Coffee in Qatar and Indonesia

Qatar and Indonesia Explore Coffee’s Rich History

The National Museum of Qatar, in collaboration with the National Museum of Indonesia, has unveiled a significant exhibition titled “Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa; Stories of Coffee in Qatar and Indonesia.”

This exhibition, which runs until 17 February 2024, delves into the intricate history of coffee, tracing its journey from Indonesia to Qatar.

This initiative is a part of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture, a program that celebrates the shared narratives and cultural ties between the two nations. The exhibition not only highlights the history of coffee growing, trading, and consumption but also emphasizes the traditional and contemporary coffee cultures of both countries. Visitors can immerse themselves in interactive displays, projections, and even experience the aroma of coffee, complemented by soundscapes and specially commissioned artworks.

HE Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Thani, the Director of the National Museum of Qatar, expressed his pride in hosting this landmark exhibition. He emphasized the shared traditions of hospitality, dialogue, and creativity that both nations cherish, all of which are symbolized by the act of brewing, serving, and sharing coffee. The exhibition was made possible through the combined efforts of the National Museum of Qatar, the National Museum of Indonesia, the Embassy of Indonesia in Qatar, students from the Ajial Altarbwy Center, and participants from the Qatar Museums internship program.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to Qatar, HE Ridwan Hassan, lauded the collaborative effort, noting the deep cultural ties that bind Qatar and Indonesia. He expressed his excitement about the enhanced cultural understanding fostered during the Qatar-Indonesia Year of Culture.

The exhibition was meticulously curated by a joint team from both museums, including experts like Dr. Marie-Pierre Lissoir, Najma Ahmed, Tania Abdulmonem Al Majid, and many others. Their collective efforts have brought to life the rich history of coffee, emphasizing its significance in the cultures of Qatar and Indonesia.

Lead Sponsor Expo 2023 Doha, along with Partner & Partners, played a pivotal role in making this exhibition a reality. Mr. Mohammed Al-Khouri, Secretary General of Expo 2023 Doha, highlighted the importance of such collaborations in promoting Qatar as a global tourist destination. He emphasized the power of cooperation in curating narratives that resonate across cultures and generations.

The “Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa” exhibition is organized into five thematic sections, exploring everything from the process of growing coffee to its consumption as a shared tradition. It also delves into sustainable farming practices and the role of coffee in social and cultural development.

What is Coffee? 

The exhibition’s first section, What is Coffee?, introduces the visitors to the coffee plant and its prized beans. It also explains the origins of the term kopi (coffee in Bahasa Indonesia) from the Arabic word for coffee, qahwa.

Growing and Trading Coffee

Next, Growing and Trading Coffee focuses on the history of coffee in the Arab World and Indonesia. It explains how coffee went from the forests of Ethiopia to Indonesia’s Java Island. This part of the exhibition also features a powerful contemporary art installation Bloom in Agony (2022), from the Indonesian artists’ collective Gegerboyo, which explores connections between Indonesia’s colonial heritage and modern coffee practices.

Roasting and Brewing

Roasting and Brewing engages audiences through sensory experiences using coffee beans and spices highlighting different roasting and brewing traditions. Via videos, visitors can learn about qahwa brewing from an elder Qatari coffee expert and enjoy a coffee-making competition showing the recipes of different Qatari families.

Serving and Drinking

Among the final section of Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa is Serving and Drinking, which focuses on the rituals associated with coffee drinking in Qatar and Indonesia. Highlights in this section include a 360-degree projection that transports the visitor to Filosofi Kopi, an iconic coffee shop in the heart of Jakarta, while another circular space evokes a Qatari majlis. Inside, two screens display a short film created in collaboration with Qatari youth showing the complexity of the coffee serving and drinking etiquette in Qatar, often with humorous outcomes.

Coffee and Creativity 

Finally, Coffee and Creativity explores the many ways in which coffee helps foster the creative individuals and industries in Qatar and Indonesia. The section highlights Indonesian cultural practices such as batik textiles and traditional mask dances, and celebrates Qatari artists and entrepreneurs.

Accompanying Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa; Stories of Coffee in Qatar and Indonesia, will be a series of public programs engaging local coffee shops, artists, and baristas from Indonesia, as well as activities including barista experiences and competitions, special tours, and partnerships with local shops.

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