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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The One With All The Patriotism!

December 18 2011 - Qatar National Day! And didn't we know it! The build up for this day had been going on for weeks but in all honesty a lot of it had passed me by. Why would I be interested in national day? This isn't my country. I am merely a long staying visitor.

Or so I thought!

It certainly didn't matter that this wasn't my country, it certainly didn't matter that I was a visitor and I realised I certainly was interested. The way the Qataris celebrate their national day - it would be impossible for any true soul not to be moved by it!

So what's it all about?

Well in short it is a celebration. It serves as a reminder to the people of Qatar as to the hardships their ancestors have endured to give them the Qatar they have today. And trust me, the way that they celebrate they are fully aware and appreciative!

Now really all countries have this, or could have this! So what makes Qatar different to the rest of the world?

This tiny, desert peninsula country poking out of the side of Saudi Arabia (it's only land border) has approx only 300,000 nationals. The rest of the population is made up of ex-pats from around the world. This, for most countries, would be enough to crumble any level of patriotism. But not for Qatar. I am sure almost all of that 300,000 population were out in force to celebrate over those few days! And as a guest in their country I found the whole experience very humbling and moving.

The school celebrated it with pride. Every building had a flag draped over it. Car's had flags all over them, and were even painted and decorated in full Qatar colours. A trip back from the mall the day before national day ended with us stuck on the corniche for 2 hours in the traffic! Something that would have normally been an annoyance, but not this time. There was so much to see!!! The boats on the water all lit up, shining lasers into the sky, music playing, people standing on their cars waving huge flags! Horns beeping, confetti cannons dusting us all in sparkles. And even a Qatari guy dressed as father Christmas spotting the ex-pat cars coming and wishing us a Qatar Christmas! It was an amazing sight. And I felt part of this tiny little country. They welcomed us into their celebrations without question or prejudice.

I learned a lot in a few short days from my host country.

There isn't enough patriotism in the world. Maybe if there was, people wouldn't be so negative and aggressive. People would learn to be proud of where they live and in turn take care of that place and make it a better place to live and eventually this would make the world a better place.

This doesn't only apply to the country you were born, show patriotism to the country you live in. I used to think it strange that foreigners would join in British celebrations and non Irish would celebrate St Patrick's day, but not now. The country you live in, regardless of being born there, has provided you with opportunity, money, food, shelter, protection, safety and in most cases have done so with open arms. We should learn to respect that. This country doesn't have to allow me to stay here, but it does and for that experience I am eternally grateful to any of my host countries along my travels.

I was never patriotic towards the UK. I have my issues with the UK, which I won't go into now, but I have learned a greater respect for my home country. It isn't perfect, no. Is anywhere? Very few if any! But my home country safely took care of me for 29 years of my life and continues to do so. I have that passport. I am safe. No money could ever buy the security that passport gives me as a person and as a mother. Whatever issues Great Britain have or challenges they face and no matter where in the world I am, I can always go back there. My children will always have health care, education, food and shelter. It may not be perfect but this isn't a perfect world. And in reality what more protection do I need for my children.

So take a leaf of Qatar's book - celebrate your nation, home and host nations. Let us dance and celebrate life in the streets. Celebrate each other. The sooner we sing and dance in the streets the sooner we will stop fighting in the streets and with baby steps the world can and will become a better, more peaceful place.

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