iSurprise Nasser Hussain

Co-owner of the Historical Mansion Museum

The Fort is a different world. I have lived in Colombo and Kandy but this is the place. Life here is about people; it’s not about buildings. This is not a static city. It has always been a centre of trade. We must see it as a whole.
— Nasser Hussain

A heritage building

We think this building was originally a complex of storerooms or a warehouse for Dutch traders. It’s conveniently located close to the old harbour and at that time people bought ropes on this street. Following that it was owned by the well-known Macan Markar family and then my father bought it in 1978. He was always a passionate antique collector – on family trips our van would come to an abrupt stop as soon as he spotted some old treasure on the side of the road.

Old treasures

The antique collection is open to the public and we welcome people to come in with a free mind. My favourite pieces include a jakwood and ebony gaalu almaary (Galle almirah) which is made in a local style with floral fretwork. I also like the boolees which are clay flasks that seafarers carried with them to store water and liquor. The Dutch ones have an image of a bearded man and a unique symbol which signifies the area they came from in Holland.


During our school days, my father paid 25 cents for us to go on the bullock cart but we always walked behind because the girls pushed us out! After school, we would throw our bags into the house, take our shoes off and be on the beach in minutes. Until the late 80s, there was a man-pulled rikshaw at the junction by Barefoot. It was used solely by Ibrahim Uncle, previous owner of the Fort Printers. He used to travel in it with a long cigar – it was like a Benz for him.

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