Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Museum of Islamic Art’

The Museum of Islamic Art

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th December, 2008

museum-of-islamic-art    I spent yesterday afternoon at Doha’s brand-new Museum of Islamic Art, which seems destined quickly to be acknowledged as one of the world’s great museums. The building itself — designed by architect I M Pei — is positvely pharaonic in its simple grandeur. The setting is stunning, on an artifical island just off the Qatari capital’s sweeping Corniche. Water is a central feature of the context, the view across the bay from the vast windows of the central atrium is literally breath-taking.

But as befits a museum, it is the contents of the Museum of Islamic Art which really give the place its special value.  Ranging widely from calligraphy to pottery, carpets to paintings, they are drawn from across the Islamic world past and present: the Middle East, North Africa, large swathes of Asia and important European outposts such as Andalucia and Sicily. In stark contrast to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where thousands of exhibits are crammed together in a chaotic jumble, the Doha galleries have chosen a limited number of examples of the very best, many cabinets displaying just one exquisite piece, perfectly lit.

Anyone who doubts the contribution that Arabs and the wider Muslim community have made to world civilization — one thinks of the notoriously ignorant and bigoted remarks of the independent British MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk — will soon be disabused when marvelling at the wonders from Moghul India, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and the Arab nations. Interestingly, despite the museum’s name, there are several examples of Christian art too, including, fittingly at Christmas, a magnificent Levantine Madonna and Child.

The Royal Family of Qatar was actively involved in getting this museum built as part of their strategy of turning Qatar into the Gulf’s cultural and intellectual centre. They can be proud of the result. It is a triumph.

(photo courtesy of the Museum of Islamic Culture)

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Doha Reaches for the Skies

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008

doha-at-night     When I first came to Doha — capital of the Arabian Gulf state of Qatar — about 15 years ago, the city was, quite frankly, a dump. It had just two things going for it: the Corniche that sweeps round the bay, and the iconic pyramid-style Sheraton Hotel located at one end. Those two landmarks — now much spruced up — are still there, but what has changed is that Doha has become the most elegant city in the region. Vast amounts of money from gas and oil and been spent building not only dozens of architecturally notable high-rise towers — carefully grouped in particular areas — but also many beautiful, low-rise state buildings incorporating traditional Arabic design. There are huge lawns and flowers everywhere, and standing prominently on a man-made island just off the Corniche is the magnificent new Museum of Islamic Art, which opened earlier this month and which I will be visiting tomorrow.

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