To be honest, I’m not sure why I keep doing these national day posts, except that I did that one for the UAE, and then I felt like it wouldn’t be fair not to do the same thing for Bahrain, and now I’m kind of locked into a vicious cycle.
Anyway, like Bahrain National Day, Qatar National Day commemorates Qatar’s independence from Britain without actually falling on the date when Qatar became independent. That date is actually September 3, as regular readers should already know. That date used to be Qatar National Day, and in fact I remember being in downtown Doha as it was being celebrated, but in 2007 Qatar National Day was moved to December 18.
December 18 is the date in 1878 when Jassim b. Mohammed Al Thani (d. 1913) was crowned Emir of Qatar. Jassim is credited with uniting the tribes living on the Qatari peninsula into a single nation, and thus he’s considered the founder of the modern nation. He’s then credited with shepherding the young nation through its dealings with the Ottomans (he defeated a small Ottoman army at the Battle of al-Wajbah, which forced the empire to acknowledge Qatari autonomy), the British, and even Bahrain (whose Al Khalifa ruling house claimed the peninsula until the 1867-1868 Qatar-Bahrain War ended with the Brits intervening in favor of Qatar and the Al Thani). So there’s a perfectly good reason for celebrating Qatar National Day on the day of his accession. But I suspect that logistics were also behind the decision to move the holiday–early September weather in the Persian Gulf can be sweltering, and many Qataris are only just returning from their customary August vacations at that time.
I doubt Jassim, who ruled a country best known as a well-situated port and a good place to go diving for pearls, ever imagined that one day it would have the highest per capita GDP in the world, but sometimes things go in unexpected directions. The combination of large oil and gas reserves and a very small population (with a considerably larger population of mistreated migrant workers, but let’s not dwell on the negative) can do wonders for your country’s economic well-being. Anyway, Happy Qatar National Day, everybody!
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