There are not that many places to check out in Qatar, at least in 2014. (There was a lot of development going on in preparation for the World Cup, though, so there might be more things to check out nowadays.) There’s the souk, which was definitely made for tourists and probably not a place that locals hang out much at all. Great restaurants, though. There’s The Pearl, Doha’s artificial island that was probably spurred on by those crazy island-making developments down in Dubai.
And then there’s the Islamic Museum. The exhibits aren’t that exceptional, to be honest. I much preferred the smaller museums in Kuwait and Oman. The real attraction, though, is the building. The museum was built on an artificial island and designed by superstar architect I. M. Pei (he of the pyramid in the middle of the Louvre). It’s got a very modern look, with flat clean surfaces and a building-block aesthetic.
However, the materials and the arches make the building unmistakably Middle Eastern. The overall design discipline of Middle Eastern artwork — with its clean lines, repeating patterns and complimentary colors — to me already looks contemporary. Now it’s simplified further to break the design down to the most basic of elements. (Wikipedia says that I. M. Pei took inspiration from an ancient 9th Century structure: the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Egypt.)
The best part is that the faces of the building are angled in such a way that the light casts different shadows on its surfaces different times of the day. At night, it’s lit up, and the gradients between light and darkness remind me of something Picasso would’ve painted in his Cubist phase.
The island surrounding it is a lovely park filled with greenery … which I imagine has a heck of an irrigation system underneath. From there, the museum looks like a blocky pyramid — an update to its brethren in Egypt and Mexico.