While the souks are inherent to the Arabian culture the cacophony can become overwhelming. The pursuit for the understanding of the culture can be conducted in a peaceful manner as Qatar has shown with The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Doha.
MIA stands out not just because of its exhibits but also because of the building structure. Designed by architect IM Pei it is a disticnt element on the Doha skyline. He designed it on an island so that encroachment of other buildings could be avoided. The museum opened its doors to the public in 2008 with a substantial collection of Islamic art together with a study and library. Till June 2013 an exhibition on tradition and continuity of Afghan art – Ferozkoh – is on showcasing works created by Afghan artists inspired by masterpieces from the MIA collection. MIA also conducts events like music events when the Qatar Philharmonic Orchesta plays as well as workshops and lectures on a variety of subjects. The aim of MIA is to be the cultural hub of the city. The museum also has a fine dining restaurant IDAM serving French Mediterranean cuisine with an Arabic take on it.
The Arab Museum of Modern Art is a step in the contemporary arts space. Also known as Mathaf, the museum is located in a converted school building on the edge of Education City, off Al Luqta Street in Doha. The building was redesigned by French architect Jean-François Bodin and is divided into four sections, Manara – an education wing which offers learning opportunities with a host of talks, tours, workshops, etc; Maktaba – is the research library with print and digital collections covering general art history, modern art worldwide and art theory; Mahal is the museum shop, and Maqha is the stripped-back coffee bar. The exhibits, programmes and events at Mathaf offer an Arab perspective on international modern and contemporary art. A lot of the collection here is the work of Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, patron and founder of Mathaf, who started collecting more than 20 years ago. The two exhibits on now are Forever Now: Five Anecdotes from the Permanent Collection, and Tea with Nefertiti: The Making of the Artwork by the Artist, the Museum, and the Public. Further establishing Qatar’s image as the cultural hub of the Middle East is the Katara Cultural Village. The man behind this project was Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of the State of Qatar. With theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities, Katara aims to become a leader for multi-cultural activities. The village hosts international, regional and local festivals, workshops, performances and exhibitions. For the performing arts there is The Amphitheatre, The Opera House and the Drama Theatre while for music and cinematography there are two venues each. For visual arts there are as many as six venues to choose from covering everything from photography to fine arts.
If there is an overdose of art and culture Katara Cultural Village also offers activities like wind surfing, kneeboarding, wakeboarding, etc. All these are conducted on the 1.5 km private beach attached to the village. There are as many as eight restaurants in the village, from Armenian to Egyptian each of the restaurants offer a different taste of what Arabic cuisine has to offer