On a beautiful mild day in mid-February, I met with a group of high-level museum professionals from Hong Kong and members of Qatar Museums Conservation team at the unique Museum of Islamic Art Park cafe. A lively bunch, they exuded enthusiasm and excitement to be here, the first such delegation to visit Qatar and indeed, the Arab world.

We talked about the differences between Hong Kong and Doha life. “The work hours are great!” said Ms. Fione Lo, Head of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. “I think you’re very kind to your employees and encourage quality family time.”

“We were surprised not to find any queues”, remarked Ms. Connie Lee, Senior Manager of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. “We feel honoured and privileged to access everything – it’s not as congested as Hong Kong. Back home we would have had to book in advance and queue for hours to get in anywhere.”

Mr. Ray Ma, Curator at the Antiquities and Monuments Office liked the weather: “We love the weather here and the air is very clean. There is much less pollution than in Hong Kong.” I told him to come back in July!

Chatting about Museums in Qatar and the Gulf, the group was reflective.

“We didn’t know conservation was going on in Qatar, so we are very impressed,” said Ms. Alice Tsang, Curator at the Conservation Office.

“We can see that it’s not easy to be a museum in Qatar – there seem to be more people in shops and cafes than in galleries, so we appreciate what Qatar Museums is doing here,” added Mr. Lawrence Lee, Curator at the Projects and Development Section.

“It is very inspiring to see so many local and international employees working together, committed to exploring how to promote local culture,” commented Ms. Fione Lo. “This experience has made me very interested in learning more about Islamic history and civilization, which is so different from Chinese culture.” The more you learn, the more you will find that there are many similarities, I volunteered. She agreed.

Commenting on their trip to Al Zubara, Ms. Rosa Yau, Curator at the Museum of History said: “It is the first time we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a very special experience for us. And now we’re all looking forward to the opening of the National Museum!”

How do you see the future between Hong Kong Public Museums and Qatar Museums? I asked. “When we return, we will present what we have seen and learnt here to all our museum colleagues because we are the first group to consult with our museum counterparts in the Arab world,” said Ms. Lesley Lau, Head of the Art Promotion Office and leader of the delegation.

“There are many collaborative opportunities here and we hope to have future collaborative conferences where we can share knowledge and expertise. The words global and local have become synonymous in today’s world and words like “glocal” have emerged; but in Qatar I prefer “lobal” where local comes first.”

Mr. Shing-wai Chan, Director of Hong Kong Public Museums wrote back after the visit to say:  “Our Hong Kong delegates have greatly benefited from their fruitful and eye-opening study trip to Doha, so I must write to express my heartfelt thanks.  Our colleagues found the visit highly inspiring, and cannot stop praising your team’s tireless effort in making the visit such a unique and remarkable experience for them.  I am hopeful that we will continue our professional link in the years to come.”