After a long period of preparation, the new Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, is now open! The New York Times covered it and this is only the beginning. I plan to make this a regular destination on weekends when I have time.
The Museum of Islamic Art is complemented by the unfolding completion of Souk Waqif, the old market area of Doha, which is just a short walk from the Museum. By having both in sight of each other on the Doha Corniche, visitors can see ancient art and artifacts of the Islamic world and walk across the street to browse the alleyways and walking mall of the Souk. The only thing different about Souk Waqif compared with other souks throughout the Arabian Penninsula is that Doha's is cleaner, more artistic, has a variety of great restaurants, and you don't have to fight off the merchants who in many souks lurk around every corner attempting to drag you into their shops.
The Museum and Souk Waqif may seem trivial or commercial. They aren't - they are part of Qatar's statement of pride in its Arab origins and national heritage. A little country sticking out like a thumb off Saudi Arabia, originally inhabited primarily by Bedouin tribes... A progressive Islamic country trying to bring learning and prosperity to its people... A complex interplay of monarchy and empowerment of citizens to fuel the growing cultural, educational, business, and tourism initiatives that will assure Qatar's place as a future world player... In many ways, Qatar defies description because of its complexity and the rapidity of change that all who live here experience. One thing is sure. Even though Qatar may defy easy description, it is a place to watch.