Six of the best museums in Doha, Qatar

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF QATAR

Doha's newest museum, stunningly designed to look like a desert rose by French architect Jean Nouvel, also has a strong Australian angle. The interiors are by award-winning Koichi Takada who was approached nine years ago by the royal family to design splendid inners for this $US434 million masterpiece. And while the museum looks incredible, it doesn't take that long to go around, either, because Qatar, to be honest, doesn't have that long or variegated a modern history. Pre-oil, it was all about early settlers, Bedouins, falconry and pearl-fishing post-oil, well, it's only been around 80 years and, quite possibly, the best is to come.

Open every day but Sunday, with a half-day on Fridays. See qm.org.qa

THE MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART

Location, location, location. Sitting on a strip of land jutting out over the water, this was the original Doha headliner, gleaming elegantly in blinding white limestone against the blue of the Persian Gulf. Inside is one of the world's biggest collections of Middle East and Central Asian artworks, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, carpets and ceramics, all exquisitely displayed in huge spaces under atmospheric soft lighting.

Open every day with a half-day on Fridays. See mia.org.qa/en

THE PLANETARIUM

If you've ever worried about your weight, check out the scales at the just-opened Planetarium, a museum on the cosmos and solar system, with lots of gorgeous displays and information explaining how the galaxies work and what astronauts go through. But gravity is just as much as an attraction. I, for instance, would weigh a mere 11.97kg if I resided on the moon and 27kg on Mars, slightly less than on Mercury. Jupiter, however, would be a nightmare: 171kg.

Open seven days. See katara.net

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KATARA ART CENTRE

The Katara Cultural Village is perfect for people-watching, with  white-robed men striding around proudly displaying their falcons among a great collection of outside eateries, theatres, concert halls, a full-sized Roman amphitheatre and mosques. The centre serves as a hub of local and emerging artists and while some of the art is pretty average, a lot is refreshingly contemporary and surprisingly good. Kids even get a chance to have a go, with frequent exhibitions of their art.

Open seven days. See katara.net

MSHEIREB MUSEUMS

This set of four historic houses in the old heart of the city, now rebuilt and renovated and telling four different strands of the story of Doha, harnessing the latest in technology to do so. Locals narrate their own experiences on screen, some pretty movingly, and you can film your own reaction to their tales for the next visitors. The museums explore the history of slavery in the region, the discovery of oil in 1934 and the devastating explosion and fire that followed the first attempt at extraction, the roles of family and the evolution of Msheireb itself.

Closed Sundays, Friday half-day. See msheireb.com

THE FIRE STATION

The main Qatari 1982 fire station, with its distinctive honeycomb façade, has been lovingly renovated and repurposed into a new art museum and gallery. It hosts a series of top-notch exhibitions – think Picasso, Giacometti and Malevich – as well as being a creative space for emerging local and international talent. At the same time, its character has been nicely preserved – look out for the fireman's pole.

Closed Sundays and half-day Fridays. See firestation.org.qa

Sue Williams travelled as a guest of Discover Qatar and stayed at the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel.

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