A Traveler’s Guide to the Undiscovered Beauty of Kuwait’s History
By Muhammed Aladdin
On its National Day, Kuwait celebrates an endless history of struggle, perseverance, and triumph. The 25th of February, 1950 marks the ascension of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah to the throne. A decade later, Kuwait gained its independence from the British on the 19th of July, 1961.
The country has an ancient heritage dating all the way back to the times of antiquity. As, 2,000 years ago, the Greeks arrived at the island of Failaka, then named Icarus; Charax, a major trading port in the time of the Seleucid Empire located within the modern borders of Kuwait. Despite the Hellenistic influence, the aboriginal inhabitants were always the Bedouin Arabs of the desert.
With time, the country has grown into modern-day Kuwait. The beautiful desert metropolis has been plagued by a number of conflicts, but its people always came to the aid, fighting for their land, identity, and history. The National Day is not just a day of celebration, but of remembrance, and with that said, here is our bucket list for the historical landmarks of Kuwait, and why they are worth a visit.
National Museum of Kuwait
Situated on the Arabian Gulf Street, the National Museum of Kuwait is a true representation of Kuwaiti cultural and historic heritage. The museum used to be the royal residence of the Sabah Family, however, as the country grew, the need for a national museum grew with it. So, the Department of Antiquities and Museums bought the palace and the construction of an edifice dedicated to the nation began.
Inside the museum, there are prehistoric artifacts excavated from Failaka Island that include engraved tools, doors, and blades from the Neolithic age. There are also Greek coins from the Hellenistic period.
The museum houses several photographs showcasing the old Kuwaiti way of life and models of ancient Arab mud houses.
Failaka Heritage Village
One of the few heritage villages in all of Kuwait, Failaka preserves the essence of the Kuwaiti traditional identity. It is a place where visitors can enjoy the comfort of spacious houses, resembling the homes of the Arabs of past time.
In the center of Failaka Village, Qa’at Al-Khair, a hall that houses up to 450 people, offers visitors a true taste of Arab hospitality. In addition, there are Arabian horses and camels for tourists to ride, and by the end of the day, the people of Failaka hold barbecue dinners for guests under the moonlight.
Kuwait House of National Works Museum
Through the halls of Kuwait House of National Works Museum, one can witness the grim reminders of the first Gulf War. The building is a tribute to the brave Kuwaiti soldiers and citizens who lost their lives during the onslaught of the conflict.
Although the war has ended more than a decade ago, its tremors resonate through the exhibits, with replicated mortar attacks and gun blasts; a reminder that war brings nothing but plight and destruction.
Tareq Rajab Museum
The Tareq Rajab Museum is the culmination of decades of effort by Kuwait’s First Minister Tareq Rajab and his wife Jehan Wellborne. The couple met in Britain when Tareq Rajab traveled to Britain to study Art and Archaeology; they married in 1955, and with a common passion for heritage and culture, the dynamic duo worked together on collecting over 30,000 artifacts from all over the world.
At the end of their life, their private collection has been housed at Tareq Rajab Museum, which opened door to the public in the 1980s. The collection included Islamic Arts, metal and glass works, Treasures of Ceramics, Gold and Silver jewelry, costumes of sheiks and shepherds, English costumes, Bahraini pearls, pottery, metalwork, glass, masonry, manuscripts, musical instruments, and many more artifacts.
A traditional Kuwaiti house that has been transformed into a cultural center, the Sadu House is a museum that best showcases the cultural heritage of Kuwait’s Bedouin traditions. Especially, the world-renowned Sadu weaving.
The exceptional museum shows the nomadic art of weaving, its different styles, and history. In addition, it informs other Bedouin art forms and crafts.
The Seif Palace
Perhaps, one of the early buildings of modern Kuwait, Seif Palace is well-known for being the home of the Kuwaiti royal family. However, to the surprise of many, the residence is rarely used by the monarch. While Bayan Palace serves as Al-Sabah’s official family home, Seif Palace is reserved for special ceremonies and events.
Built in 1896, Seif Palace is at the heart of Kuwait City serving as a magnificent example of Islamic architecture with mosaic tile works and columned halls. It is known to be the first house to have electricity in all of Kuwait, and there, Sheikh Mubarak of Kuwait has received many esteemed guests. Those include the British Viceroy to India in 1915 and the Danish Explorer and Photographer Ronkier Lens in 1912.
Symbolizing Kuwait’s economic resurgence to the world, the Kuwait Towers are a group of three slender towers inaugurated in 1979 and were one of the most-visited landmarks of modern-day Kuwait. The design is a combination of traditional Islamic elements and more modern architectural themes. It has drawn inspiration from the blue-tiled mosques and long minarets of Samarkand and Bukhara.
The towers grew to signify Kuwait’s opulence and prosperity and a return to the world scene after the unraveling of the Gulf Wars.
As a monument of their triumph in their struggle for liberation, the Kuwaiti government built the second tallest tower in Kuwait and the fifth tallest telecommunication tower in the world. It was dubbed the Liberation Tower and was dedicated to the Kuwaiti people and the international coalition that liberated the country during the aftermath of the Gulf War.
The Dhow Harbor used to be one of the prominent docks for sailing ships in Kuwait. Visitors get to see the old wooden ships with their silk-white wide sails that used to be the driving power behind the Kuwaiti economy. In a time before the discovery of oil, locals used to board these ships and engage in fishing, pearling, and coastal trading.
Guests at Dhow Harbor get to board the ship “Fateh Al-Kheir”, the oldest and largest wooden Dhow in all of Kuwait.
Nestled in the heart of Kuwait City, the Grand Mosque, or as it is known by the locals “Al-Masjid Al-Kabir”, is the official mosque of the country. The mosque is indeed one of Kuwait’s most treasured landmarks as its architects have put in the effort to make it one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Kuwait.