When you shift base to a new country the best place to know about that country, its history, culture and custom is to visit its museums. That’s the first step we took after landing in Kuwait. We visited the Kuwait National Museum. After that many more visits followed taking parents, in-laws, my brother and friends.
Located in Kuwait City on the Arabian Gulf Street between the Seif Palace and the National Assembly (Parliament), the Kuwait National Museum was planned by Michel Ecochard. A few feet away, there is Al Sadu house which faces the Gulf Street. Though the architectural project and the plans of the museum were ready in 1960, actual construction started only in 1981. It was on February 23, 1983 that two of the four buildings were inaugurated; the planetarium was opened on February 16, 1986. One of the four blocks of the museum houses all administrative wings, offices and an auditorium. The permanent exhibits are displayed in the other three blocks.
The museum has an interesting history. It was originally the residence of Sheikh Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah. But the archaeological discoveries at Failaka created a need for a place to house these important finds. A Department of Antiquity and Museums was also set up by the government and the department bought the former home of the Sabah family in Kuwait City and turned it into the national museum. A tour of the Kuwait National Museum of Kuwait makes you discover the wonderful art collection of the Al-Sabah dynasty.
Upon entering the guard takes your civil ID and gives you a visitor’s badge. The entry to the museum is free. The museum visiting hours are as follows: Monday to Saturday: 8.30-12.30AM 4.30- 8.30PM
Friday Morning off. Afternoon: 4.30-8.30
There are two types of museums, the first museum is a display of artifacts found on Failaka Island during an archaeological dig, wooden doors of the past, terracotta and engraved tools, animal fossil which is 16million old, group of blades and cutters from Flint stone and Neolithic age, silver statues and bronze coins from the bronze period and Hellenistic period.
The next museum is a museum of Kuwaiti heritage. It portrays what Kuwait was like during the 40's and 50's. The displays include statues imitating the old ways of Kuwait; from merchants selling their goods to what a typical Kuwaiti house looked like before the invasion of modern technology. There are old photos dating back to 1942. You will come to know that Kuwait was once a simple trading hub and that a lot of people depended on the sea for earnings. As you enter the museum on the left side is a library of old Arabic books. It’s difficult to understand what the books are all about as there were no explanations in English. But the other displays are nicely explained in English. The first statue is that of “Al Natur”( guard of the market). His duty was the security and maintenance of the market. Then there is “Al Bajajas” or the Jew market as all the vendors were Jewish. They imported things from India and sold it to the Kuwaiti people. “Al Bourkhotaah”(originally Indian word) is the shop that sells utensils and household items. Most of the items were imported from India. Then there is “Al Kharaj”, who sold leather products mainly shoes of camel and sheep skin. ‘Al Khabooj” is the oldest market in Kuwait, who makes and
sells bread. “Al Tamoor”, locally known as “Al Tamar” was the Dates Market. Varieties of dates are displayed which are kept in wooden boxes. Al Behri is the most costly dates and it’s from the Basra district of Iraq. Also the Arms Market, where different types of guns were sold and repaired. They were mainly imported from Europe. Al Naddaf and Al Haddad are also exhibited."Al Naddaf" is the person who prepares the cotton and fiils it in different items made from textiles like mattresses, seats and cushions. "Al Haddad" is the Arabic name for blacksmith, one of Kuwait's oldest crafts serving local needs for iron products." Souq Al Haddadin" is one of Kuwait's oldest markets. Also beautifully projected is "Al Qaffas", the name give to the person who manufactures products made from palm tree banches such as birdcages, beds and others. These products were considered very important for the daily life of Kuwaitis in the past. "Al Saffar" is the name given to the person who makes copper utensils and accessories. In the past " Souq Al-Safafir" was the marketplace for copper utensils and accessories. Shops selling grocery ‘Bakala’; shops selling cloths “ Bishoyts”; curtain maker “Al Gatan”; “Al Safat Square”, which was a commercial area for long time, where convoy’s meet and exchanged products, then Al Sadu weaving which is their traditional weaving are all presented attractively. Then Madrassa’s, Diwaniya, Bride’s room, Family Room, Kitchen, Inner courtyard of a Kuwaiti household etc which are part of a Kuwaiti house are attractively displayed. In the past Kuwaiti’s mainly depended on ship building and pearl diving to earn their living. Building sailing ships was known as “Al Qallafa" and this industry became popular and grew over the past three centuries and played an integral role in Kuwait's economy in the past. This glorious past of Kuwait is also vividly displayed.
Apart from the daily life been projected in statues and images, there are a few antique's on display such as gramophones, camera's, radio’s, weapons, jewelry, clothing ( men and women), Chinese items mainly household pots, plates, incense holder and sprays of different shapes and sizes and a lot more to see and learn.
The Kuwait National Planetarium which is a part of Kuwait National resembles a big oil container. Inaugurated in 1986, the planetarium was one of the first in the Gulf region. Carl Zeiss equipped the dome with all technical facilities. The end came after only four years of its operation. In 1990, during the Gulf War, the Kuwait National Planetarium building was sabotaged and the planetarium burnt. The initial plan was to keep the destroyed building as witness to the invasion but reconstructions begin in 2000.
Try to take your kids to attend the shows at the planetarium as it is educative and appealing. It remains open till 7 in the evening. There are no morning shows on Friday and Saturday’s. The show timings are as follows:
1st Show : 10:00
2nd Show : 11:00
3rd Show : 12:00
1st Show : 5:00
2nd Show : 5:45
3rd Show : 6:30
Although the museum was looted, burned and destroyed by Iraqi invaders, efforts to restore most of the artifacts and important materials were made. Anyhow, it is a real great place to visit if you're interested in the past.