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Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Qatar is fast becoming an international hub for sports and the perfect choice to host international and regional sporting events. Over the years, it’s hosted a number of events in different sports disciplines. These include the 2006 Asian Games, 2015 World Men’s Handball Championship, 2016 Road Cycling championship, 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships and the 2019 ANOC Beach Games to name just a few. And, this year, Qatar is preparing to host one of the biggest sporting events in the world – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

Qatar, an ideal sporting nation

This relationship Qatar has with sports is treasured and ancient. Horse racing, camel racing and falconry have been part of the country’s tradition and history for centuries. The passion and connection with sports have evolved with time and though these sports still remain as important, other sporting activities have been added to the mix like football, golf, volleyball and tennis. 

In addition, since 2012, Qatar has been celebrating National Sports Day on the second Tuesday of February every year to encourage sports, fitness and a healthy lifestyle in Qatar. Let’s take a look at sports in Qatar and how it’s evolved to become an important part of the country’s identity and put us on the world map of sports!

The traditional sports of Qatar

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Do you know Arabian horses play a very significant role in the country’s history to independence? In 1893, Bedouins, led by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, assisted by their valuable horses, fought and won an important battle in Qatar’s history against the Ottomans; a battle that eventually led to Qatar’s independence. In 1992, His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani had an Arabian horse breeding farm established at the site of this Al Shaqab battle, naming it the Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre. The aim of this state-of-the-art equestrian centre is to preserve the historical traditions and legacy of Arabian horses; animals that are highly respected in the country.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Qatar has always been a leader in breeding Arabian horses and traces back its love for horse racing as a traditional sport since the olden times, when Bedouins bred and trained horses to race with horses of the other tribes in the area. Winning these races was a matter of pride and honour for the tribes, and Arabian thoroughbred horses of this area were (and still are) among some of the best horses in the world.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

However, it wasn’t till 1975, that horse riding gained more recognition in Qatar and became a mainstream sport with the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club becoming public that year. This Club has the task of developing Thoroughbred and Purebred Arabian horse racing events on the local and international level, organising Arabian horse shows and encouraging horse owners to care for and race the best horses to develop horse production.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

The desert scenery of Qatar and the Arabian Peninsula would not be complete without the camels that were once, a means of transport for the Bedouins of Qatar and provided milk and food, too. Eventually, they also provided a means of entertainment in the form of camel racing.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Camel racing actually started as a wedding tradition in the region where it was part of the festivities. Today, it is a lucrative sport worth millions, with people coming from around the region to participate in the camel races or watch the races held at the Al Shahaniya Camel Race Track. Al Shahaniya was established in 1972 after camel racing became a main sporting activity in Qatar with the first camel race in Qatar held in 1973 with 300 camels. Here, domestic and international tournaments take place every Friday, from October to February, while major camel racing events such as HH the Amir’s Main Race being held in March and April.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

It’s important here to note that though child jockeys were used to ride the camels, Qatar banned their use in 2004 and introduced robot jockeys that are remote-controlled by the camel owner or its handler. They can be seen astride the camels often in different coloured clothes to distinguish between the camels and just for fun. 

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Falcons are Qatar’s national bird and a symbol of the country’s past and its present. Falcons are bred in Qatar and may sell for hundreds of thousands depending on their breed and kind.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Falconry has been a form of sport in Qatar since the times of the Bedouin tribes. Falcons were trained, at that time, to hunt migratory birds for food because of their patience, self-reliance, endurance and valour, and of course, the fact that they are one of the fastest predatory birds in the world!

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Once it became a sporting activity of choice and not a need to hunt for food, falconry became popular in Qatar, especially in the elite, who spends thousands on breeding these birds of prey adorning them with fancy headgear and training them for falconry events held even today in the winter months. People from the region and the world come to either participate in this prestigious sport or watch the falcons in action marvelling at the way they carry themselves through the sky.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

In Souq Waqif, the falcons have their own souq and hospital where falcons can be seen in full glory on the arms of their owners or being showcased to sell. 

The State of Qatar celebrates National Sport Day – a national holiday (on the second Tuesday of February) in which we all come together to promote and embrace healthier lifestyles.

The modern sports of Qatar

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

In recent years, Qatar has invested heavily in football and produced a national football team that’s at par with other international teams, especially in the Gulf region. In 2019, the Qatar national team beat the UAE in the AFC Championships and brought home the trophy.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Football is the national sport of Qatar and an extremely popular sport here. There’s barely a neighbourhood in Qatar where adults or children won’t be seen without a football in hand or at their feet; it’s that popular.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Qatar is the first Arab country to be hosting the FIFA World Cup after winning the bid in a historic moment in 2010. Since then, the preparations have been ongoing to ensure fans from all around the world enjoy the tournament in its full glory and get a taste of Qatar’s famous hospitality. The infrastructure of the country has been modernised to manage the millions of fans who will come to Qatar, stadiums have been built keeping sustainability and other factors in mind and new attractions are coming up to entertain the fans. 

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Volleyball has been part of Qatar’s sporting scene since 1962 when the Qatar Volleyball Association was established to promote the sport, which took on its new and improved form in 1979. Since then, the sport has gone from strength to strength with men and women’s volleyball teams that compete on the international level as well as the regional.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

Beach volleyball is also a popular sport with Qatar hosting the 2019 ANOC Beach Games for the first time where the Qatari beach volleyball team won the silver medal for its game with the United States.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

In Qatar, professional tennis started small, but gained momentum with time. The Qatar Tennis federation was established in 1984 to further promote the sport and make it more mainstream.

Traditional sports vs. modern sports in Qatar

In 1987, tennis was introduced to the major sports clubs in Qatar and by the end of 1991, the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Tennis Complex, was complete and inaugurated. The first ATP Qatar Open for men took place in January 1993 and the rest, as they say, is history!