Delve Into Paris’s Mystical Arab Art Scene: Where the Arab World and the City of Light Meet

Delve Into Paris’s Mystical Arab Art Scene: Where the Arab World and the City of Light Meet

Bienvenue à Paris! 

Chances are you’ve either visited the city at some point or have it down on your bucket list for your next trip. But despite its lustrous reputation for being a hub for romantics, this city is not only made for lovers to dwell in. Paris is renowned for its art, fashion, and abundance of tourist attractions. Whether you’re there to try the food or attend a fashion show, Paris’s whimsical appeal is bound to win you over. So, if you’re an aesthete and have an appreciation for oriental art in particular, then get ready for a journey into the Arab world without stepping outside the capital!

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Insitut du Monde Arabe

When the words “Arab art” and “Paris” come together, the mind, without a shadow of a doubt, journeys back to Paris’s Institut du Monde Arab (IMA). Unlike any other place on earth, the institute is all about experiential art. Home to thousands of pieces that reflect the tales of Arab civilization, history, art, and knowledge, this institute was made with the purpose of showcasing how rich Arabic culture is. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the building’s monumentally modern and intricate appeal houses yet another museum, though! 

Because IMA places you at the heart of the Arab world, the institute offers insights into how Arabs live and think through multiple lenses and varied artistic disciplines: its museum, library, bookshop, restaurants, cafe, workshops, and many cultural events. Its aim has always been to bridge the gap between cultures by offering insightful knowledge about a misunderstood and often disregarded culture. Every corner holds an artifact, a painting, or a statue that engulfs visitors into the wonders of Egypt, Arabic photography and its hidden meanings, or primitive Islamic art. Also, every year, a new exhibition is held to highlight the creative potential of the Arab world!

What’s also worth noting about IMA is that it sets a spotlight on young and emerging Arab talents. As an artistic institution, it serves as a center stage that showcases the evolution of art and its interpretation by the younger generation. Young Arab artists from around the world, such as Yasmin Hamdan, have had the opportunity to exhibit their ingenious art pieces, enabling them to construe their personal view of art and its correlation with the rest of the world.

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The Louvre

Art and Paris go hand in hand, and you can’t talk about them without expecting the Louvre to enter the conversation. Every inch of the Louvre is studded with art; and though the Mona Lisa and Liberty Leading the People might be the center of attention, there’s much more to the museum than these two masterpieces.

The Louvre is considered to be the world’s largest art museum, and to intricately explore all its treasures, it would take almost a year to revel at the art this mega museum houses. For those that didn’t know, the museum is also home to the largest collection of Islamic art in the world brought from Spain, India, and the Middle East!

Covered by an undulating vault made up of 1,600 glass triangles lays the Visconti courtyard. This location harbors thousands of Islamic artifacts, which date back to the seventh century! From carpets to paintings, and gleaming ceramics, the art provides a glimpse into deep and rich Arabic and Islamic history that have shaped the community into what it is today. The art display is spread over two levels, and while the first is nestled under the mystical roof that leaves you guessing whether it’s a sand dune, a veil, or anything your imagination tells you it is, the second level is plunged into a mysteriously alluring dimness that leaves your focus lingering on the art itself. 

While it’s easy to get lost into the wonders exhibited in this museum, the Middle Eastern and North African collection is a must see! Musée du quai Branly displays over 20,000 objects in this collection all representing ancient Arab art. And for those fascinated by ancient hieroglyphs and Egyptian mysteries and artifacts, then they’ll be pleased to know the museum has got around 600 archaeological objects originating from archaeological sites such as Thebes in Egypt and Dura-Europos in Syria.

The collection includes everything your heart desires. Masks, statues, tools etc. But perhaps, the spotlight should be placed on the ancient and sacred clothing, jewelry, and costumes worn by both common folk and royals. 

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Centre Pompidou is a work of art in and of itself! The glass and metal structure is met with brilliant colors that make it shine whenever the sunlight glides across its surface. This Parisian architectural feat is built in one of the capital’s oldest districts, Beaubourg,  so one can only imagine the rich history within its four walls! This center contains a vast number of photographs, visual art, paintings, and many other art mediums. 

The interesting thing about this pick is that certain exhibitions get renewed every couple of years with the goal of demonstrating the evolution, growth, and ever-progressing creative approaches to art throughout the world. There are certain pieces brought from the Middle East to Centre Pompidou among which are Bauhaus pieces that were part of the Art of the Modern Age display. 

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Islam is a monumental part in the history and the evolution of Arab societies. A critical element among ancient artistry, there’s more than one place in Paris to get a glimpse at such historically rich art pieces. A popular destination for those art lovers seeking this type of art is the Islamic Cultural Center. The calligraphy and architecture that goes along this type of art have significant importance towards the religion. They reflect the Islamic realm with its cultures and views, and they have notably contributed to the history of various cities and cultures such as Andalusia, Spain.

The center aims to highlight the diversity embodied in the Islamic culture across various places in the world where this religion left its imprint. Through a series of exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and many other events and activities, the center “promotes the universal heritage of these civilizations, whose heritage, major figures, traditions, and influence often remain unknown.”

Whenever you find yourself in Paris, take the moment to observe the beautiful art all around you. Perhaps you might stumble on little gems that you too can share with the rest of the world.

And if you happen to visit the places we’ve listed, don’t forget to take lots of pictures, enjoy yourself in the process, and let us know about your experience by reaching out or using the tag #WeAreMarsoum on Instagram!

Originally Published: June 13, 2021

Written by: Sabine Faress

Sabine Faress is a creative English copywriter and storyteller, who believes that art in all its forms has the power to change the world. An aesthete and an avid reader; if she isn’t seeking the next big adventure, then you’ll find her cozying up with a book and a warm cup of tea.

Take a peek at some of Sabine's work here.


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