Qatar has spent the past decade establishing itself as an international art hub. New museums and art institutions have turned this once-quiet Gulf state into a showcase for both world-renowned artists and local culture. Whether you’re in town on business, in transit or on holidays, the Millennium Hotel Doha is in close proximity to some of the finest art and museums in the region.
MIA and the Surrounding Parklands
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of Qatar’s most iconic buildings. Built on a man-made island, alongside the city’s crescent-shaped harbour, the stark geometric architecture hosts the world’s finest collection of Islamic-inspired art, science and culture.
Hirst at Al Riwaq
A short stroll from the Museum of Islamic Art, across the shaded parklands, is Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq. While it looks fairly nondescript – especially when compared to the adjacent museum – this exhibition space has played host to some of the world’s finest artists. Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, and Richard Serra have all hosted major retrospectives here.
In more recent years the focus has shifted towards regional art and artists, with events such as Mal Lawal offering visitors a crash course in local Qatari history. Ask your hotel concierge to check the exhibition schedule for you as it is updated every few months. You can then spend the morning visiting MIA and Al Riwaq before enjoying lunch in the parklands that separate the two.
An Oasis in the Desert
If you want to see Qatar’s rugged interior (and have an afternoon spare), the Sheikh Faisal Museum is a must-see. Located about 40 minutes outside of town, Sheikh Faisal's private collection is housed in a sprawling fort, complete with man-made lake and a traditional Qatari fishing boat.
Sheikh Faisal Museum
Sheikh Faisal has spent decades bringing together the world’s greatest collection of Qatari cultural artefacts, and his collection is a sight to behold. From vintage cars he imported back in the ’60s and ’70s to traditional Bedouin tents, taxidermy falcons, traditional Middle Eastern outfits, coins and more, his museum offers visitors a glimpse into Qatari culture.
By the time you’re done exploring the Sheikh’s collection it will be getting late in the day, and one of the best spots to enjoy a meal is the Katara Cultural Centre. Comprised of a long boardwalk and amphitheatre alongside the Doha harbour, the area is also home to QMA Gallery (run by Qatar Museums) and a variety of restaurants. If you’re looking for something to do in the evening, Katara offers a wonderful combination of food and art.
Katara Art Centre
Modernism and More
Your second day in Qatar is a great opportunity to visit Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Specialising in modern artists from the Arab world, the vibrant exhibition calendar has won acclaim around the world.
Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art
Every artist has to start somewhere, and the newest addition to Qatar’s cultural landscape is the ‘Fire Station’ – literally, an old fire station that’s been converted into an art incubator for local artists. Open days take place on a regular basis, and you’ll be able to see the next generation of artists in the flesh.
No trip to Qatar would be complete without a visit to the Souq (aka, the old market). Amid all the narrow lanes and restaurants you’ll find the Souq Waqif Art Centre. Visit in the evenings and you’ll see works from celebrated local artists on sale, so if you’re looking for some one-of-a-kind gifts, this is the place. Just make sure you can fit them all on the plane back home.
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