France // Paris //

Institut du Monde Arabe

Opposite Pont de Sully, you can’t miss the bold glass and aluminium mass of the Institut du Monde Arabe, a cultural centre built to further understanding of the Arab world. Designed by Paris’s favourite architect, Jean Nouvel, its broad southern facade, which mimics a moucharabiyah, or traditional Arab latticework, is made up of thousands of tiny, photo-sensitive metallic shutters. Inside, its museum aims to present a broad history of the Arab world, going back as far as prehistoric times (the oldest exhibit, a statuette of an earth goddess from Jordan, dates from the seventh century BC). If the collection feels sparse in places and slightly confusingly arranged (by theme, rather than chronologically), you do at least get a sense of the cultural diversity and richness of the Arab peoples. The institute also puts on temporary exhibitions and concerts of Arab music, and there’s a library and specialist bookshop. The rooftop café-restaurant is a fantastic place to enjoy a mint tea and the view towards the apse of Notre-Dame.

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