The Islamic Art Museum; Qatar
Free to enter, this magnificent structure showcases thousands of artefacts from the last millennia (and beyond!) It houses work produced in countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East & Europe and it explains, in very simple terms, how specific pieces of artwork fits in with Islam.
I spent only four hours here (I arrived quite late after getting bedazzled by the streets). Had I got more time, I would have happily wandered in and around all of the exhibition spaces for longer.
Items on display vary from 9th Century mosaic pieces from Iraq to 15th Century war masks from Iran, 14th Century steel swords from Syria and over one thousand year old Q’uran scripts from Northern Africa.
Seeing pieces from Iraq and Syria choke me. At a time in history, when much of their existence is arguably being ignored at best and destroyed at worst, it feels more important than ever for artefacts like these to be saved, stored and presented. I suddenly understand the ethos behind this institution and almost want to thank those involved.
Many tourists will appreciate the museum as being a beacon of architectural beauty – or the best platform from which to watch the sunset in Qatar. Both of which could easily be true. I would hope these same visitors also understand the significance of its existence.
It still baffles me to think that I’m sitting in the Middle East. Maybe my prejudices are coming out now; being shattered before your very eyes. This museum, this city, this land, is nothing how I imagined. The call to prayers, the dresswear, the shapes and patterns that adorn everything from shop windows to tourist souvenirs; there’s a deep sense of spirituality. I can almost imagine sitting in this same spot a century ago, a thousand years… Despite the modern skyscrapers across the water, I’m surrounded by history; derelict buildings, homes that once were, roads no longer passable and inscriptions in walls now barely legible. It’s simply magical.
There is no greater sense of freedom, than leaving the digital world behind if only for a day and wandering these streets – especially when the jewel in the crown at the end of the road is the Islamic Art Museum (where you must book in for afternoon tea if you do visit; the setting is truly a spectacle!)