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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Historic pearl merchant's house reopens in Sharjah after restoration

Bait Al Naboodah house and museum is now open to the public 

Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurates Bait Al Naboodah after a two-year renovation. Courtesy Sharjah Museums Authority
Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurates Bait Al Naboodah after a two-year renovation. Courtesy Sharjah Museums Authority

The former home of one of the largest pearl merchants in Sharjah has been restored to its former glory.

Bait Al Naboodah was built in 1845 and the two-storey structure is recognised as an architectural masterpiece.

Now it has reopened to the public following a painstaking two-year renovation.

The house was owned by Emirati Obaid Al Shamsi, a pearl merchant who expanded his business into even India and Europe.

It is built around a large courtyard with walls made of coral. The interior and exterior designs are characterised by decorative carvings in plaster, wood and palm trunks.

The ground floor includes a bedroom, courtyard and a water well, while upstairs is the summer quarters and bedrooms.

Old residence of Bait Al Naboodah, pre-renovation, in Sharjah. Satish Kumar / The National
Old residence of Bait Al Naboodah, pre-renovation, in Sharjah. Satish Kumar / The National

Experts from the Sharjah Institute for Heritage have preserved the building’s frescoes, wooden beams and teak columns.

The house was also built with an internal cooling system, and this helped the family stay near the sea throughout the year even when most people would migrate from the coast to interior areas and oases to escape the summer heat.

Visitors to Bait Al Naboodah can see just how successful the pearl merchant and his family were. The house was one of the largest buildings in the area, located in a strategic area with a unique design that included architectural and cultural features from all over the world. This acted as a clear indication of the family's status.

Exhibits at the museum include coins from India and the Arabian Gulf, as well as equipment used to measure the weight and size of pearls brought to Sharjah.

There is also a collection of archive documents that show Al Naboodah's dealings with companies, businessmen and the rulers.

Interactive displays also show the importance of the pearl trade to the region.

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Read more:

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Manal Ataya is director of Sharjah Museums Authority.

“Experts from the Sharjah Institute for Heritage were careful to use a mix of traditional and modern techniques in the renovation work so that the restored building is an authentic representation of its past," she said.

“Every detail has been painstakingly brought back to life as a mark of respect for not only its esteemed former owner, but also for this important part of the UAE’s heritage and culture."

“Bait Al Naboodah is a stunning architectural example that embodies the heritage of Sharjah. We invite Emiratis, residents and tourists to experience first-hand the rich lives and experiences of the generations of people who called this grand old property home.

Pearl diving sustained generations of people who lived in what is now modern-day UAE. But by the 1920s, the trade had collapsed following the development of cultured pearls in Japan.

For more information on opening hours visit sharjahmuseums.ae