Creating a National Day

The 4th of July is really about beer and barbque these days. More so than flag waving, although this might not have been the way that the celebration of colonial independence from England started, and US flag bikinis certainly not what the founding fathers or Betty Ross imagined for the stars and stripes.

Having not been there, or in the hundred odd years since, its really hard to say.

But I am here in Qatar for the second annual assumption of Shekih Jassim: December 18th, Qatari national day. This is a rare opportunity to view nationalization in the making. The previous Qatari National day, Sept 3rd, marked the end of British rule in Qatar. No longer a ‘protectorate’, Qatar became its own soverign.

Apparently a few people felt that this gave undue attention to the British. And so now its observed on the day that the reign of the current ruling family began.

Last year, the first year that this was introduced, there was little more a public holiday. This year, the difference is palpable. There are flags hanging from nearly every  major building in the country, the maroon zigzag interrupting an otherwise white surface.

People have flags on their cars, flag lapel pins and there are a host of activities for the week including an airshow and camel and horse live displays.

The entreprenurial South Asians are on the side streets and roundabouts selling flags in all shapes and sizes to the passersby.

It’s nice to see Qataris get excited about something that isn’t commerical and to celebrate their heritage. Hopefully for them the flag will continue to be something to stand under and not behind.

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