(Reminder: I’m on a break this week)
On September 3, 1971, the tiny but incredibly wealthy Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar gained its independence from the UK as part of an overall British withdrawal from the Gulf (Bahrain and the emirates of the United Arab Emirates also stopped being UK protectorates in the same year). As Qatar was my home for for about 18 months many years back, I figure I can at least acknowledge their national independence day.
Interestingly, today used to be Qatar National Day, given the obvious connection to its establishment as an independent nation, and that’s how I remember it from my time there. But that stopped being the case in 2007, when Qatar National Day was moved to December 18. The current Qatar National Day marks the day in 1878 when Jassim b. Muhammad Al Thani, considered the founder of modern Qatar, succeeded his father as Emir (which nominally meant that he was an Ottoman sub-governor, but Istanbul didn’t exert a whole lot of direct control over tiny distant provinces like Qatar).
I couldn’t tell you why the holiday was changed, other than maybe a desire to say that Qatar as a nation goes back to 1878 rather than only to 1971. One might also argue that there were practical reasons for moving the country’s big national celebration day from early September, when the heat in the Gulf is usually unbearable and most Qataris are either on their way back or have just returned from August vacations (believe me, you’d want to go somewhere else for a month too) to mid-December, but that’s just idle speculation on my part.
Anyway, this is one time I’ll bring up Qatar without mentioning (except for right now, I guess) its terrible indentured servitude system.
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