Halal Qatar Festival keeps tradition alive
22 Feb 2016 - 15:08
The Cultural Village Foundation, Katara, looks back to Qatar’s humble beginnings in an attempt to preserve an important aspect of its rich tradition for the future through the Halal Qatar Festival which opened on Friday.
By Raynald C Rivera
Prior to the discovery of oil three quarters of a century ago, Qatar was chiefly inhabited by Bedouins who were highly skilled in the practice of livestock raising.
For centuries, the tribes had relied solely on fishing, pearl diving and animal husbandry as sources of their livelihood. The Cultural Village Foundation, Katara, looks back to Qatar’s humble beginnings in an attempt to preserve an important aspect of its rich tradition for the future through the Halal Qatar Festival which opened on Friday.
“This festival is very important to keep an eye on this element of Qatari heritage especially nowadays when life in Qatar has become fast-paced along with technology. People might forget their heritage so we insist on keeping and reinforcing this tradition to ensure the new generation are linked to their past,” Katara General Manager Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti told Doha Today yesterday.
The 10-day Festival offers the public a rare insight into the livestock industry allowing them to journey into this essential aspect of Qatari culture deeply ingrained in their traditions.
On its fifth year, the annual festival is a traditional village inclusive of all necessary features that bring to mind the crucial role livestock breeding and trade has played in the past as an integral component of Qatari culture and heritage.
“This fifth edition of the festival has multiple activities for those who raise Halal and other activities related to the industry catered to families and children. Qatari women who make products out of Halal and a section for traditional food are among the other features of the festival,” explained Dr Al Sulaiti.
One of the main highlights of the 10-day festival are competitions which are divided into three categories namely Arab, Awared, and Suriyat. Each competition includes two parades of local sheep in support of local breeders.
This edition is also marked by four main events including Al Mazain — a beauty contest for sheep and goats, Al Mazad — a public auction of livestock, Al-Hathaer (barns), and Ahl-Elsanf (breed).
The different events and competitions of this year’s festival have seen a huge number of participants from all GCC countries, noted Dr Al Sulaiti.
He said attractive prizes are at stake in the competitions which many look forward to every year, the prize money of which varies according to the category. To give more space for more competitors interested to take part in the contests, the organising committee this year decided to conduct registrations on the competition day itself.
A crowd-puller at the festival is a traditional market inspired by ancient Qatari architecture which displays and sells products produced by local entrepreneurs.
The top 10 participants for this edition of the competitions will be awarded with a shield and a cash prize. The winner will receive QR100,000 while the second place will bag QR50,000, third place QR30,000, fourth place QR15,000 and fifth place QR10,000. The sixth to 10th place winners will each receive QR5,000.
On the opening day, the festival, which is located in the southern part of Katara, witnessed hundreds of visitors enjoying its many activities.
Paying a visit to the 10 enclosures which house sheep and goats, people learn about over a dozen breeds, many of which are unknown to those not native in the region. Adjacent to the barns are stalls of veterinary clinics specialized in livestock and falcons.
Not only herds of sheep and goats but also a collection of rare species of animals such as the Arabian oryx can be seen at the festival courtesy of Al Kubaisi Reserve in Al Shamal.
Scores of buyers flocked to the auction to purchase their choice of sheep and goats. The auctions, which are held in the evenings, will continue until the end of the festival.
In keeping with the traditional ambience of the festival, some of the activities are hosted in traditional tents, one of which features Qatari women demonstrating how to create traditional handicrafts by hand such as rug weaving, wool dying, quilt making, and many other decorative items usually found in a traditional Qatari home.
There is also a children’s tent which has already seen a large number of families from different backgrounds enjoying folkloric performances and other entertainment. Books on Qatari heritage, a collection of mounted animals and a number of traditional objects are on display in the tent.
A crowd-puller at the festival is a traditional market inspired by ancient Qatari architecture and displays which sells products produced by local entrepreneurs. An assortment of traditional handicrafts and local products can be found in more than 20 stalls in the souq. They include spices, perfumes, abayas, honey, Arabic coffee and supplies, swords, dates, dairy products, sweets, olive oil, and souvenir items like frames and mugs.
Food kiosks selling scrumptious traditional Qatari dishes such as madroobah, harees, balaleet, and biryani are also open throughout the duration of the festival. Other prominent heritage features within the festival site are Arabic majlis which reflect the warm Qatari hospitality.
At the centre of the festival site are two areas where children can ride camels and horses in addition to a playground containing bouncy castles where children can play.