Categories
50s to 90s Photography

The 109 Year Old Mosque in Kuwait City

A couple of weeks ago, I revisited the Tareq Rajab Museum to explore their private photography archive again. This time, I discovered several more interesting items, including the beautiful old photo above, taken sometime in the 1970s, of a mosque in Kuwait.

I didn’t recognize the mosque, so I asked my Twitter followers if they knew it, and one person did. It turns out the mosque is called Ahmad Abdullah Mosque, and not only is it still standing, but it’s also located practically across the street from my office.

The mosque is located in Kuwait City and was built in 1915. It’s situated in the area behind Dickson House, where the old city project is currently under construction.

Although the project is cordoned off with a wall, there are two mosques in the back that are still accessible through a gate. As soon as I saw the mosque, I recognized it as the same one, even though the part of the mosque that housed what looks like a baqala in the old photo seems to have been demolished at some point.

I took some photos of the mosque, but since it’s currently right next to the wall surrounding the construction site, I couldn’t capture the exact same angle as the old photo.

If you want to check out the mosque in person, here is the location on Google Maps.

Categories
50s to 90s Interesting Kuwait

Saving the Ahmadi Cinema and Market

I’ve always been fascinated with Ahmadi because of how different it looked to the rest of Kuwait. Most of it hasn’t changed since it was originally built in the late 1940s, but over the decades, some important landmarks, including the Ahmadi Cinema and Market, fell into disrepair. Now, the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters has a very cool project to save them.

I was given a tour of both sites, but the first we visited was the cinema. It was designed by the renowned architect Sayed Karim in the 1960s. The ground floor has shops and restaurants which are still used today, but the upper floor where the cinema was is closed off from the public and empty. The large hall that used to hold over 1,200 cinema seats is now empty and derelict. But, a lot of the interior is still intact and original, which is why it was interesting to explore the building. The cinema stands as one of the last cultural centers in Kuwait, and is the only remaining building of its kind in the country. The rehabilitation project aims to restore it to its original state and function while supporting and enhancing the local performing arts industry.

The second location we visited was the market. Similar to the cinema the aim will be to restore the market to its original state. The market is in pretty bad shape and so will be a more difficult project for them to restore. But, one building has already been refurbished and I got to tour that as well. One thing I only discovered while on the tour was that the metal beams on the building facade are actually functional. They open and close to control the amount of sunlight that comes in. That must have been so ahead of its time back when it was built.

This restoration project is the pilot model for the NCCAL, which aims to create policies and procedures to preserve and protect heritage sites throughout Kuwait. The Ahmadi Township is also being considered for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which would a huge benefit to Ahmadi and Kuwait if that happens.

I feel relieved knowing that there are now people working on preserving Kuwait’s history and I can’t wait to see their future projects. Follow @ahmadi_township if you want to stay updated on the Ahmadi project.

For more photos which I took on the tour, click here.

Categories
50s to 90s Information Interesting

1958 Al-Othman Mosque Restoration Project

We have the habit of demolishing old structures instead of restoring them in Kuwait, so when I found out the old Al-Othman Mosque in Hawalli was being restored, I reached out to the team working on it asking if I could write about it.

The mosque restoration is being spearheaded by Eng. Adnan Al-Othman and sponsored by the Abdullah Abdulatif Al-Othman Charitable Trust. Adnan’s father is the one who built the mosque so he’s very familiar with it.

Al-Othman Mosque was established in 1958 and later opened for public use in 1961. It was one of the first grand mosques to be built in Kuwait, and also the first to have a dome, making it an important landmark.

Since its opening over 60 years ago, many changes were made to the mosque, some permanent, but most were thankfully superficial. The mosque originally had a colorful design that was unique for the time, but over the years it got repainted a monotone beige and white blending it into it’s Hawally surroundings. The interior which was covered with intricate decorations and script were also all covered with white paint erasing a lot of what made the mosque so unique and special.

The restoration team dug up as many photos and videos of the original mosque as they could find, so that they could better understand all the changes that were made over time. They also started the process of removing structures that weren’t there originally, like metal shading over the courtyard and an extension to the mezzanine floor. Additionally, they began stripping the paint from both the interior and exterior of the building, revealing some of the old decorative art and colors (samples above).

