From fishing to films, and book fairs to beauty pageants for animals, we take a look at some of the best festivals in Qatar worth checking out.
If you are looking for new ways to discover Qatar, then visiting one of its exciting local festivals is a great place to start. Luckily, there is something to suit all interests and tastes, too.
Qatar International Food Festival
Are you a budding chef? Or maybe you just live to eat? If you answered yes to either, you won’t want to miss the Qatar International Food Festival. A calendar highlight for foodies, the event sees some of the world’s top chefs descend on Qatar. You can watch them cook up a feast on stage, or even take part in an expert-led masterclass workshop. And, of course, there is plenty of food to tuck into. From the best Qatari flavors to tastes from around the world, there’s something for every palate, so arrive hungry!
Eid Al Fitr
Eid Al Fitr (often referred to as Eid) is one of the most important religious festivals in the Islamic calendar. It marks the end of Ramadan when the whole country comes alive and locals head out to celebrate with friends and family. From circus shows to discount sales, there are plenty of ways to spend the day. Be sure not to miss the festivities at Katara Cultural Village, which culminate in a spectacular firework display. And the celebrations don’t stop there, as Eid Al Adha also takes place several months later.
International Kite Festival
There are few events in Qatar quite as spectacular as the Kite Festival. Every year, the skies above Doha are filled with thousands of colorful kites. Over 100 participants from around the world compete for the honors in various categories over the four-day event. But it’s not all about the competition, as there are kite-making workshops and face-painting to keep the little ones busy. And if you get hungry, there are plenty of food stalls to choose from. There is also a photography competition, which is perfect if you want to capture the colorful sight of dueling kites.
Doha Cultural Festival
The Doha Cultural Festival is one of the biggest cultural events in the Middle East. Attracting visitors from around the region, the festival celebrates the heritage and culture of Qatar. From intimate poetry readings to elaborate dance performances, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. There is also a whole program of dedicated children’s events and activities, giving your kids the ideal chance to explore the culture of their new home. Whatever your cultural tastes, you’ll be able to discover a new side of Qatar here.
Qatar National Day
One of the most important days in the year for Qataris is the Qatar National Day. Observed on December 18, it celebrates the country’s independence from the British. Qatar marks the occasion with the national parade along Doha waterfront. Thousands of locals line the route to see military and police officials parade past while enjoying aerial and sea displays by the air force and navy. For families, head to Katara Cultural Village on the waterfront where you will find a week-long program of festivities; including parachute jumps, a cultural bazaar, and spectacular fireworks.
Qatar Marine Festival
Over the centuries, Qatari culture has developed a unique connection with the sea. This relationship is celebrated at the ever-popular Qatar Marine Festival. The festival takes place at the famous Katara Cultural Village on the Doha waterfront. Here, you will find all sorts of performances and attractions for all ages. Kids will no doubt enjoy the seal shows and dancing fountains, while adults can nibble from the food stalls at the laid-back festival. For visitors of all ages, though, the star attraction is the impressive musical theater performances that tell the story of Qatar and the sea.
Ajyal Film Festival
Experience the magic of Middle Eastern cinema at Doha’s most popular film festival, Ajyal. Having previously hosted the Doha Tribeca Film Festival from 2009 until 2012, Ajyal marks Qatar’s departure from the glitz and glamor of traditional film festival circuit. Instead, organizers chose to switch their focus towards youth and families in the region. Now in its sixth year, Ajyal (which means ‘generations’ in Arabic) has proven to be popular with locals. Showcasing films from the Arab world, the festival offers a great chance for expats to see another side of their new home.
Halal Qatar Festival
This annual celebration of Qatari culture and heritage aims to connect younger generations with the traditional lifestyle of the country; particularly livestock breeding and care. Children can learn from shepherds about what it takes to keep and breed animals through workshops and live shows. There is also a range of animal beauty contests for the whole family to enjoy, with big money prizes on offer for the winners. The festival takes place in Katara Cultural Village and includes traditional arts and crafts stalls and food outlets.
Garangao Children’s Festival
Garangao Children’s Festival takes place after the breaking of the fast on the 14th day of Ramadan. The festival has different names across the Middle East, but in Qatar the local children celebrate Garangao. The holiday sees kids dress in traditional Qatari clothing before heading round the neighborhood in groups singing folk songs. They visit houses asking for candy and other sweet treats. Expats can also join in the fun, too. So, whether your little ones want to dress up, or you decide to bake some sweet treats for the local kids, there’s plenty to get involved with.
Doha International Book Fair
December is all about reading in Doha, with the Doha International Book Fair bringing publishers from all over the world to the city. Taking place at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, the fair boasts hundreds of stalls offering the latest reads. And if that wasn’t enough, there is also a program of cultural events, including lectures on publishing and writing, workshops for young authors, and arts and crafts activities for the whole family. An absolute must-visit for bookworms in Qatar.