One of the attractions of a visit to Qatar is the blend of contemporary and Arabic culture. Nowhere is that mixture more perfectly encapsulated than at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, a spectacular modern building full of classic works of art and traditional artefacts.
Why Visit The Museum Of Islamic Art?
The first reason for a visit to the Museum of Islamic Art is the building and its setting. Opened in 2008, it was built on an artificial island close to the entrance to the dhow harbour. It is connected to the Corniche by a palm-lined causeway, and surrounded by a park, creating an attractive approach.
The second reason is the museum itself, containing four floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions. This is one of the world’s foremost collections of Islamic artefacts.
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 café 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.
Islamic 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 different 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 is walking distance from central Doha, and the nearest metro station is Qatar National Museum, on the Gold Line
- The museum and gardens are open every day, although hours are reduced on Fridays
- Tickets are valid for three days from first use
- Meals, drinks and snacks can be purchased in the café. There is also a haute cuisine restaurant on the top floor
- The museum has a well stocked book and gift shop.