If there’s one thing I admire about Qatar, it’s that the country preserves and takes great care of its history. Sometimes very subtly, as in the prayers that decorate the lampposts on the way to the airport, or more palpably walking through the Souq Waquif. But it’s in museums, like the fantastic MIA – Doha Museum of Islamic Art, that we have the real dimension of how much Qatar values and preserves its history, however, without forgetting to look to the future.
The Museum of Islamic Art already impresses from a distance, just a simple walk along the Corniche for it to hold our attention.
With straight lines – one of the characteristics of Islamic art – the museum is a project by the architect Ieoh Ming Pei. Who in his portfolio has the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. Ming Pei traveled the world studying Islamic art to create the museum he considered his greatest work, his Monalisa.
In a small country like Qatar, but giant in superlatives, the choice of construction site for the Museum of Islamic Art was meticulously made. Ieoh Ming Pei had several options at his disposal, but he wanted something unique and an artificial island was built to house the museum.
The reason is that nothing – even in the very distant future – would obstruct the front of the museum. And its massive side windows frame Qatar’s past and future. On one side we see the Souq Waqif and the port of the Dhow – boats that the ancient Qataris ventured to sea for months in the pearl harvest. And in the other windows we glimpse the modern skyline of Doha, it’s the future! The Doha Museum of Islamic Art is a bridge between Qatar’s past and future.
Impress on the outside and delight on the inside
If the Doha Museum of Islamic Art is already impressive from the outside, it is when we enter it that our jaw drops and we are speechless for long seconds.
The artistic tradition of the Islamic world creates rich, highly geometric and symmetrical ornaments. As it evolved over the centuries, this art became more and more detailed and improved by contemporary mathematics and recently by computer programs, which provide tools to create modern variations of these historic ornaments.
And these patterns are everywhere, in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, geometry is everywhere. Just look carefully through the immense central hall and its fantastic staircase. Islamic art and geometry are everywhere, note the symmetry of the designs, the floor forming patterns that seem to climb up the walls and reach the upper floors. A real gift for the eyes.
The collection of the Museum of Islamic Art
With such an impressive build, one risk is that the packaging will draw more attention than the contents. But the Museum of Islamic Art was designed in such a way as to enhance even more the pieces on display.
The museum’s collection has pieces from various parts of the Islamic world, from the Middle East to Africa, Europe and Asia. Beautiful tapestries, paintings, crockery, porcelain from centuries of history and jewelry, lots of jewelry. Many pieces were part of the private collection of the Al Thani family, who are the rulers of Qatar.
I also found a part of the museum with Islamic astrolabes very interesting, as well as many navigation, geometry and mathematics instruments. The astrolabe is an ancient naval instrument, which was used to measure the height of stars above the horizon.
How to visit the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is located on the Corniche, close to Souq Waqif. It will soon be accessible via the Souq Waqif (Gold Line) station of the brand-new Doha Metro that is being built for the 2022 World Cup and already has some stations in operation.
Entrance to the museum costs 50 Rials, but you can buy the Museum Pass for 100 Rials which also gives access to the National Museum of Qatar, as well as other museums for 3 days.
- Sip Lime & Mint, a mint-heavy lemonade, in the museum’s cafe. This juice is very typical of Qatar, in addition to teas and Chai, an Arabic coffee that looks more like a tea with spices.
- Take the opportunity to stroll through MIA Park, a park that was built next to the museum. At the end of it there is a huge lawn that looks like the mountains of the Teletubbies and from there we have a beautiful view of the Doha skyline. Golf carts run the free route from the museum’s parking lot to the park, which is very useful in the heat of Doha.
More images from the Museum of Islamic Art
Check out our video with 10 things to do in Doha:
I wrote a super detailed post with tips on where to stay in Doha and also where to avoid. I recommend reading.
The best area to stay in Doha is in or around Souq Waqif. Within the Souq there are some excellent hotels, such as the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels by Tivoli which has an excellent location. Or the Al Najada Doha Hotel, which is also owned by Tivoli and is opposite the Souq, as well as the Al Najada Doha Hotel Apartments by Oaks which is an aparthotel.
Another option is the Alwadi Hotel Doha MGallery, which is on one of the other sides of the Souq and in an excellent location. The Kingsgate Hotel Doha, which was where I’ve stayed twice and I liked it a lot.
Other options in the same region, we have the Horizon Manor Hotel, next to the Museum of Islamic Art, as well as the Saraya Corniche Hotel and the Best Western Plus Doha.
Tips for organizing your trip
How much does it cost to travel to Qatar
What is it like to go through immigration in Doha
How to dress in Qatar
Flying to Doha with Qatar Airways in Business Class
Flying to Doha with Qatar Airways in Economy Class
Complete itinerary in Doha in 3 days
What to do in Doha on a connection
Museum of Islamic Art
Qatar National Museum
Corniche and Sea Cruises from Doha
Qatar National Library
Qatar National Mosque
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