The second Tuesday of February has officially been declared a public holiday, ‘Sports Day’ in Qatar. Activities are planned around the entire country and I’ve got the day off. Sports day was a last minute announcement by the Emir in what can be seen as an initiative to get people moving and thinking about keeping fit, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss some of the other (somewhat reliable) holidays in Qatar.
I’ve talked about Ramadan before, it’s significance and the impact it has on life in Qatar and the whole region. Because Ramadan is based on the Islamic calendar, a lunar calendar, the date is not set and it shifts approximately 10 to12 days each year. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it officially begins when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted. This crescent must physically be seen in order to announce the start of Ramadan and so it can be a little bit tricky if you want to plan around it.
There are 2 Eid holidays each year and, although both are public holidays, the days that a person gets off from work may vary from three to five. As with Ramadan, both Eid holidays are based on the Islamic calendar so the dates change from year to year. Immediately following Ramadan is Eid al Fitr which begins on the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar (Shawwal) and celebrates the end of fasting. Eid al Adha begins on the 10th day of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar (Dhu al Hijjah) and it is approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan. Both holidays are marked by family gatherings and celebratory meals with people decorating their houses and exchanging gifts with relatives and friends.
The 18th December is National Day or Founder’s Day and marks the day, in 1878, that Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed al Thani succeeded his father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani. Sheikh Jassim worked towards bringing together the many tribes of the region into one unified nation. On National Day you can expect many special events, including parades and fireworks along the Corniche, lots of cars decorated with emblems and stickers, plenty of Qatari flags waving, and an enormous sense of national pride.
My mother finds it very surprising that I don’t receive any days off over the Christmas and New Year period but I keep having to remind her that Qatar is a Muslim country, so it’s very rare for expats to get traditional, Christian holidays off (Christmas, New Year, Easter). You’ll still be able to find someplace to celebrate (brunch/lunch/dinner at larger hotels and restaurants) but most employers will not allot any time off so you’ll have to use your vacation days if you want to travel abroad, go back home, or just enjoy the holiday in Doha.
Smaller holidays and country-specific celebrations like Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Bastille Day, Australia Day and the 4th July can also be found in Qatar but you’ll have to search a bit harder. Sometimes events are hosted by a country’s embassy or various sports clubs dotted around Doha and it’s worth making the extra effort to find these as they are a great way to meet people and experience a little taste of home.
And I think I’ve mentioned before that the weekend in Qatar is Friday and Saturday, with Friday being the main day of religious observance. Some businesses may only work a half day on Thursday and then shut for all of Friday. Smaller shops will either be shut all of Friday or only open after the afternoon prayer, while the larger shops and malls will only be closed for Friday morning.