Six of the best Doha architectural triumphs

QATAR NATIONAL LIBRARY

A library? Seriously? Even one described as a mix "between an alien spacecraft and a five-star hotel on steroids"? But its full glory lies inside. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhass and opened in April, it has completely reinvented a concept that dates back to the Library of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Instead of a dark, sombre, silent mausoleum, expect to be greeted by a flood of light. Internal tiers, stacked like a welcoming colosseum of curiosity, are impressive enough – designed in white marble to encourage learning. Venture downstairs and you'll experience the sunken corridors of a make-believe archaeological excavation. These passages house "the Heritage Collection" – with ancient Islamic treasures that could keep you mesmerised for days. See qnl.qa

PIGEON TOWERS, KATARA

Katara Cultural Village might sound exactly like the kind of naff tourist precinct you'd mount a camel to avoid. Except Katara has five things in its favour. Locals flock here, not least for the safe beach and children's playground. The al fresco amphitheatre has some of the most superb acoustics in the world for outdoor concerts. Likewise, the city's opera theatre is plush, intimate and host to international superstars. Then there's the spectacular "Blue Mosque" – designed by Zeynep Fadillioglu, the Turkish architect credited with being the first woman in history to design mosques. Slip off your shoes, and go inside to fully appreciate its serene beauty. Yet what every Katara visitor remembers are the lofty, fully functioning pigeon towers – gigantic versions of a more humble feature you'll see throughout Arabia. See katara.net

ASPIRE TOWER

Once known as The Torch Doha, it was initially built as a landmark for the 2006 Asian Games and remains (at present) the tallest building in Qatar. Designed by London-trained, Florida-based architect Hadi Simaan, the hyperboloid structure – close to the Khalifa International Stadium – set a pattern for Qatari skyscrapers. Aspire Tower stands on its own, but is best seen at night when it is alight with LED colours. Doha's CBD has followed the trend. Each new skyscraper has its own intricate pattern and posture. See thetorchdoha.com.qa

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART

Obviously you've heard of IM Pei – the Chinese-born and educated architect who created both the John F Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston and the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris? In his 90s, Pei was coaxed out of retirement to create this wonderful addition to world culture. From the outside, the museum – on a man-built island connected but separated from the Corniche, as Pei insisted – is Brutalist. But escape inside from the harsh Doha sun and you'll appreciate its shade, its epic views over the Arabian Gulf, and its professional protection of all those light-sensitive Qurans, carpets and scientific discoveries in its collection. See mia.org.qa

AL SHAQAB EQUESTRIAN CENTRE

On the outskirts of traditional Doha – but at the heart of the ultra-modern health, scientific and technology focused "Education City" – lies this multi-million dollar temple to all things equine. Even if you don't particularly like horses, you cannot help but be impressed by the superb architecture of the main "Performance Arena" dominating the horseshoe-shaped park dedicated to the significance of the Arabian horse in Qatari culture. Designed by Hong Kong-based architects Leigh & Orange, the futuristic, shallow-domed Performance Arena is actually two arenas under one "roof". One, fully enclosed and fully air conditioned, seats 2700 guests around a 100 by 60-metre field of exercise. The other "semi-roofed arena" has just 2500 seats but a larger "playing field". See alshaqab.com

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF QATAR

Not due to open until December, it's hard to miss when you take a taxi from the airport to the city centre. Designed by French Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, its many roofs resemble the petals of a desert rose. On the south end of Doha's Corniche, Novel's masterpiece has risen on reclaimed land from the Arabian Gulf, linking the old city to the new – connected via bridges to the 20th-century royal palace. When it does (finally!) open, the museum will explore three themes. The natural history of the Arabian desert, an account of Bedouin culture, and an explanation of the tribal wars that led to the establishment of the Qatari state – and the discovery of oil. See national-museum-qatar.

Steve Meacham travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways.

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