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Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup

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Doha (AFP) – Qatar on Tuesday unveiled its famous museum of Islamic art after an 18-month renovation ahead of the World Cup in a bid to be a “showcase” for the Arab world.

“We are the largest museum of Islamic art in this region (…) and we are in the middle of the Arab world,” said museum director Julia Gonnella. “Where better can you learn about Islamic culture, art and history than here?”

The museum presents 14 centuries of Islamic art and objects from all over the world.

Built on a purpose-built island on Doha’s waterfront promenade, the building is the work of the late American architect IM Pei, one of the best-known architects of the 20th century.

The five-story building has revamped its collections, with about two-thirds of the thousands of exhibits new to the museum.

“Before it was all about art, now it’s about culture,” Gonnella said. “We really want to tell the stories behind the masterpieces.”

Qatar has spent billions of dollars on new stadiums for the first FIFA World Cup in an Arab country, which kicks off on November 20.

Ahead of the sports festival, Doha is leading a cultural push, including erecting dozens of public works of art, and opened the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum earlier this year.