The restoration team’s plan is to restore the mosque as close as possible to its original state. They’re deep into the restoration process now, but they don’t have a clear timeline for completion since the work must be slow and careful. Once this project is finished, I hope more people will realize and appreciate the importance of preserving old Kuwait.

Categories
50s to 90s

The Construction of Salhiya Complex – 1979

I was looking for something when I came across a journal by ARUP, the British engineering and architect firm. The journal was from 1979 and discusses in great technical detail their involvement in the construction of Salhiya Complex. If you’re into this kind of thing, here is a link to the PDF.

For everyone else, here is a video of Salhiya Complex taken in 1984. (starts at minute 4:40)

Categories
50s to 90s Design Interesting People

Saving the Futuristic Bubble House from Amghara

Last week a video popped up on my feed that I thought was fascinating. A guy called Hamad AlMuzaini (@hamad.muzaini) had spotted a little piece of architecture history at a scrap yard in Amghara, the Maison Bulle (Bubble House) by French modernist architect, Jean-Benjamin Maneval.

The Bubble House which was conceived in 1963 is considered to be one of the most successful designs for “futuristic plastic houses“. Only 300 of these prefab homes were ever built and so it’s pretty incredible that not only did one end up in Kuwait, but the fact that it survived and is in fairly decent condition is a miracle.

Hamad is an architect and designer who lived and worked in the US for roughly 13 years. Most of his work experience revolved around modular and prefabricated construction, which is why when he spotted the Bubble House roughly two years ago, he immediately recognized that it was a novel system and had immense value. But, Hamad only realized recently what he had spotted when an account he follows posted a similar Bubble House. So Hamad went back to Amghara and called the number of the scrapyard asking if it was for sale. From there he purchased the house and started planning its relocation.

Most of the images online consistently depicted the Bubble House set against nature, making a really beautiful composition of something quite futuristic. So he decided to move the Bubble House out of the scrap yard and onto his family’s farm.

Currently Hamad is focusing his efforts on restoring the structure without permanent and damaging procedures. He wants to restore it as close to the original as possible but without an interior layout, leaving it as an open floor plan. He hopes to one day host events with some community engagement surrounding the Maison Bulle, but for now his focus is to restore it.

How the Bubble House ended up in Kuwait in the first place is still a mystery, but at least it’s in good hands right now.

Categories
50s to 90s Information Music Shopping

Where to find vinyl records in Kuwait (2024 Edition)

Since a lot of record stores pop up and close down often, I tend to update this list every few years.

All the small online stores that sold new records have closed down, including @vinyldestinationkw, and so if you want a new release, your best bet is ordering from Amazon.

But, if you’re looking for old used records, you actually have multiple options in Kuwait.

The Antique Basement
This basement in Salmiya has various stores selling vintage and antique items, three of them also have a small collection of old records. They’re not organized but instead are either just pilled up on top of one another, or randomly stacked in boxes. Finding stuff is a bit of an adventure, but on the bright side, they’re mostly English records. Here are the instagram accounts of those stores:

@tathkron
@fahad___bokhaled
@alnasser_antiques_kuwait

Nawader
This guy has the most insane collection of old music since he acquired all the remaining stock of the old record label “Bou Zaid Phone“, one of the most important Kuwaiti record labels. Nawader has a huge collection of new-old-stock records, cassettes and even 8-track tapes. Nearly all of the records he has are in Arabic, and he also has many very hard to come by ones. I got my 4-volume vinyl set of the “Kuwaiti Television Artistic Group” from him, and although he wouldn’t sell me his copy of the Iftah Ya Simsim record, he did hook me up with someone else who sold me theirs. He has a location thats by appointment only, but you can also purchase or request items through any one of his three instagram accounts:

@nawaderq8
@q8nawader
@istuwanat

Moqtanayaty
If you’re looking for a vintage record player, boombox, 8-track or even reel-to-reel players to buy, the best store in Kuwait is Moqtanayaty, or “My Belongings” when translated to English. I bought my vintage record player from there and they can even repair vintage music players, VCRs, or really old TVs. You can check them out on instagram @vintage_radio_

If you know of another place that sells records, let me know in the comments.

