For those of us whose knowledge of the religion and art of Islam was limited to survey courses in our undergraduate days, today proved enlightening. The Fanar Islamic Center in Doha offers a remarkably thorough intro to Islam, led by knowledgeable English-speaking guides (who were all abaya-clad women). From poster-sized diagrams of the family tree of Islamic prophets to samples of calligraphy and a brief explanation of the Islamic worship service, the Center provided great information on the religion that dominates the Middle East. Interestingly, when we arrived at the Doha airport, the call to prayer (which must be done five times daily) was being sounded from a nearby mosque.
After the Fanar Center, it was on to the stunning new Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the striking new building sits on the edge of the Gulf in a dramatic setting accented by fountains and still-new landscaping. The museum just opened in December and features vast open spaces that allow natural light into the center of the building while the collections are housed in galleries around the core. The collections include antique rugs that would inspire collector’s envy in any fan of Oriental rugs, beautiful jewelry and lovely glass and ceramics.
The official opening ceremony of Northwestern University in Qatar will be tonight. Check back later for more.