July 06, 2023

Museums in Qatar - A Snapshot of (Modern) Arab Culture

In 1975, Qatar's first museum was built. Less than fifty years since that single museum's grand opening, Qatar's cultural heritage industry is thriving. Indeed, this Arab nation is now considered one of the Middle East's most important hubs for Arab and Islamic art and culture. For the country, the investment in culture is changing the economic landscape from trade and subsistence, then oil and gas, to tourism while preserving the nation's past, cultural values and traditions. For the general populace and visitors to Qatar, the developments have provided a rich source of leisure and entertainment options!

Qatar has an array of museums in its ever-growing cultural portfolio. There are museums dedicated to art, history, culture, sport and, rather charmingly, stamps. There is even a museum dedicated to optical illusions. And new museums are in the pipeline, building on the country's cultural offering - an automotive museum, a children's museum and an orientalist art museum.

At each of Qatar's museums, the tale of Qatar unfolds - whether its Bedouin foundations and maritime past, its Islamic roots, regional history, traditions and values, its oil production era, sports or its 21st-century modernisation - and each houses extensive collections of cultural objects, art and artefacts. However, gone are the fusty quiet galleries of museums past. Today's museums are unique, with many jaw-droppingly beautiful in their architectural construction. And all welcome their guests into interactive, educational, playful spaces that offer not just a tour through the nation's past but an immersive, fun and inspiring journey from past to present and into the future. Qatar's modern museums provide something for everyone: adults to kids, culture vultures to weekend daytrippers looking for something to do.

So, without further ado, here's a snapshot of three of Qatar's top unmissable museums and an up and coming contender for the title in the future…

3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum

Image: qatarliving.com

The Middle East's first and only sports museum is dedicated to showcasing the origins, development, and significance of sports and sporting culture in Qatar and beyond. The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum is, fittingly, located adjacent to one of the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums - Khalifa International Stadium. Constructed over eight floors and including seven galleries, an auditorium, library, gift shop, cafe and restaurant, the museum aims to engage, educate, entertain and empower its visitors.

The museum galleries take visitors on a trip that encompasses the history of sports across the globe and the rise of the Olympic Games, from ancient origins to modern-day, and the development of sports in Qatar, from traditional games to global sports host. Guests will be able to view a multitude of medals, trophies and other sports memorabilia. Indeed, in the Olympics gallery, each one of the Olympic Games torches is on display. In the Hall of Athletes gallery, visitors can see a host of sports collectables such as Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves, Pele's football boots and Michael Schumacher's F1 Ferrari.

IIn addition to the many objects and items on display, audio-visual displays, immersive videos, interactive digital installations and games, and a virtual ride help tell the global sporting story in a fun and immersive way. At the end of the gallery tour, a huge Activation Zone allows guests to participate in unique sports and sports-related activities that test strength, speed, agility, endurance, balance, coordination, etc. And participants can create physical profiles of their performance to take away with them.

The museum, which only opened its doors in 2022, is a perfect balance of educational, mental and physical immersive fun.

The Details

Location: Al Waab St, Al Waab, Ar-Rayyan, Doha

Metro: Sports City Metro Station (Gold Line)

Timings: 9 am - 7 pm, Saturday-Thursday; 1:30 pm - 7 pm, Fridays

Cost: QAR 50 for non-residents of Qatar

QAR 25 for non-resident Qatar with a valid student ID

Children between 0-16 years are admitted free

For all residents of Qatar, entry is free

Contact: Email: [email protected]

Web: https://321qosm.org.qa/en/

Msheireb Museums

Image: qatarliving.com

Opened in 2015 and located in the heart of Msheireb, Doha's regenerated downtown commercial district, the Msheireb Museums celebrate Qatar's national history, culture and social development through four restored heritage buildings. Each house, set around its own traditional and tranquil courtyard, tells the story of the occupations or visions of those people who originally lived in them, and chart Qatar's history through slavery and its abolition, the discovery of oil, domestic life in the 20th century, and the past and present of the Msheireb area.

The four white and sand coloured houses, set adjacent or opposite one another, include Bin Jalmood House – charting the history of slavery in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean and touching on the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking. Company House – recounting the history of the pioneering workers and their families who helped to transform Qatar into the global powerhouse it is today. Radwani House – highlighting the traditional lifestyle of Qatari families in the last century. And Mohamed Bin Jassim House – chronicling the past and present journey of downtown Msheireb.

The stories of the past are brought to life through original architecture, objects and artefacts, life-sized models and sculptures, films and documentaries, projected visual media, as well as state-of-the-art interactive digital screens, displays and tables, and hands-on educational activities and games.

The museum also incorporates outdoor spaces, light, spacious galleries, a library, study areas, quiet reflection rooms, a restaurant and cafe and a gift shop, and a DNA exhibition that reflects Qatar's diversity throughout history.

