The impressiveness of this ever-fascinating museum begins with the building itself. The chrome-and-glass front rises high into the local skyline, its etched windows refracting classic Islamic tile design in a 21st-century architectural mode. The museum offers near-continuous programs of art, dance and cinema designed to showcase the best of contemporary Arab creativity, with rotating exhibits that do a superb job of promoting cross-cultural understanding. The current Haj exhibit is breathtakingly displayed, provoking gasps of amazement from even Muslim visitors on the day I attended. An Orient Express exhibit in the esplanade offers the rare opportunity to walk through a recreated train assembled from actual Pullman cars -- if you want to know what James Bond's berth might have looked like in "From Russia With Love," this is the place to see it. The museum makes no concession to non-French speakers, a circumstance that will hopefully improve as its international attendance continues to rise. The store does offer a treat for Arab cinema fans, with a fairly extensive collection of DVDs (many with English subtitles) unavailable in the US. And don't miss the top-floor observation deck, which offers perhaps the best view of Paris outside the Eiffel Tower.
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