National Sports Day in Qatar

Madi Alexander is a a student at Oklahoma City University and an official API Student Blogger. Madi is studying abroad with API this spring in Doha, Qatar.

Our Valentine’s Day in Qatar wasn’t a typical holiday by any means. Instead of sulking about our failed romances like we would have done back in the United States, our group traveled to Katara Cultural Village for Qatar’s National Sports Day.

The Emir of Qatar declared the second Tuesday of the second month to be National Sports Day – a holiday dedicated to promoting sports and healthy activities. Qatar University, some shopping malls, and other businesses held events and games for Sports Day. Some people were even skydiving into one of the parks in Doha. Don’t worry, parents, we did not participate.

Katara Cultural Village, located just off the beach, is home to the Qatar Photographic Society, Visual Art Center, several restaurants, two mosques, and an amphitheater. We made sure to visit the gelato shop and the barbecue stand.

At Katara, there was a plethora of athletic activities for men, women, and children. In the early morning, there was ladies’ yoga on the beach and Ping-Pong. In the afternoon, there was a volleyball tournament, zumba, football (the kind where you use your feet), ladies’ Pilates classes, mini-marathon, children’s musical chairs, etc. Our group decided to borrow some bikes and ride them around the beachfront village. Nothing beats riding a bike next to the beach in 70-degree weather.

National Sports Day was the perfect way to motivate people to get outside and move around all in the spirit of fun. In the United States, all of our holidays involve eating and sitting around looking at boring family photos. Not to say that we don’t eat a lot here (trust me, we do), but to actually have a national holiday dedicated to sports and exercising was a bit mind-boggling as an American.

In addition to being a healthy holiday, National Sports Day being held at Katara Cultural Village made me realize that Qatar really is culturally diverse. Biking and walking around, I saw many different people from many different cultures. From abaya-clad Arabs to tank top wearing British tourists, I could see several different cultures coming together. Since I’m still in the phase of culture shock where I just want to stare at everything because it is new and pretty, I couldn’t help but admire all the different people coming out to celebrate National Sports Day. At times, I made a point of eavesdropping on conversations and I heard people speaking English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, and even German.

For me, National Sports Day demonstrated two things. First, all holidays aren’t about eating and spending time with slightly annoying family members. Holidays can be healthy, refreshing, and fun. Second, Qatar really is a blend of many different cultures from numerous countries and backgrounds. Qatar is an incredibly diverse country and seeing everyone at National Sports Day really helped me see the variety in this country.

 

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