Located in a thoroughly modern building near the Latin Quarter, the Musee du Monde Arabe is frankly an outstanding museum that should not be missed when you are in Paris.
The exhibit on three floors covers various topics, all forms of traditional art and learning. There is generous use of multimedia. It is a thoroughly modern approach to traditional societies. What I was looking forward to the most was their collection of carpets which, to be honest, was somewhat disappointing. The entire collection, however, was excellent. The museum is not so large that it overwhelms and the pieces it presents are generally of great quality.
Sticklers might look at the collection and say that the former French colonies of Morocco and Tunisia are perhaps over-represented in this collection or that not enough attention is paid to Ancient Egypt. Both criticisms are fair to an extent. I would say that the museum presents a good cross section of representative arts though the ages, ranging from pottery to the magnificent examples of calligraphy and decoration of religious texts.
One shortcoming I would note to what I consider an otherwise outstanding museum is that it is inconsistent, in some places it provides translation in others it does not.
The Paris Museum Card is accepted here only for the permanent exhibition.
Please note-no photography of any kind is permitted inside the museum. The rather stern looking guards are actually pretty nice.
This "Institute of the Arab World" was built in the 1980s and was inaugurated on November 30, 1987 by the President of the French Republic, François Mitterrand. The institute is intended as a "cultural bridge" between France and twenty-two Arab countries.
From the top (ninth) floor there is a fine view of the River Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral. On the same floor there is an Arab restaurant of the more expensive sort.
Three floors of the institute are devoted to a museum of Arabic civilization and art. By Parisian standards this is a small and quite conventional museum, but interesting enough provided you have an adequate reading knowledge of French, because the labels and text panels are only in French and not in any other language, not even in Arabic.
The building of the Institut du Monde Arabe was designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel (born 1945), who also designed the stunning new concert house in Copenhagen, the unmistakable new/old opera house in Lyon and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, on the same (left) side of the Seine but about five kilometers further downstream.
Second photo: The Institut du Monde Arabe from the outside, viewed from Place Mohammed-V.
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I looooooooooooove the bookstore! It's absolutely amazing. You can find so many books on Islamic history, philosophy, etc. Whenever I'm in Paris I just wish I could buy the entire bookstore at the Institut du Monde Arabe.
The coffee shop in the other building is really nice as well.
The Institut, known as the IMA, is well renowned for it's exhibitions and concerts, but what a lot of people don't know is that it also has a terrace, up on the 9th floor, that is free to visit and has some great views of Paris. Sweeping views from the Defence to Notre Dame, Ile St. Louis past Sacré Coeur and on to the heights of the Buttes Chaumont in one incredible vista. Only thing missing is the Eiffel Tower....
Institut du Monde Arabe
1, rue des Fossés St. Bernard
Place Mohammed V
75236 Paris Cedex 05
L'Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) was established in the 1980's to promote cultural exchange and understanding between France and the Arab world. An award winning modern structure combining elements of Islamic architecture, designed by renowned architect Jean Nouvel, was built to house the institute. It contains a library and bookshop focusing on the middle east, and a café and gallery selling artefacts from all over the Arab world. The most interesting feature is the exhibition centre which frequently holds art and cultural exhibits related to the middle east in association with world renowned museums (New York/Paris/Berlin/London). In early 2007, when I took the attached photos, the excellent exhibition "Venise et l'Orient" was held ("Venice and the Islamic World", later also moved to New York's Met Museum). Other exhibitions previously held include Morrocan Ceramics, the Birth of Egyptology, and Aleppo in Photographs, to name a few.
Most people do not visit the 'Institute of the Arabic World' (loosely translated) when they are in Paris, because it is rarely featured as a 'must-see' in guide books. However, I think its a fantastic place to visit, especially given that a lot of Parisian people have arabic origins, therefore in my opinion, this building is important to Paris. Located near the River Seine in the Latin Quarter, the surroundings are rather spectacular, and there is a lot to do.
As you can see from my pictures, the facade of the building is pretty interesting. Each square represents a camera lens, and the 'lens' is meant to focus (ie open or close) depending on the amount of direct sunlight on each square. That is why each square is different from the others.
The Institut is home to a library, two gift shops, usually houses exhibitions, a cafe, and a spectacular restaurant on the terrace. I personnally found the restaurant to be a bit too expensive to dine in (more than 50 euros per person) but the mint tea and baklava is an absolute delight (at a less pricey 13 euros for everything). Entrane into the terrace is free, and even if you decide not to eat anything, the view from the terrace is unique and spectacular! I say unique because you do not see the Eiffel Tower, but many other 'tourist' destinations which are albeit less famous but equally beautiful!
Visiting the Institut is a must! Especially as it is located near other tourist sights that may be of interest to you.
Open since December 1987, the IMA museum aims to present Arab-Islamic civilisation from its origins to the present day.
The museum began by first of all housing mostly objects from the French national museums (the Louvre, the Decorative Arts Museum, the Museum of Arts of Africa and Oceania) and a few pieces from private collections.
The Arab World Institute is a place of culture that is the fruit of a partnership between France and twenty-two Arab countries : Algeria, Saoudi Arabia, Bahrain, Comores, Djibouti, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Jordan, Kowait, Lebanon, Libya, Marocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.
I enjoyed the musuem and the special exhibitiions, furthermore the architecture of the building is superb. Look at my other tips for more information on this.
At the Southern bank of the Seine, east of the Latin Quarter, you will find the big building belonging to the Institut du Monde Arabe (institute of the Arab World). This institute was founded in 1974, to create an information source about 19 Arab countries and France. The building that now houses the institute was officially opened in 1987.
The building is very modern. It is made of steel and glass, but still looks very arabic. The southern facade of the buidling is the most special of all. Here there are 240 identical panels that react on sunlight. The diafragma's that are included in the panels can open and close depending on the amount of sunlight. The brighter it gets, the further the diafragma's close. Every hour this is adapted again. The panels are bases on old arabic shapes; traditional wooden panels called "moucharabiens".
Inside the buidling there is a museum about the Arab World, but there also are two cafe's, a restaurant and a cinema, a library and a language institute.
Outside there is another building where you can have a drink and buy souvenirs.
I was reading a book about architecture when I came across this buiding! Strangely shaped, strangely built, strangely named... So I went out there to check it out & in the end it was exactly what I thought it would be - another piece of art!
The windows are completely mechanical & they open or close based on the amount of light necessary for the exhibited item! Pretty crazy! :)
The Institut du Monde Arabe is dedicated to Arab and Islamic civilisation from its origins to the present day. As you appoarch the building you'll see the south-facing wall with an Islamic pattern made up of apertures. These apetures control the sun's light into the interior of the building. It's like a giant Islamic screen. Go inside up to the top floor where you'll get, in my opinion, the best view of Paris.
Even better than the view from the Eiffel Tower. From the roof there is a direct view of Notre Dam and both sides of the bank. On a good day you will catch those moody clouds in the background and the Parisian light.
You can also eat on the large roof garden. There is an indoor restaurant if it's still to cold out.
Institut du Monde Arabe
1 Rue des Fosses Saint-Bernard
When you visit the Institut du Monde Arabe it's interesting to have a close look at the metal screens of the south wall from the inside.
If you are lucky and have enough patience, you can see the moving of the screens like a diaphragm, at the moment the outside light changes. Especially at days, when the sun disappears behind the clouds and comes back, you are sure to notice it.
Don't forget to go upstairs to the cafetaria at the 9th floor. From here you have splendid views at the Seine and the Ile de la Cité with the Notre Dame.