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Within the last decade, Qatar has become an important hub of art and culture not only within the region but is also being recognized all over the world for promoting the art of Islamic civilisations through the ages and Qatari traditions, customs and its rich heritage. Its different museums that have become must-see attractions for visitors and locals alike are proof that Qatar’s vision of becoming the world’s capital for art and culture is slowly becoming a reality.
Below are the three museums that make up part of the Qatar Museums and are visited by thousands of people every year to marvel at and be amazed by the thousands of ancient artefacts and art collections this wonderful country has on offer. Also discussed is Qatar’s upcoming museum, the National Museum of Qatar, which is bound to become another icon of Qatar’s magnificence and glory.
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.
MIA was built in the mid-2000s and was opened to the public on 1 December 2008. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
MIA is one of the most visited attractions in Qatar; it’s a must-see for adults and children alike, who visit the museum to enjoy and understand Islamic culture through its profound art exhibits.
The Mathaf (which means ‘museum’ in the Arabic language and is pronounced as ‘mat-haf’) Arab Museum of Modern Art was established on 30 December 2010 and houses over 6,300 pieces of Arabian art that start from the 19th century up to the modern day. The museum is located within an abandoned building that used to be a school in Doha’s Education City and was completely renovated by the French architect, Jean-François Bodin who transformed it into the modern museum that it is today.
Under the patronage of His Highness H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, who is a passionate art collector and artist, the museum has flourished and turned into a huge and splendid treasure trove of modern Arab art. Most of the art work has been donated by him and he also has a vast collection of periodicals and books about Arab artists and artwork which he used to start an artist residency program at the museum.
The museum has a simple design and is more about function than shape and form. It has two floors and 10 galleries with different themes. The ground floor galleries contain themed art work on form, individualism, nature, abstraction and Doha. The first floor galleries depict themed art work on struggle, society, family, legend, history and Horoufiyah (using Arabic letters as abstract forms). Dotted around the museum are art pieces that showcase civic struggles Arabs suffered in the 20th century along with text-based art, cityscapes and individual portraiture.
The maze-like layout of the museum adds to the splendor of its interconnected galleries that contain lively paintings in soft colour shades that contrast with the gleaming fluorescent lighting between the two floors sometimes giving the feeling of a stimulating sensory experience.
Though the museum is still in its infancy stage, it is growing in popularity and visitors from all around the world visit it to marvel at the contemporary works of art by Arab artists that include Ismail Fattah, Dia Azzawai, Ali Nouri, Sliman Mansour, Mahmoud Said and Wafaa Bilal, amongst others.
Do not miss the opportunity of visiting this one-of-a-kind Arab museum.
Entry to the museum is FREE of charge for the permanent exhibitions.
QAR.25 for all temporary exhibitions.
Children under the age of 16, students, ICOM and CIMAM members can visit the permanent and temporary exhibitions for FREE.
The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum (FBQ Museum) is a fascinating place with a huge collection of ancient artefacts, furniture, Islamic art, weapons, coins, carpets, vintage cars, prehistoric bones and fossils of dinosaurs and other creatures that roamed the earth at that time, and lots more. There’s even a plane in the museum!
Sheikh Faisal, who is a leading businessman of the Arab region and an avid collector of artefacts and art that signify Islam along with Qatari traditions and customs, created the FBQ Museum in 1998 within the fort located at Samriya Farm just outside Doha. The museum showcases his vast collection of rare and priceless pieces so visitors can get a glimpse of the Islamic lifestyle and the Qatari way of life over the years. Pieces in the museum date back to the dinosaur era millions of years ago and move on to include the earlier Islamic era and everyday objects that were used by Qataris in their daily lives till recently.
The FBQ Museum is a must-see tourist attraction in Qatar and draws people from around the world who come to the museum and are awe-struck by the magnificent collection of over 15,000 relics and artefacts of immense historical importance. Each piece has been handpicked over the years by Sheikh Faisal himself on his travels around the world.
The FBQ Museum is the pride of Qatar and has earned Sheikh Faisal the title of ‘Heritage personality for 2012’ by the Arab Center for Tourism Media in 2012.
Though it is Sheikh Faisal’s private museum, it is open to the public. Tour guides are available to show visitors around the museum and explain the artefacts and different pieces in detail.
