The spectacular architecture of the museum is a masterpiece of the famous Chinese-American star architect Ieoh Ming Pei, who also created the glass pyramid at the entrance of the Louvre in Paris or the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. The five-storey building made of subtle cream-coloured sandstone is meant to symbolise the sand dunes of the Qatari desert.
At the architect's request, the museum stands in the middle of a park on its own island so that its effect cannot be weakened by other buildings. The artificial island has an area of 260,000 square metres and, together with the island of the Msheireb Enrichment Centre, forms the beginning and end of Doha's Corniche.
When the museum opened on 22 November 2008, the architect was 91 years old. The master was brought out of retirement especially for the project. On a six-month journey, Pei collected impressions of the Islamic world to draw inspiration for his final work. The opening for the general public took place on 8 December 2008.
Inside the Museum of Islamic Art
The museum's equally spectacular interior design is by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, with whom Pei had already worked on the Louvre in Paris. Its interior is simple, modern and yet hauntingly beautiful. Subtly lit, light-coloured walls and floors contrast sharply with dark grey stone and brightly polished wood from Brazil. The rooms thus appear with a particularly noble flair.
The design elements draw on a wide range of Islamic styles and influences. The interior of the museum was altered several times after its completion in 2006, which is why it did not open until two years later.
PICTURES: Museum of Islamic Art in Doha - exhibits
Also spectacular are the exhibits of the Museum of Islamic Art. Covering an area of 45,000 square metres, the museum houses ceramics, textiles, weapons, manuscripts and documents, as well as historical artefacts from Spain (which was under Arab rule in the Middle Ages) to India. Most of the pieces in this extensive art collection come from private collections of the emirs of Qatar.
Visit to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha
The Museum of Islamic Art can be reached via a palm-lined street and two pedestrian bridges and a car bridge. The exhibitions are designed as a journey through time, countries and cultures, the oldest piece dating back to the 6th century.
The museum's opening hours vary from day to day and can best be found on the museum's website. The museum's permanent exhibition is accessible free of charge and is absolutely breathtaking. Precisely because of the free admission, a visit to the museum twice is recommended to absorb much of its fascinating impressions.
On the north side of the museum, a 45m-high glass front extending over all five floors provides a spectacular panoramic view of Doha Bay.
Tip: If you have the opportunity, you should not miss a visit to the museum in the evening or at night. Both the Corniche and the Doha skyline are at their best in the dark.
Changing exhibitions can also be viewed in a separate gallery, although there is a charge for these. A separate two-storey wing next to the main building is available for students and researchers. It houses a library, a 200-seat auditorium where lectures and workshops are held regularly, a laboratory for the conservation of artefacts, a souvenir shop and a café. French-Mediterranean cuisine mixed with Islamic dishes can be sampled at the IDAM, a first-class restaurant.
Tip: Those who want to visit both the Museum of Islamic Art and the MATHAF Arab Museum of Modern Art should schedule their visits on the same day, as a free (conspicuously black and pink) shuttle bus runs between the two museums.