28th August 2014 – Doha, Qatar
The posse of American muscle cars had me overwhelmed. And there was a private biplane too, apart from all the ships. But wealth is materialistic, and did nothing to woo me. It was the magnitude of a religious interest, that had me in flips.
I had quite made up a list of things to do in Doha, which included the corniche, Souq Waqif, Katara and the Museum of international arts, all of them courtesy the lonely planet. So, it came as a surprise when my friend here, Arun, suggested that I go to the Sheikh Faisal museum. Or to be accurate, the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. I’ve never read about this museum in lonely planet, or wikitravel, or maybe I didn’t notice. Even the taxi driver who Arun hired for me had never heard of it, despite living in Qatar for 31 years!
So, after a nice little lunch at his place, courtesy him and his wife Jisha, both of whom were seniors at my college, I left with his brother-in-law to see this hidden museum. And true, it was hidden. We lost our way multiple times, and finally used a combination of google maps and common sense, to find out the place. We arrived at 4.45 PM, and were almost turned back at the gate because the entry closes at 4.30. Luckily, Arun had made a booking for a guided tour, so our breath fell back to normal.
I have no idea why they don’t do marketing or advertising for this museum, but this private collection is massive!! Sheikh Faisal was a rigourous collector, of everything from cars (600 plus cars he had!!) to artefacts. And a large hall displayed 100 of his cars, including classic impalas, dodges, and Rolls Royces. And one of his own biplanes was on display too, along with a lot of his fishing ships. The funny story is that these ships were airlifted completely into the museum, and the roof was built after that.
But none of these were more interesting than his collection of religious artefacts. In the middle of conservative Qatar, where an Israeli visa stamp can lead to your entry being denied, I was looking at a private collection of artefacts belonging to Judaism and christianity. Including Hanukahs, holy scrolls and other synagogue materials.
Sheikh Faisal just won my vote for the coolest sheikh I can think of.