activities, performances and cultural offerings – both from Qatar’s past and looking forward to the future.
Below are some of the activities. Unless otherwise noted, they are held continuously during the hours that Darb Al Saai is open, from 8am to noon, and 4pm to 10pm through Dec. 20.
A look at wildlife in Qatar, including ostriches, oryxes, deer, rabbits and plants. Children’s activities will focus on the need to preserve and protect Qatar’s environment.
Visitors can learn the basics of shooting, under the supervision of specialized trainers.
This costumed character, dressed up like a lion, will hide around the Darb Al Saai grounds.
Children must search for him and if they find him, will win prizes. According to the official QND website, “then Al Hais (is) placed inside a cage and the children throw rubber balls (at him).” This activity goes on from 10am to 11am, from 5pm to 6pm and from 8pm to 9pm daily.
Visitors can learn to ride horses with the help of trainers. There is also going to be horse beauty shows and riding shows.
One section of Darb Al Saai will have a collection of tents to depict Bedouin life, including Qatari food, exhibition of handicrafts, and the presence of animals such as falcons. There will also be storytellers and musicals playing old Qatari songs.
The activities of Qatar’s former “standing market” will be mimicked here with dozens of stalls selling perfume, clothes, handicrafts, baskets, carvings, food and other items.
Khalifa traffic city
This children’s village includes a driving experience and the ability to get one’s (pretend) license after passing a safety driving test in an area with streets, traffic lights and police supervision.
Maritime heritage will be on display, with special competitions including oyster cutting and sailing. There will also be raising the sails of dhows and photos on display of what life was like in the past for Qatar’s pearl divers.
A two-minute show will occur each night, sometime between 6:45pm and 7pm, though they have been held later in the evening closer to National Day. But they will apparently not be held on QND, according to one resident who spoke to organizers:
@dohanews They said fireworks only on Corniche today.
— Gazanfarulla Khan (@acepilotkhan) December 18, 2014
This includes a photo exhibition that documents the evolution of transport in Qatar, as well as an interactive airplane-flying experience and a futuristic rail track.
— اليوم الوطني لدولة قطر (@NDQatar) December 11, 2014
On National Day, an air show will take place at Darb Al Saai from 6:45pm to 7:15, along with a fireworks display.
Events for expats
On Dec. 18, several events will be held around Qatar catering to different communities here, including cricket and football matches, tug-of-war competitions, cultural performances and prize drawings.
The events will be held from 8am to 10pm at four venues:
- Al Wakrah Sports Club, catering to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities;
- West End Park, catering to the Indian and Sri Lankan communities;
- Al Rayyan Sports Club, catering to the Filipino, Indonesian and Malaysian communities; and
- Al Khor Sports Club, catering to the Nepali community and those living in Al Khor.
Entry to all activities is free and open to all. There will be special areas for families, and free blood, sugar level and other health screenings onsite.
The features include Arda performances, marine handicrafts, marionette traditional crafts and an exhibition of clothes and jewelry. Visitors will also have a chance to try on Qatari clothing and have their photos taken.
QM is also holding live falconry demonstrations at Al Zubarah in partnership with the Al Gannas Association. In addition to falcons, there will be an exhibition of paintings and artist models of the most common falcon species.
Finally, weekly demonstrations of handicraft-making, taste-testing of traditional Qatari food and chances to ride camels will be conducted every Friday and Saturday until April 30, 2015. The timings are from 3pm to 5pm on Fridays and from 10am to 5pm on Saturdays.
For more information, see here.
Qatar’s strongest man competition
The second edition of Qatar’s strongest man will be held on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 at Aspire Park from 3pm to 9pm.
Some 300 participants are elected to flex their muscles during several tests of strength, including weight lifting, lifting a car, pulling a truck, moving a giant tire and moving an atlas stone and sand bags.
Aspire said eight contestants will compete in all five tests, before one is crowned the winner. To compete, participants must be 19 years and older, and pre-screened for physical ability. Prizes will go to the top three competitors.
About 600 seats have been set up for spectators, and a dedicated parking area has been established to ensure viewers can easily access the contest.
Also at Aspire, there will be aerial balloon lightings, shows on the big screens, a fountain light show on the lake and other activities for families.
Katara Cultural Village
There are a slew of events taking place at Katara on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19, including a military parade, the release of 11,000 balloons, a paratroopers show, children’s activities and free food and beverages to demonstrate Qatari hospitality.
Here’s the schedule, which runs from 10am to 10pm on both Thursday and Friday:
- Largest Qatari flag as sand carving: According to Al Sharq, a group of young Qataris is planning to carve a huge Qatari flag in the sand to mark National Day. The carving is going to compete for a Guinness World Record, and will take place in one of the sand dunes near Sealine. It is expected to be unveiled on Dec. 16, under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the newspaper said.
- Ashghal heritage village: Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal will hold a “heritage village” at its headquarters in West Bay that will be open from Dec. 14 to Dec. 17, 9am to 3pm. All are invited to visit the village, which will showcase Qatari customs, traditions, businesses and other features, including a shoemaker, a person who sells natural medications, a baker and a tailor. There will also be a classic cars show, food and henna drawing.
What are your plans for National Day? Thoughts?
We’re collecting/verifying as much information from as many sources as possible in the run-up to QND, but it is possible we’ve missed some stuff. If you know of something we should add, please let us know in the comments below!