This wooden chest, known as bishtakhta in the local dialect, was owned by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani. Such chests were used by pearl merchants to store their equipment including bags of pearls, notebooks and money. They varied in size and decoration, each comprising a series of different sized compartments set within a removable tray, often with further secret compartments.
This example has a patented lock from Chubbs, a company in London dating back to the early 19th century. There is evidence of repairs to the chest in later years, with added screws to reinforce the original nails and a small piece of metal attached to the upper left corner. There is a large crack along the lid and the residue of two tape marks, originally to hold in place the letter gifting this chest to the National Museum of Qatar.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT QATAR
Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani, founder of the State of Qatar, was born around 1827 in Muharraq, Bahrain. His mother was Sheikha Noura bint Fahad Al Buafrah Al Bukowara. Sheikh Jassim was raised in Fuwairat, north-eastern Qatar, where he learnt the Holy Qur‘an, Islamic law and literature, alongside the skills of horse riding, falconry, hunting and trade. In 1871 he began supporting his ageing father in running the country, eventually succeeding him on 18 December 1878.
Sheikh Jassim was known for his intelligence and observance of Islamic values. He prized education and the opportunities it offered to individuals and nations. On becoming leader, he built mosques, hosted scholars, published books on Islamic law and founded charitable projects. Sheikh Jassim was an outstanding diplomat and military commander. He dedicated himself to uniting the Qatari people and to establishing and defending the nation. Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani passed away on 18 July 1913, leaving behind 16 sons and three daughters.