Qatar boasts of numerous public museums that highlight the country’s cultural vision.
The country also houses private museums that contribute to preserving Qatar’s legacy for successive generations.
On the occasion of the International Museum Day, which falls on May 18 every year, the Qatar News Agency (QNA) shed light on the importance, strength and presence of private museums in the country's cultural scene, as well as the experiences and contribution of these museums.
Among the most important and prominent private museums is the 'Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani Museum', located in Al Sheehaniya area.
One of the most famous private museums for Islamic art and antiques in the Middle East, it narrates chapters of Qatar’s history, occupying an area of about 50,000sq m and includes more than 50,000 rare pieces from four continents.
The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani Museum is divided into more than 17 sections, including heritage, vehicles, Islamic art, fossils, carpets, the Palestinian house, the levant house, and the Egyptian house.
HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani, Founder and Chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, said in an exclusive interview with QNA that he inherited his fondness and interest in collecting art pieces and the preservation of the heritage from his father, Sheikh Qassim bin Faisal, who took him to many museums and archaeological sites in the Arab Gulf region and other countries, including Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Greece.
He said this contributed to his understanding, knowledge and connection to this world, as well as his awareness of the importance of heritage within civilisations.
HE Sheikh Faisal said that he began his journey by collecting fossils, postage stamps, toys and pieces of art, in particular those from famous personalities.
Gradually his interest expanded to include historic pieces from all over the world.
HE Sheikh Faisal was then inspired to make his collection available to lovers of history and heritage.
He said that the museum's goal is to preserve, document and display all historical and artistic heritage pieces, explaining that it began with a Qatari heritage building in the Al Samriya farm.
HE Sheikh Faisal noted that his interest in collectibles enriched his thought, knowledge and understanding of culture.
He said that the museum’s coins section – which has about 4,000 pieces – includes coins from Croesus era, from countries that are hundreds of years old, and from those that no longer exist.
In the religions section, the museum provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about these religions, away from the sway of false and misleading information, and helping to spread the culture of acceptance of the other.
HE Sheikh Faisal admitted that this hobby is very expensive and requires great care, noting that treasures in his museum include things that are no longer available in the global market.
He said that all the museum's items were purchased or received as gifts.
HE Sheikh Faisal stressed his keenness to personally lead a tour of the museum, given that certain rare and valuable pieces are only accessible by him.
He also recounted his passion for old cars.
HE Sheikh Faisal said that owns around 1,000, some 500 of which are on a special floor of the JW Marriott Hotel in Doha.
He added his two sons, Mohamed and Khalid, are more passionate about the vehicles.
HE Sheikh Faisal revealed that they are in the process of preparing a special hall in the museum to display cars of all kinds, in preparation for hosting visitors to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
He said that a theatre in the museum, with a capacity for 500 people, will host lectures and events introducing the culture and customs of Qatar, and that a special museum for children will be opening soon.
He added that a special section would also open soon, depicting mud houses, showing Qatari life in the past and the hardships of life in the last hundred years following major events, including the World Wars, disease outbreaks, and the recession in the pearling industry.
HE Sheikh Faisal also stated that in the coming days, he will open a special section dealing with the culture of the Islamic and Arab worlds.
He laid out his vision for the museum: to be a legacy for the nation, containing not just treasures from Qatar or the Gulf, but also from Morocco, Algeria, Indonesia, and Malaysia, from the days of Andalusia and from Asia, especially the Qur’an, and the rarest of manuscripts.
*Abdulla bin Lahdan al-Mohannadi's museum is considered one of the most important landmarks of the city of Al Dhakhira.
He said the idea for the museum was sparked when he witnessed the demolition of the old city of Al Dhakhira.
Al-Mohannadi said that at that moment, he recalled the history and the folklore of the residents of the old city.
He was already a collector of stamps, pictures, coins and antiques, so he thought about reviving that folklore.
At the time when the old city of Al Khor and Al Dhakhira was demolished, al-Mohannadi kept his collectibles in a room in his house.
Over time the number of items increased until the room could no longer accommodate them, so he thought of establishing a museum to preserve them, to be a legacy for present and future generations, and serve researchers and those interested in heritage.
