July 06, 2023

While Away the Hot Summer Days in Qatar's Cool Museums

As the Summer draws nearer and temperatures rise across Qatar, outdoor pursuits are becoming increasingly clammy. So the majority of us will begin to move indoors, looking for cooler ways to spend our free time. Luckily, Qatar has a multitudinous array of indoor activities to keep everyone out of the searing heat, happy and entertained throughout the year's warmer months. 

While you can opt to play sports indoors, discover the joys of shopping in Qatar's many malls, visit state-of-the-art gaming centres, cinemas and theatres, cool off in indoor pools, have all the fun of the fair at indoor theme parks, adventure parks and entertainment centres, take the kids to air-conditioned playgrounds and fun parks, ice skating and even a snow park, one of our favourite pastimes in the Summer is to visit Qatar's museums.

Qatar’s Magnificent, Marvellous and Magical Museums

There are a host of museums in Qatar. While most are specific to the nation's cultural heritage, traditional, modern and contemporary, each one is unique, fascinating, and full of information, and each offers a different perspective to the last. They come in all shapes and sizes, some in the most magnificent, awe-inspiring venues with hordes of artefacts and objects to small, intimate venues housing specific and rare antiquities and relics. 

Visitors to Qatar's museums can track the country's development from its roots to the current day, follow the lives of the people who helped forge the nation, discover the country's passion for sport throughout the ages, learn about art from the beginnings of Islamic art to that produced by today's local talents, and even uncover the animals and plants that have, throughout history, made the peninsula and the surrounding seas their home. And it's not all static displays and reams of written information to read; most museums in Qatar are user-friendly, interactive and animated, making sure to engage visitors and deliver information memorably. Plus, kids are well and truly catered for; kid-friendly zones, edutainment areas, workshops and classes are all designed to fuel their imaginations and start a love affair with museums that they will carry into later life.  

And, if you didn't know already, residents, students of Qatar and children under sixteen can enter many of Qatar's museums for free.

Interested? Check out the following list of Qatar's museums:

National Museum of Qatar

Image: Shutterstock.com

The National Museum of Qatar is one of the nation’s most thrilling museums to visit, from its location on the shores of the Gulf and the venue’s stunning architecture (colossal interlocking sand-coloured disks designed to resemble the desert rose crystal) to the immersive and captivating galleries and displays inside.

The museum takes its guests on a delightful, interactive and educational journey through Qatar's past, present and future, 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. That journey is brought to life through the unique and innovative displays and exhibits of over 8,000 artefacts across eleven galleries, enhanced by audio-visuals, interactive technologies and the creative use of sensory elements such as evocative aromas, lighting, images, music and sounds. 

You can’t help but be impressed by the life-sized models of Qatar’s national and visiting wildlife, such as the oryx, whale shark and dugong, the reconstructed archaeological artefacts, such as the Al Jassasiya and Al Kassar rock carvings, the recreations of traditional Bedouin camps, the models of pearling boats, the powerful 360-degree films projected onto the gallery walls, or the restored Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani in the museum’s tranquil gardens. Kids are also fully catered for through six edutainment pods in the museum and three play areas outside. The pods and play areas are designed to engage younger ones in fun, educational games and activities in digital and physical formats, allowing them to explore the themes covered in the main galleries in a hands-on, interactive way.

You could easily spend half a day or more at the museum wandering its galleries, taking in the exhibitions, having refreshments in the cafes and restaurants, and exploring and admiring the building, its grounds and the gardens dotted with public art and perfect for a picnic.

Location: National Museum of QatarMuseum Park Street, Doha

Nearest Metro: National Museum Metro Station on the Gold Line 

Parking: On-site

Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday, 9 am - 7 pm; Fridays, 1:30 pm - 7 pm

Costs: QAR 50 for non-residents of Qatar (16+)

QAR 25 for non-residents of Qatar with a valid student ID 

Entrance is free for all residents (inc. students) of Qatar, One Pass holders and children between 0-16 years

Contact: +974 4452 5555 

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://nmoq.org.qa/en/

Instagram: @nmoqatar

Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)

Image: Fitria Ramli/Shutterstock.com

A short walk or drive along the Corniche from the National Museum sits another of Qatar's superlative museums, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). Not only does the museum host one of the world's greatest collections of Islamic art, but it is also one of Qatar's most beautiful buildings and is located in one of the city's most glorious spots.

