December is recognised as the most festive month of the year with Christmas and New Year holidays and celebrations. In Qatar, it is as festive, adding Qatar National Day to the mix.
The festive month in Qatar begins with Qatar National Day on 18 December, followed by Christmas then New Year celebrations. Hotels and other venues around the city go all out to make this time of the year special for all.
Qatar National Day is celebrated on 18 December to commemorate Qatar’s unification in 1878. This is a highly anticipated day in Qatar as key landmarks in Doha like the Corniche, Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village and The Pearl-Qatar, as well as homes, businesses and hotels flourish with decorations in the colours of the Qatari flag. Hotels across the country have dedicated afternoon teas and brunches featuring local cuisine to celebrate the occasion.
Decorated with flags, lights and flower bouquets, the Doha Corniche is the most popular venue for the National Day celebrations, which begin at 6 am with a ceremonial parade in the presence of The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and other members of the royal family. The biggest fireworks come out on National Day – not even on New Year’s Eve. The annual National Day fireworks begin at 8 pm and last for 10 minutes. Fireworks also take place at Katara Cultural Village.
Another popular destination on National Day is Darb Al Saai village, which means the ‘Route of the Messenger’. Located in Al Sadd, Darb Al Saai is a massive temporary installation created specifically for National Day, designed as an old Qatari village. Open annually for just 10 days, the installation features tents with cultural activities including musical shows, henna, horse riding and falconry. In addition, visitors can walk through several stalls for food, drinks and shopping.
Many of Qatar’s leading companies and organisations set up large tents with interactive presentations and activities for visitors at Darb Al Saai.
There are many reasons to feel festive with the majority of the hotels and restaurants getting into gear to ensure you have the best Christmas season.
The festivities begin after National Day, with hotels inviting the public to join in with their tree lighting ceremonies. The little ones will likely see Santa, sing some carols, sip on some hot chocolate, and enjoy Christmas treats!
Throughout the month, a few local groups and organisations hold bazaars and seasonal get‑togethers.
If you’re planning to stay in Qatar through the festive season, take advantage of the many sumptuous dining options available. The range of choices on Christmas Eve and the day itself are boundless. There will be plenty of opportunities to get your fill of traditional dishes like turkey and all the trimmings. In addition, you will be able to enjoy everything from Middle Eastern specialities to Mediterranean, Indian, steaks and buffets, with live entertainment thrown in and activities to keep the younger ones entertained. Various price options are available. Restaurants will be booked up fast.
For those wishing to celebrate at home, turkeys and the trimmings are available to order from most hotels, as well as other specialities such as gingerbread houses, Yule logs and festive flower arrangements. You can also procure the services of an outside catering team – events can be held at your own home or you can hire a private entertainment space at a hotel.
Celebrate the arrival of 2020 at any one of the hotels or restaurants around town that offer something special for the occasion. From a quiet meal to partying the night away, there is something to suit everyone’s taste and budget.
Early booking is a must especially for the New Year’s parties at hotels, which can be anything from a Bollywood extravaganza to the romance of 1920s Chicago. If you really want to go all out, try one of the hotels’ VIP packages – for a fantastic New Year’s Eve, this will often include an extravagant dinner, live entertainment and overnight stay in a suite.
Most entrance tickets to bars and clubs will include a glass of bubbly or soft drink and a selection of edibles. Don’t forget to take your Qatar ID or passport with you.
The day after the night before
If you need to recharge, or simply fancy another day out with friends and family to enjoy the first day of the year, unwind with a brunch (with or without bubbly). Most will offer activities for children at a play area, allowing the adults to have their own fun.
Remember, celebrating the New Year is not about just one night, but a whole year of 365 new pages for you to fill. There are still plenty of things to do and see through the winter months.
Visit marhaba.qa for our online, up-to-date calendar of events. Don’t forget to get your Marhaba Calendar 2020 to help you get better organised in the new year! Happy 2020!
Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s not a Muslim holiday therefore Muslims do not celebrate it. It is considered haram or forbidden for Muslims to celebrate non-Muslim holidays including Christmas and New Year.
Although Muslims acknowledge Jesus’ miraculous birth of a virgin, they do not celebrate Christmas because the Quran debunks the idea of incarnation and resurrection. The Quran respects both Jesus and the Virgin Mary – known as Prophet Issa and Maryam the Virgin in Islam – by sharing the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth, his special gift of speaking from the cradle, and his ability to perform miracles with the help of God.
Muslims believe that Maryam is one of the greatest women to ever live, and a chapter of the Quran is devoted to her. Muslims believe Jesus was sent as a beloved Prophet of God to deliver the word to the people of his time.
It is not the practice of Muslims to celebrate the birth of their prophets. A similar holiday to Christmas in Islam is Mawlid Al Nabi Al Sharfi, which is the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, which is commerated on the 12th day of Rabi’ Al Awwal, the third month of the lunar Islamic calendar. Many Muslim countries observe Mawlid and it is recognised as a national holiday. However, many Islamic scholars have denounced the holiday, and Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar do not recognise Mawlid as a holiday.
Many Muslims observe the arrival of the New Year although Islamic scholars have denounced celebrating the holiday as it is also considered haram. In fact, Muslims have their own new year based on their Islamic calendar. In Islam, the new year is known as Hijri, which begins on the first day of the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, which will start on 21 August 2020 and continue for 29 days until 18 September 2020.
Author: Ola Diab
This feature is an editorial from the ‘Hospitality, Hotels and Dining’ section in the latest issue of Marhaba – Issue 76, which comes out in December 2019.
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