Darb Al Saai was a twelve-day event organized by the Qatari government to celebrate Qatari heritage, identity, and traditions. It took place from 8-20 December 2016 and was intended as one of the main celebrations and events held across the country for Qatar National Day. Dr Waleed Serhan attended the event on behalf of the National Museums and the Public Imagination research project and he has this report.
The day included multiple displays of Qatari heritage in a celebratory atmosphere ranging from cuisine, crafts, Arabic perfume, incense, to traditional dances such as the Aarda dance. It also included a celebration of Bedouin life with tents, Arabic coffee, falcons, camels, as well as a parade of Arabian Nights (Fursan) on the glorious Arabian horses.
Governmental sections were represented, highlighting the work and services of various state ministries, including a two-way communication channel whereby school students could express their wishes and expectations to the state. Emphasis was placed on the media as a component of a healthy state-society relationship through tracing the history and development of newspapers in Qatar, with the participation of all newspapers present in the country. Universities, both national and international had their share in the event by targeting children and youth with interactive and educational games, readings corners, and healthy cooking. Both public and private schools heavily participated, and competed in traditional skills such as putting up a Bedouin tent and the Aarda dance.
The days were divided into a morning period mainly for school pupils, and an afternoon and evening period for adults as well as children and teenagers, with some dedicated women and family only sessions. Reflecting Qatar’s diverse society, the event was attended by Qataris and non-Qataris although attendance was predominantly by Qataris as National Day represents a particular source of joy and pride to them.
While Darb Al Saai was the second most important event organized for the National Day celebrations, the event occupied a position of prominence this year once the main National Day parade celebrated on 18 December was cancelled due to the worrying political developments in Aleppo, Syria. As a result, National Day andQatari national identity had an additional dimension this year whereby Qatari, Arab, and Islamic values of solidarity with the weak, giving, and compassion were the highlight of 2016’s Qatar National Day. On National Day, over 250 million Qatari Riyals were raised through private donations in one evening at Darb Al Saai for the residents and displaced of Aleppo.