By Sajeev K Peter
KUWAIT: For a lover of history, a visit to Kuwait’s heritage museum is a truly rewarding experience. Offering a peek into the historic past, the Kuwait Heritage Museum veritably delineates Kuwait’s culture and history. One of the galleries of Kuwait National Museum, this heritage museum highlights the importance of Kuwait’s history from the very first days of its founding. Established in 1983 and designed by architect Michel Ecochard, the Heritage Museum depicts, in intricate details, the life and culture of Kuwait and introduces us to Kuwait’s vibrant past.
Some of the wax figures exhibited in this segment appear real. The exhibits detail how people in Kuwait survived harsh weather conditions in the past and what they did for a living, be it fishing, weaving or dhow-making, carpentry etc. Aspects such as traditional education are highlighted in a lifelike remodeling of a “kuttab”, a small elementary school – a tradition that lasted till the inauguration of the first school in Kuwait called “Al-Mubarakkiyya” in 1912. Every aspect of traditional Kuwaiti life is covered including domestic architecture such as the model of a “Diwaniyah” (main reception room), main cloak shop, gun shop, spice market, and the Safat square. A display of traditional writing tools, musical instruments, weapons, cameras, and traditional games offer a slice of life of Kuwait’s rich literary and cultural past.
There are rich depictions of ship-building and seafaring life that have been crucial in the multicultural genesis of Kuwait. The Al-Muhallab, an historic dhow — a huge ship outside the National Museum — is a testament to Kuwait’s rich seafaring traditions. The museum also hosts numerous detailed models on shipbuilding and labor with displays of the tools of the Nokhatha (Sea Captain) such as telescopes (darbeel), bild, adad, firjan, etc.
The museum also houses invaluable statues and inscriptions such as a statue of King Mithridates II from the First Millennium BC and the Ikaros Stone, which contains 45 lines of Greek writing, and a letter from one of the kings of the Seleucid Empire to the leader of the island Ikazarkos. A tour of the gallery is, undoubtedly, a journey through Kuwait’s cultural heritage and its legacy.