National Museum of Qatar opens in Doha

Art lovers in the Middle East now have a brand-new beautiful museum to visit as the National Museum of Qatar has been opened for the public in Doha from today. The museum boasts of providing an unparalleled immersive experience housed in a new architectural masterpiece inspired by ‘Desert Rose’.

The museum’s most impressive features include the restored palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani as well as the Pearl Carpet of Baroda, which is embroidered with more than 1.5 million Gulf pearls and adorned with emeralds, diamonds and sapphires,

 National Museum of Qatar is organised in three chapters—‘Beginnings’, ‘Life in Qatar’, and ‘The Modern History of Qatar’— presented in eleven galleries. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar
National Museum of Qatar is organised in three chapters—‘Beginnings’, ‘Life in Qatar’, and ‘The Modern History of Qatar’— presented in eleven galleries. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar

The Museum’s winding, 1.5-kilometre gallery path is a journey through a series of unique, encompassing environments, each of which tells its part of the story of Qatar through a special combination of architectural space, music, poetry, oral histories, evocative aromas, archaeological and heritage objects, commissioned artworks, monumentally-scaled art films, and more.

National Museum of Qatar is organised in three chapters—‘Beginnings’, ‘Life in Qatar’, and ‘The Modern History of Qatar’— presented in eleven galleries, which take visitors from the geological period long before the peninsula was inhabited through to the present day. Passing through the galleries, visitors are caught up in the experience of the formation of the Qatar peninsula and its natural habitat, the heritage of life in Al Barr (the desert) and on the coast, the political development of modern Qatar, the discovery of oil, and Qatar’s multifaceted relationships today with the larger world.

The USD434 million (SGD588.55 million) building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, who also designed the Louvre of Abu Dhabi. While designing the attractive building, he drew inspiration from the desert rose, a flower-like formation that occurs naturally in the Gulf region when minerals crystallize in the crumbly soil just below the surface of a shallow salt basin.

   National Museum of Qatar has been designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. He drew inspiration from 'Desert Rose' while designing the architecture of the building. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar
National Museum of Qatar has been designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. He drew inspiration from 'Desert Rose' while designing the architecture of the building. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar

Described by Nouvel as “the first architectural structure that nature itself creates,” the desert rose became the model for the Museum’s complex structure of large interlocking disks of different diameters and curvatures—some vertical and constituting supports, others horizontal and resting on other disks—which surround the historic Palace like a necklace. A central court, the Baraha, sits within the ring of galleries and serves as a gathering space for outdoor cultural events. On the outside, the Museum’s sand-colored concrete harmonizes with the desert environment, so that the building appears to grow out of the ground and be one with it. Inside, the structure of interlocking disks continues, creating an extraordinary variety of irregularly shaped volumes.

“To imagine a desert rose as a basis for design was a very advanced idea, even a utopian one. To construct a building with great curved disks, intersections, and cantilevered angles—the kind of shapes made by a desert rose—we had to meet enormous technical challenges. This building is at the cutting edge of technology, like Qatar itself. As a result, it is a total object: an experience that is at once architectural, spatial, and sensory, with spaces inside that exist nowhere else,” said Jean Nouvel.

 Museum’s complex structure comprises of large interlocking disks of different diameters and curvatures. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar
Museum’s complex structure comprises of large interlocking disks of different diameters and curvatures. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar

The spectacular 52,000-square-meter (560,000-square-foot) National Museum of Qatar embraces as its centrepiece the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani (1880-1957), son of the founder of modern Qatar. A building that in former times was both the home of the Royal Family and the seat of government and was subsequently the site of the original National Museum, the historic Palace is now the culminating exhibit in the sweeping succession of gallery experiences.

“The opening of the National Museum of Qatar is a source of immense pride for our country and an exceptional moment for engaging with people from around the world. The extraordinary schedule of inaugural activities draws together outstanding artists, architects, thinkers, and cultural leaders from Qatar and the international community, vividly demonstrating how the National Museum of Qatar will always be a dynamic resource in its programs as well as its exhibitions. Culture connects people, and with this new museum we believe we have created an exceptional platform for dialogue,” said Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums.

  National Museum of Qatar embraces as its centrepiece the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, son of the founder of modern Qatar. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar
National Museum of Qatar embraces as its centrepiece the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, son of the founder of modern Qatar. Photo courtesy: National Museum of Qatar

“After more than a decade of planning, we are deeply gratified to welcome the people of Qatar and our international visitors to this exciting, multi-layered, experiential museum. From the start, Qatar Museums and the National Museum team knew that we wanted to create a living experience for our people—a museum with a heart. We have created galleries full of movement, sound, and colour in order to engage our public fully, with their senses and emotions as well as their intellects, and have assembled creative and authentic content that is so rich that people will discover something new with each visit. It is now time for the discoveries to begin,” said Sheikha Amna bint Abdulaziz bin Jassim Al Thani, Director of the National Museum of Qatar.

The National Museum of Qatar was officially inaugurated yesterday by His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in an opening celebration attended by heads of state, dignitaries, and museum leaders from around the world.

Author
Ashraf Jamal
Ashraf Jamal – Senior Writer

Ashraf Jamal brings a rare depth to writing equipped with a degree in journalism, a postgraduate degree in political science, and a degree in law from the Allahabad University. His experience includes editing and publishing the Northern India Patrika and writing for Times of India for almost a decade covering just about any topic under the sun including NRIs and Indian diaspora.

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