Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 04:36 GMT
Qala Museum explores Kurdistan's past

One of the most amazing things about the museum is the museum house itself, which is also antique. The house was built 220 years ago. Globe Photo

By Qassim Khidhir
The Globe

The museum, a 220-year-old house situated in the Citadel, allows visitors to get a firsthand look at antiques as old as 200 years.

The Qala Antique Museum is so named due to its location inside the Erbil Citadel. Around 500 people, mostly foreigners, visit the Antique Museum of Citadel every day to view the thousands of outstanding Kurdistani antiques.

Upon entering the museum, one's eyes immediately drift to the rich, valuable antiques such as the ancient, traditional Kurdistani fighting tools, traditional dresses, handmade rugs, furniture, household equipment, jewelry, and photos. "Kurdistani" means those who live in Kurdistan, like Kurds, Assyrians, Ezidis, Kakayi Kurds, and Turkmen.

One of the most amazing things about the museum is the museum house itself, which is also antique. The house was built 220 years ago. Mullah Salih Chalabi owned it first, and then he sold it to Younis Mustafa, who is the father of the current owner of the museum, Khalis Younis Mustafa.

"I was born in this house," said Khalis Younis Mustafa, who now runs the museum. He said that he had been collecting antiques as a hobby since he was a child. He began collecting in the 1960s, and after 20 years, he finally opened his museum to exhibit the collection. Most of the antiques in the museum are over 200 years old.

"The majority of antiques in this museum are Kurdish, Assyrian, Ezidis, Kakayi, and Turkmen, but mostly Kurdish," said Mustafa. There are also Arab, Iranian, Russian, and Turkish antiques. Inside the museum are hundreds of antique Russian and Iranian Samovars, which people in Kurdistan used long ago.

Mustafa said the size of the museum is not big enough to display all of his antiques, even though the there are several rooms to the house.

"I have thousands of antiques at home, because in here I don't have enough places to put them," Mustafa complained, but added confidently, "If the government of Kurdistan Region gives me a piece of land, I can establish the biggest antique museum in the Middle East."

Some of the antiques in the museum are for sale, but Mustafa doesn't sell everything because some of the antiques are very dear to him.

The Erbil Citadel is a 4,000-year-old castle right in the heart of the Kurdistan Region's capital city of Erbil. Erbil itself is one of the world's contenders for the most ancient, continuously inhabited cities, with a history stretching back to the days of ancient Babylon.

The Erbil castle has been empty for several months now due to renovation. Each family that resided there was given a piece of land and $4,000(USD) by the Kurdistan Regional Government.