The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani greeting citizens and expatriates during National Day celebrations on the Corniche yesterday.
DOHA: People watching the National Day celebrations on the Corniche early yesterday were in for a pleasant surprise as the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani ventured out on the road at the end of the event and taking a brief walk, waved and mingled with them, shook hands with many and embraced children.
He showed special affection for children and did not differentiate between fellow citizens and expatriates, eyewitnesses said.
A huge crowd had converged on the Corniche, which was cordoned off for the celebrations. People, including women and children, had begun gathering near the sprawling venue well before 7am.
After the formal celebrations began with the singing of the national anthem and recitation of verses from the Holy Quran, the Emir took salute as contingents from the security forces marched by.
The formal celebrations lasted an hour, and at the end the Emir stood up and began walking to greet the people, w ho became extremely excited. A Pakistani national, Shaukat Ali, who was in the crowd, told this newspaper later: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Emir just two feet away from me.”
“I was emotionally overwhelmed, so much so that my eyes were wet. The Emir began shaking hands with people and embracing children. He didn’t differentiate between nationals and expatriates. He shook hands with whoever could reach up to him. I will never ever forget this gesture of the Emir,” said Ali, who works as a sales executive with a private company in Qatar.
As the Emir walked by, a silent wave of joy swept over the crowds on the stretch of road between the Ministry of Interior’s headquarters and Al Bida Park.
The Emir even took off his gown (bisht) and smiled and waved at the people — a gesture of striking a chord with the common man. A child was so overcome by the moment that he took off his maroon muffler and offered it to the Emir as a gesture of love and respect.
Social media outlets were abuzz with talk of the Emir’s rare gesture, with people asking if any other Arab ruler would ever walk into crowds so fearlessly and with so much warmth. “Can you expect any other Arab leader to mingle with crowds like this?” asked commentators. “He was not scared, and he was among the people,” said one commentator. “Rulers of other countries address their people standing behind bullet-proof glass.”
“The moment the Emir got out of his car and started walking towards the people was the best and most memorable moment for me,” wrote another commentator.