“When in doubt go to the library”
Qatari libraries for literary lovers to explore
When travelling to a new country with a new culture, one way to really get a feel for the country is by visiting a library – a literary hub where communities come together and where the rest of the world takes a backseat to books. They’re a great place to catch your breath in the midst of a trip and peruse some local literature, or get involved in some local culture. Here are five beautiful libraries you must visit on a trip to Qatar.
Qatar National Library
Since it first opened in 2017, Qatar’s imposing National Library in Doha has been a busy, bustling cultural hub boasting a record number of visitors. The brand new building houses over a million print books, with a dedicated eBook service and an extensive children’s library, too. The library is also host to numerous events celebrating Qatari art and literature, with new exhibitions every few months and a calendar of literary events all year round.
Maktaba Children’s Library
Doha’s beautiful library dedicated solely to children’s books is a true gem. The Maktaba Children’s Library houses an impressive number of children’s books and books for young adults in a variety of languages, from Arabic and English to French, Turkish, Greek and many others. The library aims to help children fall in love with reading and foster lifelong habits. As well as regular book club and storytelling activities, it encourages families to read aloud in the library, so that it is a warm, lively place to bring children. It is also dedicated to giving children a place to explore their creativity and their relationship to nature. The library is the proud home to a bright community garden, so that children can learn how to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
The Library at the Museum
of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is in itself a tourist attraction well worth a visit on a trip to Doha, but the Museum’s extensive library is also worth a visit in its own right. Although the library is a reference library – meaning that it is not permitted to borrow books or remove them from the library – the librarians are on hand to allow access to the Museum Library’s extensive and unparalleled collection of books on Islamic art and history. It also houses rare books which are displayed in regular exhibitions.
Al Khansa Public Library
The Al Khansa Public Library was the first women’s library opened in Qatar. When it first opened in 1981, at a time when women writers in Qatar were able to access publishing and have their works widely available, it would have been difficult to foresee what the Al Khansa Public Library would become. Now, it boasts a cultural programme celebrating Qatari and foreign writers, and is home to almost 50,000 books, most of which are in Arabic. An important resource for the local communities in Doha, it is also a popular destination for school trips to introduce students to an important living piece of Qatar’s literary history.
Dar al-Kutub al-Qatariyya
Established in 1962, the Dar al-Kutub al-Qatariyya is actually one of the oldest libraries in the Gulf region. It is an impressive landmark in the city of Doha and the imposing building houses books from two older collections, as the library came into being after the library of the Ministry of Education was merged with the Doha Public Library. Membership to the Dar al-Kutub al-Qatariyya is required if you’d like to borrow books, but it is free and easy to sign up to. Once membership has been given, you have access to thousands of books in languages as varied as Arabic, Japanese, English and French at your fingertips.
Photo: 1 – Chalffy/Getty images, 2 – Noushad Thekkayil/Shutterstock, 3 – Sirio Carnevalino/Shutterstock, 4 – Travel Photography, 5,6 – MaktabaQatar/Facebook, 7 – MIAQatar/Facebook, 8 – Dmbaker/Getty images, 9 – Google Photos, 10 – Doha news/Facebook