An assortment of old children's toys and books.

History

Named after the serene courtyard at the centre of the space, Liwan Design Studios and Labs is situated in the mid-century building that once housed Qatar's first girls' school.

The original school, Banat El Doha and later renamed Umm Almo'mneen Primary School, opened in the late 1950s. It was founded by the pioneering educator Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida, who became its first principal.

The School shut its doors in 2005, leaving behind five decades of progressive impact on the local community. In 2019, a restoration of the original building began. Unique architectural and design elements, along with a small collection of objects from the school, have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

Central to the mission of Liwan, Design Studios and Labs is conserving this historic institution that pays tribute to Qatar's architectural, social, and educational history.

“The school looked the same as it does now, in its shape, and the building, its foundations...”

Imaan Al Sa'ad, a former student of Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida.

Old picture of female students in a knitting class wearing a school uniform.

Students at Banat El Doha and later renamed Umm Almo'mneen Primary School. Popular subjects included knitting and embroidery.

Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida

No recollection of the school is complete without acknowledging the efforts of Qatar’s first female educator, Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida. She was a fierce and early campaigner for the formal schooling of girls, visiting homes to convince locals to send their daughters to school.

Oral histories reveal a portrait of a determined, passionate woman who is devoutly pious and committed to her students and school. She heralded one of the first generations of teachers in the country, serving as a mentor and peer.

Former students and colleagues fondly recall an imposing, inspiring figure, clad in a flowing black abaya and a batoola, often found between the classroom and the administrative offices near the central courtyard of the school. 

“I was taught everything in Amna's house. We were all very fond of her, always listened to her.”

Nadra El Maghrebi, a former student of Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida.

An old photograph showing Amna Mahmoud Al Jaidah teaching a group of female students.

Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida, with the assistance of leading figures in education at the time, namely Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Abdel Badie Saq, lobbied for and eventually established the first school for girls in Qatar.

Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani

The Ministry of Education was established in Qatar, with Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani appointed as the first Minister of Education. Under his direction, Qatar witnessed rapid growth in educational institutions and developments across scientific, literary, cultural and sports fields.

Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani is widely considered the father of education and culture in Qatar. He played a major role in expanding education across Qatar and increasing literacy rates. 

Old picture of elementary female students sitting on individual desks writing.

From the 50's onwards Qatar began to witness rapid growth in educational institutions to accommodate a growing demand for schooling. Unprecedented changes in educational reform were spearheaded by Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar's first Minister of Education, widely referred to as the father of education.

Old picture of female students wearing a uniform in a cooking class.

Students at Banat El Doha and later renamed Umm Almo'mneen Primary School. Cooking lessons were an important part of the school curricular.

Timeline

1938 |
Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida begins a kuttab (a type of elementary school, primarily used for Islamic education) at home, educating children. She is one of the only two women in the city that run their kuttab.

1951-1953 |
With the support of Abdel Badie Saqr, Head of the Committee of Education at the time, Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida lobbies for the opening of a girls’ school. By 1953 the Ministry of Knowledge brought Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida's kuttab under its supervision.

1955 |
The first formal school for girls in the country is opened in Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida's house.

1956 |
Due to lack of space, the school shifted to a building rented from Mozah Darwish. It is soon known as Banat El Doha Primary School.

1956-1961 |
To accommodate a growing demand for girls' education Banat El Doha Primary School is moved to its current permanent site in Mshereib, now known as Liwan Design Studio and Labs. A second school for girls named Umm Almo'mneen is opened in Al Bidda.

1960s-1970s |
Umm Almo'mneen closes and all students are transferred to Banat El Doha in Mshereib. Banat El Doha is eventually renamed Umm Almo'mneen.

1970s |
A permanent library is added to the school. Amna Mahmoud Al Jaida was involved with the school's administration until the late 1970s, when she retired. Perhaps her most enduring legacy is her impact on her students, many of whom later became teachers. 

2005 |
Umm Almo'mneen school closed at the end of the 2005 academic term. From 2006 until 2016, the former school was converted into the Mshereib Art Centre, a set of studios and workshops for designers and artists.

2019 |
In early 2019, the building was commissioned as part of the numerous conservation efforts in Qatar to become a creative hub. 

2022 |
After nearly two years of renovation and careful planning, Liwan Design Studio and Labs finally opened its doors.

Green wall with narrow holes for sunlight and tree in the foreground.

The original architecture and design elements of the building, along with a small collection of objects from the school have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

An empty white room with a blackboard on the wall and a pile of wooden stools.

The original architecture and design elements of the building, along with a small collection of objects from the school have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

Interior view of an empty room with an open green door.

The original architecture and design elements of the building, along with a small collection of objects from the school have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

An assortment of old children's toys and books.

The original architecture and design elements of the building, along with a small collection of objects from the school have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

An old school paper register written in Arabic and viewed from above.

The original architecture and design elements of the building, along with a small collection of objects from the school have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

A pile of colourful vintage Arabic school books in Liwan's library.

The original architecture and design elements of the building, along with a small collection of objects from the school have been preserved under the supervision of Qatar Museums.

Liwan building illustration inside old girls school Qatar

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