One of the main attractions in Doha is the Museum of Islamic Art, opened in 2008. Built on an artificial island at the entrance to the harbour, it is connected to the Corniche by a palm-lined causeway, and surrounded by a park. The Museum contains one of the world’s foremost collections of Islamic artefacts.
Tree-lined approach to the Museum of Islamic Art
Architecture of the Museum of Islamic Art
The exterior of the Museum is visually striking, built in white stone which casts a dazzling reflection upon the surrounding water. It was designed by the architect I M Pei, who also created the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. The building’s geometrical design is based on modern and traditional Arabic architecture, and was influenced by other major buildings, including the Alhambra in southern Spain.
The interior is a vast open space, surrounded by galleries on two floors. It is dominated by the circular staircase, which resembles an oyster shell (pearl fishing being a traditional industry of Qatar). The cafe has been designed in a black and white theme, and gives impressive views of the harbour, and of Doha’s high rise skyline. Outside the museum is a park with fountains and hanging gardens.
The staircase resembles an oyster shell
Art and Artefacts
The museum contains artefacts from collections that have been built up by the Qatari royal family over many years. It is built on three floors: the first floor includes the coffee shop, gift shop and special exhibition area.
The second floor is arranged on a thematic basis, including calligraphy, patterns and figures in Islamic design, and Science in Art. Here you will see dozens of handwritten Korans, including pages from miniature and ‘giant’ books. You will also find illustrations from early Indian manuscripts, and helpful explanations of the principles of Islamic art.
The third floor is set out chronologically, from the 7th to the 18th centuries. It covers the whole of the Islamic world, including Spain and central Asia as well as more traditional centres of Arabic culture. Exhibits include domestic items such as carpets, ceramics, glass and tableware, as well as clothing and jewellery, coins and weapons. The range of artefacts in the museum gives a valuable insight into Islamic culture.
Visiting the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum and gardens are open every day except Tuesday. Entrance is free, although there may be a charge for special exhibitions. Meals, drinks and snacks can be purchased in the cafe on the ground floor, and there is a well stocked book and gift shop.