Photo of multiple, colourful football scarves hanging on a white, caged, frame.
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When the World Came to Town: The View from Qatar Museums

27 December 2022

By Aiman Rizvi

As we say goodbye to FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and prepare for new journeys ahead, we asked members of the Qatar Museums community to share their experiences of this historic month, when we welcomed a record number of visitors across all of our museums, galleries, heritage sites and creative spaces.

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Football Fans in the Galleries

It was gratifying to see so many visitors come and enjoy our newly installed galleries, and especially our exhibition Baghdad: The Eye's Delight. This was such a beautiful experience after all these many months—even years—of work. I loved seeing so many fans from different countries coming in with their jerseys, looking at old manuscripts and art.

Museums are places for encounter, and the entire country of Qatar presented a truly incredible art and cultural programme for the month. Visitors enjoyed an enormous spectrum of activities, museums, exhibitions, fashion shows, dance, as well as excavations and public art installations. Art moves people and I hope this will carry on after the World Cup. I am confident it will.

Dr. Julia Gonnella, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)

World Cup visitors were able to learn more about a part of the world that many were not familiar with; breaking stereotypes, and opening them to learn more about the arts and heritage of the Gulf.

Dr. Marie Pierre Lissoir, National Museum of Qatar

Discovering Qatar's Rich Past

We opened six archaeological and heritage sites in time for the World Cup, and we created self-guided signage boards to help visitors explore these locations. For the archaeological remains of Al Zubarah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we even built a three-kilometre sustainable boardwalk, which lets visitors walk through the town’s abandoned streets.

One of my favourite memories is seeing people’s absolute surprise when they got off the shuttle and realised that Al Zubarah is not just a fort but also 60 hectares of houses, mosques, fortified buildings and a souq. This abandoned town is over 250 years old and one of the best-preserved examples of a traditional pearl fishing and merchant town in the Gulf. My colleagues talk so passionately about their profession and paint a lively vision of what a bustling hub Al Zubarah used to be. I still learn something new on every visit.

With a major increase in visitor numbers during the World Cup, people from all over the world have now discovered Qatar’s rich past, and how much there is to learn and explore. They will go home as great ambassadors!

Margaux Montserrat De Pauw, Senior Heritage Activation Programming Coordinator

Embracing Arab Culture

I’ll forever remember the sea of football fans wearing ghutras and thobes and watching them get their ghutras fixed by Qataris—fans embracing Arab culture and hospitality—and seeing genuine connections being made with everyone they encountered.

The World Cup was incredible, buzzing, exciting. I believe that it gave Qatar an opportunity to showcase art and artists from the region to people from all over the world.

Sheikha Shaikha F. Al Thani, Director of Digital Experience

Dancing Hand in Hand

Our entire staff worked especially hard for all of our sites and events to be ready and open for the international audience to visit, sharing with the world Qatar’s cultures and traditions. World Cup visitors were able to learn more about a part of the world that many were not familiar with; breaking stereotypes, and opening them to learn more about the arts and heritage of the Gulf.

The atmosphere in Doha was festive and benevolent. I was also very impressed by the inclusivity of the events. It was beautiful to see these peoples, coming from different countries, practising different religions, and speaking different languages, dancing hand in hand, cheered by a crowd of peoples from all over the world.

Dr. Marie Pierre Lissoir, Exhibit and Multimedia Interpretive Specialist, National Museum of Qatar

A Fun and Friendly Atmosphere

My favourite memory was seeing people in the streets of Doha and the stadiums wearing the La’eeb (the official mascot) hats and carrying the La’eeb backpack, both produced by IN-Q. Our stores were packed with customers, and we achieved record-breaking results! All our customers sought mementos that would remind them of this beautiful country and its culture; gifts that would remind them of the wonderful memories they made here.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ brought different nationalities and communities together in celebration of this amazing tournament. Visitors were able to experience the breathtaking architecture and art installations by renowned artists, exhibitions and events in the city and experience the culture of hospitality. It was heartwarming to see different nationalities coming together and experiencing the Qatari culture and hospitality of the Qataris and residents. The fun and friendly atmosphere permeated the city.

Tigest Seifu, Director of Retail and Merchandising, IN-Q

A Sense of Teamwork

The whole experience was exhilarating. My favourite aspect was the unity of everyone, from strangers on the street, in the stadium, to my team picking up work for each other to help out. It’s not a single memory, but an overall feeling.

Maryam Saad Al Mohannadi, Head of Marketing Section

Looking Ahead

We will all continue to reflect on the journey that brought us here – the many years of imagining, creating and collaborating, culminating in the rich opportunities for cultural learning that surround us today. As a community, we have worked to stretch possibility, to reimagine what an encounter with art, history or a lived reality can look like. Now we move forward, knowing how much is possible when the world comes together.

Aiman Rizvi is an Editorial Specialist at Qatar Museums.