Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum
Parimita Barooah Bora
Sunday, October 3, 2010
We first visited the Museum during Ramadan period but it was closed (we didn’t know about the Ramadan Timings). We visited again later and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum is a memorial to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War. The museum tries to recreate the horror of the Iraqi invasion; the sacrifices that ordinary Kuwaiti citizens, the Kuwaiti military and the allies made in order to beat back Saddam's forces. The exhibits comprise a set of well-crafted models of the city that are illuminated in time with an audio recording in English. The experience of walking through the darkened corridors, lit only by simulated gun blasts and mortar attacks, and focusing on the heroism of the few for the safety of the many is a unique experience.
As you approach the museum, you will see Iraqi tanks displayed outside. As you enter, you will come across a diwaniya, where you can sit and take rest for some time. As my husband entered the office of the museum to enquire, I stroll in the front yard. I was drawn by a model of a house being torpedoed. The name Saddam is painted on the torpedo. Flags of the nations that helped Kuwait in its hour of need surround the monument.
My husband comes out paying the entry fee (1 KD per person) and the office bearer takes us to the museum. The first room has hand-drawn pictures of the rulers of Kuwait from the late Sheikh Mubarak Al Kabeer to the present Emir. It also displays a large map of Kuwait made of colored glass. Then follows a section devoted to the discovery of oil and the early days of prosperity. This hall is called the Kuwait Heritage Hall. In this hall, through voice recordings, old folk songs and miniature models of old Kuwaiti buildings, the visitors will gain insight into the ancient history of Kuwait. There is a nice narration on progress Kuwait made under its various rulers. It also explains how after discovery of oil in 1936, Kuwait underwent transition from a small Emirate to an internationally influential modern and planned state with high living standards. In On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and the then Amir of Kuwait, Abdullah III Al Salim Al Sabah. And 11th November 1962 is when the Kuwaiti Constitution was ratified by the late Sh. Abdulla Al Salem Al Sabah followed by the formation of the Parliament on 23rd January 1963. The Gulf rupee, issued by the Reserve Bank of India, was replaced by the Kuwaiti dinar. The discovery of large oil fields, especially the Burgan filed, triggered a large influx of foreign investments into Kuwait. The massive growth of the petroleum industry transformed Kuwait from a poor pearl farming community into one of the richest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and by 1952; the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Egypt and India. All these events are well described. Also there are pictures of Kuwaiti flag, its changes from 1914 to the present times.
Just before dawn on 2 August 1990, an army of some 100,000 Iraqi troops supported by tanks stormed into Kuwait and seized the country in just five hours. The sound of battle, guns, army tanks, attack on the Dasman palace, Al Qurain house, Kuwaiti children and ladies shouting for help, Kuwaiti ladies coming out in the road to fight for their country, Kuwaiti people running away from Kuwait to a safer place( most of them run to Turkey)and carrying whatever they could in their cars, Kuwaiti soldiers cooking in their tents, oil fields burning , guns blasting, helicopters whirring overhead, people screaming, bombs are dropped, houses set on fire, machine guns rattle, etc are all beautifully and vividly recreated through using models, audio recordings, smoke, sound and light effects. It all seems very realistic – and tells the story through Kuwaiti eyes. A total of 737 oil wells burnt and 6 million barrels of oil thrown to the Arabian Sea by the Iraqi forces. Then comes liberation of Kuwait from seven months of traumatic Iraqi occupation on February 26, 1991. This historic day is also superbly recreated. This part is the main attraction of the museum and it is call the Invasion Tunnel.
After the models, smoke and sound effect description is over, you come across a hall where there is provision to show movies on Iraqi invasion. With the seating capacity of 100, the theater is also used to conduct lectures and seminars. The office bearer comes and takes us to another passage where there is pictures and description of all 34 countries that helped Kuwait in their fight against Saddam. There are pictures of the Bangladeshi/ Egyptian and other countries soldiers who sacrificed their life for liberation and rebuilding of Kuwait. Also there are pictures of the various government Departments that were destructed during the war. They include picture of Ministry of Public Works, Kuwait Public Transport Co, Ministry of Defence, Fire Services, Kuwait University, Public Authority, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Education, Central Bank of Kuwait, Touristic Enterprises Co, Public Authority for Industry, Kuwait Red Crescent Society, Ministry of Sports and Youth, Environmental Public Authority and the worst hit was the Agriculture Affairs and Fish resources. There is also pictures of Kuwaiti oil wells burning, destruction on the environment, destroyed aircraft and engine, destruction of Bayan Palace and Seif Palace , destruction caused to various restaurants, toy shops. Also some of the guns, rifle/gun cartridges used during the war are also displayed. Also very disturbing photos/ paintings of torture centers at Iraqi police stations and young children killed by poisoned gas, martyrs, outcome of chemical gases used during the war, Kuwaiti women martyrs, names of Kuwaiti city’s changed by invaders, destruction caused to marine life due to oil been dumped in the sea is also vividly shown through paintings. The last room of the museum describes Saddam as the tormentor, murderer and his atrocities displayed.
Despite the nationalist propaganda, the museum is worth the visit.
Entry Fee: 1 KD
Address: Northern Shuwaikh
Villa No 32, next to the Shabi Theater
Phone: 24845335, 24846336
How to reach: Go by Gulf Road towards Shuwaikh and take the U-turn in front of KPC (Kuwait Petroleum Corporation) headquarters and then take the first right turn. As you move you will see Shabi Theater, and next to it is the Memorial Museum. You will not miss the museum as two tanks used by Iraqi’s are placed in front of the museum.