ABU DHABI // Qatar's new Museum of Islamic Art was hailed as a cultural centre for the entire region by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, at its official opening this weekend. Sheikh Khalifa joined other leaders and dignitaries from across the region and beyond at the unveiling of one of the world's finest collections of Islamic art, as guests of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, the emir of Qatar. The multimillion dirham museum, which houses a collection spanning 13 centuries, is the latest example of efforts across the Arabian Gulf to promote the region as a cultural centre.
"The museum, with its rare exhibits depicting rich Islamic history, will serve as a cultural centre for all countries of the region. It is an important addition to the treasures of Arab and Islamic civilisations," Sheikh Khalifa said at the opening, WAM, the state news agency, reported. "This auspicious event provides an opportunity for the countries of the region to further strengthen their cultural ties and to reflect the bright picture of our Islamic civilisation."
Sheikh Khalifa was in Doha on an official visit, leading a delegation including Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Minister of Interior, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Abdul Rahman Mohammed al Owais, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development. To coincide with the visit, a special book was released yesterday detailing the history of bilateral relations between Qatar and the UAE, according to WAM. The publication covers previous state visits made by the rulers of both countries, as well as key areas of co-operation in the political, economic and cultural fields.
The Museum of Islamic Art will open to the public next Monday. Its inaugural exhibition, Beyond Boundaries: Islamic Art Across Cultures will run until Feb 22. Rare manuscripts, ceramics and precious stones from across the Islamic world form part of the extensive collection, which dates from the 7th centuries. With almost 45,000 square metres of exhibition space, the museum also aims to become a centre for the study of Islamic art.
The huge limestone building housing the collection was designed by IM Pei, the Chinese-born architect known for works including The Louvre's glass pyramid. Mr Pei, 91, is said to have drawn inspiration for the new museum from buildings including the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun in Cairo. While Islamic art now has a major new home up the coast in Qatar, Abu Dhabi too is developing into a cultural centre.
Currently taking shape on Saadiyat Island's Cultural District are the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, the Maritime Museum and a performing arts centre. "The aim of Saadiyat Island must be to create a cultural asset for the world," said Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on the island's website, "a gateway and beacon for cultural experiences and exchange. Culture crosses all boundaries and therefore Saadiyat will belong to the people of the UAE, the greater Middle East and the world at large."
Gallery One at the Emirates Palace hotel, where a scale model of the Saadiyat Island's cultural developments is positioned nearby, has hosted recent exhibitions including the The Arts of Islam and Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris. The latter was the first public exhibition of Picasso's works in the Middle East. @Email:email@example.com