Qatar National Day is celebrated annually on 18 December, commemorating the inception of the modern state of Qatar in 1878.
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Qatar National Day, also known as Founder’s Day, was moved to the 18 December date in 2007 by order of the then Crown Prince and Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Prior to this order, National Day was celebrated on 3 September, the date on which Qatar officially gained its independence in 1971.
For the citizens of Qatar, National Day is a day to celebrate the unique history and heritage of the Qatari people and to keep past traditions alive. It’s also a day of commemoration and respect for Sheikh Jassim and the many other people whose sacrifices led Qatar to its unification and eventual independence.
When Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani succeeded his father, Mohammed bin Thani, as ruler of the Qatari Peninsula on 18 December 1878, Qatar was embroiled in tribal conflicts and battling the imperial powers of the British and Ottoman Empires. Sheikh Jassim worked to bring together the various tribes and repel outside influence through strong leadership and military force, eventually resulting in the founding of the modern, unified Qatar. Though Qatar wouldn’t ultimately gain its independence until 1971, Sheikh Jassim’s succession is viewed as the seminal moment in Qatari history.
Qatar National Day is celebrated in a number of ways across Qatar, but perhaps the most prominent event is the Darb Al-Saai, which means the “Route of the Messenger.” The Darb Al-Saai festivities take place at Al Sadd in the Qatari capital of Doha, and they’re designed to reflect unique aspects of Qatari history. The Darb Al-Saai celebrations feature camel and horse riding, falconry, shooting, military displays and other activities of cultural significance. Traditional music, art, food and clothing are celebrated during the festivities as well, and the Qatar Tourism Authority offers guided tours to inform visitors of the significance and history of each event.
Elsewhere, other festivities include the Katara National Day celebrations in the Katara Cultural Village. The Katara Cultural Village hosts an assortment of events ranging from educational workshops to fireworks and music shows. A family-oriented National Day parade through the Doha Corniche also draws many thousands of attendees each year. Jets, helicopters and parachutists fill the skies with dazzling aerial displays, while soldiers, police and camel-mounted military personnel march along the parade route. The highlight of the parade is an appearance by Qatar’s Emir, who walks the route and interacts with the gathered crowd.