About Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah

Kuwait-National-Museum-1983Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah (DAI) is a cultural organisation based around the private art collection owned by Sheikh Nasser Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah, founder of The al Sabah Collection and his wife, DAI director general and co-founder Sheikha Hussah Sabah al Salem al Sabah. Since its inception in 1983, DAI has grown from a single focus organisation created to manage the loan of the prestigious al Sabah Collection of art from the Islamic world to the State of Kuwait to become an internationally recognised cultural organisation.

Growth hasn’t been limited to the role of the organisation, as the owners continue to foster the development of the collection, ensuring that all media and techniques are included.  As such, the collection preserves and presents all aspects of art, including extraordinary manuscripts, scientific instruments, carpets, jewellery, ceramic, metalwork, wood and glass. It now includes more than 30,000 pieces from the full geographic and chronological range of the Islamic world, from Spain to China, from the 1st – 13th centuries AH/7th – 19th centuries AD.

Today, the DAI’s main activities include:

  • An annual Cultural Season of lectures, music concerts, forum, workshops, and an active children’s programme.
  • Organising travelling exhibitions and loaning objects to other museums.
  • Publication and international distribution of a quarterly magazine and newsletter.
  • Delivering training programmes for conservation of objects, docent training and a new programme for junior docents to encourage people to consider museum work professionally.
  • Research and archaeological excavation initiatives.
  • Publishing books to accompany our exhibitions and scholarly publications on particular aspects of the collection.
  • Organising annual cultural expeditions.

In addition, the DAI maintains two libraries.  One includes a wide variety of books related to Islamic art and culture; the other houses an important collection of rare books.  At present, the rare books are being scanned so that high quality digital versions of the books can be available for scholars and interested individuals.

While the rehabilitation project of the DAI’s buildings at the Kuwait National Museum is underway, the Amricani Cultural Centre is the home of DAI. The Amricani Cultural Centre currently has an exhibition entitled Splendors of the Ancient East an exhibition of antiquities from the collection alongside, the Story of Amricani a multi-media presentation describing how the building has changed since it was first built as a hospital complex in the early 20th century.

Today, DAI operates in two separate venues: Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah at Kuwait National Museum where there is an on-going rehabilitation project, at the Amricani Cultural Centre where DAI hosts the administrative department alongside libraries, conservation studios, exhibition space and theatre facilities for all cultural seasons activities.

About The Collectors

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The al-Sabah collection began to take form in 1975 when Sheikh Nasser Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah purchased the collection’s first object.  It was a mid-14th century enameled glass bottle he found in a London art gallery.  At that time, the collection started out as a hobby he and his wife Sheikha Hussah Sabah al Salem al Sabah were pursuing – it soon grew to a full-fledged collection worthy of a place in a museum.  In 1983, as the collection was growing, it had made its way from Sheikh Nasser’s private residence to its new location at the Kuwait National Museum.  The building became known as Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI), where Sheikha Hussah became the organisation’s director general.

The collection has now grown to more than 24,000 objects representing different chronological and geographical points from the Islamic world.  The al Sabah Collection is regarded by international authorities as one of a small handful of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world.  It has continued to grow since its inception increasing its strengths in all categories (arms and armour, calligraphy, carpets and textiles, coins, glass, hardstones, ivory, jewellry, manuscripts and miniatures, metalwork, stone and stucco, and woodwork).