if anyone doubts the seriousness of intent of qatar’s vision to re-imagine the middle east islamic city, visits to the museum of islamic art and education city should promptly dispel them.
i.m. pei’s powerful, restrained architecture lulls you into a palm-induced peace before taking your breath away as you enter the captivating atrium with doha’s emerging skyline neatly framed by the symmetrical staircases. it is perhaps the middle east’s prettiest interior. the stunning collection of islamic artifacts is about as coherent as the islamic world and none the weaker for it.
the debut temporary exhibition – beyond boundaries explores three themes: islam and world religions (india, south asia, asia). islam and transmission of design. islam and transmission of knowledge. there were some incredible pieces on view including a page from akbar’s translation of the ramayana and the gazi scroll. it convincingly offered a vision of an islam defined by tolerance, science and plurality by highlighting overlooked parts of the religion’s past.
there is also a preview of m.f. hussein’s initial 20 pieces from the 99 names of alla series he is working on (including an unnecessary exercise in kissing sheikha moaza’s ass)
on the other side of the peninsula the qatar foundation‘s education city houses campuses of universities including cornell, carnegie-mellon, georgetown and northwestern. it also houses a branch of the rand institute and the doha debates’s home. (coming soon: science and tech research park, exhibition center).
it’s a lower key affair than the glitzy museum (although with similarly impressive architecture) but with much greater potential for profound positive long term impact.
it’s easy to dismiss qatar as a peripheral mini-state with little relevance to the wider middle east but i think dubai has shown how influential (for better or worse) setting an example for an all too often rudderless region can be. quite certain doha (and abu dhabi) will be our pace-setters in the coming years.