NEW YORK: The New York Times yesterday named Qatar as the Cultural Destination of the Year while describing Doha as a new arts capital in the Middle East. The report said that ever since Dubai reinvented itself as the region’s Las Vegas — with its juggernaut of skyscrapers, snow domes and underwater hotels — its wealthy gulf neighbours have been jockeying for the title of cultural capital.
Doha has won the challenge with the Museum of Islamic Art, which glistens along the waterfront Corniche in Doha that houses one of the world’s most encyclopaedic collections of Islamic art. The ziggurat-like structure of white stone said to be the last cultural building by I M Pei, the 91-year-old architect, is the cornerstone of a monumental effort by Qatar to transform itself into the arts hub of the Middle East, the report added.
Nicolai Ouroussoff, the architecture critic for The New York Times, said that “the building’s austere, almost primitive forms and the dazzling collections it houses underscore the seriousness of the country’s cultural ambition.” That ambition also includes a raft of new contemporary art galleries in Doha’s historic souq, the Souq Waqif, which has been revived, the wholesale creation of a national symphony orchestra and —in perhaps the boldest stroke —the recent announcement that a Tribeca Film Festival is coming to town. Much of Qatar’s cultural ambitions can be traced back to its Emir HHSheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and his 26-year-old daughter, Sheikha Al Mayassa, an avid film and art buff. “Doha is much less flashy and more substantive than some of its Arab counterparts,” said Nancy Schafer, a co-executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival.
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