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Some Pearls Shine in the Shallow Waters of Qatar’s Sea of Culture
Qatar is gaining ground in the Gulf countries’ race to become the ultimate cultural destination.
Doha is no ordinary cultural destination; The only reasons people might visit Doha are more or less purely business or a break between flights to more exotic destinations, although curiosity must be heightened due to all the hype surrounding the seemingly mysterious victory of the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.
Along with all other Gulf countries, Doha is participating in the race to achieve cultural credibility. Abu Dhabi, for example, is gaining ground with its magnificent museum projects (including a Solomon Guggenheim and even a branch of the Louvre), but Doha is moving very quickly and with a precise strategy.
In search of popularity, Doha decided to walk the different path of preserving and enriching its culture by promoting Arab art, which means showing the world that Arab culture and art are not a separate world, but that it it has always been fused with both Western and Far Eastern cultures.
With this objective in mind, this old pearl fishing village got itself two absolute gems in the Museum of Islamic Art and Mathaf, but more are on the way.
Before diving into discovering Arabic arts, you might want to stop by the Islamic Cultural Center first, to see what Islamic culture is all about.
The building shaped like the tower of Babel is home to a cultural center which aims to introduce people to Islamic culture. Upon entering you will be approached by a friendly officer who will offer you tea and give you some brochures (in your language) about Islam and Arab culture. Then enter the main room downstairs and take a look at the extensive graphics on the walls showing the interaction of Arab world history with the rest of the world and the interaction of the Islamic religion with other faiths. If you spend a few minutes reading the brief descriptions of Islamic customs and manners, you will be well prepared to enjoy the rest of your visit to Doha with a deeper awareness.
The Museum of Islamic Art alone is worth a visit in Doha. Designed by IM Pei, the legendary architect of the Louvre Pyramid, the building looks like a combination of overlapping geometric shapes, culminating in a parallelepiped that almost resembles the face of a Qatari woman, traditionally veiled by a hijab but revealing her eyes her and protects the city. with her gaze.
When you walk in, you’ll be drawn to the expansive windows that look out over the water with the West Bay skyline in the background. As you sit and sip a coffee and enjoy the view, simply look around you and discover, glance for glance, the many facets of gravity-defying architecture.
The collections present a selection of masterpieces from the 10th century to the present era, organized in a precise journey through the discovery of Islamic art, but the museum also hosts an average of two major exhibitions a year featuring masterpieces by Western masters.
Mathaf (Arab Museum of Modern Art) is the real surprise. Created to showcase to the public the extensive art collection of Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani (Emir of Qatar), it opened its doors on December 30, 2010.
Practical note: if you are new to the city, you better get clear directions to reach it, as the taxi drivers will not help you and you will have to reach the edge of the city.
The museum is located in an anonymous white building; You will probably be the only visitor and at first you will think that there is not much more than the “Animal Arch” theatrical installations in front of the building.
However, when you wander through the many rooms, you will realize just how large and valuable HE the Emir’s collection is. Too large to be displayed all together at the same time, it must be organized into temporary themed exhibitions, providing extensive descriptions to enhance visitors’ enjoyment of these works of art. You’ll find that most modern Arab artists have trained themselves by looking at Western art, and you’ll easily spot here and there some influence of Miro and Picasso, or a burst of an Impressionist. You won’t be surprised to read the labels that most of the artists are dead or currently living in a western country.
Qatar’s ambition to become a cultural destination has yet to be fulfilled and will reach its peak with the New National Museum project, designed by no less than Jean Nouvel (Torre Agbar, Barcelona). The building will feature the petal-like shapes of the desert rosestone formations found beneath the desert sands, acknowledging the Bedouin cultures of Qatar’s desert. It is intended to become the most iconic building in Doha and the first thing tourists will notice when they land at the airport. But this is still in the future, we will talk about it in a few years.
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