Qatar certainly didn’t spare any effort when creating the Museum of Islamic Art in its capital Doha. The glass-and-stone architectural masterpiece, designed by Guangzhou-born Pritzker Prize laureate IM Pei, sits on a man-made island 60m offshore at the beginning of Doha’s Corniche. It is connected to the mainland by an imposing driveway framed by a double line of palm trees and with a water feature running along the middle of the road, as well as by two bridges. The blond stone building, both stark and majestic at the same time, “comes to life in the sun, with its shadows and shades of colour”, writes IM Pei.
The 35,500sqm museum, full of precious exhibits of Islamic art dating back as far as the seventh century AD, sits on 26ha of land and is one of the most elegant and luxurious venues that groups can consider for meetings or a gala dinner. It has proved popular with many companies since it opened just over two years ago.
“Banks, airlines and gas companies have used the museum, coming from Dubai, London, Lebanon and locally,” says Diana Rizk, events supervisor of the Qatar Museum Authority. “It offers some unique venues.”
The building incorporates a five-storey museum and a two-storey education wing, offering a range of spaces for meetings, receptions and dinners.
In the education centre, classrooms are available for meetings and seminars. The auditorium can accommodate 200 people and it is an excellent venue for meetings, which then can be followed by a gala dinner in the museum.
To kick off any event, an outdoor reception can be held in the central courtyard which connects the museum and the education building. The quiet beauty of the arcaded courtyard with a water feature, a fountain and a gazebo emphasises the decoration of cocktail tables and flower arrangements, creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Guests can arrive by road through the main entrance’s driveway or by dhow, the traditional Arabic boat, alighting at the museum’s own dock. They can enjoy the sunset, which paints the museum’s walls an orange hue, and admire Doha’s skyline as the lights come on.
Dinner can be served in the atrium, with its 54m high dome and a glass curtain rising 45m high, offering a view of the Gulf and the West Bay area of Doha, with all its twinkling night lights. A podium can be set up between two impressive sweeping staircases opposite the glass wall and entertainment can be arranged, from singers to bands or even an orchestra. The atrium seats 500 to 600 people.
However, there are some restrictions, says Rizk. “Gala dinners, which take longer to set up, can only be held on Tuesdays, when the museum is closed. Furthermore, for safety reasons, candles cannot be used”. But she says, the alternative electric candles and LED lighting in many colours usually satisfy all expectations.
“No alcohol is allowed. But guests do not complain, they don’t think about that,” says Rizk, explaining that in Doha, guests can have alcohol in the hotels, so they are free to indulge before and after dinner if they wish. Therefore, the fact that alcohol is not available in the museum has not been a concern.
Since the venue is very popular, booking is required at least three months in advance.
Another option is the 380sqm luxurious restaurant on the fifth floor, with 20 to 30 tables.
The museum does not do the catering itself but has a list of preferred suppliers among nearby five-star hotels that professionally attend to the dinner arrangements.
The huge lawn in front of the museum can also be used as a venue and, in fact, it accommodated thousands during the 2009 Doha Tribeca Film Festival. The crowds were seated on chairs and beanbags, and watched the films on a huge LED screen. Portable toilets were set up for the occasion.
Qatar, a small nation with huge ambitions, is opening Qatar National Convention Centre this year. The three-level, high-tech facility located in Education City university town will house 40,000sqm of exhibition space with banquet seating for 10,000 people, a conference hall for 4,000 delegates, a lyric theatre for 2,300 people, three additional auditoriums and 57 meeting rooms of various sizes.
The modern and luxurious building will have plenty of pre-function foyers, lounges and hospitality suites.
Thinking well into the future, Qatar is now planning to renovate three stadiums and build nine new ones to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Many of these stadiums will be built with business events in mind, supported by transportation networks, hotels, meeting venues and shopping centres. N
Contact: Museum of Islamic Art
Al Corniche, Doha, Qatar
Tel: +974 422 4444