Evoking a unique combination of pride, national identity and belonging, a nation’s flag holds deep significance to the land and the people it represents. Emblematic of a country’s history and all it stands for, great meaning and context can be derived from uncovering the origin and symbolism rooted in a nation’s ensign.
The Qatari national flag is known as ‘Al Adaam’ and its origins and history can be traced through archives available on the Qatar Digital Library (QDL).
Within the QDL, you will find a collection of drawings and correspondence between British officials regarding the Qatari flag. Entitled 'Flags Flown by the Sheikh of Qatar’, the documents on the Qatari flag, which date as far back as August 1929, are part of archives that were obtained from the British Library’s India Office Records.
Contrary to popular belief, the white and maroon colors of the Qatari flag do not represent peace and bloodshed during times of war. In fact, the ancestors of modern-day Qataris had been coloring their flags red for centuries, using a dye that originated from the Bin Ghannam Island near Al Khor. With prolonged exposure to the sun, the dye would fade and turn a purplish-red or maroon color.
The flag’s present color, therefore, is deeply embedded in Qatar’s history. When, in 1932, the British Navy suggested that the government design an official flag and proposed the color red for it, Qatar declined and opted for maroon instead, due to its deep connection to the country’s culture and heritage.
Qatar was flying a flag remarkably similar to the current version at least as far back as 1932. Shortly afterwards, however, the name Qatar in Arabic was added, along with ten red diamonds running down the serrated edge. According to official government records, this change was reversed in 1960 by His Highness Sheikh Ali bin Abdulla Al Thani, the then Emir of Qatar, who kept the white and purplish-red color along with the serrated points, but removed the diamonds and the word ‘Qatar’.
The nine points along the notched edge that divides the two colors also hold historical significance, representing Qatar as the 9th member of the Trucial Coast Convention of 1916. Qatar has been proudly flying its flag since 1960 as a strong symbol of national pride and dignity, connecting the country’s past with its present.
On 18 December, as many thousands of national flags adorn the country to celebrate Qatar National Day in commemoration of the unification of Qatar in 1878, the occasion also presents an opportunity for us to reflect on the history and heritage of our country, epitomized by ‘Al Adaam’.
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