Profile of a man wearing a white turban.

Tales of a Connected World: About the Galleries

Organised thematically across six galleries, this exhibition of paintings, photographs and films from the Lusail Museum’s world-class collection of Orientalist art invites visitors to explore the movement of ideas and changing points of view.

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Uncovering Orientalism

What do we mean by ‘Orientalism’?

Orientalism refers to ‘Western’ representations, imitations and, often, misinterpretations of the ‘Eastern’ world.

In art we might find this through the medium of paintings, sketches, photographs, ceramics or fashion.

A man wrapped in pink fabric sits cross legged on a carpet, a musical instrument in the background.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Black Bard, 1888, oil on canvas, 61.2 x 50.8 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.

This work by French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme is a beautiful depiction of a musician. It is so realistic, one might think it captures a particular moment in time. But like many Orientalist painters, Gérôme often painted from his studio, where he employed models to pose, and drew inspiration from photographs or artefacts he had collected on his travels.

Many Orientalist artists travelled or lived across parts of North Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean World. Some took great care to document their experiences accurately while others painted entirely from their imaginations.

Some artists accompanied diplomats on missions or soldiers in battle; others simply painted what was fashionable for commercial means.

Painting of a woman on a boat, being serenaded as others try to catch a glimpse of her.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, ca. 1884, oil on panel, 65.5 x 91.4 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.

Antony and Cleopatra, and Amanirenas of Kush

What stories do we remember, and which histories are forgotten?

The tragic love story of Antony and Cleopatra played out only a few years before Amanirenas, Queen of the Kingdom of Kush (in present-day Sudan and southern Egypt), victoriously led her armies against Rome.

One story has been celebrated and reinterpreted endlessly in the West – from Shakespeare to Hollywood – while one has been overlooked.

This prejudice is embodied in differing Western conceptions of Egypt and Nubia, and Mediterranean versus African civilisations. Through the ongoing Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project, the nation of Qatar is supporting excavations in Sudan, shedding light on these overlooked histories, and reasserting the importance of Kush and other African civilisations in the archaeological record.

Painting of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza behind it.

Louis-François Cassas, The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza, 1798, watercolour over an etched outline, 52.5 x 77 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.

Picturing the Desert

In Qatar, the desert is a profound and tangible part of heritage and culture. For other parts of the world it is exotic, remote and misunderstood – a place that exists only in the imagination.

The Orientalist trope of ‘the East’ as a land of barren deserts, hardy Bedouin nomads and strange customs can trace its history back to ancient writers such as Herodotus, and was a popular subject for Orientalist artists, including imagined scenes.

This way of thinking has a contemporary legacy, evident in popular culture such as Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia, and contemporary media coverage of the Middle


The active, dynamic nature and rich, complex intangible heritage of the desert are little understood in the West but are vitally important to society, both historically and today.

Painting of a man in a traditional Arab headdress on horseback, wielding a sword.

Eugène Delacroix, Arab Horseman at the Gallop, 1849, oil on canvas, 54 x 45.1 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.

Delacroix’s Gaze

The most renowned Romantic painter of the nineteenth century, Delacroix saw the ‘East’ as wild, unbound and unsullied.

In his work, we see an artist striving to convey ‘real people’ in his depictions of the ‘East’, yet he is responsible for Orientalist stereotypes that have persevered to the present day.

Delacroix and his contemporaries were fascinated by the Arabian horse and rider as emblematic of the ‘wild East’. This fascination persists globally today.

The war of Greek independence inspired in Delacroix a changed perspective on the Hellenic Republic – as a cradle of civilisation distinct from the rest of the ‘East’.

Delacroix’s initial Orientalist works relied on second-hand accounts and imported objects. He eventually travelled to North Africa during the French colonisation of Algeria. This formative experience shifted his perspective again – he started to perceive the origins of art and civilisation outside of the neoclassical Roman and Greek canon.

Despite rejecting the historical fantasies pervasive in Orientalist representation, Delacroix established many of the major tropes that would go on to become stereotypes perpetuated by Orientalism.

Two men negotiate, wielding weapons. A dog is sat near one of the men.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, An Arms Dealer in Cairo, 1869, oil on panel, 55.9 x 44.8 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.

Souq Al-Hamidiyah

An enduring meeting place for people, goods and ideas from all over the world, the souq is, and has been, a core part of daily communal experience – a continuation of shared activities under one roof from market to mosque and home.

Standing at the heart of Damascus, one of the world’s long-inhabited cities, Souq Al-Hamidiyah has stood witness to the city’s turbulent history.

Sunlight streams through bullet holes in its iron canopy, erected by the Ottomans, as a testament to the 1920s conflict between the Syrians and French Colonists. Throughout the ongoing war, the Souq has escaped damage.

The thriving commercial heart of the historic city, the souq has welcomed merchants from far and wide, with goods exchanging hands and travelling out across the Indian Ocean World and beyond.

As bustling and dynamic meeting places, souqs have featured regularly in the works of Orientalist artists.

Painting of a girl in a yellow striped headdress, peeling a pomegranate.

William Bouguereau, Girl with a Pomegranate, 1875, oil on canvas, 59 x 44.5 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.


The Indian Ocean World is an arena where people, ideas and goods have criss-crossed to a staggering degree for millennia.

Many of these trajectories have passed through Lusail, where Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani, the founder of Qatar, and his son traded pearls, leading to encounters with merchants from all over the world.

Painting of a man in a white turban and pink robes, standing alongside an elephant.

Jacopo Ligozzi, A Turbanned Pasha with an Elephant, 1575 – 1585, watercolour on paper, 27.8 x 22.1 cm. Lusail Museum Collection. Photo: © Lusail Museum, Qatar Museums, 2022.

Think Tank

Lusail Museum will be a place for coming together, a forum for dialogue addressing global challenges, and an opportunity to better understand one another.

In the final gallery of the exhibition, an interactive timeline allows visitors to discover the range of objects from different places and periods in history that will feature in the Lusail Museum.