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Posted On: 24 December 2018 03:43 pm
Updated On: 9 December 2019 09:32 am

All you need to know about Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and more!

Nabeela
Nabeela
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The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is one of Qatar’s most iconic buildings and is world famous for its exotic collection of Islamic masterpieces from different Muslim countries spanning across centuries. Thousands and thousands of visitors pass through its doors every year to witness the marvel and splendour that make up the Islamic world through art pieces collected over the years and carefully conserved so visitors can understand the Islamic traditions, culture and heritage through the centuries.

Here, we talk about what makes the MIA such a remarkable place to visit.

The Museum

1. MIA was built in the mid-2000s and was opened to the public on 1 December 2008.

2. Under the patronage of the Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority’s Board of Trustees, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the museum has flourished and, today, it is a source of pride for Qatar.

3. The MIA is a must-see attraction by visitors, adults and children alike, who visit the museum to enjoy and understand Islamic culture through its profound art exhibits.

4. MIA has free entry to those who want to visit the museum and is open from Saturday through Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Friday: 2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, December 25 and the first day of the two Eids.

5. MIA is one of the most visited attractions in Qatar; in 2017, it was visited by approximately 411,869 people.

The Design

MIA design and Layout

1. MIA was designed by IM Pei, a world-renowned architect and Pritzker Prize winner, who was 86 and retired at the time he was requested to conceive the look and feel of this beautiful architectural delight. IM Pei, a Chinese American architect, is most-known for designing the innovative glass pyramid that adorns the forecourt of the Paris Louvre.

2. IM Pei’s design of the MIA reflects and was inspired by the ablution fountain called the Sabil in the 9th century Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt. The idea behind the design, which was heavily influenced by traditional Islamic architecture, was to combine the Sabil’s simplicity and austerity and bring it to life in the form of the MIA.

3. IM Pei refused to build the MIA on any of the sites put forward to him on the Corniche. Eventually, the MIA was built on a stand-alone island about 195 feet away from the Corniche that was specifically fashioned to make sure that no structures constructed in the future would stand in its way.

4. MIA was designed to make an impact as one of the best museums in the world and today it enjoys the repute of being a world-class museum putting Qatar on the map of cultural, intellectual and artistic centres of the world.

The Layout

MIA Inside Layout

Image Credit: MIA

1. MIA takes up a space of 376,740-square-feet and is one of the most iconic infrastructures in Qatar even today, 10 years after its grand opening.

2. MIA is made up of five floors and is connected with a two-floor Education Wing through a central courtyard.

3. MIA was built with concrete from Qatar and the finest of materials from different parts of the world: Jet Mist granite from the United State, Chamesson limestone, cream-coloured Magny from France and stainless steel from Germany.

MIA Chandeliers

Image Credit: Arch Daily

4. The interior of MIA is as grand as its exterior with the geometric patterns that make up Islamic architecture subtly visible. A range of different materials and textures have been used that add to the mysticism of the collections housed within its walls. Metal chandeliers hang from the atrium and the glass wall on the museum’s north face gives visitors a view of Doha’s dramatic and breathtaking Corniche and skyline.

MIA Atrium

Image Credit: Arch Daily

5. MIA’s domed atrium is 164 feet above the ground and is hidden from the outside by the central tower’s walls. The top of the atrium is made up of an oculus that captures the light of the sun and reflects it in the dome with a play of shadows and lights.

6. The layout of each exhibition room is simple and easy to navigate. Each exhibit is clearly marked with a description, etc. Each exhibition room is spacious and lit in such a way so to not damage the various artefacts and paintings and yet highlight each masterpiece.

7. MIA’s Education Wing takes up 29,000 square feet of space and houses workshops, classrooms, study spaces, a reading room, a conservation laboratory along with technical and storage facilities. Its main purpose is to host both community and educational activities, so people can understand and appreciate Islamic art and what it represents.

