The spirit of Qatar National Day was on full display at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) on November 30, 2014, as the University celebrated the upcoming holiday with a day of learning, food, and fun for students, faculty, and staff, as well as the entire Education City community.
Celebrated annually on December 18th, Qatar National Day (QND) is a public holiday and national commemoration of Qatar’s unification and independence. Georgetown’s QND celebrations were held early since the university will be on winter break for the holiday, but that didn’t stop them from proudly displaying their national pride with a heritage festival set up on the grassy manicured grounds of the school. The entire production was organized by a team of Georgetown’s Qatari students.
“Qatar National Day is an occasion where people meet to express their love and loyalty to the nation. That’s why we wanted to celebrate with our colleagues, and at the same time, to share our culture with them,” said one of the student organizers, KholoudHayder, a sophomore majoring in Culture and Politics.
In a bid to welcome expats and locals alike to the spirit of the holiday, attendants of the festivities were encouraged to come dressed in traditional Qatari garb. Extra abayas and thobes were also made available on site for anyone wanting to take part.
Hessa Aldosari, a sophomore majoring in International Politics, commented on the importance of an inclusive approach to the celebrations, saying: “It is our duty as Qataris to introduce non-Qataris and expatriates to the Qatari culture, and to link the past of Qatar to our present today.”
On an outside paved area outside the main building, the students set up a traditional Qatari majlis, an Arabic term referring to a seating arrangement that serves as a special gathering of community members to fulfill social, religious, or administrative functions. A few steps away, a ‘dukkan’, or small traditional market stall, displayed several food items, reflecting a simpler time before Qatar’s skyrocketing development introduced big shopping malls and global products to the local market. And preserved animal specimens displayed the wide diversity of Qatar’s desert wildlife.
“Our aim was to balance between Qatari authenticity and Qatari modernity in reflecting on the significant aspects of our heritage to visitors. It is also an occasion to remind people how wonderful our nation is and to instill national pride, as well as to contribute to the glory of the country.” said co-organizer AyshaAlasfar,also an International Politics major in her second year at GU-Q.
Throughout the day, a local Qatari craftsman worked on constructing a beautiful and meticulously detailed model dhow, the traditional pearling and fishing boat used for centuries, as he was surrounded by several finished boats on display. Not to be outdone, the role of fishing on Qatar’s seaside communities was also represented by a fisherman on hand to answer questions as his expert hands made quick work of untangling volumes of woven rope.
Qatari women poured ladles of creamy batter onto sizzling black metal plates to make the delicate local delicacy known as crepes, which visitors followed with steaming cups of fragrant and sweet karak tea. Traditional gahwa, or coffee, as well as dates and several other local culinary treats were offered free of charge to guests.
GU-Q sophomore and International Politics major NooraAlzeyara, said: “Our pride on our National Day is a renewal of our connection to our heritage and a demonstration of our civic participation and commitment to our community. It is our duty as Qataris to show the nobility of our heritage, customs and traditions.” And the memory of the customs and traditions were captured with a photo booth where visitors could get their photo taken in front of a backdrop displaying colorful local textiles and woven rugs. But the highlight of the celebrations were the spirited performances of a traditional sword dance performed by one of Qatar’s most celebrated troupes.
Georgetown University is also taking part in the Darb El-Saai events inside the Qatar Foundation tent from December 8th through the 20th. Visitors are able to meet with members of the Georgetown community to learn more about the school, and fun quizzes and temporary flag tattoos are available for young visitors’ enjoyment as well.
The national flag and maroon and white ribbons and decorations continue to be proudly displayed throughout the building, as students, faculty and staff celebrate national heritage throughout the month. The Georgetown community also takes part in the national celebrations organized along the Corniche in Doha, which are traditionally capped off with a brilliant display of fireworks.