Museums are just not my thing.
I love art. I love learning about histories and cultures. But the sterile environments and quiet halls of museums generally create a big yawn from me. Maybe I’ll see that one piece of artwork that makes it all worthwhile, but typically I never wake up and say, “Hey, let’s go to a museum today.”
So given this perspective, understand that I had low expectations for our tour of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. Therefore, you can also understand my shock that I actually enjoyed myself immensely.
Now as far as collections go, this is a fairly thin one. Islamic artwork as a whole is not exactly a burgeoning field, so while there were some really amazing pieces, most of the museum contained Korans, Koran pages and really big Koran pages. This is not to mock the importance of displaying so many wonderful, ancient artifacts of the Islamic faith, but it does get a bit repetitive.
The building itself, however, is another story.
A lot has been made of I.M. Pei’s ziggurat style design of the building. But what is less know is that the interior galleries were designed by French architect Jean-Michel Willmotte and that together the exterior form and interior design of the building combine in a beautiful combination of symbolism.
For one thing, the building is formed to remind visitors of the wash basins where the faithful wash their hands before entering the mosque to pray. The building is also positioned to reflect that recurring theme of Qatari culture: Look to the future, but never forget the past. In that respect, the flow of the building — like the waters its symbolic design would contain — moves toward sweeping views of Doha’s skyline, then naturally leads toward a patio that allows you to see the old city, representing the past.
Our tour guide, Salma, lit up as she described all of this, which only served to impress upon me how powerful this design is and what an important place it is for preserving Islamic history. For me, this enthusiasm, coupled with the stunning space itself, was enough to make this one of the highlights of the trip.
We Blog The World featured writer, Bob Knorpp, is traveling in Doha, Qatar on behalf of the site this week. These are his dispatches from the tour and dining event sponsored by Qatar Airways.