Islamic art centre featuring historical pieces opens in Abu Dhabi

From paintings and sculptures to silk carpets, Ottoman pistols, jewel tapestries and shawls, the Miraj Islamic Art Centre boasted hundreds of art pieces at its new location in the Hilton Capital Grand.

Traditional dance marked the opening last night of Miraj, an Islamic art centre in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // An Islamic art centre opened in Abu Dhabi on Monday to a large crowd eager to view its historical pieces collected from around the Muslim world.

From paintings and sculptures to silk carpets, Ottoman pistols, jewel tapestries and shawls, the Miraj Islamic Art Centre boasted hundreds of art pieces at its new location in the Hilton Capital Grand.

Madina Mahmoud, a 43-year-old Russian who has been in Abu Dhabi for 15 years, was one of the visitors. “I used to make carpets when I was 15 years old for seven years,” she said. “I was interested in looking at the silk carpets and the work here is wonderful. Some of them have gold thread, it’s really fantastic.”

She said she would potentially buy one for her new home. “My husband bought one a long time ago,” she said. “You can’t just use it in any house as it’s such a fragile item.”

Leanne Randall, an events manager from South Africa, said Islamic art was her passion.

“I love art, especially Islamic art, because it’s so steeped in history,” she said. “It’s very different from normal art - it’s much more historical. The pieces are stunning and really a feast for the eyes, I’m just revelling in it, just the colours and textures are fantastic.”

Hassan Saad, the ambassador of Lebanon to the UAE, said the centre was much-needed as such items required a decent place to be showcased in.

“As a Lebanese, we are very interested in all kinds of cultural aspects,” he said. “Maybe later on, they can bring some items to borrow from Lebanon for a couple of months. We are talking with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, about this because we are planning to bring to the UAE 200 pieces for free for two months to show people what we have.”

Michelle Chen, general manager of Hunter International Travel and Tourism in Dubai, regularly brings Chinese tourists to the Dubai version of the Miraj Centre.

“We have a lot of groups who visit it,” she said. “The Miraj is a classic, it’s a beautiful place with amazing art work and it’s better than going to a souq because tourists like this kind of environment. We can’t find such items in malls.”

Manzoor Kachroo, director of sales at the Miraj Islamic Art Centre, said the concept was brought by Cottage Industries, an Indian-based company in handicrafts.

“The board of directors decided to have an exposition of Islamic art,” he said. “So we sent people around the world, to many different countries, to collect the best Islamic artefacts from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, India, and others, to expose it to the world and make them understand that, when people think that Muslims are only into terrorism, we wanted to show them that they are god-gifted people with god-gifted fingers. They create art and we thought the UAE was the best place to give exposure to it.”

Some art pieces are worth up to a million dollars.

“What you see around is art, which is a form of worship,” Mr Kachroo said. “The UAE has become a Mecca of tourism. We are less interested in selling but more interested in showing the world what Muslim art is at the moment. Most of the items are for purchase, including paintings, marbles, sculptures, jewel carpets, shawls and silks.”

The Abu Dhabi centre will be open daily from 9am to 7pm.

cmalek@thenational.ae

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