Doha, Qatar – Qatar is celebrating National Day amid the ongoing Gulf diplomatic crisis, which appears to have created a greater sense of unity among the nation’s 2.5 million residents.
The annual holiday is observed on December 18 to mark the date in 1878 when Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani succeeded his father as the emir and led the country towards unity.
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A two-day holiday from December 17 to 18 was announced by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Saturday.
With 300 mini drones up in the sky, Qatar’s residents were treated to a synchronised airshow on Sunday night – also planned for Monday – at the waterfront of Katara cultural village in the capital, Doha.
A military parade along Doha’s corniche was held at 3pm local time (12:00 GMT) on Monday.
Various cultural events took place across the country throughout the day followed by fireworks at 8pm (17:00 GMT).
Celebrations were cancelled by the government last year to show solidarity with the people of Aleppo during the offensive by Syrian government forces to retake the city from the rebels.
This year’s festivities take place as Qatar continues to face a blockade, now in its seventh month, imposed by some of its Gulf neighbours.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of financing “terrorism” and maintaining too close a relationship with their arch-rival, Iran. Doha denies the allegations.
Qatar’s residents – nationals and expatriates – told Al Jazeera what this year’s National Day means to them and how they will be celebrating.
Mohamed Alsherawi – Qatari citizen
“This year’s National Day is really special. Especially with the Gulf siege, we actually feel more proud to be part of this nation. We feel more proud of the unity between not only the nationals but even the expats. We are celebrating hand-to-hand, together and feeling really happy and proud to be here in Qatar.”
Marcela Daza – Colombian mother of three and Qatar resident since April 2017
“This is our first National day and I didn’t think this feeling of pride could be possible for a country far from mine. We had a bad experience with the blockade. I was happy in Doha so far but did not know much about the government. After the grace, the eloquence and the strength showed by our ruler, my chest filled with pride. Never a national day in my country was so meaningful until this upcoming one in this foreign land.”
Virgilio Fajardo Apolinario – Filipino accountant
“With the ongoing Gulf crisis, I appreciate this country not just because of the benefits and opportunities given to me but more due to the honour and privilege of being part of this country. We never participated in any of the events before, but this year we are in full anticipation and excited to watch the parade. We want our kids to see that this day is worth celebrating.”
Rachel Morris – Australian national and healthcare public relations officer
“This year, I have seen a real cohesion with the expat and local communities. I think the siege has really united us but also reminded us what a safe, welcoming and vibrant country this is.”
This year's National Day marks the celebration of a new era for Qatar and its people.
Mohamed Hamada – Mauritanian accountant
“This year’s National Day is actually quite important to expats as much as it is for locals because we want to show the world that Qatar is okay, we are okay. My special way of celebrating the National Day will be on social media, posting, tweeting and showing the world what is really happening here.”
Mahmoud Ibrahim – Egyptian engineer
“This year, especially because of the blockade, it’s important to celebrate the National Day to prove we are still living a normal life here in Qatar and to put ourselves in a better atmosphere.”
Richa Sondhi – Indian expatriate and Qatar Shell employee
“It’s a proud moment for me not only this year but every year to be a resident of Qatar. I feel I belong here. The rich heritage, culture, community keeps us together. The siege cannot stop our respect, love for Qatar.”
Madeeha Mohamed Hanifa – Sri Lankan doctor
“This year’s National Day is more special in that the feeling of belonging and unity is more. The feeling that we’ll give our best to Qatar and fight till our last drop of blood whether physically or electronically dominates us.”
Gabriela Saucedo – Mexican national
“This year, I felt the National Day was a lot more inclusive than previous years. In the past, it felt it was just for the Qataris but this year it felt more for every one of us who contribute to the development of this country. I feel now part of it and proud to be in Qatar.”
Fathima Zafra Afker – Sri Lankan human resource administrator
“Qatar National Day 2017 carries with it the pain of being singled out by those who were once allies. I have been fortunate to visit those countries but would never compare those to the comfort and peace one has on Qatar. It is now an opportunity for us expats to stand by this country and the emir who has handled this massive issue with utmost diplomacy. We will support in any way possible to ensure Qatar stays supreme and overcomes these false allegations.”
Ellie Lloyd – British mother of two and former Saudi resident
“I’m really excited for this year’s National Day. Every year we join in the celebrations, but this year is different. Not only are we celebrating Qatar’s National Day but we are celebrating how this tiny country has managed to hold its head up high and present itself to the world with dignity and respect during the crisis. The Emir and his council have kept their integrity in the face of all this adversity. They have not surrendered their beliefs nor have they attacked or penalised any nationalities. That is rare nowadays. I feel proud to wave the Qatari flag in support of all they are doing.”
Kenny D’Souza – Indian expatriate
“This year’s National Day is even more significant in terms of strength and togetherness. In these trying times it is great to see people from all walks of life and different parts of the world come together only for one reason and that is to stand with this country that has been a provider for a lot of people.”
Badreldin Ghazi – Sudanese born, British engineer
“This National Day is all about echoing the Emir’s elevating and captivating speech at the opening session of the UN General Assembly. The blockade has only increased our resolve as residents and have in fact quashed many worries that may have existed in the past. So this National Day will be a celebration of the political, economic and social achievement this country has made since the start of the blockade.”
Cassandra Molloy – Teacher from Ireland
“This year, the surge in national pride is palpable. There has been a real sense of unity and resilience among the people living in Doha, both nationals and expats. This year’s celebrations feel so meaningful and symbolic of what Qatar is as a sovereign nation.”
Jasmin Mai – German expatriate, 26-year-old
“This year’s National Day marks the celebration of a new era for Qatar and its people. The sudden blockade has made us – nationals and expatriates – grow together to overcome the sudden changes successfully. For me, National Day means an opportunity to celebrate Qatar’s strength and show our love and support for our second home and His Highness Sheikh Tamim.”
Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz