Elders has announced the appointment of seasoned marketing and business executive, Belinda Connor, as the Head of its Residential Real Estate division.
How has your hometown changed over the years?
There in the middle of the desert wastes stood a great sidr tree, lonely and alone. Unaccompanied but for a bungalow that stood nearby. A man and his wife occupied that house along with their servants. One night there came a great sandstorm and the next morning Abu* Saud and Umm* Saud looked out their window; the sand had piled on their windows and covered the outside of their home, and while looking out they noticed a deep hole beneath the tree that the sandstorm uncovered. Upon closer inspection the hole revealed an ancient grave that contained a dead, mummified woman. Abu Saud called his servants in order to rebury the woman, but suddenly she came alive. The woman claimed that she had lingered in her grave for a thousand years, and that she was hungry, in need of a wash, and warm clothes. The couple obliged, but before they could let her in the house, an angry mob led by an elderly bearded man with a white beard bearing a long knife and his mob armed with staves and swords demanded to rebury the woman alive. A skirmish would ensue and Abu Saud grabbed the man’s knife and slew him, before going back to lead the woman to his home. Abu Saud…Harold Dickson awoke from his dream.
A town that had for centuries been largely unremarkable on the world stage, built of clay, suffering from an economic depression, whose wealth had been based on the blessings of the sea, and whose growth had largely been slow was about to face prominence and growth unprecedented in size and speed than anytime in its history. With the end of the Second World War, the quest for oil production and exploitation to power the world’s technology came into full swing and with it the wealth that would flow as a result. This was Kuwait City in 1948.
A decade earlier in 1938, oil was first struck in the country in the Burgan field, then the largest oil reserve ever discovered. Harold Dickson, former British political agent in Kuwait along with his wife had been living in the country for over a decade in their blue and white house overlooking the Gulf in the Sharq district. After leaving the foreign service, he became the Emir of Kuwait’s representative in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that surveyed signs for oil reserves in the region. Holes that were dug in Bahra, nearby Burgan in the Kuwaiti desert, yielded signs of pressure on the rock; possible evidence of oil but nothing that was thorough. It was close, but not there yet. Oil was first discovered in the Gulf in Bahrain in 1932, leading hope that larger reserves could be found in the rest of eastern Arabia.
Dickson when awaking from his dream, told his wife Violet (Umm Saud) who jotted down the description. He made his way to the Emir, Sheikh Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah and told him of what he saw. Sheikh Ahmed, who, as a result of Dickson’s earlier visions of flash floods that came to be, and an attempted assassination on an Arab ruler (Ibn Saud), had trust that this was more than a dream and told him of a Bedouin woman known as Umm Mubarak (Mother of Mubarak) who was renowned for interpreting dreams. After seeking her out and telling her of what he had seen, she asked if he had been looking for an ancient treasure. He responded in the affirmative. She said that the woman he saw in the dream represented that treasure, and the mob that tried to rebury the woman represented those in Kuwait who would attempt to stop him from finding that treasure. She knew of only one such lonely tree in Burgan known to the Bedouins that roamed the Kuwaiti desert, and told him that if he was looking for treasure, then it would be under that lone sidr tree in Burgan that he would find it.
Within a few months, oil surveying operations did move to Burgan from Bahrah, and using his influence, it was near that lone sidr tree that Dickson pressured them to dig. It did not take long for them to make their find; as a result of the pressure and sheer quantity of the oil after digging the hole, the oil spurted and gushed out in February 22nd, 1938. The first oil well in Kuwait had been struck.
My own family’s home in this time was in the area of Jibla (Qibla) in the west: one of two areas in the original Kuwait City, the other being Sharg (Sharq) in the east, and the third which was newer Murgab (Murqab) in the south. Specifically it was in the Freej Al Ghuneim neighborhood, the first neighborhood of Jibla west from Sharq. To the north it is bordered by the sea and Nig’at Al Ghuneim (Al Ghuneim harbour), to the south Barahat Al Sub’an known today as Barahat Bin Bahar (a baraha is a plaza between houses and a larger space in contrast to the tight spaces in the streets between houses), to the east: Freej Al Shuyoukh and Buhaita hill, which was the neighborhood that was inhabited by the ruling family, and Buhaita hill was where the original Kout (fortress by water) was built by Sheikh Barrack bin Ghurayr of Al Hasa in the 1670s as a fortress and a summer residence, and from which Kuwait (little fortress by water) got its name, and to the west, the neighborhood of Freej Saud. The home was near the wide Ali Al Salem (formerly Qabazard) road in the south-eastern corner of Freej Al Ghuneim, bordered to the north by the Al Sarhan/Yaseen Al Qin’ai Mosque, the south: a row of stores that mainly sold ship supplies and carpets mainly belonging to the Qabazard family, and Ali Al Salem road, the east: the house of Yousef Al Mukhaizeem, and the west: Mahalat (tight street) Al Anjeri, and the house of Jassim Al Anjeri, and the Al Husseini family house.
It belonged to my grandfather Nokhetha ((ship) Captain) Abdulaziz Al Samakah (Al Meajel) who was born in the house in 1890 and his elder sisters, Sheikha (who married into the Al Refai family) and Sherifa (who married into the Al Khamis family). They inherited the house from their father before them, Nokhetha Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al Samakah (Al Meajel) who was married to Fatima Al Adsani, daughter of the Qadi (Judge) of Kuwait at the time. Those who lived in the house, by the early 1950s, other than those mentioned earlier were: my grandfather’s second wife (he divorced his first wife Sherifa Al Meajel who bore him a son Ibrahim in 1910, but he passed away in the 1930s with one daughter Dalal) Noura bint Abdullah Al Barrack and her daughters (my aunts) Hessa, Taiba, Muneera, and Aisha, and son, Abdullah and his wife, Dalal Al Rushoud, and sons Abdulwahab and Mohammed, and my grandmother (my grandfather’s third wife) Bazzah bint Nasser Al Nisif and her son, Ahmed, and later, towards the end of their stay before moving to the newer residential areas in the late 1950s, her children Abdulrazaq, Sherifa, and Hamed. The rest of my uncles, aunts, cousins, and my father would be born in the new residential area of Kaifan, not Jibla in downtown Kuwait. As well as that, two former slave women also lived with them, who my grandfather’s sisters had inherited from their late husbands, Zahra, who was mute and Mabrooka (who had earlier left the home when she got married and came back when her husband passed), and her son Mansour.
The house was considered large especially by the standards of the time and compared to others. The house had two courtyards with the rooms overlooking the courtyard, and halls between the rooms and the courtyard. It was built of hyar bahar (sea rocks) that would be stacked on one another and wiped with Yiss (Clay Gypsum/Plaster/Render). The roofs over the rooms were built of Chandal – a type of wood that grew in the mangroves of eastern Africa, Zanzibar, and Kenya, of which there were various types – the best being Abu Tabr cut from the middle of the axe, Lamu (from the town of Lamu, Kenya north of Mombasa), and Abu Mshara among others. They would be rowed in the roofs with a distance of a shibr (span, a hand’s distance) between each one, on top of it the Bascheel was placed, which were reeds – also from eastern Africa – that would be nailed and patterned to prevent clay from seeping to the Chandal and on top, the clay would be placed to complete the roofs. On the roof, the house had a Kengiya – an attic where items were stored – and in the summer months, everyone would sleep on the roof at night on mattresses dripped in water to escape the heat. The house also had several mirzam, which was made of metal or wood, that allowed rainwater to flow from the roof and fall to the street below.
The location of our house in cyan. Family names rendered over aerial image.
As well as that, they owned two cows, which would be milked by Mama Noura and whose milk would be drunk, and dairy products made for household consumption. Less well-off families could not afford cows, as upkeep was more expensive, so instead they owned goats, which would be taken by herders in each Freej (neighborhood) to graze outside the town walls.
Kuwait in the 1950s:
In the 1950s, the winds of change began to flow as the wealth came in. It was a time of compulsory land purchase by the government in Kuwait to make room for a redesign of Kuwait City. The building of new residential areas, where citizens would be given land by the government free of charge to build their houses, and a new social welfare system was being developed. By the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, the vast majority of downtown Kuwait City within the borders of the third wall would have moved out, with many inhabitants being compensated with buildings of economic purposes and free houses elsewhere.
In 1954, known as the “year of demolition” (sinat al hadama), due to the rains that tore down houses and resulted in flash floods. Those affected were temporarily resettled in schools, as they were large, new, and built of concrete. My own family home, though the walls of their house stood sturdy, had leaks in the roof, and for safety reasons – lest the roofs fall upon their heads – they departed to stay in the Khalid bin Al Waleed school, until the rains stopped and the leaks could be fixed.
As for other stories from my family’s last days in Jibla, Othman Al Anjeri, who was Jassim’s brother and my family’s neighbor, loved films and every week would set up a film projector with a cotton screen, and invite over the whole freej to watch black and white Egyptian movies which were famous across the Arab world. He would set it up in their house’s courtyard and they would sit and watch, with a different film every week. My grandfather, who was a merchant that traded in ship supplies in India with his ship Samhan, and got fresh water from the Shatt Al Arab between Iraq and Iran to bring to Kuwait with his ship Al Khalidi, and during the Second World War bought sugar from Dubai to sell in Kuwait and smuggled gold into British India, would by the end of the decade stop his voyages and settle in his office where his house in Jibla was, instead, trading in real estate. As it was with other Nokhethas who stopped their voyages as well as other Kuwaitis with traditional forms of work, instead they opted for other, more relaxed trades, with everyone moving to residential areas outside the downtown, and my family relocated to Kaifan.
Sadly, no one at the time had an idea of historical and cultural preservation. The mentality was: old was bad and new was good. Kuwait City was to be rebuilt, with the wall being demolished in 1957, with only the gates remaining. What remained of old Kuwait was a few houses here and there, the old mosques that are all still preserved, and the old souq. As for the tight streets and city layout, it was all demolished to make way for new buildings. What they should have done was preserve the old town, while building around it, as much of the land between the town itself and the third wall was undeveloped, a modern town could have been built around the old town with it being preserved as heritage. Maybe with each building having a plaque, and acting as a mini museum of the family that lived there, when they migrated to Kuwait and from where, and something of their family history, while at the same time retaining other purposes such as shops, cafes, restaurants, and museums, among other things, while being government owned. Today 30% of downtown Kuwait City is undeveloped, which makes the demolition of the old town all the more heartbreaking. What I wish would be done is that they demolish the ugly buildings built after the liberation in 1991, as well as in undeveloped land, mainly in Sharq and in parking places, and rebuild old Sharq and Jibla through use of the 1951 aerial image, maps, and testimonies of the town, with the whole downtown having an underground parking lot, and preferably. underground roads, with the top being pedestrian. For now, though, that remains a dream.
Aerial view of Kuwait City, 1951.
Free healthcare, education, and other welfare benefits were being provided. Change was apparent and very fast paced. It was something that brought hope, and society itself changed with exposure to more liberal trends in more advanced Arab countries like Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Egypt was all the rage, and everything Egyptian was all the rage. Arab nationalism ran hot and the role of women began to change. With many younger urban women towards the end of the fifties opting to go unveiled without the Boshiya – the mesh that covered the faces of Kuwaiti women for centuries – and hijab, influenced by Egyptian Nasserism. It was not something against religion per se, but it was due of lack of knowledge and ignorance that it was not necessary, as well as cultural influence from more westernized, technologically, and infrastructurally more advanced Arab countries. People still prayed and fasted, and society was still conservative.
However, be as it may, that influence would remain, with it being societally acceptable for women to be outside unveiled today – something unthinkable in other Gulf societies at the time, and even today, as their wealth did not come during a period where Arab nationalism and Nasserism was at its peak, but quite the opposite, when social conservatism and religiosity was rising in the 1970s and 1980s. Kuwaiti drama and theater at this time also began taking root, influenced by Egyptian theater at the time. They would be the seeds that paved the way for Kuwaiti dominance of television in the Gulf for the coming decades.
Kuwait in the 1960s:
In 1961, Kuwait would request the termination of its 1899 protection treaty with the United Kingdom, granting Kuwait full independence, with full control over its foreign policy. A clause stipulated that Britain (in an emergency situation) would protect Kuwait militarily if need be from threats to its independence. That clause would be called in soon, as immediately a revolutionary Iraq under Abdulkarim Qassim made its intentions clear to annex Kuwait. Britain would distribute troops on Kuwait’s border with Iraq, and Iraq would back down. The British troops would later be replaced by Arab League troops, mainly from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Thousands of Kuwaitis demonstrated against Qassim’s threats – the first demonstration of its size in Kuwaiti history – a sign of the growing political culture in the state.
Kuwaitis demonstrating outside Sief Palace against Prime Minister of Iraq Abdulkarim Qassim’s threats to invade Kuwait.
The 1960s was primarily a time of cultural change in the political and educational sphere, which went hand in hand with development. In 1962, the Kuwaiti constitution was made law by the Emir, Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Al Sabah, written and proposed by prominent Kuwaiti individuals primarily from the merchant class. The constitution would introduce the National Assembly, which aimed to check the power of the government appointed by the Emir, and headed by the Prime Minister, who was traditionally also heir apparent, and meant to represent the interests of the population (not so much the case anymore, but oh well).
Much of the penal code and court systems came from Egyptian law itself, descended from French civil law, and to some extent, English common law and Ottoman law. Though in the constitution it stipulated that Islamic law is the main source of legislation, it was not limited by saying that it is the only source of legislation. Egypt was seen as the pinnacle of advancement at the time – everyone wanted to travel to Egypt and study in Egypt. However, Egypt was a country that would lose much of the development that it had in the past, and many issues that plague the Egyptian system today also plague the Kuwaiti system. Court decisions are incredibly slow, making lawsuits dreadful and expensive. Even when decisions are made, many are based on decisions made in Egyptian courts in the past: development projects put on hold due to lawsuits by the company against the government, or the like, take years, if not a decade or more, putting much development and progress on hold. The court system is in need of reform.
In 1966, Kuwait University would be founded, which would be a place of gathering and work for Kuwaiti scholars and academics. It was to be a local university, rather than having those aiming for higher education to travel abroad to Arab countries like Egypt or Iraq, Europe, the United States, or the Soviet Union. Architecturally as well the city was starting to take shape. Socially, and in terms of welfare, health systems, cooperative societies systems, and education systems would be put in place, Kuwait would also be the first country to introduce a sovereign wealth fund and a fund for future generations to save a percentage of revenues every year for the benefit of future generations. Cooperative societies in which 70% of exchanges and trades in Kuwait are directed to this day, with a central co-op in every residential area bringing in goods as would a supermarket based on demand, with connected barbers, tailors, bakeries, restaurants, and shops to fulfill needs and wants without having to leave the residential area. Members of the board of directors are elected by the residents of the area, registered with the cooperative society. It would be a central experience to every Kuwaiti living in Kuwait, and an important aspect of every residential area built.
These systems would serve as a basis for other Gulf countries with emerging oil wealth in the coming decades. From sovereign wealth funds to welfare systems paving the way for successful investment of oil wealth in the region and in order to invest that wealth abroad as well to increase non-oil revenues. Kuwait shared in its wealth through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, supporting Arab and non-Arab developing countries – something that helped its position diplomatically in the stand against the Iraqi Invasion of 1990. Gulf neighbors, particularly, that were less well off at the time saw Kuwaiti schools, with Kuwaiti books, and education systems opened for public use and hospitals to serve the residents, and funded by Kuwait.
Kuwait in the 1970s:
Kuwait in the 1970s was a continuation of its successes and development of the sixties. Kuwait was known as “the Pearl of the Gulf”. The 1970s saw the Kuwait water towers established in order to store desalinated water from the sea and increase water security. Water desalination plants were built in Kuwait starting in 1951, and today constitutes 90% of Kuwait’s water needs. Starting from 1970, thirty three towers would be constructed and completed in 1976. The three final towers would get a special design, and would become an icon of Kuwait, and the tallest buildings in the country at the time, dubbed “Abraj al Kuwait” “the Kuwait Towers”. One would store water, the other would store water, and have an observatory and restaurant in the top sphere, and one acted as a monument. These last three towers would be completed and opened in 1979. The water towers and Kuwait towers act as a unique architectural aspect of Kuwait to this day, with the water system still remaining vital for Kuwait’s water security and self-sufficiency.
The seventies became the start of the renaissance of Kuwaiti entertainment, from theatrical performances to film and television productions. This renaissance and golden age of Kuwaiti entertainment would go on until the mid 1990s before going downhill from there. Freedom of expression and the great support for actors and the dramatic profession saw actors from other Arab countries, primarily Iraq and the Gulf, flock to Kuwait, learning the Kuwaiti dialect and performing in productions that would be watched across the Gulf and other Arab countries. The first Kuwaiti movie, Bas Ya Bahar, would be shown in 1972. Popular theatrical performances produced in this period include: Hafla ‘ala al Khazooq in 1975, which was partly Kuwaiti and partly formal Arabic, ‘Ala Haman Ya Fir’oun in 1978, I’zoobi Al Salmiya in 1979, and the musical Muthakarat Bahar, also in 1979 (the 2019 remake is even more amazing). One of the most famous television shows, Darb Al Zalag, was also aired in 1977 and was a comedic take on the period of the mid to late fifties and early sixties.
Television and entertainment became a central part of life. It allowed Kuwaiti culture to evolve into a new sphere and project it regionally. It also significantly developed cultural life, and created a new platform of political and social criticism, with many shows and performances having meanings political, social, and economic while presenting it in a comedic way. It was not the newspapers of the merchant class that aimed to direct politics based on their interests, nor the pulpits of mosques where scholars in religion delivered their sermons to right moral wrongs in society,it was the common man’s platform and was very relatable on a personal level.
The roads were much cleaner than they are now. The city was much greener, with plants and grass subject to upkeep. Education from primary to secondary levels was excellent, with free breakfasts and lunches, free uniforms, and recreation facilities. Children roamed the streets and played. The public transportation on buses was considered excellent before its privatization by the government, leading to lack of organization, lack of maintenance for bus stations, and neglect of certain routes over others. As for politically, the National Assembly was suspended from 1976 until 1980, when it was reinstated, and in that span of time, Kuwait was an absolute monarchy, and that would play a role later in the 1980s.
The seventies was for Kuwaitis what the fifties were in the American psyche.
Hey, look! It’s Dickson’s house! Though Harold died in 1959, his widow Violet still lived in the house with their children, Saud and Zahra.
Kuwait in the 1980s:
Kuwait in the 1980s was a continuation of the late 1970s, mostly, and was characterized by its influential entertainment regionally, the impact of the Iran-Iraq War, and increasing social conservatism that began in the mid 1970s. Kuwait supported Iraq against its war with Revolutionary Iran, and as a result was a target of attack by Iranian backed militias like the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi Islamic Dawa Party. This included the first terrorist attack in Kuwaiti history in 1983, which included an attack on the American and French embassies, a petrochemical plant, which would have harmed oil production and severely impacted the water supply system, and the international airport. The only car bomb that caused damage though was the one that rammed the American embassy’s gates and killed two Kuwaitis, two Palestinians, and one Syrian. The rest failed to cause much substantial damage, aside from one at the airport control tower, which killed an Egyptian technician.
In 1984, four Lebanese hijackers took control of a Kuwait Airways flight flying to Karachi, Pakistan from Kuwait, and diverted it to Tehran, aiming to get the 17 people arrested in the bombings released. In 1985, there was an attempted assassination attack on the Emir, Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, when a suicide car bomber attacked the Emir’s motorcade, killing two of his personal guard and a civilian, and wounding the Emir. The justification was stated to be the release of the original perpetrators behind the 1983 bombings. In 1988 as well, another hijacking took place on a Kuwait Airways plane flying from Bangkok, Thailand to Kuwait in which two Kuwaitis were killed.
Infrastructure was still great, and so was the education system up to this point. It was also a golden decade of Kuwaiti theater, from shows to plays. Children’s shows would be shown during Ramadan, such as Madinat Al Reyah in 1988, and the shows primarily revolved around good and evil. Others included Al Ghuraba’ in 1982, Khalti Qumasha: a famous Kuwaiti sitcom in 1984, ‘Ala al Dunya Salam in 1987, among many others. As well as famed plays such as Bye Bye London in 1981, Bye Bye Arab in 1986, and Fursan Al Manakh in 1983 which talked about the black market stock exchange called Souq Al Manakh (which caused a huge economic crisis in 1983, leading the government to spend 90 billion dollars, 60 billion of which went to only a handful of people to clear up their debts), and many other performances as well. These performances would remain secure in the Kuwaiti psyche to this day, and the period of the late fifties through the eighties is remembered fondly as Ziman Al Taybeen: “Era of the Good people”.
Politically, in 1986 the National Assembly Majlis Al Ummah was suspended, and Kuwait became an absolute monarchy, much like between 1976 to 1980. In 1990, the Majlis Al Watani was put in its place and acted as an advisory and municipal body, but it would not last, as Iraq would soon invade. The influence of the merchant class was also evident in putting a hold on a play (Hatha Seifo) which criticized their role in influencing politics in 1987. They managed this through newspapers that criticized the play after only one performance, and claimed that it went against Islamic values, which caused the Islamic scholars from both sects to protest.
Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait and Liberation of Kuwait 1990-1991:
On August 2nd, 1990 Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, and within two days had full control over the country. The Kuwaiti military was ordered to withdraw into Saudi Arabia, with those units that remained covering the withdrawal, and putting up as much stiff resistance as they could. While withdrawing, they distributed weapons to civilians in residential suburbs, and those in the military that could not leave formed the Kuwaiti Resistance, which were unconnected separate networks of Kuwaiti soldiers and civilians, including women who aimed to make the occupation miserable for the Iraqis, which they did quite well: managing to bomb Iraqi makeshift bases in police stations, and killing them in guerrilla type warfare and surprise skirmishes.
It caused fear and paranoia. The mere presence of Kuwaitis within Kuwait was a form of resistance, as otherwise, Iraqis would have taken over Kuwaiti homes, and would have effectively colonized the country. Kuwaitis, including my own father, went up the roofs at night and would shout “Allahu Akbar” “God is Greater!”, which would cause fear in the Iraqis, with noise from all around them, and they would start shooting into the air. Kuwaitis became the garbage cleaners, they became the bakers, they distributed what supplies they had to other families; doctors worked in secret, helping people who needed it, and resistance fighters, all for nothing in exchange. Neighbors became family effectively. Suddenly, for half a year, Kuwait of 1991 became Kuwait of 1948, in the style that people dressed kind of, especially women in their abayas, and in terms of becoming a more close-knit society.
Umm Saud (Violet) Dickson, who still lived in Kuwait at the behest of her children, would leave Kuwait in September 1990. She would pass away in the United Kingdom in January, a month before Liberation and she would not see her adopted country – the one she wished to die in – free.
Many buildings were destroyed, including the National Assembly building and Sief Palace, that were damaged. The telecommunications tower was still only half-built at the time, and stood at the center of downtown Kuwait City. Iraqi soldiers tortured resistance fighters and then, to finish them off, took them to their houses in front of their families, parents, and children, and executed them. It was a time of horror, and everyone who lived through it has a story. The day liberation came, people felt a happiness they never had before: they had their country back. Imagine waking up one morning and your country doesn’t exist anymore, soldiers are on the street, and people are telling you that you’re a citizen of a country you’re not. Now, imagine the happiness when your country is back:
Civilians celebrating the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces.
Resistance fighters and civilians raising pictures of the Crown Prince, Sheikh Saad Al Abdullah Al Salem Al Sabah, and the Kuwaiti flag, celebrating the liberation.
Emirati and Qatari tanks drive into Kuwait City, and are cheered by civilians on February 26th, the day of Kuwait’s liberation, part of the US-led coalition that liberated Kuwait.
Kuwaitis and their children celebrating with Saudi soldiers, part of the coalition contingent that liberated Kuwait.
Man: ecstatic, welcoming coalition troops and raising the Kuwaiti flag.
Kuwait returned to its rightful owners in 1991. In 1992, the National Assembly would be returned. In 1994, the Telecommunications tower would be completed and renamed “the Liberation Tower” (Burj Al Tahreer), which remains a central aspect of Kuwait’s skyline to this day. High-rise buildings became popular in areas such as Salmiya and the capital during this time, which would be filled with office buildings and apartments. Some Iraqi actors who had lived and acted in Kuwait for decades were tried and expelled for treason. Iraqis, Palestinians, and Jordanians who had supported and assisted the Iraqi regime during the occupation were also expelled, and Arab nationalism reached a new low in Kuwait.
“An Arab country invaded us and was aided by many foreign Arabs within the country while foreign infidels helped us? Keep your Pan-Arabism to yourself. The only countries we can trust are our Gulf brothers after God”. That was the mentality following Liberation. Egyptians were seen in a much more positive light, as not only did their country politically and militarily aid Kuwait, but many Egyptian residents even took up arms and joined the Kuwaiti Resistance, and as such, many Egyptian teachers, workers, and other residents replaced the departed Palestinians – most of whom had sided with the Iraqis.
Culturally, Kuwaiti entertainment initially would continue as it was before, focusing on drama series and falling in quality, with one of the last of the great plays being Seif Al Arab, produced in 1992, which was a comedic take on the period of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait. The 1990s also saw an increase in corruption and the slowness of the development sector, with issues being blamed on “the invasion”, and corruption becoming more widespread. Infrastructure was not as good as it was previously, and this would continue on into the 2000s.
Kuwait City skyline: 1996.
While there maybe a lot of flaws when it comes to government administration, recent years have seen strong infrastructural improvement and development, from parks, to malls and cultural centers and museums. What makes Kuwait unique are the Kuwaitis themselves, and their creativity. Many cannot handle office jobs, those jobs being too boring and rigid. As such, entrepreneurship has grown significantly, from fashion to restaurants with some of the best food internationally, not only local food, but an international array, as Kuwaitis are known for traveling and improving on what they see. They have great taste, and it is the efforts of Kuwaitis that drive many tourists from other Gulf states to visit, especially with the rise of social media and the popularity of it to advertise, with many famous Kuwaiti influencers having impacts regionally (not always positively, but what can you do?).
The best two things in Kuwait today are shopping. and food. Amazing malls – the best of them are facilitated by the Avenues, however, people opening cafes and restaurants even open them in garages – it’s amazing. In every nook and cranny you go, you’ll find a restaurant or a local shop that are even outcompeting international brands. In the 2000s, while I was growing up, all we ate outside at Pizza Hut, Burger King, and McDonalds. Towards the end of middle and high school, all that changed. It isn’t even worth it ordering from Burger King and Pizza Hut anymore, since we have delivery apps like Carriage, Talabat (which are local), and a new international competitor, Deliveroo, which deliver even better burgers and pizzas than Burger King and Pizza Hut could ever produce. Every country has flaws, but I am optimistic for the future. Culturally, after years of dreadful dramas on television, last year a movie that was produced: Serb Al Hamam, about the Battle of Qurain between Iraqi forces and a unit of the Kuwaiti Resistance, exceeded expectations, and the quality and special effects were superb. This year, the theatrical remake of Muthakarat Bahar, from the storyline, to the special effects, in the state of the art theaters in Jaber Al Ahmed Cultural Center, was beautiful and is a positive sign of an improving entertainment sector, though writing in regular shows still needs to be improved exponentially, and writers should be given more importance over producers.
The political arena is still as complicated as ever:
Life in Kuwait is good. It may not be perfect, and most of our sidewalks are ugly, but no place is perfect. It’s the people that make a place fun for the most part. At least we have our Kuwait, free, and May God protect her. Long may Kuwait remain, and long live the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah.
The parking lot where my grandfather’s house in Jibla once stood.
Me, standing where the Al Anjeri house once stood, and in front of the mosque (built in 1784) that was only about three meters in front of our old house in Jibla on the northern side. The Imam of the mosque was curious as to why I was taking so many pictures of the mosque when I was standing at the southern door. I pointed at the parking lot and said “My grandfather’s house once stood there”.