For those with an affinity for things philatelic, the small Post Office Museum has a modest but interesting collection of scales, rubber stamps and post boxes (which have undergone a drastic transformation from deep English red to their current canary yellow).
Suits of armour and swords are interesting enough, but the jolt you get from the sight of a solid gold dagger is visceral. For sheer desert romanticism, few objects can match the khunja, the curved knife that, in many a Western mind, symbolises fierce nomadic life (and swift death) among the dunes. The Weaponry Museum is a treasure trove of such pieces, cast from precious metals, inlaid with mother of pearl, and set with rubies and sapphires. You need to be part of an organised tour to visit.
What was built as a Moorish-style symbol of the military might of the city has been recast as an extensive showcase for local handicrafts. While there is some curatorial overlap with the National Museum, the presentation here has more of a folksy feel to it, with an emphasis on homespun crafts like rope-making, gypsum burning and boat building. It is the labour put into these objects, all handmade (obviously by people with ample time on their hands), that makes an impression on the visitor.
Back in the days before there was air conditioning, before there was electricity, before there was oil, there was the badjeer. This once ubiquitous (and surprisingly effective) innovation, the wind tower, capitalised on its proximity to the Gulf, catching breezes to cool the homes below. In the modern urban lifestyle, of course, little room remains for such capriciousness, but the Ethnographic Museum (now known as the Heritage Centre) in a restored Qatari house is a good opportunity to see how a typical family would have lived in what is one of the last remaining examples of this unique form of architecture.
One of the uncontested cultural highlights of Doha, the National Museum resides in a whitewashed Arabian palace that started out as a residence of the ruling family. Its award-winning restoration of nine existing buildings, along with a tastefully arcaded addition, all clustered around a seawater lagoon, make a strong statement for preservation in an era when oil has been drastically transforming the country. The exhibits are large and varied, tracing pretty much everything you need to know about the Gulf State, from its traditional art and architecture to the discovery of mineral wealth and all the changes it brought.
The museum includes the Old Palace, formerly the home of Qatar’s ruling family. You can still see the opulence the royal family enjoyed, in rooms furnished as they would have been during the early part of the 20th century. The modern building contains rather more extensive exhibits, relating to Qatar’s history and geological make-up, and of course a study of the nation’s oil and gas reserves. The documentary on the making of the Bayt Sha’ar (House of Hair) makes for especially fascinating cinema. Along with cushions, bags and rugs, the women of nomadic desert tribes use the wool from their sheep and goats to weave the very walls and ceilings of their desert shelters. The wool fibre, which expands when wet, is waterproof, durable and portable.
The Aspire Tower is a 318 meter structure located in the Sports City complex. The tower was constructed prior to the 2006 Asian Games in order to be used as a hotel and a torch, with a revolving restaurant located near the top. The hotel and the restaurant were not completed in time for the games, and as a result the tower served only as a torch. The Aspire Tower is currently the tallest structure in Doha, but it is expected to be surpassed by the Dubai Towers and the Barwa Tower.
The tower was a landmark of the 2006 Asian Games due to its size and proximity to the main venue, the Khalifa International Stadium. The torch located at the top of the tower was lit during the Asian Games and a 10-15 meter flame was visible from all parts of Doha, which, added to the effects created by LEDs installed within the mesh, created an interesting effect. One of the most interesting features of the tower is the broadcast of videos which was carried out around an 8 meter section of the tower; this was done through the use of IMAGICWEAVE technology.
While the exterior of the tower is ready, the interior is expected to be fully completed by August 2007. When the tower reaches full completion, it will incorporate a swimming pool located 80 meters above ground, a 5 star hotel, an observation deck, a sports museum and a rotating restaurant 200 meters above ground.
It's hard to believe this fort was originally on the outskirts of the old town of Doha; now this area is the centre of town. It is very close to the Souq Waqif, and at one point it was used as a base from which the nattoor (traditional armed guards) patrolled the souq. Careless reconstruction in the 1970s when the fort was turned into a museum meant that some of the original features were lost. Like the return to traditional architecture in the souq next door, this is now being rectified. Which means that, like just about everything else in Doha, the fort is closed while it's under construction
Inside the musuem are many exhibits depicting traditional Qatari life, history, environment and archeology. It also includes the pearl industry, boat making, and fishing. There apparently is also an aquarium located on the premises which is still underdevelopment.
The grounds of the National Museum can be walked with minimal effort as everything is within close proximity. It is interesting to imagine what it would have been like when this was a functioning house for hte emir.
Once used as an official residence of Fariq al-Salata and as the palace of Sheik Abdullah bin Qassim from 1901. It is an interesting piece of Qatari architecture that can be enjoyed from the outside. Be sure to go Around back along the Al-Corniche road and see the park and outdoor maritime exhibit.
There are many ethnological exhibits in this museum depicting various aspects of Qatari life; the pearl industry, styles of dress, musical instruments, awards given, and some great old pictures of Doha.
The national museum just partially reopened in April 2006. Have a look at costumes, architecture and a multutude of Beduin traditions.
Admission is free, and the hours are from 9am to noon, then 4pm to 7pm daily.
The Ethnological Museum has moved, I am now not sure where unfortunately. However, it WAS here. So now this is office space and more of an exhibit of a traditional Qatari house in it's layout and architectural form. It is interesting to see and visualize a family living in these quarters. The traditional style "tower" is designed to give ventilation throughout the house by taking in cool air from all four courners as the wind blows past. If they are not too busy, the gentlement working there may show you around. Each room is labelled for the function it would have served for the family.
Like many traditional homes in the Middle East there are many decorative carvings within the walls and many archways. The fort also has an exhibit of the methods of decorative gypsum and wood carving that are visible on many traditional Middle eastern homes and palaces.
Inside the fort is a large open courtyard. Used at one time for gatherings and it also housed a small fountain, which didn't seem to be working at the time of my visit. Along the sides are small exhibits also depicting traditional Qatari life and trade craft. Follow the stairs to the right of the entrance to the wall walk. It is hard to see much of Doha due to all the commercial centers but it will give you a better view of the surrounding area.
This large building, which is under construction, will soon become the Museum of Islamic Arts!
It's due to be quite a exhibition. It should be open before the Asian Games in December 2006.