[caption id="attachment_1583" align="alignleft" width="180"] One of the elaborate doors spotted on the streets of Doha[/caption]
Recently I visited Qatar to see family and experienced first hand the emerging modern capital city of Doha. As a first time visitor to an Arabic country I went with an open mind regarding the culture, history, people and experiences. I found the Qatari’s a very welcoming people and the massive building programme, taking place in Doha, is phenomenal. Both the local and international food was excellent though costly, and hotels are to a high standard.
Qatar is a small country, jutting out into the Persian Gulf, approximately an hours flight north from Abu Dhabi. It is currently ruled by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifu Al Thani. Historically this small country relied upon fishing and pearling for its economic wealth yet it suffered a depression in the early 1930’s when Japan began to export cheaper, cultured pearls. However, during the late 1930’s oil was discovered in the country and later Gas reserves, which have led to Qatar’s substantial wealthy in recent times.
The Emirs of Qatar used their new found wealth to clear slum areas and set about replacing them with modern buildings and recently some amazing sky touching towers have emerged for both commercial use and for international hotel chains. Consequently, this has meant that any historical structures have gone and there is only one wind tower left to represent an early building.
Doha has also reclaimed some land from the sea and it can be seen in the development called the Pearl.
During my visit I visited the Museum of Islamic art (the day after our very own Prince Charles also visited). This museum is a must see experience, apart from the beautiful objects on view, the building itself is an architectural gem and anyone interested in art and architecture should certainly visit this national treasure. It houses Islamic artefacts such as manuscripts, textiles and ceramics collected from the late 1980’s originating from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Spain, Turkey, Central Asia and India.
The museum opened on the 22nd November 2008 and is the first of it’s kind to be built in the Persian Gulf. The building’s architect was I M Pei and a team led by JM Wimotte of Wilmotte Associates designed the interiors and gallery spaces. Pei was aged 91 when he was persuaded out of retirement to undertake this massive project. He proceeded to travel around the Muslim world for six months to research and learn about Muslim architecture and history in order to draw some inspiration. Pei turned down the suggested sites, as he wanted the building to stand alone without other buildings conflicting with the structure. Ultimately it was decided to build the museum on the water approximately 195 feet (59 m) off the Corniche that runs along the waters edge and was then surrounded by a park.
Look out for further Blog about my visit, as there was a lot to see and many photographs taken.