The Museum of Islamic Art opens two new exhibitions all about the Arabic world and science. We find out what’s on display from Shaza Shannan, director of Middle East Operations for 1001 Inventions
How would you describe these exhibitions? What are they?
1001 Inventions and Arabick Roots are two important and exciting educational exhibitions. Both are aimed at inspiring ambition in youth and takes them on a journey to the past to inspire their future. 1001 Inventions is a leading and award-winning international science and cultural heritage brand reaching over 50 million people around the world. It uncovers a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements from Muslim civilization spanning the 7th century onwards, and demonstrates how those contributions helped create the foundations of our modern world.
What can people expect to see?
The 1001 Inventions exhibition reveals achievements of the Golden Age of Muslim civilization in an interactive, fun and family-friendly environment. It uses technology and interactive exhibits to relate stories of a thousand years of science using highly engaging interpretation. It is educational but it is fun too.
Why do something like this?
Scientists, medics and engineers strive to solve grand societal challenges that face our modern world such as disease, renewable energy, environmental conservation, famine and draught, and in general, most try to improve the quality of our lives. The Middle East has a legacy of over a thousand years of men and women who worked in very much the same way addressing the issues facing their societies. The impact of their achievements can be seen all around us today.
Through those exhibitions we aim to inspire young people to pursue careers in science, engineering, medicine and the arts, encouraging inquisitiveness and curiosity in the world. We want to promote cross cultural appreciation through the research and promotion of the Muslim world’s contribution towards building the foundations of modern civilization.
1001 Inventions has been touring the world. Why is it important to take this exhibition to other countries?
There is about a thousand years of amnesia in the memory of people. In the west, the contributions of the Golden Age of Muslim civilization in our daily lives is not something that they know about or recognise. And the region here, even though people recognise that it existed, many are unaware of the huge scientific contributions it has given the world that we still see in our lives today.
But it focuses on the contributions to science and technologies by people of all religions and backgrounds. Why?
The period between the 7th and 17th century was a time where people from different faiths and backgrounds worked together under the umbrella of advancing science and knowledge. In the multi-cultural societies we live in nowadays, it is important to remind ourselves of the importance of this message as it helps us promote the concept of scientific and technical innovation as a positive and constructive channel of personal expression of beliefs.
What’s your favourite piece?
The spectacular elephant clock designed by engineer Al-Jazari in the early 13th century. It incorporated technologies from many ancient civilizations and pioneered automation.
What are you hoping people take away from these exhibitions?
The key message is that it is a journey to the past for building and designing a better future.
What sorts of inventions are on display?
The 1001 Inventions Exhibition shows how ideas that developed during this Golden Age of discovery have impacted on the way we live today. It also introduces many of the scholars, engineers and scientists, of different faiths who lived and worked during this time.
Entrance to 1001 Invention is free, Arabick Roots is free for under 16s and to everyone on Mondays. Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu 5pm-10.30pm; Fri 2pm-10.30pm; Sat noon-10.30pm. School visits available Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu from 8.30am-12.30pm. Museum of Islamic Art Park until November 12. www.mia.org.qa, www.1001inventions.com/doha.
What you’ll see
The breakthrough made by physicist Ibn al-Haytham who, by using a camera obscura, overturned an ancient view that our eyes see by sending out invisible rays.
An introduction to Fatima al-Fihri, a wealthy young woman who founded one of the world’s earliest universities.
The development of algebra, trigonometry and geometry – and the secret behind the way we write modern numbers.
Information about Al-Zahrawi, a pioneering 10th-century surgeon in southern Spain who systematically used catgut in surgery and invented new surgical tools.
Abbas ibn Firnas, the first person said to have flown with wings, and Lagari Hasan Celebi who flew using a rocket engine 360 years ago.
Ahmed Ibn Majid, the Arab sailor whose navigational skills in the Gulf region were highly prized
Astrolabes, quadrants and sextants – the instruments developed to new levels of sophistication by scholars in Muslim civilization.