Designed by Pritzker prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, the interlinking disc design of the National Museum of Qatar represents petals that are positioned at different angles and has been inspired by Qatar’s unique ‘desert rose’ made from gypsum deposits in a crystallized form. It evokes and depicts the life of the Qatari people between the desert and the sea. The museum’s structure is located on Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Al Thani’s old palace where he once lived and ran the country for 25 years. It is one of most recognisable landmarks in Qatar and serves as a monument to the historical way of life in the country which will be a fitting central exhibit within the museum once it opens.
Even though the museum just opened (March 2019), it has already won the prestigious ‘Façade Design and Engineering of the Year’ at the ABB LEAF Awards held in London last year and is the first project from the Gulf region to be highlighted in the “Best New Architectures of 2018” listing.
Visitors to the museum will get to learn more about Qatar’s ancestors and the dhows that were once a very important part of the country’s legacy, how the early cities were formed and the transformation of the country that has led up to modern Qatari society. Exhibitions in the museum will merge historical objects with modern influences and signify the impact made by the rapid change in the Qatari lifestyle.
Presentations will be innovative and combine contemporary techniques to thrill and excite visitors with whole walls turning into movie-like screens and mobile phones guiding visors throw thematic displays.
Msheireb Museums is situated in the very heart of the city, Doha’s old downtown area, and is made up of four houses where Qatar’s rich traditions and cultural heritage have been preserved to highlight Qatar’s history and how the country grew from its humble beginnings to one of the richest countries on the planet. These four traditional courtyard houses which date back to the first decade of the 20th century, have been restored and conserved by renowned local as well as international architects and professionals to ensure the old memories of Qatar are not lost. Each of the four houses showcase Qatar’s traditional community-based lifestyle but each house has a different story to tell and each story comes to life using the latest technology and old natural resources.
The four heritage houses and their different stories:
The Bin Jelmood house, named after its former owner Mohammed Jelmood reflects on and provides an insight into slavery and how when Islam arrived, it encouraged the human treatment of slaves and eventually, the abolishment of slavery. This house shares the story of slavery in old Qatar, how it was abolished and ends with an exhibit on how the Qatari government is striving to fight against human trafficking and exploitation.
The Radwani House was built in the 1920s and belonged to Ali Akbar Radwani. It is located in the oldest part of Doha: Msheirib and Al-Jasrah. Archaeologists have uncovered an assortment of important artefacts and items during excavation of the area that provide details of how daily life in Qatar was once conducted.
This house tells the story of how a traditional Qatari family lived in the olden days and how they evolved when oil became part of Qatar’s economy and electricity arrived in the country. The changes in the lifestyle are showcased, as well as how family life transformed when the family became affluent.
Company House is the location of Qatar’s first oil company and tells the story of those workers - that laid the foundation of Qatar’s, now booming, petroleum industry - and also labored for their families. It is these workers who were responsible for the transformation of Qatar into a modern, oil-rich country.
The exhibits at this house are interactive and engaging. They highlight the stories of the workers who helped shape Qatar’s economy while struggling to look after their families, as well as, prominent figures of those early oil discovery days through first-hand accounts.
The Mohammed Bin Jassim House tells the story of Qatar’s challenge to strike a balance between the sophisticated requirements of contemporary living and the responsibility to preserve local heritage and culture. It was built by the son of the founder of modern Qatar Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jassim Al-Thani and showcases the past, the present and the sustainable aspect on which Msheireb Downtown Doha is based.
The house highlights Msheirib’s journey from the past to the present by recalling memories of its past, showcasing its present and engaging visitors in the plans for the future. Listen to first-hand accounts of former residents of this downtown area as they talk about life in the narrow ‘sikka’ alleyways that developed with time as houses were constructed on both sides of these alleyways, how they converged onto an open-air town square called a ‘baraha’ and how Msheirib is the area where Qatar’s first bank, first pharmacy, first bank and first cafes opened.
Another feature of this heritage house is the Echo Memory Art Project which uses artefacts that were uncovered during excavations by archaeologists in the area.
The Arab Postal Stamps Museum was established in 2010 at the Katara Cultural Village and holds a collection of stamps from 22 Arab countries that signify their cultures, traditions and civilizations. The purpose of the museum is to show today’s generation, who may not understand the significance of stamps because they are not used as much now, how history can be documented through stamps. The stamps cover different themes and belong to different eras in the Arab world up to the latest; the oldest one dates back to 1927 and belongs to Jordan. Stamps from other countries around the world are also on display. The museum boasts of having over 32,000 stamps in its collection and is the first museum of its kind in the Gulf region.
How many of these museums have you visited? What are your views on these museums? Did you enjoy the experience? Are you excited that the long-awaited National Museum will be opening soon? Do let us know what you think in our comments section. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!
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