These museums across the Middle East aren't just preserving civilizations; they're doing it in spectacular style.
Are you constantly finding yourself embroiled in some deluded daydream about how you’re finally going to carry around a book in your ever so quaint tote bag and embrace your distraught girl summers? Well, these pseudo-intellectual dreams all require a museum date or two, and the Middle East is bursting with some of the most eye-opening ones around…
MUSEUM OF HAPPINESS | Saudi Arabia
Best Feature: It’s serotonin actualized.
Upon walking into this Saudi joy-based museum, you’ll be greeted with a slew of sensory experiences and overcome with a ravenous desire to plunge - head first - into a deep well of nostalgia. Hyperbolic in nature, the Museum of Happiness wills you to find the glass half full amongst the everyday and its banalities. With exhibitions doused in cupcakes and covered in cacti, this one makes for the perfect depressive rut curbing daytime activity.
SHARJAH MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC CIVILISATION | United Arab Emirates
Best Feature: A visual re-telling of Islamic culture.
Oman’s Museum of Islamic Civilisation is the means by which you can upgrade your knowledge of Islamic art - and its respective origins - when books and scholars alike have cemented themselves atop your library shelves. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation enables you to walk down memory lanes that run through entire civilizations and in turn unpack centuries’ worth of Islamic art and artefacts including ceramics, woodwork, textiles, and jewellery.
QAL’AT AL BAHRAIN (BAHRAIN FORT) | Bahrain
Best Feature: Budding archeologists can travel back in time and actualize their fantasies.
If you were THAT kid who constantly either had to bury their friends or siblings in the sand whenever family vacations took you to a local beach or if you’ve single-handedly torn apart your backyard looking for treasure at the tender age of ten, then perhaps this museum is your one true calling. Situated upon a former archeological dig site, Qal’at Al Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) sits in place of one of the most significant ancient civilizations in the area - what was once the centre of the Dilmun civilization. Upon landing in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, you’ll be acquainted with the fort just 30 minutes later and from then on you can experience all 500 of the fort’s unique artefacts.
TAREQ RAJAB MUSEUM | Kuwait
Best Feature: It’s not just priceless, it’s free.
Anyone whose affinity for Kuwaiti arts and culture runs deep needs to experience this mammoth of a cultural haven. Through showcasing paintings, artefacts, and their respective historically significant objects, the Tareq Rajab Museum tells the story of Kuwait over the last century. Oh, and don't forget to froth at the mouth over Tareq Rajab’s brilliantly unique calligraphy collection which quite literally unveils handwritten scripts dating back to the 7th century.
THE PALESTINIAN MUSEUM | Palestine
Best Feature: On top of preserving Palestine’s culture, it also preserves its precious horticulture
North of Ramallah, and in close proximity to the campus of Birzeit University, is the Palestinian Museum; an institution devoted to highlightihng the dexterous history and culture of the Palestinian people. You can wander through its lovely gardens, which will take you through the agricultural and plant history of Palestine, or you can visit its sizable exhibition areas.
THE LOUVRE | United Arab Emirates
Best Feature: Paris wishes theirs had a dome this fancy
Cue Amour Plastique, and cue Les Champs Elysees, because we have a little Louvre in the middle of Abu Dhabi. More of a micro-city than a museum, the cultural haven can be found on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. The mammoth structure amalgamates 55 installations, 23 galleries, and features artwork from 17 of France's most prominent cultural institutions. An unmissable hotspot for art enthusiasts is the unique design by Jean Nouvel, which is encircled by water and covered in a sizable futuristic silvery dome.
YVES SAINT LAURENT MUSEUM | Morocco
Best Feature: It’s a YSL haven in the heart of Morocco, need we say more?
If the words ‘Yves Saint Laurent museum’ haven’t already left you stunned, screaming and crying on the floor, then hear us out. The museum is close to the stunning botanical park known as the Jardin Majorelle, which Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought in 1980 (WE KNOW, wild). It also houses sketches, collects boards, prints, and portraits of Saint Laurent, (the plot thickens). Oh and be sure to spend your coffee break at the opulent Le Studio café and get lost in the museum's collection of more than 5,000 volumes of books and art.
ETIHAD MUSEUM | United Arab Emirates
Best Feature: You can be nostalgic over a past unlived.
Procuring a collection of artefacts including weaponry, tombs, and ceramic paraphernalia, Dubai’s Etihad museum, provides visitors a glimpse of daily life in Dubai's early communities as full-size replicas of the city's early souks and wharfs unerringly bridge the gap between Emirati past and present, in turn, bringing the past to life. Located inside the 1787 Al Fahidi Fort. The museum chronicles the history of the emirates up to the moment the oil boom permanently changed the cityscape.
National Museum of Egyptian Civilization | Egypt
Best Feature: All the best mummies hang out here and we do mean the best ones.
Remember the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade? When giant barges of black and gold rolled triumphantly from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, carrying the mummies of some of ancient Egypt’s most legendary kings and queens to their final resting place at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat, all while majestic music and dance based on Egypt’s ancient civilization wowed the world? That’s more than enough reason to see the NMEC. Its beautiful garden and rich displays are just cherries on top.