The Collection

MIA Art Collection

Image Credit: MIA

1. MIA is resident to a vast range of Islamic art collected from all over the Muslim world and across three continents, reaching as far as China, India and Spain. The collection is made up of precious stones, jewellery, ceramics, glass, wood, metal, textiles and manuscripts from hundreds of years ago dating from the 7th to the 20th century.

2. The MIA’s thousands of art pieces are from different eras and though they may be connected through Islam, a lot of them are non-religious. The pieces come from the opulent homes of influential people of their times and also from the humble homes of ordinary people. Each piece tells its own story and takes you beyond the museum walls and transports you to the world of yesterday.

3. The MIA also has a number of temporary exhibitions with artefacts and art pieces brought specifically to Qatar ad these change periodically. These are also very popular with visitors. MIA also loans its artefacts and collections to other museums across the globe.

The Library

MIA Library

Image Credit: MIA

1. MIA Library contains specialist books and monographs on Islamic art, art reference books, museum collection and exhibition catalogues, along with scholarly periodicals on art that also include auction catalogues. The impressive Library has more than 15,000 books and that's why it is one of the largest library's in the Gulf region that has books on Islamic art.

2. MIA Library has over 2,000 rare books in Arabic and English, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the region. A number of these books has also been digitised and can be viewed through the Library's catalogue.

3. Children have not been left out and MIA Library has many books to keep children occupied and busy. Some of the books contain stories, art activities and art history, while others are made up of science, history, culture and general reference.

4. MIA’s Islamic Art Creators & Collectors Club is part of the Library and provides a venue for artists, collectors, makers and anyone else who is inspired by Islamic art to explore ideas and learn more about Islamic artworks, their creation, display, care, conservation and preservation.

5. The Library's electronic resources are vast and you can download free e-catalogues, study guides and other relevant resources that will help you enjoy the museum more.

The Food

MIA IDAM

Image Credit: MIA

1. Another reason to visit this extraordinary museum is to enjoy a meal at the spectacular IDAM, world-renowned Chef Alain Ducasse's first restaurant in the Middle East. Located within the very heart of MIA and designed by the world class architect, Philippe Starck, IDAM is known for its Arabian influenced contemporary French Mediterranean cuisine.

MIA Cafe

Image Credit: MIA

2. There is also a café tucked in the MIA’s Atrium area that provides guests a good selection of nutritious, healthy and fresh food that includes plant-based, organic and gluten free selections for those with special dietary needs, depending on what local products are available in each season. So, if you feel a little peckish while strolling through MIA’s numerous rooms and taking in the spectacular art collection, you know where to go!

The Shop

MIA Gift Shop

Image Credit: MIA

The MIA Gift Shop is a marvel within itself. Here you can find a large range of exclusively designed products that are inspired by MIA’s glorious art collection and exhibits and include gifts, art books, home décor, accessories and jewellery.

The Music

MIA Chamber Music

Image Credit: MIA

Every month, the MIA plays host to free concerts in the Atrium section of the museum. Here, you can relax and enjoy the soothing chamber music in the presence of the marvels of Islamic architecture.

The Park

Image Credit: MIA

1. Adjacent to MIA is the MIA Park which is a delight for people of all ages, especially the children who can enjoy playing on the age appropriate play equipment, bike, skateboard, etc. and it’s a hot spot for picnics and gatherings of friends and family.

MIA Film Screening

Image Credit: MIA

2. The Park plays host to a large number of activities that include a Guided Kayaking Tour of MIA and the Dhow Harbour, sports events, movie screenings, art workshops, . There is also a café and gift shop in the vicinity which adds to the Park’s appeal.

The Bazaar

MIA Park Bazaar

Image Credit: MIA

During the cooler months of the year in Qatar, the MIA holds a weekend Bazaar in the MIA garden where you can find hundreds of stalls that are selling foods, accessories, handicrafts, clothes, art, paintings, etc. It's a place for everyone and a popular hangout place for families who want to enjoy the outdoors.

For more information about MIA, visit the website.

Have you been to MIA? Which is your favourite exhibit? Do you take friends and family visiting Qatar to MIA? Do let us know in the comments section. Like and share this article – it keeps us going?