The museum building, designed in line with the Qatari heritage, is made up of different sections.
There is the old gate, and on the southern side is the Qatari al-majlis (guest room), and it includes special tables that were used by pearl merchants, as well as a set of musical devices such as radios and old recorders, and instruments such as a lute, a violin, drums, and tambourines, in addition to old phones, old tapes and televisions, and old photos.
Adjacent to the majlis is the cafe, which sports various types of old coffee pots, various teapots, bottles, coffee makers, a large tanoor (mud oven), fire bellower, and other special tools.
Al-Mohannadi added that in the courtyard of the museum is an al jleeb (well) and the water bucket that was present in most Qatari houses, as well as the old outdoor kitchen on the eastern side, which includes al shola (stove), the types of pots, and the tools used for cooking, trays, and al sega (in which they make milk).
In the inner kitchen are a variety of household items, and there is the bedroom in the fashion of the past, according to the condition of the people of the house.
In the bedroom there is the old bed with various items including sheets, towels and pillows, and there are almrash (perfumes like the cologne), roshina (shelves in the wall), and old mirrors with drawings that were brought from India, as well as various decorative bottles.
There are also decorations, women’s clothes and types of rare old abayas such as Umm Sammka by the herbal doctor Aisha al-Ghashali and al-Bakhnaq (traditional celebration clothes), almulfaa (abaya worn over the head to cover the whole body) and the batateel (fabric to cover the face), and old accessories.
Additionally, there are the kabet (cabinet) for clothes, which contain coloured iron boxes, sondouq mbayeit (big traditional storage boxes), various old travel bags, and old market guard clothes.
Al-Mohannadi said that the museum includes a room that recalls the history and past of the city of Al Dhakhira and the most important historical figures, and includes pictures of poets, narrators, writers, al-serdal (captains of the pearl diving ships), tawaweesh (pearl merchants), al-nawakhatha (captains of the boats), and al-nahameen (the singers in the ships).
There are diving tools of all kinds, as well as types of pearls that are kept in their small boxes, pearl scales and other.
Additionally, there is a room devoted to old and rare heritage books, magazines and newspapers, as well as old school textbooks and school bags, which were used by the students of that era.
There is a room dedicated to old building and carpentry materials and tools, and a room dedicated to old children's games.
Al-Mohannadi said that the museum also sports different kinds of doors, the types of stones found in Qatar, the Qatar desert rose (which inspired the design of the National Museum of Qatar), as well as some tools that are used in ancient folk games.
He said that the museum is ready to receive the guests of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Al-Mohannadi said that he is looking forward to co-ordinating with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, inviting them to visit his museum, and co-ordinating with them to inform guests about the heritage of the people of Qatar, especially the Al Dakhira and Al Khor areas.
Writer and researcher Abdulrahman al-Sunaidi, the author of the book Museums and Private Libraries in Qatar and the owner of the Al Sunaidi Museum of Computer History, explained in a special statement to QNA that in his initial research on the world of private museums, he recorded nine private museums in Qatar, which he detailed in the first section of the book.
Following that, he found more private museums as well as libraries.
Al-Sunaidi hopes to publish an encyclopedia chronicling and documenting the efforts of the owners of museums and private libraries in Qatar.
He said that the number of private museums in the country shows the extent of the awareness within Qatari society about history and heritage in Qatar and the world.
The writer called for the further efforts to support the owners of private museums, especially those who are less well-known, through a database and the introduction of their holdings by the authorities, such as Qatar Museums, the Ministry of Culture, and Qatar Tourism.
About his museum, al-Sunaidi said that it began in late 1989, when he was with a group of friends who frequented the commercial market in what is now Msheireb Downtown.
The market at that time was a destination for computer and technology amateurs and professionals.
With the development of technology and the Internet, al-Sunaidi began to order collectibles from outside the country.
Over time, he collected more than 500 pieces of hardware, software and publications, all of which tell and document the history of the computer.
His collection includes Arab programs and publications that played a major role in Arabising the computer, in addition to rare new acquisitions of programs, devices and magazines documenting the development of the computer.