Middle East


Five must-see museums in Qatar 



Middle East


Five must-see museums in Qatar

Qatar’s thriving art and culture scene is one that has become acclaimed worldwide and it is obvious why. Showcasing some of the most incredible and timeless pieces, artefacts and installations in state-of-the-art buildings, one cannot visit the country without visiting one of the country’s museums.

See 14 centuries of Islamic art and artefacts

at the Museum of Islamic Art

Built on its own island on the waters of the Corniche, the Museum of Islamic Art houses the biggest collection of Islamic art in the world.

Aiming to create a deeper understanding of the Islamic culture, its traditions and heritage through the large selection of displayed pieces, it is easy to see why this is known as the crown jewel of Qatar’s museums.

With influences from traditional Islamic architecture, the building is inspired by the 9th Century ablution fountain from the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt.

The postmodern fortress design was brought to life by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect IM Pei — best known for his work on the Paris Louvre Pyramid — who came out of retirement to work on this project.

Adjacent to the museum is a two-floor Education Wing building connected through a central courtyard. MIA hosts activities here that engage and educate the community about Islamic art. They do this through workshops, school trips, providing reading spaces, classrooms, and study spaces for research.

MIA was first opened to the public on December 8, 2008, with exhibitions that explore 1,400 years of Islamic art gathered from three continents. Adding to its uniqueness is the cream-coloured limestone used for the exterior that showcases different shades of colour throughout the day.

When designing MIA, the architect initially refused to build on any of the spots put forward along the Corniche, which led to the construction of a stand-alone island so that no future building would obstruct the museum’s view

Discover more about Qatar’s ancestry

at the National Museum of Qatar

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With a 52,000-square metre structure and a multi-curved roof made up of 76,000 panels in 3,600 different shapes and sizes, the National Museum of Qatar flaunts a futuristic design and is the first notable building visitors see as they make their way from the airport to the city centre.

Inspired by the desert rose — a cluster of crystals formulated from the slow evaporation of salt basins and commonly found in the Persian region — the eye-catching architecture of the museum definitely does not go amiss

The Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel brought the vision to life by utilising the massive disks from the desert rose as the main shapes seen in the museum’s exterior and interior

The entrance includes 114 fountain sculptures in a 900-metre long lagoon while the museum’s multi-curved roof resembles a giant jigsaw puzzle made up of 76,000 panels.

However, the architecture is not the only modern aspect of the museum. The 11 exhibitions inside use a variety of artistic tools to share the Qatari identity with its visitors. Visual and audio-visual elements can be found throughout the museum alongside the artefacts, creating a more immersive and unique experience.

Among the exhibits is a 19th century carpet embroidered with 1.5 million Gulf pearls and the oldest Quran yet discovered in Qatar, dating back to the 1800s.

The museum officially opened its doors on March 28, 2019 with an inauguration ceremony that was attended by celebrities and influencers from around the world. It garnered a lot of attention and has even made it on TIME Magazine’s list for the 100 greatest places to visit in the world.

Additionally, the museum has a beautiful park that contains a heritage garden filled with a collection of native Qatari plants. Alongside this, the park has a children’s playground, public artworks and the Desert Rose Café.

The massive structure of the museum surrounds the Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim bin Mohamed Al-Thani who once ruled Qatar. This palace has been preserved as a historic landmark that generations to come will be able to see.

Celebrate the region’s creativity

at the Arab Museum of Modern Arts

Located inside Qatar’s Education City, the MATHAF museum houses a collection of over 9,000 modern Arab artworks, with collections created by people in Qatar and across the Middle East.

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The museum also focuses on educating the community about modern Arab art through classes, digital resources, research, and a resourceful library.

The initial exhibitions at the MATHAF are pieces gathered by H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani. Other artworks are co-owned by Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation.

Alongside this, the museum hosts exhibitions by solo or group artists from the region to showcase a variety of contemporary arts.

MATHAF has a shop named IN-Q Gift Shop which has unique merchandise inspired by the art and by internationally acclaimed artists. For any art junkies out there, this store is a must-visit.

Alongside this, the museum hosts exhibitions by solo or group artists from the region to showcase a variety of contemporary arts

Get close and personal

at the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

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This is a different kind of museum since it houses the personal collection of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani.

The collection contains over 15,000 pieces that were gathered from Sheikh Faisal’s travelling endeavours that span over 55 years.

The exhibitions and its artefacts are displayed with much care and attention to detail since its opening in 1998. The exterior, built like a traditional Qatari fortress, was intentional to create a more culturally immersive experience for the visitors

The pieces are mainly representative of the Arabic, Islamic and Qatari cultures. However, he has also collected over 600 vintage cars from all over the world potentially making it the largest collection of vintage cars in the world.

The gathered artworks are not only for the enjoyment of visitors, but many of the pieces are used by scholars and educators to gain a better understanding of the different cultures and centuries.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the museum also has a carpet museum that features different threads, patterns, and dyes from across the world and across centuries.

These exhibitions are taken care of routinely, especially the car museum. Sheikh Faisal hired a specialist to test each car and make sure it is still functioning. It is an impressive collection, to say the least, and a must-visit for sure.

Learn about Qatar’s role in the history of slavery

at the Bin Jelmood House

Unlike the other museums on this list that celebrate the arts, this house sheds a light on a darker side of history. It is a museum that addresses the history of slavery across the Indian Ocean region and in Qatar which was abolished in late 1952.

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Named after the slaveholder who owned the house in the 40s, the museum is located in the modern Msheireeb Downtown Doha. The museum uses a variety of audio and visual elements to discuss Qatar’s role in the slave-trade that extended across the Indian Ocean. It also addresses the struggle of those enslaved and how they risked their lives as pearl divers or workers on the oil rigs, post-World War Two.

By highlighting these struggles, the Bin Jelmood House allows its visitors to understand the different forms of human exploitations that have evolved today as a reminder that humanity still has a way to go.

After experiencing this museum, visitors can sit in the Empire Café for some coffee or enjoy a meal at the Al-Fai restaurant for an authentic Qatari cuisine. Souvenirs and gifts can be found in the Sogha gift store, all of which are located in the Company House at Msheireeb Downtown.

Islam is also referenced in the museum as a guidance towards humane treatment and equality in society. This is the first museum in the Arab world to address the role of the slave-trade in development of human civilisation

Photos: 1 – Unsplash, 2 -Maremagnum/Getty Images, 3 Lord Runar/Getty Images, 4 Cristian Zamfir / Shutterstock, 5 elissar-haidar/unsplash, 6 Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art (Viewing domestic disturbance by Mona Hatoum), 7 – Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art (Sculpture The Guardian of the Fertile Crescent by Iraqi artist Ismail Fatah Al Turk at the Mathaf), 8,9 – Sirio Carnevalino/Shutterstock, 10,11 – Bin Jelmood House

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