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Reconnecting with tradition
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Reconnecting with tradition

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Qatar’s well preserved cultural attractions provide significant appeal for companies looking to bring their events to the Middle East. Capital city Doha has both traditional cultural venues, restored and open to the public, and a host of new attractions as well, most famously the I.M Pei-designed acclaimed Museum of Islamic Art and the delayed, but much anticipated, National Museum of Qatar. This is expected to open before the end of 2016, with pre-tours already ongoing with prominent Qatari bloggers.

Many of these attractions are looked after by Qatar Museums, a body established to oversee museums, public art and cultural heritage in Qatar with the aim of being a “cultural instigator”. Part of fulfilling the cultural goals of the 2030 Qatar National Vision, Qatar Museums aims to develop, promote and sustain the cultural sector at the highest standards. At the heart of this is a commitment to helping Qatar originate art, culture and heritage experiences from within, while reconnecting with Qatari traditions.

One of the best ways to experience a range of attractions during a short trip is to take a guided city tour, with most DMCs offering packages that include some of the following recommendations.

MUSEUMS 

National Museum of Qatar

Visitors to the upcoming National Museum of Qatar will be able to learn about Qatar’s ancestors and the formation of early cities, as well as the modernisation of Qatari society – all through innovative presentation techniques. Entire walls will become cinematic screens and handheld mobile devices will guide people through themed displays.

Currently being constructed around Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani’s original palace, the building will boast an interlocking disc design by Jean Nouvel, inspired by the desert rose.

The National Museum of Qatar will feature a 220-seat auditorium, two retail outlets, two restaurants, a café and a park filled with indigenous plants. It will be committed to preserving the dhows that were once Doha’s lifeblood, with three-dimensional digital models, digital photography and laser scanning.

Contact: qm.org.qa

Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)

Located on the Corniche within walking distance of Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art houses the largest collection of Islamic objects and artefacts spanning 1,400 years. It’s home to a series of special exhibitions throughout the year, a regular programme of courses, lectures and workshops, as well as tours and musical events. The building, an iconic feature of the Doha landscape, was designed by I.M. Pei, the architect responsible for the extension of the Louvre in Paris. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, open from 10.30am-5.30pm on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, open from 12pm-8pm on Thursday and Saturday, and open from 2pm-8pm on Friday.

Contact: +974 4 4224444 / mia.org.qa

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

Mathaf celebrates modern and contemporary art, showcasing a selection of pieces created in Qatar, the Middle East and the wider Arab world. An initial group of works was gathered by HE Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani and the Mathaf Collection now holds more than  9,000 works and produces major shows based on new commissions. The museum is located in Education City in Qatar Foundation. A free Mathaf Bus runs between Mathaf and the MIA from between 11am  to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday and from between 3pm to 8pm on Friday.

Contact: +974 4 4028855  / mathaf.org.qa

Orientalist Museum

Devoted to this influential period in art history, the upcoming Orientalist Museum houses a collection by Western artists that conveys their first experiences and impressions of the ‘oriental’ East. Ahead of opening, the museum is inviting visitors to explore temporary exhibitions, such as The Art of Travel at QM Gallery Al Riwaq.

Contact: +974 4 4525555  / qm.org.qa

3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum

This forthcoming museum will use interactive exhibits, inspiring objects and unique activity areas to demonstrate to the world that sport and Qatar are intrinsically linked. Ahead of opening, the museum is holding temporary shows in venues around Doha to celebrate the cultural phenomenon of sport. 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum is a member of the Olympic Museum Network, which unites 22 Olympic Museums worldwide.

Contact: +974 4 4525555  / qm.org.qa

Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre

The Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre (also known as FANAR) is a government organisation that showcases Qatari and Arabic culture through activities such as exhibitions, tours, Arabic-language courses, introductions to Islam and mosque visits. For groups seeking a fully immersive cultural experience like no other, it is the go-to entity in Doha.

Contact: +974 4 4250250 / binzaid.gov.qa

Msheireb Enrichment Centre 

This educational portal was created by Msheireb Properties to showcase Qatar’s past and ambitions for the future. The Msheireb Enrichment Centre outlines Qatar’s glorious past, thriving present and ambitious plans for the future while housing some of Qatar’s historic artefacts, antique work tools and a treasure trove of information on Qatar’s extraordinary growth. The Centre is currently docked at the picturesque Doha Corniche in proximity to one of the city’s oldest landmarks, the Sheraton Hotel.

Contact: mec.msheireb.com

Boutique museums

There are several smaller museums in Doha that cover a range of niche exhibitions and interests, from weaponry to stamps. Top picks include the Ethnographic Museum (Wind Tower House), the Arab Postal Stamps Museum at Katara Village, the Weaponry Museum, Photography Museum and The Arabian and Islamic Heritage Library.

