Standing proudly on its own small island at the end of the Corniche, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) has become a ‘must see’ destination for all who either reside or are visiting Doha.
The purpose-built structure, designed by architect IM Pei, has attracted praise from across the Gulf Region and beyond. Within the building is a collection of Islamic artefacts, unequalled in terms of size, range and value.
There are many reasons to take a trip to Doha’s most famous museum. Here are ArtsQatar’s top five.
1- The grand atrium
It’s the outside that tends to be featured on posters and in travel guides, but this spectacular building is even better on the inside than it is on the outside. The attention to detail –from the lanterns to the grand staircase to the metallic interior of the pinnacle of the high ceiling - is truly inspiring. In fact, the architect took inspiration from many aspects of Islamic architecture before carefully combining the elements in a way that is calming, spacious, airy and befitting of the work on show within each of the galleries.
2- The view from the museum café
Rest your weary feet and take a seat near the huge window Buy a coffee and a pastry. Most importantly, look outside. You don’t really need to be told to do this, as the view across the water towards Westbay is mesmerizing. Also, if you’re a bit of a people watcher, the view down towards the café itself from the walkways above it isn’t bad either.
3- The permanent collection
This is not the place to go for a quick visit. The large permanent collection is divided across several galleries, which are spread across two main floors. these galleries either focus on particular themes, or on chronology and geography, with rooms devoted to Islamic calligraphy, science, and Iran and Central Asia in the 12th-14th Century, for example.
A special mention should go to the people who write the (bilingual) descriptions on each item – descriptions that are clear, insightful and which really enhance the items on show.
What’s more, looking around this collection is absolutely free.
4- The ever-changing range of temporary exhibitions.
Aside from the two main floors, there is plenty of other gallery space that needs filling, and the MIA does this with its commitment to putting on temporary exhibitions. Sometimes there’s a small admission fee but not always. Often these are colloborations
At the time of writing, ‘Ferozkoh’ takes a look at tradition and continuity in Afghan art (until 20 July 2013, QR25 or free if you go on a Monday or are under 16s) and ‘Steel and Gold’ offers a chance to look at the historic swords in the MIA’s own collection (until 14 December 2013, free).
5- Everything else…
Ok, we’re cheating here, but it was impossible to miss out the fact that the MIA runs a range of educational activities including evening lectures, shows thought-provoking films in collaboration with the Doha Film Insitute, has very helpful staff (particularly on the front desk), houses a restaurant that features the culinary skills of world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse, and that the museum even puts on occasional free classical music concerts by members of Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.