While it harbors a substantial collection, one of the biggest draws to this museum-library-research center is the building itself. Designed by architect Jean Nouvel in 1987, the south facade is covered by a metallic latticework echoing traditional Arab designs, with 30,000 light-sensitive diaphragms that open and close according to how bright it is outside. The airy museum space presents a collection that emphasizes the diversity of peoples and cultures in the Middle East, reminding us, among other things, that it was the birthplace of all three major Western religions. While intellectually stimulating, if art is what you are after, the Islamic Art section of the Louvre will be more satisfying. There’s a terrific view of the Seine and Notre-Dame from the rooftop restaurant, Le Zyriab.
- Anna Brooke