Tareq Rajab Museum



The Tareq Rajab Museum houses a collection of over thirty thousand items collected over the last fifty years, of which approximately ten thousand are on permanent display. Tareq Sayed Rajab was the first Kuwaiti to be sent abroad to study art and archaeology. While a student in the United Kingdom, he met his future wife, Jehan Wellborne, who from her childhood was interested in folklore and particularly the arts and life of exotic peoples and minorities. They got married in 1955 and after their return to Kuwait; Mr. Rajab was appointed as the first Director of the Department of Antiquities and Museums of Kuwait. He resigned from his post in 1969 and together with his wife opened the New English School for Kuwaiti and foreign children. By then they were already involved in collecting material for a future Museum of their own. They travelled all over the Islamic world and beyond to Central and  South-East Asia and the Far East, collecting artefacts and photographing monuments, peoples, their customs, everything they believed could be used and exhibited in a museum. As a result of their hard work and research, they were able to open the Museum to the public in 1980.

 The Museum is divided into two parts: in Area A, calligraphy, manuscripts, miniatures, ceramics, metalwork, glass, jade-, wood- and stone-carvings are exhibited. Area B contains objects which were produced in the Islamic world during the last ca. 250 years, i.e. costumes, textiles, jewellery and musical instruments.

In August 1990 and within the first week of the Invasion one side of the Museum had to be hurriedly but carefully packed away into any available boxes. These were then placed behind a convenient space which was blocked off. It was impossible to do much with the other side of the Museum with its textiles, musical instruments, jewellery and costumes, owing to lack of containers and mainly space. With the Iraqi army ceaselessly circling around every road and ready to be interested in any kind of activity, the best that could be managed was to separate each side from the other and then as far as possible block each one off.

The steps leading down in to the Museum with their show cases were left as they were, anything of a vaguely “Museum”. The great wooden Indian door facing onto the street were securely locked and bolted.

The reference library with its rare books and magazines pertaining to the Arab/Islamic world was blocked off from the main buildings as well. As it adjoined the empty side of the Museum that portion was reopened during the Air War for the neighbours to use as a bomb shelter if needed. The museum storage area in the upper part of the building was blocked away and the rest was Gods will. It was decided that the Museum would reopen its doors once again in September 1991.

In 2001, Tareq Rajab Museum opened Dar El Cid Exhibition Halls which is close to the Museum‘s main building. Its aim was to promote art and culture by the way of lectures and exhibitions. The galleries have been a huge success over these past five years and have not only housed our own additional material that we are unable to display in the main Museum such as the Indian Miniatures, David Roberts Lithographs of Egypt, Nubia and the Holy Land, as well as cultural Exhibitions such as The Carved Wooden Doors of Kuwait, the Gulf and Yemen and Glimpses of the Marsh Arabs, and many other visiting exhibitions from outside.

The Museum has two other major exhibitions abroad. Some three hundred objects, each with beautifully rendered inscriptions, were loaned to the newly built Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore in 1997. A catalogue under the title of Harmony of Letters was published for the occasion.. The second exhibition was opened in the Helikon Castle Museum, Keszthely, at Lake Balaton in Hungary, under the title of The World of Islam. The Arts of the Islamic World in the 18th – 20th centuries, which was opened in 2002.

On 14th March 2007, The Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy opened its doors to the general public. Its aim is to trace the development of the Arabic script. The earliest script in the museum dates back to the 7th century up to the present day.





Tareq Rajab Museum

PO Box 6156 Hawelli, Kuwait

Tel: 25317358 / Fax: 25339063

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