Qatar’s Cultural Diplomacy: A New Model for the Middle East

Qatar's Cultural Diplomacy

Building institutions with real impact requires vision, dedication, and a commitment to fostering cultural exchange. It is this dedication to cultural excellence that sets Qatar’s cultural institutions apart from those of other countries and ensures that they continue to be a driving force in the region for years to come.

Sheikha Al Mayassa, the sister of Qatar’s current ruler Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is a prominent figure in the art world. As the Chair of Qatari Museums, her focus is on creating cultural connections through art and building bridges between communities. In a recent interview with Style Magazine, she shared her vision for Qatari Museums, explaining that the organization is dedicated to supporting young people in their creative pursuits, whether it be through art, fashion, design, or even cars. Her passion for art and culture is evident in everything she does, and her commitment to fostering a love for the arts in the younger generation is truly inspiring. Recently, she sat down for an interview in Hong Kong, on the eve of Art Basel, to discuss her work and the impact she hopes to make on the art world.

When first asked to work in the museum field, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani didn’t initially envision a long-term career, as she recalls. However, after being presented with an opportunity to work in the cultural sector, she was struck by the power of art and culture to forge connections between people, countries, and industries. The ability to showcase tangible objects and experiences and the impact of the cultural exchange is palpable, particularly when discussing the Lusail Museum project. This endeavor is a chance for Qatar to present a multitude of narratives and facilitate research, offering an array of exciting possibilities for artistic and cultural exploration.

The Lusail Museum is set to become a landmark cultural institution in Qatar. The project, which broke ground this year and is slated for completion in 2028, is part of a larger vision that was initially conceived by Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former ruler of Qatar, whose leadership focused on advancing human development through strategic investments in education, culture, sports, and the environment. These pillars are essential components of Qatar’s long-term vision for the future.

In contrast to other countries in the Middle East and East Asia, which frequently rely on Western institutions to cultivate cultural offerings domestically, Qatar has taken a different approach, focusing on building its own cultural institutions. This has enabled the country to develop a unique cultural identity that is firmly rooted in its own history and traditions, while also showcasing its vibrant contemporary art scene to the world. The result is a thriving cultural landscape that is all the more impressive for having been developed entirely from within.

While Qatar may have significant financial resources at its disposal due to its abundant natural gas reserves, Sheikha Al Mayassa recognizes that creating cultural institutions that truly resonate with people requires more than just money.

“If you have money you can build things, but you have to build something with a purpose and that something has to bring value to the quality of life of the residents.” explained Sheikha Al Mayassa in her Style interview.

Last year Qatar made history as the first Arab nation to host the World Cup. Despite the controversies that surrounded the event, it was widely regarded as a success. Qatar’s commitment to sustainability and innovation was on full display throughout the tournament, from the state-of-the-art stadiums to the cutting-edge technologies used to create a safe and seamless experience for fans from around the world. The World Cup has cemented Qatar’s position as a global leader in sports and entertainment, and the country looks forward to building on this momentum as it continues to expand its cultural offerings and shape the future of the Middle East.

Read the entire interview here.

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