Qatari Sheikh's art collection

See possibly the most impressive personal collection on the planet

Qatari Sheikh's art collection

For those who have not been fortunate enough to take a peek at the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Bin Faisal Al-Thani Museum, just off the Dukhan Road, it’s a must. Founded in 1998, the museum has the personal touch of all belonging to Sheikh Faisal, and the collection is as vast as it is eclectic, with 45,000 square metres of fascination on show.

Dinosaurs, classic cars, traditional Arabic and Qatari settings, a large military collection, pearl fishing boats and even an aeroplane are just some of the items on show. It is five decades’ worth of his passions and interests, culminating in a vast collection of interesting items and concepts, all for the general public to admire.

A tip on getting there. Although not the easiest place to find, it is 15 minutes’ drive west of Education City and signposted. The building itself is large enough to easily spot from the Dukhan Road.

A personal journey
The collection is as much a personal journey of Sheikh Faisal’s life as anything else, from when he began collecting to the present day. Ornate or seemingly insignificant, it is all on show and creates a narrative of Sheikh Faisal’s life and travels, as well as his interests and fascinations. He comes to the museum most days to enjoy the artefacts exhibited and to give his insight on the personal process of acquiring the artefacts, and what they all mean to him. Initially, all of the collection was purchased purely for his own personal pleasure but, after time, the collection amassed was so vast that the idea came about for the public to be able to appreciate it.

It all had to begin somewhere, and it began with a collection of matchboxes and lighters. These are as interesting as some of the more grand parts of the collection, showing as much his personal journey as anything else. There are also dresses his mother owned and some of his own memories growing up as a child, including his old school books.

Genuine reflection of Qatari culture
The museum is as much a mission of preservation as anything else – keeping items that may not seem interesting on the surface but ultimately give an overall picture of local heritage and life. Even a collection of needles show how healthcare was in times past.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the collection is in its willingness to depict genuine settings in Qatar and the GCC. This includes a representation of what a Bedouin tent would have looked like, how a Qatari lady would sit on a camel and a collection of pearl fishing dhow boats, acknowledging this used to be the major form of trade and revenue income in times past. The reality of the culture makes it particularly fascinating.

Highlights of the collection
With such a subjective view on what the highlights are, everyone will have different opinions as to their favourite aspects of the museum. Personally, I found the traditional Syrian house for a middle class citizen a hundred years ago fascinating. The museum also helped me further understand Arabic culture and traditions, such as the wedding bedroom for newly married couples, adorned with ornaments as it was customary for people of the village to lend their attractive items to them to make the room extra special before taking them back a week or so later. Something I did not know. Other pieces that excited me were the Williams car donated to the museum as part of the Qatar UK Year of Culture in 2013, the selection of memorabilia from battles past and the prehistoric dinosaur collection. This truly shows the diversity of the collection at the museum. Sa’id Costa, director at the museum, explained: ‘We refer to it as the Google of museums. If you are interested in something, it is probably here.

‘Some people may be interested in cars, there’s a massive collection here. Others in cultural heritage, and there’s plenty on that too. Pre-history, not a problem. Military attire – all here. And so much more.’

A learning centre
The museum also encourages the younger community to get involved with engaging activities. There is an area dedicated to learning next to the café, as well as a very popular spot for young people to draw and also educational workshops with special guests to inform and entertain children. Family fun Fridays are destined to become a weekly endeavour by the end of the year as the museum restructures its opening times. It is also very popular with schools coming on trips.

The future for the museum
Earlier this year, the museum was established as a not-for-profit organisation, so although it is Sheikh Faisal’s personal collection, the museum is eligible for funding and has to generate its own revenue to make it sustainable. So soon there will be a charge for people to come in, but school trips will remain free of charge, with Sheikh Faisal and the team determined to ensure it is a free educational resource for schools.

Still undecided? Come and have a look for yourself, it’s quite a collection.

Traditional dhow boat

Bedouin tent representation

Ladies' majlis representation

Traditional Syrian home decor

Williams Formula 1 car

Military attire

Admission is currently free. Ring up in advance to notify the museum you are coming or go online and make a booking at Open Sat-Thu 9am-6pm, closed Friday. Al Samriya, Duhkan Road, Al Rayyan Street (4486 1444).

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