A wee story from my visit to the Al Hasun Museum in Basra. It ended up being my favorite thing to do in Basra, Iraq!
“He wants to show you his secret room.”
My face scrunched in confusion. The museum’s owner, Mr. Hasun, nodded at the young manager to continue on with his carefully practiced English.
“His room where he has his private collection,” he clarified, smiling.
Ah. That sounded far less lecherous than I first thought. I nodded in agreement. To the secret room we go!
We navigated to the back of the Museum Al Hasun, a private museum in Basra, Iraq. The traditional old Basrawi house is an unassuming showcase of the thousands of items Mr. Hasun collected throughout the years. For fun, not necessarily for their value.
We had to step carefully; waiters laden with trays full of chai and egg-centric dishes rushed between antique cabinets and carpeted chairs, serving breakfast to hungry tourists in the museum-cafe hybrid.
When we reached the back, squeezing between a final wall and 1950s washing machine, Mr. Hasun unlocked an unassuming door, revealing a bedroom filled to the brim with tacky and antique objects alike.
Despite the massive language barrier between us, Mr. Hasun took me on a tour of some of his favorite pieces: a functional wooden gramophone, prayer beads that smelled like saffron when rubbed, a solid gold pistol hidden under a pillow on the bed.
Between pieces, he pushed crystal bowls of old, individually wrapped candies into my hands. Before we left the room, he ignored my resistance and insisted I accept a final gift: a silver ring with a warm brown gemstone at its center.
I’m not a museum person by any means. But when the experience feels more like visiting your (very cool) grandparents’ house than visiting a museum… how can I possibly resist?
What you need to know about visiting the Al Hasun Museum in Basra, Iraq
About the Al Hasun Museum in Basra
The Al Hasun Museum in Basra is a small, privately-owned and run cultural museum. I found it very similar to the private museums found in towns all across Saudi Arabia. Set in a restored traditional Basrawi house, the museum is a random but lovingly curated collection of knick-knacks belonging to Mr. Hasun. Most are Iraqi, some are from abroad.
Location of the Al Hasun Museum in Basra
You’ll find the little cultural hotspot in the center of Basra’s old city. The location is marked in Arabic only on Google Maps (at the moment), but you can see it on Google Maps here. It’s surrounded by other traditional old houses currently being restored by UNESCO, so expect a lot of construction in the next few years. A handful of them were already open to visitors, though.
Breakfast at the Al Hasun Museum in Basra
The museum also doubles as a breakfast cafe. You can sit in the central courtyard or one of the side rooms and dine on a variety of Iraqi breakfast dishes… with a side of sugary chai or coffee, naturally!
Opening hours for the Al Hasun Museum in Basra
Opening hours: approximately 7:00 – 12:00 daily
As it’s a privately run breakfast joint, opening hours are limited (like many museums in Iraq, unfortunately). When I visited, the museum was open all day due to the Gulf Football Cup happening at the time, but normally, the museum is only open in the mornings. Try to get to the museum before 12:00, though on busy days it will stay open later.