A thousand Arabian oryx, 700 handwoven carpets, 600 classic cars, hundreds of pieces of furniture, a dozen or so dhows, dinosaur teeth and toes …  etcetera, all amassed over five decades by one wealthy, passionate collector.

And, it’s all available for us to view at the Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, about 30km outside Doha, Qatar.

Cars, carpets and aeroplanes are among the favourite items collected during the owner’s business travels around the globe. The plane, however, was used by one of the founders of Qatar Airways, Sheik Hamad bin Ali Al Thani, a former ruler of Qatar.

The museum is on a farm, housed in traditional fort-like buildings, where the private collector, his family, Arabian stud horses and peacocks also live.

It opened in 1998.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a new leaning minaret too?

This photograph of the leaning minaret, or whatever it is being called, was taken during our visit in October 2022. No doubt construction will be completed by the time visitors arrive for the FIFA 2022 World Cup, starting in mid-November.

So, push over Pisa, there’s a minaret set on capturing the clicks of the snap-happy in Qatar.  This will be just in time for the FIFA 2022 World Cup starting on 20 November 2022.

I am not sure of the new minaret’s purpose, but I am confident about the great photographic opportunities!

The faux and the authentic … it all comes together in the “everything” museum. FQB is a must if your time in Qatar is limited and you’d like to immerse yourself in the heritage, history and culture of the country.

The Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, or FBQ for short, is one of those places you are unlikely to forget, as it unashamedly promotes the extent and the importance of the heritage and culture of Qatar.

If, as a visitor, your time is limited, it’s an ideal destination to immerse yourself in this as it is in sharp contrast to the modern skyscrapers and fast-paced life of Doha.

Or if, like us, you are residents, you can return at your leisure to check out those collections that really resonate for you.

For me, it’s the calligraphy, ceramics and those carpets. For the H, it’s the culture and the cars. While the latter do take up space in one of the halls, I believe a new building, devoted entirely to petrolheads, will soon be opened.

The museum allows you to dive in – quite literally – to a key aspect of Qatari culture with that of its pearl-diving history and the dhows that supported the industry. The ancient boats are still used for fishing and tourism today.

Sensory overload

I call FBQ the everything museum.

It has everything, and because it has everything, spread across 15 halls in three massive buildings (covering the size of six football fields), you can expect to suffer from information and sensory overload.

There are 15 halls like this, awash with artefacts from the Arabic world and well beyond. The 30 000 (and growing) number of items are those gathered during the travels of its billionaire owner over the past five decades.

I was dizzy from the kaleidoscope of colours from the carpets alone! 

FQB is unlike Qatar’s many other musems, like the National Museum of Qatar, or the new out-the-blocks 3-2-1 Qatar and Olympics Sport Museum, which are ultra-modern and interactive.

This one is old-school – a look-and-learn and don’t-touch type of museum.

It smells and feels as old as that which it contains, but in a bright, curious way. It’s a little higgledy-piggledy too. But in a way, this adds to the adventure of exploring an eclectic dip into the past.

(For the children, there’s Adam the camel to guide and pique your interest, with the FBQ Museum family map).

Despite the signage, it’s easy to get lost simply because it is just so big, full and fascinating. Security staff are very helpful in guiding you on your way.

All of this “everything” is because of the heritage hoarding habits of one man, Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani.

And, I am pleased to report that the billionnaire is still procuring the inane and the bizarre for the largest privately diverse collection in Qatar today.

The man behind the museum

According to Dr Google, reference books and the insights of those who have lived in Qatar for more than three decades, Sheik Faisal is a self-made man – and one of the wealthiest in the land. And, since this is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we’re talking mega-bucks. Or about $2 billion, according to Forbes, who list him as number 1445 on the billionaire’s list.

With a surname like Al Thani, he is also related to the ruling Al Thani family.

Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, the billionaire businessman responsible for collecting and sharing his hobby, smiles down at visitors at various points throughout the museum.

Word on the street is that FBQ started out selling car parts at the age of 16 and became the sole distributor of Bridgestone tyres as a young man in the 1960s.

He’s diversified his business and entrepreneurial skills tenfold since then and has business interests, including hotels, around the globe. He also has a camel race track.

And, in between, I like to believe, he pops into charity shops, antique stores, art galleries, auctions and Christie’s of London, to see what antiquities, heirlooms and other oddities he can add for his collection.

I mean, the man acquired the personal belongings of the infamous Iraqi politician Saddam Hussein, who was executed in 2006. (This room is only available for viewing with prior permission).

This door shares all the names of the Qatari tribes, along with their wasim, which is their camel branding. The wasim is usually stamped on the camel’s skin, much like the branding of sheep and cattle elsewhere.

Enough of my waffle, let’s allow the visuals to do the talking. 

This is the signage that greets once you are on the grounds of the farm (see pics at bottom of blog post), on the road leading to the FBQ Museum.

