Qatar has inaugurated its National Day celebrations with a morning parade under clear skies on the waterfront of the capital, Doha.
Thousands of citizens and residents turned out on Saturday to watch the annual parade that began with the national anthem, an 18-shotgun salute and military aircraft streaking across the sky.
Land, air and naval armed forces, the presidential guard, and Lekhwiya security forces marched along the Corniche road. Troops from the Ministry of Interior’s civil defence force, coastguard, border patrol and traffic police also joined the march, with the sound of trumpets and drums playing throughout.
— اليوم الوطني لدولة قطر (@NDQatar) December 18, 2021
Translation: March of Qatar’s armed forces.
Afterwards, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani walked along the Corniche, saluting spectators who waved the Qatari flag.
“On the National Day of our country Qatar, I congratulate the [Qatari] people and everyone who lives among us in it – you have increased the country’s prosperity,” Sheikh Tamim said on Twitter.
“With my sincerest wishes that this nation will remain safe and secure,” he said.
في اليوم الوطني لبلادنا قطر أهنئ أهلنا وكل من يقيم بيننا فيها، فأنتم زاد الوطن وثروته، مع أصدق الأمنيات أن يديم المولى هذا الوطن آمنًا مطمئنًا. وكل عام وأنتم بخير.
— تميم بن حمد (@TamimBinHamad) December 18, 2021
The December 18 holiday marks the unification of Qatar in 1878 under the leadership of the country’s founder, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani. It has been celebrated every year since 2007.
This year, only those who had received invitations – some 9,500 people – were allowed as spectators as Qatar continues to enforce measures in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The celebration was held under the slogan of “Ancestral meadows; a matter of trust”, a motto meant to highlight the global environmental crisis as Qatar moves to tackle climate change as part of its National Vision 2030.
The parade saw participants march between small fields covered with flowers planted in the shape of the Qatari flag, in the national colours of maroon and white.
— ILoveQatar – Live (@ILQLive) December 18, 2021
This year’s celebration comes as Qatar prepares to host the final game of the FIFA Arab Gulf Cup, set to take place later on Saturday.
The match will see North African rivals Tunisia and Algeria competing for the title at the new Al Bayt Stadium in Doha. A nighttime fireworks show is scheduled to take place at the Corniche at around the same time the game is set to come to an end.
Earlier in the day, Qatar and Egypt will contest the third place.
The tournament is a test event for next year’s World Cup, which will be the first to take place in the Middle East.
‘A year of peace’
The National Day celebrations are also the first since the blockade that was imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017 ended earlier this year.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from the Doha Corniche, said organisers had decided against military vehicles being used in this year’s parade.
“Understandably, the message there is that this is a year of peace, this is a year of reassurances to the world – not only about the fact that Qatar has come out of a very tough experience when it was under blockade … but also that this is the year of the World Cup,” Vall said.
The celebrations will also include a series of events, including visitors learning about Qatari customs and traditions, such as the correct way of serving Arabic coffee. Games showcasing Qatari customs and heritage will also be available for people of various ages.