The Kuwait National Museum complex was opened in 1983, to house the
Heritage Museum, Islamic Museum, Archaeology Museum, and various exhibition
halls. There are also traditional houses in the complex, showcasing old
Kuwaiti houses, as well as the Planetarium.
The Kuwait National Museum was completely destroyed during the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait in 1990, as it was set on fire, but not before most of
the displayed and archival contents were stolen. However, the United
Nations obliged Iraq to return these possessions, with the most recent
handover being last year.
The over 2000 objects that are now on display, cover various aspects of Kuwait?s national heritage. Ancient treasures from Failaka Island, stamps and seals from the Bronze Age, axe heads and a wonderful Hellenistic limestone dolphin can be found in the museum. There is also a dhow in the courtyard, a replica of Muhallab II, that was destroyed by the Iraqis. Today the Kuwait National Museum is under renovation, as it will be an integral part of a planned cultural village.
The Traditional Kuwaiti House
The Kuwaiti society, before the discovery of oil, was simple and conservative. The big family (more than one generation in the same house), forms its main
corner. The 1930's neighborhood designates a set of compact houses, with narrow alleys separating them, protecting from the sun's burning rays by the walls
of opposite houses, with sand squares considered as play grounds for children.
The construction of the traditional Kuwaiti house is characterized by simplicity in the design, as well as the materials used for construction (such as
clay, sea stones, gypsum, timber columns and pipes), as the traditional house is mostly built of one floor in the form of square, with an uncovered yard in
the middle, designed in a way convenient to the religion beliefs and society customs. Usually there is a well of potable water in the yard. The house's
roof may be accessed through wooden stairs.
Simplicity is the most important aspect of the design and construction of the Kuwaiti house, many essential features are present in all the old Kuwaiti
houses, as follows:
Diwaniya: a men's only place allocated for receiving guests and relatives, containing simple furniture formed of floor rugs and carpets, desert style back
cushions (sadu), and coffee preparation tools.
Bedroom: the floor of the room is covered with stuffed rug, bamboo spread, knitted rug, and a cloth rug. Palm boxes hold the clothes and metal perfume
bottles with rose water are used as room perfumes. In the hotter months, the family would sleep on the roof tops of the houses.
Living room: covered with cotton square pads for seating with desert style cushions (sadu). There is a coal holder with tea, milk, coffee, and water for
Kitchen: usually covered with sand flooring and uses the local dry plant (arfaj) as a fire starter. Most meals would include goat milk, dates, and bread,
along with the main dish.
Courtyard: the quintessential feature of a traditional Kuwaiti house, situated in the middle of the house, overlooked by the rooms. This is where the
children played, the animals roamed, and where one can sit under the house tree under the shade.
School: education in Kuwait bore 1912 (when the first government school opened) was based on teaching houses in each neighborhood, where children learned
to read, learn some mathematics, and memorize the Holy Koran.
Shop: many houses had a shop that was only accessed from the outside, where the men of the house would tend to their handicrafts or professions. Some
families were cotton weavers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, bead makers, tailors, and other artisan professions.