December is the most festive month of the year with Christmas and New Year. In Qatar, it is just 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. This time of the year is special for all, especially with FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and its festivities.

Qatar National Day

Qatar National Day fireworks at Katara Cultural Village © Aspire Katara Hospitality

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 such as the Corniche, Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village and The Pearl Island, as well as homes, businesses and hotels flourish with decorations in the colours of the Qatari flag.

Decorated with flags, lights and flower bouquets, the Doha Corniche is the most popular venue for the National Day celebrations, which usually begin at 6 am (although they have been taking place at 3 pm recently) 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 spectacular fireworks come out on National Day – not 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’, which was the road taken by delegates of Qatar’s founder, Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad bin Thani, to deliver his internal and external messages and directives. Every year, Darb Al Saai takes places annually just for 10 days in a massive temporary installation in Al Sadd/Al Messila. However, this year, Darb Al Saai has been moved to a much bigger location to accommodate more visitors and expand the number of events taking place during the 24-day celebration, especially as it coincides with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Now located in Umm Salal Mohammed across a 150,000 sq m area, the festival will kick off on 25 November and continue until the Qatar National Day on 18 December, which will also mark the football tournament’s final. It is the largest venue for celebrating Qatar National Day, and this year, it will hold more celebrations than ever with over 4,500 activities lined up to entertain Qataris, residents and World Cup fans. Designed as an old Qatari village, Darb Al Saai 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.

Darb Al Saai’s original location in Al Sadd/Al Messila has turned into Fan Village Caravan City, offering FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ fans more accommodation options as part of a caravans accommodation project, according to the Executive Director of the Housing Department at the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Omar Al Jabir. The caravans are sourced through local suppliers and the site hosts around 1,500 units. Amenities include air conditioning, WiFi, a Smart TV and housekeeping every two days. The facilities feature an entertainment area, 24-hour restaurant and cafe, a clinic and 24-hour security. On-site transportation will take guests from their caravan units to reception. This year, Qatar National Day celebrations will coincide with the final match of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. As of yet, it is unknown what will take place on Doha Corniche and Katara Cultural Village this year, but expect 18 December to be a day of great celebration.

And then comes Christmas

There are many reasons to feel festive with the majority of the hotels and restaurants getting into gear to ensure you have the best festive season. Hotels, restaurants, cafés and malls are decorated with Christmas decorations – lights, trees and more.

If you’re staying 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 – turkey and all the trimmings. In addition, you will be able to enjoy everything from Middle Eastern specialities to Mediterranean buffets. Various price options are available. Restaurants will be booked up fast so call ahead.

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.

Goodbye 2022! Hello 2023!

Celebrate the arrival of 2023 at any one of the hotels or restaurants around town, offering special packages 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 New Year’s Eve at hotels. New Year’s parties can be anything from a Bollywood extravaganza to the romance of 1920s Chicago. Most entrance tickets to bars and clubs will include a glass of bubbly or soft drink and a selection of edibles. Qatar ID or passport is required for entry.

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 and overnight stay in a suite.

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).

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 – our online up to date calendar – for the latest events in Qatar. Don’t forget to get your Marhaba Calendar 2023 to help you be better organised in the new year!

Happy 2023!

Christmas, New Year and the Islamic Calendar

The Christian holiday, Christmas, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Muslims do not celebrate it as it’s considered haram or forbidden for Muslims to celebrate non-Muslim holidays including Christmas and New Year.

Significantly, the story of the birth of Christ is actually related in the Quran, in Sura 19:16-35. Some of the facts are the same, but what is most important, the story is given a very different slant. The virgin Mary is told by an angel that she will give birth to a ‘pure’ son, ‘as a sign unto men and a mercy from Us’. She withdraws to a desert to give birth, alone, under a palm-tree, then returns with the infant to her people. When they chide her, supposing she has been unchaste, Jesus speaks up from the cradle in her defense, announcing himself to be a prophet. The passage concludes by denouncing the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.

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 – who are 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.

A similar holiday to Christmas in Islam is Mawlid Al Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, which is commerated on the 12th day of Rabi’ Al Awwal, the third month of the lunar Islamic calendar. In 2022, it fell on 18 October. In 2023, it will fall on 27 September. 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 lunar Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar, which has been in constant use for at least 1,400 years, is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days. In 2023, the Islamic New Year or Hijri New Year will fall on 19 July, welcoming 1445 CE, on the first day of the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram. In some Muslim countries, the Hijri New Year is a national holiday and is celebrated differently by each Muslim country. In Qatar, it’s not a national holiday; however, Muslims will wish each other ‘Happy New Year’ on the day.

Author: Ola Diab

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