Top 10 Arab Museums
By: Pamela Dimitrova/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Arab museums are jewels in the Arab world – they tell ancient stories, they carry proudly the Arabic culture and traditions, they educate and preserve. Here is a list of the top 10 Arab museums, everyone should visit at least once during their lifetime!
The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
The museum houses 5,000 years old artifacts. It is known worldwide as the home of King Tutankhamun. It proudly displays almost 1,700 iconic pieces from the tomb of King Tut himself, including the solid gold mask that covered the young pharaoh’s head. The impressive mask weighs in at over fifty pounds of solid gold and is a wonder to behold.
One of the most famous Arab museums, it also has on show granite figures of the legendary Queen Hatshepsut, as well as colossal statues of Amenhotep IV (King Tut’s father) from Karnak Temple. You can also admire a small but fine collection of Fayoum portraits from the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort), Manama, Bahrain
Located on a historic site, which was once the capital of the Dilmun where one of the most important ancient civilizations of the region resided, the museum contains 500 unique artifacts displayed along a wall uncovered during an archaeological dig. The fort is not accessible by public transport and is a half-hour walk from Manama, Bahrain’s capital.
Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait City, Kuwait
The museum is a must for anyone interested in Kuwaiti arts and culture. It tells the story of the country in the past century through paintings, artifacts and other historically significant objects. Don’t miss the one-of-a-kind Tareq Rajab calligraphy collection, which displays handwritten script from the 7th century onwards.
Etihad Museum, Dubai, UAE
This museum features a series of interactive pavilions where visitors can explore the UAE’s history, with particular emphasis on the significant period between 1968 and 1974, through photos, films and more. Spread over 25,000sqm, the unique curved white roof of the museum was inspired by the shape of the Constitution document, and is adorned with seven columns meant to symbolize the pens used to sign the original agreement that unified the seven emirates.
Marrakech Museum, Marrakech, Morocco
Often referred to as the “jewel of Marrakech”, the Dar M’Nebhi Palace which houses the Museum is a feast for the eyes. The dozens of beautifully decorated rooms, with magnificent archways, pillars, mosaics and more are home to a superb collection of Jewish, Berber and Muslim artifacts.
Slemani Museum, As Sulaymaniyah, Iraq
In a controversial move, Kurdish authorities offered rewards on stolen artifacts which helped the museum rebuild its impressive collection. Treasures include the ancient Sumerian texts, Babylonian stamps and seals, and the obelisk of Hammurabi, whose origins can be traced back to 1792-1750 BC.
National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Housed in the King Abdulaziz Historical Centre, the museum holds a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living Arabian culture, including a gallery dedicated to the life of Prophet Mohammad. The modernist exterior designed by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama is inspired by the sand dunes that surround the city of Riyadh.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Qatar
Situated on Doha’s picturesque corniche, this modern architecture masterpiece has become one of Qatar’s most iconic attractions. Having opened to the public in December of 2008, the museum holds a collection of Islamic artwork spanning three continents and 1,400 years of history.
Beirut National Museum, Beirut, Lebanon
Founded in 1919, the National Museum of Beirut stands tall as a monument in its own right. The actual building of the establishment took place in 1930. Until then, the artifacts were housed in another building in Beirut. By 1942 the museum had opened its doors, but in 1975 it was damaged by the civil war. The building was ruined almost to destruction as it was used as militia base. Its artifacts had to be kept in storage for 15 years. Restoration started in 1995, and in 1999 the museum once again opened.
Its collection includes items from the prehistoric era, the Roman period (64-395 CE) and up until the Mamluk period (635-1516 CE).
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah, UAE
A lot of what you always wanted to know about Islam is addressed in this museum housed in a converted souq on the waterfront. Ground-floor galleries reflect different aspects of the Islamic faith, including the significance of hajj, and scientific accomplishments in the Arab world, particularly in mathematics and astronomy. The upper floors navigate through 1400 years of Islamic art and artifacts, including ceramics, woodwork, textiles and jewelry. Don’t miss the zodiac mosaic below the central dome.
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