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With the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, drawn from three continents, this fabulous museum is so rich in treasure that it rewards short, intense visits. Rising from its own purpose-built island, and set in an extensive landscape of lawns and ornamental trees off the Corniche, the museum is shaped like a postmodern fortress with minimal windows (to reduce energy use). The views across the water are splendid.
The museum was designed by IM Pei, the architect of the Louvre pyramid in Paris, and you know that something special awaits from the minute you lay eyes on the grand, palm-tree-lined entrance. Inside, the building is a masterpiece of light and space, drawing your eyes up to the dome, a clever modern take on an element so prevalent in Islamic architecture.
The collection is spread over three floors: the 1st and 2nd floors house the permanent collection, which includes exquisite textiles, ceramics, enamel work and glass, all showcased conceptually. A single motif, for example, is illustrated in neighbouring display cases in the weave of a carpet or a ceramic floor tile, or adapted in a piece of gold jewellery, allowing visitors to gain a sense of the homogeneity of Islamic art.
Pace yourself by visiting the cafe downstairs or finish at the top-floor IDAM restaurant. On the ground floor there's a large museum shop. There are free 40-minute guided tours (in English and Arabic) of the permanent collection on Thursday at 2pm.
Both men and women should avoid strappy tops or vests and shorts because you may be refused admission.