The exhibition takes a deeper look into the history of the brew with maps that track the coffee route throughout time.
Between 22 August and 21 September and under the patronage of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, Coffee for Two – Cultures in Dialogue is continuing the cultural initiative that started with the international traveling exhibition The Majlis – Cultures in Dialogue in 2018, which has already touched down in six European capitals.
Under the cultural partnership of Katara Cultural Village and the UNESCO Gulf States and Yemen Office, the exhibition celebrates the culture and traditions around the beverage as a universal language that connects people around the world, promoting cultural exchanges and social cohesion.
With a selection of around 50 artifacts, including photos, videos and quiz games, the exhibition explores the cultural practices related to the home-roasted Arabic coffee and the functions it performs for the communities.
The ‘Arabic coffee, a symbol of generosity‘ was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2015, based on the nomination submitted by United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.
It is, according to UNESCO, “an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies and considered a ceremonial act of generosity.”
Prepared in front of guests, Gahwa is enjoyed by men and women from all segments of society, particularly in their home or in a majlis, the social space present in every Arab home.
What’s in the exhibition?
Since there are many ways to prepare and sip coffee, for instance, some fast, some slow, some with milk and sugar, some hot and some cold, and some served in large mugs or smaller cups, the exhibition Coffee for Two – Cultures in Dialogue takes a deeper look into the history of the known brew with maps that track the coffee route. The map travels from the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt, where it was first cultivated, to the flourishing plantations in Latin America – before becoming a dominant beverage in Europe in the 17th century.
The exhibition further highlights the evolution of coffee over time and its modern adaptation. Archival photos from FBQ Museum’s collection, in comparison with contemporary snapshots of coffee-to-go consumption, show how knowledge and traditions constantly merge to create a culture of social interaction and exchange.
Commenting on this occasion, Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim bin Faisal Al Thani, said: “The Coffee for Two exhibition is a continuation to the traveling cross-cultural exhibition The Majlis – Culture in Dialogue, which started in 2018 and has since toured numerous European cities.”
He continued by stating that this year, in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup event, they aimed to bring the Culture in Dialogue exhibitions to Qatar, beginning with the special Coffee for Two themed exhibition at Katara Cultural Village, which symbolises the international hospitality culture in general and Arab hospitality in particular.
Sheikh Faisal added: “The exhibition aims to encourage visitors from all over the world to sit in the Majlis to listen to stories, engage in conversations, and exchange ideas about what they see. By exchanging impressions of the exhibition and learning about cultures to enhance international, Arab, and Islamic relations, through art and artefacts with the aim of spreading the message of peace and prosperity and broadening our understanding of other people and places,”
Professor Dr. Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Sulaiti, General Manager of Katara Cultural Village, said: “The exhibition is rich and valuable, as it sheds light on a common culture between the peoples of the whole world, not only in our Arab region. Coffee has traditions and meanings that differ from one country to another, but all of which have the culture of celebration and social cohesion in common.”
Dr. Al-Sulaiti added: “We at Katara seek to support, sponsor and host various events through which we share our humanitarian message in building bridges of communication between peoples,” noting that it is not the first time that Katara has cooperated with Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Museum, as this exhibition was preceded by many exhibitions and participations in the annual Katara festivals.
Commenting on this initiative, Mr. Salah Khaled, Director of the UNESCO Gulf States and Yemen Office said: “By inscribing the element of ‘Arabic coffee, a symbol of generosity‘, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage stresses that cultural functions of Arabic coffee are an expression of hospitality, generosity and social etiquette. It encourages dialogue, sharing of knowledge and experiences, and mutual respect between cultures, faiths and communities. It is an important element of shared culture transmitted from generation to generation, giving the communities the sense of identity and continuity.”
Enriched by a central space for discussions in the shape of a Majlis, the exhibition’s public programme offer the opportunity to expand the horizons of understanding of other people’s tastes and coffee habits, bringing people together to socialise and exchange ideas in cross-cultural dialogue.