Qatar is a young Persian Gulf nation, a peninsula, a language surrounded by water where the desert reaches the sea inhabited by a nomadic Arab people who settled in this maritime desert.
Some became fishermen, others hunted pearls. Some looked at the nation's hidden treasures, at the resources lying under the sand or under the sea. Others, inspired by the central position of their country in the Gulf, began to speak, to communicate, to reach out. The impetus for this metamorphosis came from Doha. One look at the photographs of Doha from the 1950s and 1960s is enough to understand how much this part of the world has changed. From a small village it has become a capital. What could be more natural, then, than the desire to testify, to speak of identification, of the evolving identity of this country that reveals itself on the sensitive map of history? And what is more logical than giving concrete expression to this process of identification in a National Museum of Qatar that will relate the physical, human and economic geography of the country, along with its history?
One place was symbolically destined to play this role: the cradle of the Al Thani family in Doha; a modest, noble and simple palace from which this adventure of the twentieth century began. It stands at the southern entrance to the city, the busiest urban gate and also welcomes visitors arriving from the airport.
Jean Nouvel's project, initially combined with the programmatic study, brought to light the basic paradox of this project: to show what is hidden, to reveal an image that vanishes, to anchor the ephemeral, to put the unspoken in words, to reveal a story that has not had time to leave a mental mark; a story that is a present in flight, an energy in action. The National Museum of Qatar is proof of the intensity of this energy. Of course, it will house the traditional geological and archaeological finds; of course, the tents, saddles and dishes will bear witness to the nomadic life; of course, there will be the tools, boats and nets of the fishermen. But above all, however, it will arouse an awareness that only otherwise could one meet, lived, after months spent in the desert, in search of the particularities that escape our understanding, except when the whims of time and nature allow it. Or by helicopter or off-road vehicle to discover the contrasts and stretches of beach of the Qatari peninsula. Everything in this museum works to make the visitor feel the desert and the sea. The architecture and structure of the museum symbolize the mysteries of desert concretions and crystallizations, suggesting the interlocking pattern of desert rose petals.
A nomadic people build their capital and talk about it through this emblematic monument built with the most modern construction tools (steel, glass and concrete fiber), and will communicate through high-definition cinema, integrating the movements of visitors in its museography: this museum is a modern caravanserai. From there, one leaves for the desert and from there one returns with treasures: images that remain forever imprinted in the memory.