Contact: dohamuseums.com

CULTURAL ICONS

Katara Cultural Village

This purpose-built development, designed in line with Qatari architectural heritage, features theatres, galleries and performance venues, which play host to international, regional and local festivals, workshops, performances and exhibitions all year round. Venues include The Masjid of Katara, Drama Theatre, The Opera House – home to the Qatar Philarmonic Orchestra – the Katara Amphitheatre and Katara’s Gardens.

The Cultural Village also offers a range of halls and galleries that corporate groups can hire for meetings, conferences, exhibitions, brand launches, dinners and more, from the multi-purpose Katara Hall with capacity for up to 2,500 people in a cocktail-style setup to the Katara Amphitheatre, which can seat up to 5,000.

The village is a gem to explore and many DMCs include the attraction as part of a city tour. There are several cafés, restaurants, a cinema and a well-maintained public beach with water sports. In the future, the development will be expanded to include Katara Plazza, featuring a mall dedicated to children, shops, serviced apartments and high-end retail.

Contact: +974 4 4080050 / katara.net

Doha Film Institute 

Doha Film Institute (DFI) is dedicated to film appreciation, education, and to building a dynamic movie industry in Qatar. DFI is also a film and television production hub and organises regular festivals, events and screenings. These include the Aiyal Youth Film Festival, which builds on DFI’s history of community-based programming. DFI has also established a number of strategic cultural partnerships with leading international organisations, as well as its own Doha-based programmes, to give filmmakers a chance to participate in top quality workshops and training.

Contact: +974 4 4200505 / dohafilminstitute.com

HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

Al Zubarah

One of Qatar’s most famous historical landmarks is the UNESCO-listed Al Zubarah archaeological site located in the north of the country.

Originally a walled coastal town founded by Kuwait merchants dating back to the late 18th century, Al Zubarah was once a flourishing pearling and trading centre. It was mostly destroyed by 1811 and abandoned in the early 20th century, but a protective layer of sand blown from the desert has preserved what remains, including the impressive Al Zubarah military fortress. Inside there’s a museum featuring exhibits, artwork and archaeological findings.

Al Zubarah is open daily from 8am to 6pm but is closed on Friday mornings. Admission is free. Various DMCs organise excursions to Al Zubarah, but those venturing there privately should rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and use a satellite navigation system.

Contact: +974 4 4525555 / qm.org.qa

Umm Tais 

Designated as a nature reserve and protected area in 2006, Umm Tais is one of Qatar’s natural gems.

It features small islets, sand bars, mangrove forests, beaches, geological structures, a varied habitat teeming with marine and bird life, as well as an important turtle-nesting beach. The ruins of the ancient village of Al Mafjar are nearby on the mainland.

Qatar Museums Authority plans to reconstruct the existing houses and mosque, as well as develop parts of the area into a visitor centre, ranger station and research area.

Contact: qatartourism.gov.qa

Barzan Towers

These towers, located 20 kilometres north of Doha in Umm Salal Mohammed, have been used to keep watch over pearl divers, protect local water sources and as an observatory. Built between 1910 and 1916, the recently restored towers boast spectacular sea views and they have also been used to observe the moon during the Holy Month of Ramadan. The towers can be visited 24 hours a day.

Contact: qatartourism.gov.qa

ART

Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq

Located in front of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park, this venue hosts exhibitions that often prove to be a talking point in the city. Indeed, with a diverse schedule of exhibitions hosted in its vast space, Al Riwaq is always worth a visit. It also hosts temporary exhibitions by upcoming museums in the Qatar Museums Authority network.

Contact: +974 4 4525555 / qm.org.qa

QM Gallery Katara

An intimate venue for public art projects in Katara Cultural Village, QM Gallery Katara features theatres, concert halls and restaurants. It typically hosts local and international artists whose work centres around human themes. Nestled among other buildings in the village, the casual space is inviting thanks to its laid-back ambience. It is also a platform for Qatar’s emerging museums to present their collections and projects.

Contact: +974 4 4525555  /qm.org.qa

Fire Station Artist in Residence

A new hub in Doha for creative exchange, Fire Station Artist in Residence is housed in the Civil Defence building. Its public gallery, the Garage, is dedicated to new talent and is the perfect springboard for creativity, providing emerging artists with an opportunity to take their passion to the next level. The venue offers nine-month programmes for aspiring artists living in Qatar who, during this time, will move into one of the studios, collaborate with fellow creatives and get to work on developing their own technique.

Contact: +974 4 4525555 /qm.org.qa

Public Art

Qatar Museums spearheads a programme of public art, from striking sculptures to specially commissioned photography, bringing culture to the streets of Doha on a huge scale for high impact. The art is found in public spaces such as the Qatar National Convention Centre, Salwa Road Tunnels and Aspire Park.

Contact: +974 4 4525555 / qm.org.qa