The new National Museum of Qatar opened Thursday, near the Doha Corniche, after several years of construction. Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the museum showcases Qatar’s cultural heritage through commissioned film and art, as well as artifacts and oral histories gathered over the years.
Designed by Jean Nouvel, the French architect behind the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the National Museum of Qatar is made of large interlocking discs built to look like the desert rose, a crystalline phenomenon that occurs in deserts when sand, water, and either gypsum or baryte fuse into a rose-like formation. The entire new structure was built surrounding the museum’s former home in the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, the son of Qatar’s modern founder.
What to look for inside
Because the interiors of the galleries are sloped—making it hard to hang anything on the walls—projected films and dioramas feature heavily throughout the space.
In one gallery, you can watch the nine-minute short film Life in Al Barr (the Desert) by Abderrahmane Sissako, a Mauritanian writer-director. Sissako spent a week back in March 2017 filming members of the Bedouin Al Naemi family in Rawda Al Ghadriat, in the Northern Desert of Qatar, to share what daily life is like for nomadic families. To create a more immersive experience, many of these films are displayed along dioramas. Here, you’ll get to see the bait al-sha’r, a type of nomadic tent that belongs to the Al Naemi family.
Adult admission for The National Museum of Qatar is QAR 50 (about US$14). Residents of Qatar and all children age 16 and under visit free. During its opening weekend, the museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 29, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 30. Official hours will be announced at a later date.
If you’re planning on making the trip in 2022 to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, you should definitely plan on stopping by to check out the galleries. Along with the I.M. Pei–designed Museum of Islamic Art that opened in 2008, the National Museum of Qatar establishes Doha as a cultural destination within the Gulf region. The Orientalist Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, and the waterfront Art Mill exhibition space are also slated to open before the 2022 World Cup, according to The Art Newspaper.
Qatar Airways has fairly generous layover policies for anyone stopping through Doha on their travels. Citizens from 80 countries (including the United States) qualify for visa-free entry into Qatar. For layovers between five and 12 hours, travelers can pay QAR 75 (about US$21) for a bus tour that drives past both museums and makes stops at the Souq Waqif and the Katara Cultural Village. However, if you wish to have time to go into either museum, you can opt to add a layover of up to four nights with rates as low as QAR 84 (about US$23) at four-star hotels when you book through Qatar Airways.
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