Museum of Islamic Arts, Qatar
It's intriguing to watch the Gulf states developing right now. All those futuristic sci-fi movies we watched as kids… it seems places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi were really taking notes. We may have dabbled in the 'future', but visit the Persian Gulf these days, and you'll see sci-fi skylines in abundance. The latest state to join the action is Qatar, with Jean Nouvel's Burj Qatar tower (still under construction) and its new Museum of Islamic Arts.
The brand new museum is the centrepiece of a huge drive to put Qatar on the map as an arts destination. MIA houses Islamic art from the 7th to the 19th centuries, including manuscripts, ceramics, metals, glass, ivory, textiles, wood and precious stones.
Designed by architect I M Pei, who spent months traveling the Middle East looking for inspiration, MIA is sculptural – an Islamic fortress, as seen through a Cubist's eyes. It's located on a man-made island in the bay of Doha, a location Pei requested to ensure it doesn't become hemmed in by inevitable future developments.
MIA is connected to the mainland by two bridges. One is a magnificent avenue, boasting an artificial stream and lined with palm trees. If you're Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Qatar's Emir, however, you can approach the museum by yacht, disembarking at a private dock. As you do. RM