Doha now has two very big, very prominent art galleries, but there is only so much time you can spend in them. Even before they opened their doors bringing world famous art to Doha, the capital played host to a number of other venues that are just too good to be forgotten. Here’s our top picks for the hidden artistic treasures of Qatar.
Best for local art
Al Markhiya Gallery
Wondering where all the local artists are hiding? This is it. With a focus on promoting local and aspiring Qatari artists, this venue also hosts regular exhibitions of artists from around the region. There has been everything from paintings, sculptures and photographs to calligraphy on display. The owners also maintain partnerships around the globe, to help local artists break out of the GCC and bring international art to Doha. The current exhibit, ‘40 Minus Volume 2 Part 2’, is a display of works from local artists under 40, and an exhibition by Ahmad Al Hamar, Ali Dasmal, Faisal Al Abdulla, and Mohamed Junaid runs June 5-28.
Souk Waqif (4442 3099; www.almarkhiyagallery.com)
Best for up-and-comers
Sometimes the most exciting art is that done by people who are still learning. The VCUQ Gallery exhibits works by its students at regular shows throughout the year, including everything from fashion and graphic design to the fine arts. The next show will be its Senior Showcase, running until August 20. Free and open to the public, it includes displays by the fashion design, graphic design and interior design students in Saffron Hall, showing off their final portfolios, with displays of work by graduating seniors in the gallery itself.
Education City (4492 7200)
Best for swords and armour
Just outside the city in the Al Luqta area, this is a boy-friendly museum if we ever saw one. With a vast collection of everything made for war dating back to the 16th century, it includes cool things like a gold
sword belonging to King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and rare elephant armour, as well as items from other ruling families in the region. Oh, and we’re particularly in love with a curved dagger that once belonged to Lawrence of Arabia. It’s open by appointment only, but many tour companies offer private trips as well.
Al Luqta Area (call Mr Yousef Mahmoud on 4486 7473 for appointments)
Best for cars and fossils
Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
A private museum that’s very, very Qatar, holding weapons, Bedouin jewellery, coins and books. But what really sets it apart are some of the weirder items on display – a collection of traditional doors, as well as fossils. Not to mention over 100 classic cars – one for almost every decade of manufacture. And if cars don’t hold your interest, the museum is located on a farm that’s also home to a herd of Arabian oryx and gazelles, plus peacocks for colour. You’ve got to make arrangements for private or group viewings, but it’s well worth the effort.
West of Doha (4486 1444 or 3351 7997; www.faisalmuseum.com)
Best for ancient art
Al Jassassiya Petroglyphs
Not really a museum, that’s what makes this so interesting – dating back thousands of years, these are ancient paintings and carvings, amazing examples of early art. We particularly love the aerial views of boats and the shoreline, which makes us wonder: how did the ancients get that high up in a flat country? You can walk right up and touch the carvings (although you shouldn’t: take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints), and there are hundreds to be found. To get there, drive north towards Al Zubara, past Al Khor and the abandoned village, and head into the desert towards a series of hills and the shoreline. It might not be immediately obvious, but these petroglyphs are one of Qatar’s top highlights.
North of Doha, Fuwairit area