Designed by the late great Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, the museum sits on a purpose-built peninsula that juts out from Doha's central Corniche into the sparkling Gulf Sea, with a stunning panorama of the city's waterfront and skyscraper-filled skyline across the water. The peninsula, connected to the mainland via a sweeping driveway with water fountains and features, is surrounded by the museum's green park that curls from front to back, allowing guests to admire the building from every vantage point. And why not? The museum building, laid out over five towering floors,  is constructed with almost luminous pale limestone that glimmers in the sun and catches the light on every angle of its geometric design, making it a sight to behold in its own right.

Inside the museum, a collection of Islamic art masterpieces from over fourteen centuries and of significant historical and cultural significance is housed across eighteen elegant galleries. The exhibitions encompass Islamic craftsmanship and art, including glassware, woodwork, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, textiles, oil paintings, watercolours, calligraphic writing, and manuscripts, and stem from three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe. The galleries, surrounding a central atrium and connected via impressive floating bridges, take visitors on a journey through Arabia, the Levant, Persia and India with ornate artefacts, such as full cavalry armour from the Ottoman era, diamond, emerald, pearl and gold jewellery from India's Mughal empire, war masks from Iran, lusterware from Spain and Safavid carpets. The journey is brought to life with interactive mobile technology, child-friendly resources, and activities to engage and inform all visitors, from the eldest to the youngest.

The museum also houses a library, open to the public, a museum cafe, which overlooks the Gulf, and a gift shop. And, of course, visitors can continue their visit in the museum park, which also offers two cafes, a host of kids' play areas and a range of public art.

Location: Museum of Islamic Art Al Corniche, Doha

Nearest Metro: Souq Waqif Metro Station on the Gold Line

Parking: On-site - limited spaces 

Additional local underground parking at Souq Waqif 

Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday, 9 am - 7 pm; Friday, 1:30 pm - 7 pm

Costs: QAR 50 for non-residents of Qatar (16+)

QAR 25 for non-residents of Qatar with a valid student ID 

Entrance is free for all residents (inc. students) of Qatar, One Pass holders and children between 0-16 years

Contact: +974 4422 4444

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://www.mia.org.qa/en/

Instagram: @miaqatar

Msheireb Museums

Image: Qatar Museums

Amid Doha's Msheireb, the city's regenerated downtown locale of wide tree-lined streets, plazas and contemporary architecture, lie the elegant and tranquil Msheireb Museums - four restored heritage buildings that celebrate Qatar's national history, culture and social development. 

The four white and sand-coloured houses, each set adjacent or opposite one another and around its own traditional courtyard, chart Qatar's history through stories of the lives or occupations of those who originally lived there. The houses include Bin Jalmood House – charting the history and abolition of slavery in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean; Company House – recounting the history of the pioneering oil 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 past stories 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, a gift shop, and a DNA exhibition reflecting Qatar's diversity throughout history.

This world-class museum 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. 

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

Nearest Metro: Msheireb Metro Station on the Red, Gold and Green Lines

Parking: Local underground parking at Souq Waqif 

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm; Friday, 3 pm – 9 pm; Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm; closed on Sunday

Costs: Free admission

Contact: +974 4006 5555

Email: [email protected]

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

Instagram: @msheirebmuseums

Museum of Illusions

Image: Pinterest

The Museum of Illusions may not have the gravitas of some of Qatar's cultural heritage museums, but it is a mind-bending, exhilarating and unforgettable sensory experience. Delivering illusions that boggle the brain, confuse the senses and leave you truly puzzled, the museum takes its visitors on a fun, educational trip to explain the unexplainable and decipher the history, science and logic behind the trickery of the illusionist.

The museum's displays and installations are all based on optical illusions - the use of colour, light, patterns, shapes and positioning to distort reality and trick the brain into seeing something that's not real. While optical illusions have been used as entertainment and deception for a long time, the Museum of Illusions brings together some of the best visual trickery in one of the world's most comprehensive collections. Guests at the museum are invited into an interactive, immersive world with exhibits such as the mind-blowing Vortex Tunnel, the size-distorting Ames Room, the bewildering Anti-Gravity Room, the staggering Rotated Room, and a whole host of other hypnotic and puzzling displays. 

When you've finished trying to walk through the seemingly spinning Vortex Tunnel, regained your balance after a trip to the Anti-Gravity Room, or finished taking some thoroughly Instagrammable pics at the Chair of Illusion, the Clone Table or the Infinity Room, you can continue the mental workout in the museum's Smart Playroom. The Playroom is a space full of puzzles and games to test your wit, dexterity, intuition and patience. Or, if you'd prefer to take some brain teasers home, there is also a shop selling souvenirs, games and educational toys.

The museum is a unique and playful venue for all ages, with various rooms and exhibits to keep everyone occupied for a fun couple of hours.

