I’m not sure when exactly the Msheireb museums opened, but when I read about it on a recent Doha News article I immediately made plans to visit soon.
Located in the ‘heart of Doha’, just behind the Emiri Diwan and next to Souq Waqif, it’s pretty much in a great location for a convenient day of cultural sight seeing and touring.
The museums comprise of four buildings, each with a different theme in mind, and each within a few steps from each other. The entire ‘compound’ itself is wonderful, especially since it started getting dark while we were there and the lights made everything glow in a beautiful way. There’s just something about Middle Eastern architecture and the way it all looks when the sun sets that gets me all hyped.
Very clean, nice to walk around, and the weather was perfect while I was there.
The museums are numbered 1-4 and it works best if you follow their suggestions, as you go from learning a bit about global history to learning about recent events and future plans for Qatar. You can either follow the map/suggestions on their website, or look through the brochure they hand you when you visit any of the museums.
Bin Jelmood House
The first building is the Bin Jelmood House, with its aim to raise awareness about the history slavery as well as the different kinds of modern slavery. Yes, the museum addresses modern slavery in Qatar! I found this to be the most educational out of all the museums, and we spent the most time there. Not just for the educational aspect though, but more for the stories told in the different galleries.
The staff greeted us the moment we got down from the taxi and led us inside, where even more staff took over to provide us with information and a brochure as well as tell us where to start.
“Can I take pictures?” I asked.
“You can take as many pictures as you want, and even touch everything!” Was the response I got. Well if you insist!
The galleries start by giving an overview about slavery, its definition, what it means to lose one’s freedom, then go on to the global history of slavery and the trading of humans throughout the Indian Ocean world and the gulf, and then finally the history of slavery in Qatar and modern slavery today.
There are different galleries that show visual information and videos, the stories of victims, and one particularly emotional animation video about the story of one female victim. All the galleries leave you feeling a bit heavy at the end, especially when you read the stories of the slaves in the gulf region before slavery was abolished and then read the stories of modern human exploitation. Slavery isn’t just a part of history, it’s something very real that is still happening to thousands of men, women and children.
A very wonderful and interactive gallery at the end allows visitors to make a pledge to end slavery by asking them to contribute by raising awareness and having their picture taken for the digital wall. Try to find me there!
All in all, this was definitely the best museum out of all four.
The company house is a must for those interested in the history of Qatar and the effects of discovering it was very rich in black gold (oil!) and natural gas. Stories from the elder generations of Qataris, the first of those to work cultivating this resource for the future of the country, are around every corner and hallway of the very building that used to be the headquarters of Qatar’s first oil company. They talk about seeing their family only once a month before returning to the oil rigs in Dukhan, the hardships they faced, especially during the war, and what it was like to see their country develop thanks to their hard work.
An interactive booth is also available for those who would like to tell stories of their own!
The smallest house, but definitely not to be missed!
Rooms are set up with furniture to show visitors how they would have looked like at the time it was in use, and how a typical Qatari family lived. The house was originally built in the 1920’s and has since been renovated and expanded quite a few times. You can see the original layout and the subsequent changes as well.
There are small sections where you can see the original foundation of the house after excavation and the first archaeological digs that took place, as well as several of the items found during the digs.
Mohammed Bin Jassim House
The least interesting out of all four museums (for me at least), and with less to show compared to the others even though the building itself seems to be the biggest. The MBJ house was built by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jassim Al-Thani, son of the founder of the modern state of Qatar. Of course it’s been refreshed and renovated, but it still gives visitors an idea of the architecture and heritage of Qatar from years ago, along with the Radwani and Company houses.
There are several installations where the older generations of Qatar tell their stories about how it was to live back before the economical boom, and their memories of Msheireb being the hub of Doha at the time. We learned about the first bank, first pharmacy, first hotel and about the hospitals at the time.
Again, visitors are given the chance to record their story and share it with future guests!
A big part of this museum is to show visitors the transformation of Msheireb over time, its historical importance, and the plans for the future with the new Msheireb Downtown Doha.
The staff were all well informed about the museums and even acted as tour guides sometimes, leading us from one building to another and explaining what we would find and where we should go next. Their helpfulness really added to the whole experience. I was surprised to see it so empty while we were there, I think we encountered only two other families as a whole? A shame because all four buildings have quite a lot to offer, and I think Msheireb really paid attention to details to try and make the museums interactive and educational.
I’d definitely go again.
Msheireb Downtown Doha
Monday to Thursday: 9.00am – 5.00pm
Friday: 3.00pm – 9.00pm
Saturday: 9.00am – 9.00pm
Last Admission 30 minutes before closing