• Saoud Nature

As a child, Sheikh Saoud discovered the Natural History Museum in London with his mother. Amazed by the huge brontosaurus skeleton in the museum entrance, he would spend hours in the dinosaur gallery. Later, as a young adult, he began to recognise the importance of creating scientific libraries exploring the understanding of the planet’s formation and living species which led to him collecting rare fossils, minerals and first editions of significant natural history books.

Sheikh Saoud developed a special interest in extinct and endangered animals and the development of his farm, including extensive  breeding and animal care facilities, reflected his great desire to save rare species including the Spix’s Macaw, a bird extinct in the wild since 2000.

Cabinets of Curiosities

Miniature portrait of the Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576-1612)Sheikh Saoud was fascinated by the great collectors of the past and the 16th-century concept of ‘cabinets of curiosities’ that played a fundamental role in the development of modern science, the classification of the wonders of nature, history and arts. With a real passion for all arts and a sharp eye, he drew inspiration from such cabinets of curiosities, while developing collections for the future museums of Qatar.
This portrait is of Emperor Rudolf II Habsburg, considered one of the most important art patrons in the 16th century. His collection was housed in a famous curiosity cabinet in Prague, the Kunstkammer. Representing an inspiration for Sheikh Saoud, this comparatively small portrait was one of his favourite pieces.

Miniature portrait of the Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576-1612)
Daniel Fröschl (German, 1572/73-1613)
Frame: collection of King Charles I of England (r. 1625 - 1649)
Prague, early 17th century
Gouache on vellum
Qatar Museums, STM.NH.PA.0654

Al Wabra Farm

Miniature portrait of the Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576-1612)Sheikh Saoud was very concerned by the mass extinctions on our planet. On his family farm, Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, about 30 km outside Doha, he raised and bred numerous endangered animals, among them rare antelopes, birds of paradise and the Spix’s Macaw from Brazil.
2020 is an important year in the story of the Spix’s Macaw.  In March, over 100 of the birds which have been bred in captivity have been returned to Brazil to be acclimatized before they are released to the wild later in the year.  This is the first time a species has been reintroduced after being declared extinct in the wild and is the culmination of one of Sheikh Saoud’s projects.  For more information, please see www.spixsmacaw.org.

Compositions with Spix’s Macaws in Al Wabra Farm
Richard Avedon (1923-2004)
Doha, 2000
Gelatin silver print
Collection of The Sheikh Saoud Bin Mohamed Ali Al Thani Foundation, Qatar


Miniature portrait of the Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576-1612)In the process of building a comprehensive collection of natural history, Sheikh Saoud took an interest in minerals and precious stones. In fact, many European royal figures assembled mineral specimens in their cabinets of curiosities in the past. The selection in the exhibition, though small, includes some of the most impressive and rarest natural minerals.
This piece is known as ‘The Rose of Itatiaia’ and shows a Tourmaline in its natural shape. It was extracted from the Jonas Mine in Brazil in the 1970s and is 35 cm high. Tourmalines are from the family of silicates and can be of any colour. The red variety is called rubellite. The white crystals are cleavelandites, a variety of feldspar.

The ‘Rose of Itatiaia’
Brazil, Jonas Mine, Minas Gerais
Qatar Museums, NH.MI.0100


Miniature portrait of the Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576-1612)Sheikh Saoud was captivated by the mass extinction that occurred 65 million years ago, when a meteorite hit the planet. He collected fossils and skeletons that give an insight into life on Earth millions of years ago. Several of the dinosaur skeletons in his collection were unfortunately too large to be included in our exhibition.
Crinoids, also known as ‘sea lilies’, are marine invertebrate animals commonly confused with plants. This large specimen became attached to a piece of wood in the sea before being fossilized. The once-organic parts have turned into an iron-based golden mineral named ‘pyrite’.

Crinoids (Seirocrinus Subangularis) or ‘Sea Lilies’
Germany, Holzmaden Shale, Jurassic period, c. 180 Ma BCE
Fossilized specimen
Qatar Museums, NH.FO.2013

First Edition of Victoria Regia (or ‘The Great Water Lily of America’)
John Fisk Allen (1785-1865)
6 lithographs by William Sharp (c. 1802-c. 1862)
Boston, 1854
Opaque watercolours on paper
Qatar Museums, STM.NH.BO.0147