Walking through history

I knew I would be walking through history and one that would give me an appreciation on the local culture, but I never realised I would walk on these textile artefacts!

Hundreds of hand-woven carpets from across the Middle East and North Africa line the route of your wandering through the museum.

These two carpets are among the 700 on display underfoot. The geometric shapes and floral patterns are favoured in the Arabic culture, as are the bright colours.

I’d like to think they are underfoot because the walls of the double-storey buildings are already groaning with artworks. Again, these are wide-ranging – both local and foreign in origin, and good and not-so-good in terms of standard.

Every space is filled with art, furniture and collectibles, like this ornate lounge furniture from Damascus. The furniture embodies a typical style of the Middle East, Arabesque. It’s a technique in which materials, like mother-of-pearl and bone, are inlaid in the wood in specific patterns.

Four main categories

According to the guidebooks, there are four main categories of collections:

  • Islamic art
  • Vehicles
  • Coins, and
  • Qatari artefacts

And yes, they’re there.

But there are also dinosaur teeth and other prehistoric fossils (just lying around and not formally catalogued), medieval arrowheads, ’60s toys, religious artefacts and dozens of others items on display.

One of the many fossils that lie alongside old cars, telephones and the like. As shared, the museum is a tad higgley-piddledy at times, so expect the unexpected. I thought such rare and special items might be protected too.

I quietly marvelled at a Muslim man who would share beautiful Christian and Jewish relics.

Another unexpected and pleasing find in this strictly Muslim country is a section on other religions. This says a great deal for interfaith dialogue and our ability to respect one another’s faith and culture.

Beauty in the bizarre

There’s a beauty in the bizarre.

You never know what quite to expect.

You tell me. An early natural history expedition? Apart from such photographs, in the first hall you will find everything from medieval arrow heads and ancient armour from England through to camel saddles, carpets and cradles from the Gulf region.

Elsewhere, the mannequins wearing historic Middle Eastern garb are all Barbie-like blondes or red-heads.

If textiles and fashions are your thing, then you won’t go far wrong with a wander through the halls on textiles and jewellery. No expense has been spared on the authentic acquisitions here – with historic items and stories aplenty dating back to the Ottoman empire.

There’s a 240-year-old farmhouse that came brick by brick to the museum, and display after display of black and white photographs featuring folk, and possibly some stars of the big screen, from the 1960s.

But who knows?

Often you are left to guess the history and stories around the unlabelled stuff. (I rather think the curators must struggle to keep the pace with all the new acquisitions and how to file them!)

If you are fortunate, you may be enlightened by a security staff member about items. (I think the latter practice must offer some relief from simply just protecting these valuable pieces of yesteryear.)

According to a staff member, the tiny item on the left is the smallest Quran in the world. The item on the right is its box, and below is my pen to give you a better idea of just how small this hand-written religious text of Islam is.
Taxidermy at its worst? Actually, not really, because alongside this display was a horse’s head that had received similar stuff-and-mount preservation treatment. The latter was just too sad to share.

I could go on and on, but let’s leave it at this for now. I’m exhausted just remembering it all!

Having said this, be sure to give yourself at least a morning or afternoon to meander and stare. For, as shared, information and sensory overload is real.

The farm

We fortuitously got lost on arriving at the premises, and were privileged to see a farm at work, inclusive of the massive stables for Arabic stud horses and herds of the desert Oryx. The latter is the national animal of Qatar and is an endangered species.

The construction of the minaret will hopefully have been completed, so that the signage is easy to find and follow.

But perhaps you can accidentally get lost all the same. Just mind the peacocks and horse-drawn carriages.

It was so good to see the desert oryx on the farm or estate as it is also called. We saw several dozen behind large enclosures in the distance.

Getting there

There’s no mistaking the traditional fort-style entrance to Samriya Farm on which the FBQ Museum can be found.

Here’s a shot of the actual entrance so that you can avoid missing it like us.

It will take you about 35 minutes to get to the museum from the centre of Doha. This is about 30-minute drive via the major Dukhan highway. We used Mrs Waze, but Google maps will work just as well too.

You are advised to book ahead to visit FQB, but we simply arrived and paid our QAR50 each. That’s almost R250 or just over 12 pounds sterling. There is a free cup of coffee to welcome you (well, there was when we visited).

Opening hours:

Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm

Fridays 2pm to 7pm

Saturday 10am to 6pm

Closed Sundays.

Organised tours

There are guided tours at the museum from 10am to 12pm; 1pm to 3pm and 4pm to 6pm.

No doubt, there are tour companies and drivers who can take you to the everything museum, but it’s quite easy to find if you do have your own wheels.

Museum cafe and gift shop

The coffee shop offers light lunches, cakes, cooldrinks and coffee, and the gift shop has a small range of goodies, including branded items.

Contact details


email: Info@fbqmuseum.org

Tel: +974 44902340

Mobile: +974 66874177

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