Thursday, 18 December 2014

The 18th December marks Qatar National Day.

For the weeks leading up to this day, the residents of Qatar begin decorating the small city of Doha in preparation for National Day, the day where the heritage and history of the country is celebrated in the form of parades, fireworks, cultural shows, and markets.

Homes, hotels, cars, and city towers are adorned with Qatari flags in the run up to the 18th.

Katara, the cultural hub of Doha, plays host to many of the Qatar National Day celebrations. The one road in and out of the area becomes gridlocked by the afternoon, with proud Qataris descending en mass in their land cruisers to drive through Katara in celebration. As I write this, the road outside my apartment is at an absolute stand still. With this in mind, I went in to work early this morning and left just after lunch, to avoid being caught up in the traffic.

Matt and I took a walk over to Katara in the late afternoon to experience the festivities for ourselves.

We were met with a sea of maroon and white, the colours of the Qatari flag, and National Day kites flew overhead.

Our first stop was the 2014 Youth Market, that had been set up in the carpark. Here, children participated in fashion shows, alongside a market set up with stalls selling a range of wares, from garments, to lanterns, to cupcakes, to hot food. We purchased some delicious chicken skewers and browsed the stalls, before making our way to the sea front.

By this point, the cars were filtering through, their bodywork printed with National Day artwork. Locals waved flags from the windows, whilst others waved flags stood on the roofs of their cars as they drove through Katara.

We arrived just in time for the parade of the Amiri Guard. The crowds parted to make way for the marching band, followed by the armed guards who serve the Qatari Amir.

We walked further along the sea front, and came across a falcon tent. Historically, falcons were used for hunting in Arabia due to their keen eyes being able to detect pray in the desert environment. They are a symbol of nobility and wealth, and are the national birds of Qatar.

In memory of this day, the people of Qatar are invited to sign the guest book at Katara.

No doubt the giant pages were filled with messages of pride and patriotism for Qatar.

Opposite, the amphitheatre showed the National Day Parade that took place on the Corniche early this morning. En route to work at 8:30am, I saw that people were already out en mass to find parking spaces along the Corniche. I read one blogger and his family got up at 6am to go out in search of a parking space from which to watch the parade!

Further along, outside Mamig (a lovely Lebanese/Armenian restaurant), we found a display of classic cars.

Before we knew it, we had reached the end of the sea front.

As the sun began to set over Katara, we went in search of dessert.

Some of my favourite cupcakes in Doha (along with Biscotti at the Grand Hyatt) can be found at Red Velvet.

We both opted for Cookies n' Cream, and sat inside the cute, diner style cupcakery to demolish our purchases - even Red Velvet had gone all out for National Day!

As we headed back home, the celebrations were far from over. A constant stream of traffic crawled in to Katara, and from my balcony window I can see the cars are still coming en-mass, hooting their horns in celebration rather than the usual impatience!

Whilst to us expats it all must seem a little mad and over the top, it really is quite lovely to see how proud Qataris are of their country. The only time I have ever seen a celebration that mirrors this level of patriotism in the UK was the Queen's Jubilee. Here, it is an annual event.

I'll leave you with a picture of darkness falling over my beautiful home in my often mad, frustrating, claustrophobic, but undoubtedly hugely patriotic adopted country.

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