Location: Museum of Illusions Doha Gate Mall, Omar Al Mukhtar Street, Doha

Nearest Metro: DECC Metro Station on the Red Line

Parking: On-site

Opening hours: Sunday to Saturday, 9 am - 10 pm

Costs: QAR 80 for adults (16+)

QAR 60 for children 3 - 15 years

Entrance is free for children under 3

Contact: +974 4020 6273

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.museumofillusions.qa

Instagram: @museumofillusions_doha

Arab Postal Stamp Museum

Image: Fitria Ramli/Shutterstock.com

Whether you are a philatelist or not, this tiny stamp museum is a great place to visit when in Katara. The Arab Stamp Museum was founded in 2010 and is housed in a traditional Arab-style sand-coloured building in the heart of the village. The museum's interior belies the exterior, and visitors are welcomed into a light, airy modern space. Brightly lit glass cabinets on the walls and floor enable guests to see the many stamps on display. Some stamps are housed in delightful cabinets backlit through geometric patterned frames. 

The stamps (old and new) hail from around twenty-two Arab nations, including Qatar, the UAE, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Palestine and Syria, as well as some Asian and African Muslim countries. These tiny bits of glue-backed paper represent a brightly coloured, visual journey through the history of those countries; their flora and fauna, leaders, significant events, ancient civilisations, traditional costumes, architecture, sports, etc. 

The museum also displays some postal equipment used in the past at the post office and a small library with various books on stamp collecting - valuable assets for all those interested in philatelic knowledge.

So, for a little Arabian culture and history and a trip back in time up to the modern day of postal stamps, this museum definitely fulfils the job.

Location: Arab Postal Stamps Museum Building 22, Katara Cultural Village, Doha

Nearest Metro: Katara Metro Station on the Red Line

Parking: Katara Cultural Village

Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9 am - 9 pm; Friday, 3:30 pm - 9 pm; Saturday, 9 am - 12 noon, 5 pm - 8 pm; 

Costs: Free admission

Contact: +974 4409 1077

Website: https://www.katara.net/en/communities/arab-postal-stamp-museum

MATHAF - Arab Museum of Modern Art

Image: Qatar Museums

The Mathaf Museum of Modern Art was the brainchild of Sheikh Hasan bin Mohammed Ali Al Thani, a ruling family member. Al Thani began accumulating modern art in the mid-1980s and established his own museum and artists' residency in 1994 before donating his collection to today's co-owners, Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation. 

In its current location under today's co-owners, the museum was opened in 2010 in Education City. The collection of modern art is housed in a former school building reimagined by French architect Jean-François Bodin. The single-story building, surrounded by prominent stone and metalwork sculptures, with its brilliant white walls, archways and parapets with crenels, looks like a traditional fort on a miniature scale. 

Inside the museum, seven wide, long and brightly painted galleries house paintings, sculptures and other art forms that capture and represent the story of modern Arab art spanning the last two hundred years. Indeed, The museum's collection includes over 9,000 unique pieces from across North Africa, the Middle East, and other places geographically linked to Qatar, dated from the 1840s to the current era and worth billions of dollars. It is the most extensive collection of modern Arab art in the Middle East and the most extensive, specialised collection of its kind worldwide. Alongside the comprehensive permanent collection, the museum also houses five galleries dedicated to temporary exhibitions that showcase the works of renowned and up-and-coming Arab artists. 

The museum also has a library, a cafe and a gift shop to peruse. It also offers various creative programmes and workshops for children, families, and artists to ensure that everyone, young to old, amateur to professional, can explore the artist styles of modern art.

Location: Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art Education City, Ar Rayyan

Nearest Metro: Education City Metro Station on the Green Line

Take a public tram from the Metro to Mathaf - Blue Line from Stop 7 (Academy Green Spine) to Stop 2 (Mathaf). 

Parking: On-site - via Gate 14 off of La Luqta/Dukhan Street

Note: The Mathaf Bus offers a free shuttle service between Mathaf and Qatar National Library, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the Fire Station: Artist in Residence, with buses running every hour during museum opening hours. 

Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday, 9 am – 7 pm; Friday, 1.30 pm – 7 pm

Costs: Free admission

Contact: +974 4402 8830

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://mathaf.org.qa/en/

Instagram: @mathafmodern

3-2-1 Olympic and Sports Museum

Image: Architect’s Newspaper

3-1-2 Olympic and Sports Museum is the Middle East's first and only sports museum 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. 

The museum's seven galleries take visitors on a trip that encompasses the history of sports globally and the rise of the Olympic Games, from its ancient origins to its modern-day guise, 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. 

