There is nothing more exciting like getting completely submerged in history and transported back in time by visiting a museum. The Tareq Rajab Museum- one of Kuwait’s small-scale distinct personal museums is a fantastic place to engage and enjoy in Kuwait. The Tareq Rajab collection is the private collection of antiquities by Kuwait's first Minister Tareq Sayed Rajab and his wife Jehan Wellborne, which include Islamic Arts, metal and glass works, Treasures of Ceramics, Gold and Silver jewelry, costumes of sheikhs and shepherds, English costumes, Bahraini pearls, pottery, metalwork, glass, masonry, manuscripts, and musical instruments.
Unveiled in 1980, the original Museum was a private art collection and now the Tareq Rajab Museum contains a collection of over thirty thousand items collected by this dynamic couple over the last fifty years, 10 thousand of which are now on permanent display. After which, the museum has been extended by adding two new buildings (Dar Al-Cid and Dar Jehan also called as the Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy) to the museum in Jabriya, the area where the first museum was opened.
The museum is divided into two main regions – Area (A) and Area (B). Each displays a collection of magnificently handmade objects dated back to 250 years. There are the stunning costumes embroideries and weaves collected from several regions across the world, including Iran Palestine, Uzbek and Afghanistan. The ornaments section includes gold and silver ornaments from Ethiopia, Thailand, China and other countries.
Tareq Rajab museum is the innovation of Kuwait's first Minister Tareq Rajab and Jehan Wellborne, his wife. Tareq Sayed Rajab went to Britain to study art and archaeology where he met his future wife Jehan Wellborne and married her in the year 1955 after completing his studies. Jehan Wellborne was keen about exploring on the culture and lifestyle of different types of people. She was also interested in the legends and other folklore subjects. After getting married to Tareq Sayed, she worked on all these things and this is how the idea of constructing the Tareq Rajab Museum came to existence.
Mr. Tareq Rajab was the first Director of the Department of Museums and Antiquities in Kuwait. He resigned the post in 1969 and joined his wife in her effort. They travelled all over the Islamic world and beyond to South-East Asia and Central as well as the Far East collecting relics, artifacts and photographing historically significant things; peoples, their traditions and everything they believed could be used and displayed in a museum. Due to their uphill struggle and research, they were able to open the Museum to the public in 1980.
Due to the Iraqi invasion in August 1990, the entire museum was quickly hidden by a brick wall and the stairs were covered in rubbish. one side of the Museum had to be quickly but carefully packed away into the available boxes. These were then placed behind a suitable space which was blocked off. However, the other side of the museum had textiles, jewellery musical instruments and costumes; it was impossible to pack it immediately owing to lack of containers and mainly space. With the Iraqi army relentlessly circling around every road, the reference library with its rare books and magazines pertaining to the Arab/Islamic world was blocked off from the main buildings as well. The museum storage area in the upper part of the building was blocked away and Museum reopened its doors once again after the war was over in September 1991.
How to get there?
The Tareq Rajab Museum is a private museum located in a villa in Block 12 of Jabriya. Visitors have to take the right turn into Jabriya, and then take the first right again. Drive a couple blocks, looking for a clearly stunning building on the right which is Dar al Cid.
For The new Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic calligraphy, go to the street end, where they should turn right. Go straight, all the way to the street end and turn right. There is the New English School on the right and is a big parking lot on the left.
There is another beautiful building that looks same like the Dar al Cid (which is up the same street, but it is a no entry from that direction) and that is the new Calligraphy museum.
Inside the museum
The museum is stunning and well organized. It is suggested that two hours is not sufficient to see its ethnographic collection as it has extensive, rich collection of a wide array of items from different parts of the world. Inside, when we enter we can find a precious, old, wooden door was attached to the wall to the right and there are many different objects on display.
The real collection of artifacts is located in the basement. The entire museum was protected from Iraqi destruction when this door was hurriedly hidden by a brick wall, and the stairs were covered by garbage. The door was opened months after the freedom of Kuwait and this is the entrance to a terrific museum.
Most sections of the museum are dedicated to jewellery and traditional dresses. This Museum is considered to be the significant museum focusing in Silver Folk jewellery as it houses around 10,000 pieces in which only 2,000 are on display. The Museum also has an excellent and rare collection of gold jewellery. The Gold Room has the exhibits which go as far back as the pre-Islamic period and are mostly from the Middle East. There is also a section on Byzantine, Islamic, and Roman ornaments which shows the links with the Islamic Ornaments.
They have also displayed the items collected from Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, from India, Tibet, Bhutan, Ethiopia, and other parts of the world, as well as Islamic region and yes, also Kuwait itself. Most of them have clear English explanations for overseas visitors to make them remind of journeys in those regions. There is a display with necklaces from the Middle East and Tibet, claiming that there had been strong ties between the two regions since many centuries - and indeed, the jewellery also looks similar. The Museum has one of the largest collections of weavings, costumes and embroideries from the Arab world. Also, there is a small but beautiful collection of Chinese costumes and embroideries, mainly from 19th Century and a few rare examples from 17th century.
Visitors can see a wall in which musical instruments were on display, from Kashmir, Tibet, Afghanistan and many gulf countries. Musical section is followed by dresses which have collars, headdresses, wristbands, neckpieces and much more.
There is another section in the corner in which rare, old calligraphy, daggers, pottery, glass vases, objects made from metal where displayed. Metalwork collection has over 3000 exhibits which includes numerous incense burners from different periods and regions of the Arab world.
The new TR Museum of Islamic Calligraphy is on the same street as the Dar al Cid, also under the patronage of the Tareq Rajab family. This is one of the most beautiful buildings in Kuwait and this museum aims to trace and educate visitors about the growth of the Arabic Script through time, with the scripts on display dating back from the 6th century up to the present day.
Things to remember
The museum is open daily and TR museum entrance is 2 KD while new TR museum of Islamic calligraphy entrance is free
No photography allowed and there is video surveillance
There is a museum shop in the corner of the museum, where you can buy a selection of cards and books.
Those who want to take it all in, be sure to go for at least two hours.
It is hard to get a taxi, as the museum is in a residential area. Visitors can walk 5 min to the Hadi Clinic (outside of the door, turn right, walk to the main road and then turn left) where it is easier to get a taxi.
House 16, Block 12, Street 5,
Tel: 2531 7358
Daily from 9:00am to 12:00pm; 4:00pm to 7:00pm
On Friday – 9:00am to 12:00pm
Entry is KD2 / Adult. Children and students are free.