New Art Spaces of the Arabian Peninsula
Discover the nascent art scene of the Arabian Gulf and explore world-class collections, both public and private, in three of the region’s most dynamic cities – Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
In Doha, visit the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art, one of Arabia’s most impressive architectural structures, housing the world’s largest collection of Islamic Art.
Continue to Abu Dhabi for special VIP access to the exciting Abu Dhabi Art Fair, where over 50 galleries from Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East present innovative modern art through a variety of exhibitions and special events.
Explore the newly-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, exhibiting ancient and contemporary works from around the world. Travel to nearby Dubai and the historic town of Sharjah, which has become known as the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand on Qatar Airways flights to Doha, either departing in the afternoon and arriving late evening (same day), or departing at night and arriving in the early morning (Sun 11 Nov). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
If arriving tonight on suggested flights, transfer from the airport to the hotel for check-in.
If arriving this morning on suggested flights, transfer from the airport to the hotel for check-in.
Join Mikala and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing at the hotel at 10:30.
Enjoy a special welcome lunch at IDAM, Alain Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East, located in the heart of the Museum of Islamic Art with spectacular views of the Doha skyline.
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art and its Islamic art collection spanning three continents and 1,400 years. Designed by world-renowned architect IM Pei, the building has become an icon of Arabian architecture. Standing beside the waters of the Corniche, it draws influence from traditional Islamic architecture. With the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, the museum houses masterpieces including metalwork, ceramics, jewellery, woodwork, textiles and glass. Pieces in the collection are all connected by Islam, but many are non-religious in nature.
Continue to Souk Waqif, an undoubted highlight of the city. There has been a souk on this site for centuries; the entire market area has been cleverly redeveloped to look like a 19th-century souk, with mud-rendered shops, exposed timber beams and some beautifully restored original Qatari buildings. This is the perfect place to shop for the national Qatari dress, including the beautifully embroidered bukhnoq (girl’s head covering), spices, perfumes and oud (an exotic incense made from agarwood).
This morning, visit the East-West/West-East sculpture, created by Richard Serra. This breathtaking sculpture in the Brouq Nature Reserve spans over a kilometre and comprises four steel plates, each over 14 metres in height. To guarantee perfect alignment, Serra examined the topography of the land and beautifully enhanced the vast, desolate space in the heart of the desert. The result is spectacular, modern and timeless.
In the afternoon, visit Sheikh Faisal Museum. In a fort-like warehouse just outside of Doha, Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani displays his private collection: fossilized dinosaur eggs, shark’s teeth and marine turtles are lined up next to elephants made of sea shells in macramé fashion, cars, carpets, planes, dhows, clothing, art, swords, religious exhibitions on Islam and Judaism, and sundry other curiosities.
Discover the Museum of Modern Art, celebrating the modern and contemporary, showcasing art created in Qatar, the broader Middle East and the international Arab diaspora. This boundary-breaking museum asks the local community to celebrate the present-day creativity of the Arab world and is one of the most engaging, contemporary, and lively museums of the region.
In Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, traditional dress codes are still followed, and it is advised that visitors do the same out of deference to local culture. For both men and women, shoulders should be covered; women should wear a long and loose-fitting shirt or trousers, and men should wear trousers which at least cover the knees.
During visits to mosques, special clothes, such as a scarf to cover the hair, can be provided on site. Our tour leader Mikala and local guides can advise and assist you.
This morning, visit the ‘Fire Station’ creative space. Built in 1982 as a Civil Defence building, it was occupied by the fire brigade until late 2012 when it was handed over to Qatar Museums, to be recycled for contemporary use. Ibrahim Al Jeidah, the Qatari architect leading the project, has preserved the original details of the building and its tower.
Continue to Abdul Wahhab Mosque, more commonly known as the State Grand Mosque. This is the largest mosque in Qatar with 90 domes, 18 entrances and capacity for 30,000 people. Although extravagant in scope, it has managed to retain the simple, clean lines for which Qatari architecture is known.
Transfer to Doha International Airport for a mid-afternoon flight to Abu Dhabi (included in tour price), arriving in the evening. Check in to the hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure.
Abu Dhabi Art Fair VIP program
The details of the VIP programme for the Abu Dhabi Art Fair will be released a few weeks prior to the event. VIP access will include the opportunity to attend privileged events such as special access to exhibitions, conversations with collectors, behind-the-scenes activities and more. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the visits to sites in Abu Dhabi as published, the order of visits is subject to change.
After a morning talk by Mikala, visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in Abu Dhabi covering an area of more than 12 hectares. The Mosque features 82 domes and more than 1,000 columns which are lit up at night.
Enjoy lunch at the Art House Café located in the dynamic Etihad Modern Art Gallery, housing modern art and sculpture.