This world-class museum, located in the oldest part of the city, captures the massive changes wrought across Qatar in the last century and is well worth exploring for its beauty, tranquillity, composed storytelling, and captivating activities.

The Details

Location: Msheireb Downtown Doha, Mohammed Bin Jassim Street, Doha

Metro: Msheireb Metro Station

Timings: 9 am – 5 pm, Monday-Thursday; 3 pm – 9 pm, Friday; 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday;

Closed on Sunday

Cost: Free admission

Contact: Tel: +974 4006 5555

Email: [email protected]

Web: https://www.msheirebmuseums.com/en/

National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ)

Image: Fauzan Fitria/Shutterstock.com

Located on Doha's picturesque Corniche, the National Museum of Qatar is a true architectural wonder. Built of colossal interlocking sand-coloured disks designed to resemble the desert rose crystal found in dry desert regions, the museum's construction is so different from any other building that it is awe-inspiring and mind-boggling to behold. Fortunately, the museum lives up to its magnificent facade as a spectacular wonder itself.

Opened in 2019 to critical acclaim, the museum is a sublime and wholly immersive educational journey through Qatar's past, present and future. Visitors are taken on a captivating journey encompassing the nation's natural history, the lives of ancestral Bedouins and early seafaring settlers, the establishment of the Qatari state, the discovery of oil, modern-day life in Qatar, and a glimpse of the state's vision for the nation's future.

Depicting Qatar's history from more than 700 million years ago to the present day, the museum exhibits across eleven galleries hosting approximately 8,000 artefacts, including a life-sized model of a whale shark, reconstructed archaeological artefacts such as the Al Jassasiya rock carvings, traditional costumes, and a Bedouin tent. The many unique displays and installations are brought to life and enhanced by innovative audio-visual techniques, interactive technologies and the creative use of sensory elements such as evocative aromas, lighting, images, music and sounds. Particularly powerful are the 360-degree films projected onto the gallery walls, which can transport guests to another time, such is their ability to engage and envelop.

Children are also made wholly welcome throughout the museum and are taken on an educational journey through play. Six pods in the museum and three play areas outside, specifically designed for families and kids, incorporate fun, educational games and activities in digital and physical format, allowing youngsters to explore the themes covered in the main galleries in a hands-on, interactive way.

Within its tranquil gardens, the museum also provides access to the restored Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, originally built in the 1900s and home to one of modern Qatar's early rulers. Having explored one of the finest museums in Qatar, the gardens and lawns are perfect for a picnic, and the public art dotted around the site is an added bonus to explore.

The Details

Location: Museum Park Street, Doha

Metro: National Museum Metro Station (Gold Line)

Timings: 9 am - 7 pm, Saturday-Thursday; 1:30 pm - 7 pm, Fridays

Cost: QAR 50 for non-residents of Qatar

QAR 25 for non-resident Qatar with a valid student ID

Children between 0-16 years are admitted free

For all residents of Qatar, entry is free

Contact: Tel: +974 4452 5555

Email: [email protected]

Web: https://www.nmoq.org.qa/

Qatar’s Up and Coming Cultural Offering...

Qatar continues to ramp up its cultural investment, with further museums being developed in the coming years. In particular, Qatar residents and visitors can look forward to exploring Qatar's first dedicated automobile museum…

Qatar Auto Museum

Image: Ali Elsayed/Shutterstock.com

Main image: Imran Khan's Photography/Shutterstock.com

The Qatar Auto Museum purports to be an automobile enthusiast's and petrol head's dream entertainment venue. Not only will the new museum chart the evolution of the automobile from its invention to the current day and its impact in Qatar throughout its galleries, and house some of the world's most-loved vehicles, including some of the rarest, oldest, most unusual, most famous and most sought-after, it will also accommodate a classic car restoration centre, and car customisation and redesign centre. However, as with all of Qatar's modern museums, there will be plenty to appeal to the masses as this venue looks set to include a host of innovative technologies and immersive activities that everyone will enjoy. The museum, over 30,000 sqm and besides numerous galleries and spaces for temporary exhibitions, will incorporate an edutainment centre with innovation, traffic safety, mobility and sustainable energy labs, a 'geekdom' centre and an activity zone with driving simulators and interactive activities for kids such as miniature car maintenance.

To be designed by architect Rem Koolhaas of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, who created the Qatar National Library in 2014, the museum will be located along the Lusail Expressway adjacent to Katara Cultural Village. And it will be housed in the former exhibition centre building that hosted the first Qatar Motor Show in 2011.

While the completion date for the new auto museum has yet to be released, this unique venue definitely sounds as though it will deserve a 'save the date' space on your calendar when the time comes.

Published: June 15, 2022
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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