Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Museums, Races and Culture

Sheikh Faisal's Museum, Doha Races and other Culture

Last week we headed out to see Sheikh Faisal bin Qasim al Thani's private museum.
The intrepid Mazda Mafia go exploring
The museum is reputed to be the best private museum in the country. The Sheikh has built a huge fort style complex to house his collection.

Each hall is dedicated to the varying passions the Sheikh has devoted himself to collecting and displaying. The complex is in a continuing state of development as the website indicates.

Standing at the exhibits - Putting Asterix & Obelix to shame.
The courtyards had examples of boats, agricultural equipment and life in the Middle East over the past few centuries. The entrance was dominated by a lake with a full sized old dhow moored in the middle.

A dhow in the front yard. The entry to the museum.

There were several other in various stages of restoration scattered over the site as well.

No OSH permit needed for this set of discs.

We were admitted to the Islamic Art Hall with its displays of glass & ceramics, jewellry, weaponry, and furniture from the 11th century to the mid 20th. Here we saw examples of art from all around the Islamic world - from India, Malaysia, The Arab states, Egypt and North Africa... a fascinating insight to the creativity of a culture we don't always see at home. The displays added more to the exhibits we'd seen earlier in our time here at the Museum of Islamic Art.

The other halls had exhibits of clothing and embroidery from the Ottoman period, carpets, currencies from the past, rare books and manuscripts from the Koran to early Bibles and Torah from different parts of the Middle East and, in the largest under construction hall, some of the Sheikh's collection of vintage cars which ranged from an 1880 steamer, a 1904 petrol engined car, numerous Model Ts and As through to classic 50's models and vehicles left behind after World Wars 1 & 2 and rescued from the sand.
Koran from 14th Century
Coptic Bible from 16th Century
We spent the morning there then headed into town and the Souq Waqif looking for scenes Joy could paint as a break from the camel series she has done since our arrival here.

On Monday night we went seeking culture at the Ramada Hotel as entrants in their monthly quiz night. The last time we entered we had two teams but with several people away or preparing to travel we were reduced to one - The Mazda Mafia.

The quiz session, in the smoke filled upstairs bar, was quite specialised this time around - Football trivia, World Heritage sites from the more obscure parts of the list, World News as reported on BBC News since January 2009, 1970's music (name the song & the artist from a 10 sec clip ) and, as a sop to the readers of the gossip mags, Celebrity couples who are still married. We managed to acquit ourselves reasonably well with a score of 28.5 but no match for the winners who clocked up 38 points to win a QR1000 worth of dining at the Ramada. Just another incentive to work harder at the next quiz night.

Thursday night we headed off to the 25th Race Meeting of the Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club at the local race track.
Here, the locals were entertained with a 7 race card with local thoroughbreds and imported jockeys competing for prize money from $500,000 US to QR100,000 per race. Entry was free with a gate prize of a new car for the race-goer whose ticket got drawn from the barrel, a run of instant prizes drawn from another barrel and other prizes for those who picked the winning horse in the 6th race.
Like the camel racing there was no betting allowed on the horses so we enjoyed ourselves picking horses and doing "what if bets" amongst ourselves while watching the crowd of race goers enjoy picking form and urging their favourites on in each fast paced race.

Picking form at the Doha Races the Mazda Mafia
check out the talent for the first race of the evening.

The highlights of the evening were the 6th & 7th races - Qatar International Trophy and the Qatar International Cup for Thoroughbreds both of which carried purses of $US500,000 and carried the pride of the Sheikh in that he was both a patron of the club and an owner with an impressive stable of thoroughbreds racing at the meet. The winner of the International Trophy race received not only the stake money but also their names inscribed on some really impressive Gold plates and cups.

We had a great evening even though we didn't walk away with any of the prizes on offer and picking the winning horse in the sixth race. The mechanisms for winning weren't all that clear although we suppose that the person winning the grand prize for this event probably got it when one ticket was drawn from the winning horse's ticket barrel.

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