Explore Warehouse 421, a cultural destination located in the port area of Mina Zayed. A number of port warehouses have been transformed into a gallery space and cultural education centre that aims to support emerging artists and build interest in the arts and heritage. The space features lectures and public presentations by eminent speakers, as well as a large exhibition space that showcases work by local, regional and international artists, designers and performers.
In mid-afternoon, attend the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. Abu Dhabi Art Fair expands beyond the notion of a traditional art fair, placing strong emphasis on a diverse public engagement programme, including art installations and exhibitions, talks and events that take place in different locations throughout the year. The culmination of this year-long programme is the Fair in November, which provides an important opportunity for participating galleries to showcase ambitious installations and site-specific works by their artists to an audience of over 20,000 visitors.
This morning, discover the newly-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. Born out of an intergovernmental agreement between the United Arab Emirates and France in 2007, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in 2017 and has become the first global museum in the Arab world. The museum brings the Louvre name to Abu Dhabi and presents both ancient and contemporary works of historic, cultural, and sociological interest from around the world.
Enjoy free time in the early afternoon before dinner in a camp amidst the Arabian desert dunes.
After a morning talk by Mikala, depart Abu Dhabi and travel to the neighbouring emirate of Dubai.
Visit the Burj Khalifa, the colossal skyscraper which, at some 829.8m tall, has been the tallest structure in the world since its topping out in late 2008. A symbol of Dubai’s global prominence, the Burj Khalifa is one of the great triumphs of 21st century engineering, and its architecture of a series of recessed terraces draws on traditional Islamic design principles.
Continue to Dubai Mall located at the foot of the Burj Khalifa and enjoy time at leisure in the world’s largest shopping district, itself a monument to Dubai’s diversification away from an oil-based economy.
Travel to Al Ain, one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements, and the site of many picturesque forts. Al Jahili Fort, erected in 1891 to defend the city and protect precious palm groves, is one of the UAE’s most historic buildings. Today, it presents a permanent exhibition of the work of British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger and his 1940s crossings of the Rub Al Khali (The Empty Quarter) desert. The redeveloped Al Qattara Fort is now home to a brilliant arts centre and gallery, offering hundreds of modern exhibits within its walls and with spaces for a variety of workshops, from pottery and painting to music and calligraphy.
Return to Dubai and wander through the narrow alleyways of the Spice Souk in the Deira area. Savour the atmosphere and aroma of the past amongst mounds of aromatic herbs and spices spilling from large baskets outside each stall, where bags of spices, incense, rose petals and traditional medicinal products lure the curious traveller.
In the morning, visit the home of a private collector before discovering Al Quoz and Alserkal Avenue. Alserkal Avenue, the region’s foremost arts hub, was established in 2007 to encourage and support the region’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. Situated in Dubai’s industrial quarter, the Avenue is a cluster of architect-designed warehouses spread across 45,000 square metres, housing numerous galleries of international repute, dynamic art spaces, and homegrown cultural initiatives. Visit several galleries and enjoy lunch in a café in Al Quoz.
Continue south of Dubai Creek to visit Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort. Built about 200 years ago as a defensive stronghold, Al Fahidi Fort sat on the border of the urban Dubai at the time. This fort was renovated and opened in 1971 as an official museum that displays the history of Dubai and its original heritage. Discover the history of Dubai through rare authentic monuments, original samples, drawings and diagrams.
Depart for a full-day visit to the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah, the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates. Discover the Sharjah Art Foundation located in the historic area of the city, where exhibitions, performances, music and film screenings take place throughout the year featuring the work of Arab and international artists.
Visit the Barjeel Art Foundation, exhibiting an extensive collection of modern and contemporary Arab art. This independent UAE-based initiative has contributed to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by building a prominent, publicly accessible art collection.
Wander through the Souk al-Markazi (Central Market), popularly known as the ‘Blue Souk’ because of the blue tiles on the outside walls. Built in 1978, this main shopping hub is one of the most impressive landmarks of Sharjah, and the architecture captures the character of a traditional bazaar on a grand scale, with exuberant vaults and a unique skyline of 20 windtowers.
This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Mikala and fellow travellers.
Check out from the hotel and transfer to Dubai International Airport (included in tour price) in time for suggested Emirates flights to Australia or New Zealand departing from 10:00 onwards. Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at the airport.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements, including flights and extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
10 September 2018
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders may obtain a visa waiver upon arrival in Qatar upon presentation of passport and onward flight ticket.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa to visit the United Arab Emirates, which may be obtained on arrival free of charge.
Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Emirates
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including soft drinks
- Economy Class flight from Doha to Abu Dhabi (20 kg luggage allowance)
- Early check-in to the hotel in Doha on 11 November 2018 (if required)
- VIP access to Abu Dhabi Art Fair
- Comprehensive sightseeing including entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Talks with your tour leader, Mikala Tai
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Alcoholic drinks
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Doha – Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel by Tivoli *****
Abu Dhabi – Courtyard Marriott World Trade Center ****
Dubai – Manzil Downtown ****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.