In 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 opened in 2022 and is a perfect balance of educational, mental and physical immersive fun. Constructed over eight floors and including seven galleries, an auditorium, a library, a gift shop, a cafe and a restaurant, the museum aims to engage, educate, entertain and empower its visitors. 

Location: 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum Al Waab St, Al Waab, Ar-Rayyan

Nearest Metro: Sports City Metro Station on the Gold Line

Parking: Local parking around Khalifa Stadium and Villaggio Mall

Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday, 9 am – 7 pm; Friday, 1.30 pm – 7 pm

Costs: QAR 50 for non-residents of Qatar (16+)

QAR 25 for non-residents of Qatar with a valid student ID 

Entrance is free for all residents (inc. students) of Qatar, One Pass holders and children between 0-16 years

Contact: +974 4452 5200

Email: [email protected]

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

Instagram: @321qosm

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

Image: CNN

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, in Al Shahaniya, west of Doha and bordering the desert regions of the country, houses an extensive private collection of cultural curiosities related to Qatar, the Middle East, Arab culture and trade, and Islam. The museum, built from local stone in the traditional fort style with turrets, accommodates over 30,000 objects from the Jurassic age to the early Islamic period and up to the present day. 

The heady mix of artefacts is displayed across numerous galleries, from a Weaponry Hall to a Textiles and Jewellery Room; a Fossils Section to an Islamic Arts Hall; a Quran Room, which displays one of the largest and one of the smallest Qurans in the world, to a Great Hall that houses various forms of transport used throughout Qatar over the centuries, from cars, boats and planes to models of camels and horses. The museum also boasts an authentically replicated 200-year-old Syrian house that was transported from Damascus and rebuilt brick by brick inside the museum, and a model Qatari home, which exhibits belongings from Sheikh Faisal's early life and provides a glimpse into Qatari life in the 20th century. Recently, a classic car museum housing over 300 vintage cars has also opened on the museum grounds.

The collections, which have been painstakingly assembled over many decades by the museum's owner Sheikh Faisal, provide links to Qatar's past, its cultural and economic development and its ties to other cultures across the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and Europe. Guests can wander the collections unaided using the written information provided to learn about each room and its objects or use the museum's mobile tour app with audio commentary to explore the galleries. Kids can follow a treasure hunt map to uncover the museum's curios and try fun, educational activities at the venue's kids' stations.

The museum also houses a cafe for refreshments and a gift shop for souvenirs of the day. Plus, an enormous courtyard at the centre of the venue, with a huge pond dotted with traditional-style fishing vessels, is the perfect place for a picnic during the cooler winter months.

Location: Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum Al Samriya Street, Al Shahaniya (off the Dukhan Highway)

Nearest Metro: N/A

Parking: On-site

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm; Friday, 2 – 7 pm; 

Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday, closed

Costs: QAR 50 for adults (22+)

QAR 35 for students and young adults (12 - 22), teachers and seniors (65+)

Entrance is free for children under 12 years

Contact: +974 4490 2340

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.fbqmuseum.org/


Qatar's museum's offering will grow as the nation expands its arts and cultural scene in the coming years. The following museums are currently in the offing:

  • Art Mill Museum, Al Corniche:

The planned Art Mill Museum will be housed in a former industrial flour mill on the Corniche's waterfront. It will celebrate contemporary art from the mid-19th century to the present. The galleries will become home to collections of paintings, sculptures, photography and fashions from around the globe.

  • Dadu Children’s Museum, Al Bidda Park:

Located in one of Qatar's largest green spaces, the Dadu Children's Museum will incorporate a series of galleries based on various themes, such as science, sustainability, the environment and the history of Doha. The museum will offer interactive and accessible indoor and outdoor experiences for children and their families, promoting opportunities to learn and play together.

  • Lusail Museum, Al Maha Island:

Lusail Museum, in Qatar’s newest and most futuristic city, will be Qatar’s flagship Orientalist museum, housing the world’s largest collection of paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and rare texts from the Eastern world.

  • Qatar Auto Museum, West Bay:

Located in West Bay’s old exhibition centre, the Qatar Auto Museum will house a world-class collection of automobiles from the distant past to the present, with permanent and temporary exhibitions and displays that showcase Qatari car culture and examine the history and future of the automobile.

With so many museum choices and up-and-coming venues, you could easily spend a whole summer exploring them. So get planning now for a whirlwind of cultural tours around Qatar's magnificent, marvellous and magical museums.

Main image: Enigma Magazine

Published: June 03, 2023
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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