Beirut Restaurant, Al-Bakr Pharmacy, Arabian Library, Yafa Shoes and Qatar Ice Factory. These
are but a few of the shops and restaurants painted and celebrated in Yousef Ahmad’s “Mahalat”
exhibit. Conceived as a companion to “When I Remember the Past,” which offered a nostalgic
and painterly return to Msheireb, “Mahalat” brings a wealth of knowledge and urban details
about the burgeoning lives of Doha’s downtown.
In “Mahalat,” Yousef Ahmad engages in an exhaustive recollection of Kahraba Street, Abdullah
bin Thani Street and the Arab Bank Roundabout. Staying faithful to his thick brushstrokes and
enigmatic colors, he celebrates the pioneers of trade, the first shops that changed the urban
landscape of Msheireb. Through the paintings we learn that on those streets Yousef Ahmad’s
passion for the Arabic script was born. Inspired by iconic storefront banners such as that of
Edward the calligrapher and the unique visual language of each shop, Yousef Ahmad’s formative
artistic practice took its course.
“Mahalat” defines a moment in time when a cosmopolitan life was born in Doha. With Kahraba
Street paying homage in its aesthetics to Hamra Street in Beirut and the libraries introducing the
new mechanics of the Arabic printing press, Yousef Ahmad paints an Arab World on the cusp of
change. “Mahalat” is not just a recollection, it is also an invitation to look inward into our
consumer practices. The paintings remind us of the tactile intimacy of shopping and the bonds
formed with shopkeepers, a world that is increasingly different from our fast-paced virtual one.