On This Day: Qatar National Day marks 144 years under House of Thani

The House of Thani, said to be ruling a unified Qatar since 1878, transformed the Gulf peninsula into a regional power. The National Day will be marked by the World Cup finals.

Kingdom of Bahrain flag (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Kingdom of Bahrain flag
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

December 18, 2022 marks Qatar's National Day, commemorating the anniversary of the unification of the Gulf Arab emirate under the House of Thani, and is said to be the day when Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani truly unified Qatar as a single nation-state 144 years ago in 1878.

The day as a holiday was first established in 2007 by then-crown prince and current Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

However, the history of the Thani family in the Gulf emirate goes back far longer.

Qatari history: The House of Thani's rise to power

The House of Thani is an old and powerful Arab tribe that can trace its foundation to the 17th century. However, they also drive their heritage from the Banu Hanzala tribe, itself a branch of the even larger and older Banu Tamim tribe.

Over time, the Thani settled down in what is now Qatar and the family began to accrue greater influence and power in the peninsula. 

 Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, first ruler and founder of unified Qatar. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, first ruler and founder of unified Qatar. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For many years, the House of Thani vied for power with rival Arab tribe the House of Khalifa, today the noted ruling royal family in nearby Bahrain. These conflicts led Qatar to be ununified, and it was ultimately Mohammed bin Thani who became the first emir of a unified Qatar in 1851.

However, that doesn't mean he had complete control. This is because despite being in nominal control, Qatar was part of the Ottoman Empire. 

The House of Thani would soon become far more autonomous and independent in 1893 following Mohammed's successor, Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, successfully defeating the Ottomans at the Battle of Al Wajbah. Qatar was not truly independent yet, but it is still seen as the moment when Qatar became a proper nation-state.

After the Ottomans completely abandoned any claims of sovereignty on the Qatari peninsula in 1913, the emir would sign Qatar over to become a British protectorate as part of the same model used with several other emirates that had been grouped as the Trucial States which are now the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar wouldn't truly become independent until 1971. In the years since, the small Gulf State with a population of around 3 million – only a fraction of who are actual Qatari citizens and not expatriate laborers – has seen monumental growth.

Due to the use of its vast reserves of natural gas, the Emirate has amassed considerable wealth and is one of the richest countries per capita in the world. Its sovereign wealth fund has seen a vast number of diverse investments for Qatar, such as the emirate being one of the single largest property owners in London; running one of the largest and most influential media outlets in the Arab world in the form of Al Jazeera; and having such strategic influence with its massive US airbase and key location that it has resulted in Qatar being designated a Major Non-NATO Ally by US President Joe Biden. The fact that Qatar is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup is only further evidence of the country's growth, power and influence.

This is not without controversy, however – indeed, Qatar has been the subject of a vast number of allegations and condemnations for everything from its strict Islamic law, use of expatriate labor and involvement with Iran and Islamist terrorist groups. However, its power and wealth under the reign of the House of Thani have transformed it into a modern regional power

 Qatar National Day 2017 Musical Fireworks (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Qatar National Day 2017 Musical Fireworks (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

How does Qatar celebrate its national day?

The emirate has a number of celebrations for the annual National Day. 

These include fireworks, parades, cultural celebrations and more – many of which will be available to watch on the Doha 360 website.

This year, in particular, Qatar's National Day will also be marked by the final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with France and Argentina going head to head in the final game of Qatar's latest achievement: Hosting the biggest tournament of the world's most popular sport.