Categories
50s to 90s Photography

Photo of the Kuwait Shoreline Taken in 1903

I don’t recall coming across a photo of Kuwait’s shoreline that was older than this. I was doing some research for an upcoming post when I went down a rabbit hole and ended up coming across a report from 1903 that contained photos, maps and some interesting information on Kuwait. One of the photos was the image above of Kuwait’s shore which I hadn’t seen before, but there were also some other ones inside I also hadn’t seen which I’ve shared below.

The report is made up of 2 volumes and the original copy is part of the British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers . The report was compiled by Captain H. H. Dowding after his visit to Kuwait during the winter of 1901-02 while the photographs were supplied by Baron Curzon of Kedleston.

You can actually download the whole report as a PDF from the Qatar Digital Library. If you want to check it out, click here.

Categories
50s to 90s Design Shopping

Northern Salmiya Building Refurbishment

The Northern Salmiya Building is located in the old Salmiya souk on Salem Mubarak Street. It’s over 50 years old, and since I grew up down the street from it, I’ve seen so many shops come and go there.

It’s the same complex that used to house Kids’r’us (Alghanim Automotive before that) and it’s the same building that had the old National/Panasonic store that used to have the NeoGeo in the window display. The corner shop was Boushahri where everyone used to go to get their passport photos taken. Mogahwi was also located there, the first Alshaya stores also all opened there including The Bodyshop, BHS, Mothercare and Next.

The building was also designed by SSH over 50 years ago, the same firm that’s behind JACC, ASCC and the waterfront project.

Recently, the corner of the building was demolished, and a tower was built in its place. It sucks that they demolished part of the building, but now that the tower is up it’s actually not that bad and I’m glad at least that they didn’t demolish the whole thing. What’s great is that they’ve also gone ahead and refurbished the rest of the building with a fresh coat of paint, new lights and even had some oversized signages for some of the stores removed.

The building is looking pretty good now, and I wish more old buildings got refurbished as well. And I don’t mean Dasman Complex style refurbishing where they’re just horribly covering the whole building facade with Alucobond.

If you haven’t been to old salmiya recently you should, it’s really popping. Google Maps

Update: Just found a photo in my archive of the Northern Salmiya Building under construction

Categories
50s to 90s Photography

British Bank of the Middle East – Kuwait, 1952

The British Bank of the Middle East was originally called the Imperial Bank of Persia and operated out of Iran. In 1952 it abandoned the Iranian market and renamed itself to British Bank of the Middle East. In 1959, BBME was acquired by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC).

Last week while looking for information on an old photography studio called “Studio Sharq”, I ended up coming across old photos of BBME in Kuwait (they were credited to Studio Sharq). HSBC scanned old photographs of two of their old branches, the first location that opened in 1952 as well as their second location that opened in 1964.

Along with photos of the exterior of the bank they also have photos of the interior and of the opening ceremony.

If you want to check them out, click here.

Categories
50s to 90s Food

Palm Palace Demolished

Although I haven’t been to Palm Palace restaurant in Salmiya since the 90s, it is pretty sad seeing it getting demolished. They’ve been around since 1979 and they were located next to my home so I grew up right next to them. I actually wanted to go back to it for nostalgic reasons but never did and now it’s too late. Actually, I just realized the last time I was there I think was in the early 2000s? I remember a friend had just gotten the first Nokia with the camera and he was showing it to me there.

Categories
50s to 90s Information Kuwait

The Oldest Continually Occupied Residential Building in Kuwait

As you’re probably aware by now, a few weeks ago I got access to Tareq Rajab Museums’ (@trmkuwait) private photography archive. While going through the photos I found ones of the British Embassy under construction, as well an aerial photo showing the embassy with two large buildings in the background. The other two buildings were the Sheikh Khazal’s Palace (Bayt Al Ghanim), and Diwan Sheikh Khazal (Sheikh Abdullah Al Jaber Palace).

The three buildings are still there today, but only the British Embassy is not falling apart and is still being used today. So, I reached out to @ukinkuwait for some information on the building, and what they shared was very fascinating.

The embassy was commissioned by the political agent Colonel Harold Dickson, and designed by architect Robert T. Russell, chief architect to the Government of India. The building construction was completed in 1935.

Harold Dickson and his wife Dame Violet Dickson (Umm Saud), were the first residents of the embassy. There have been 15 political agents and 21 ambassadors that have lived in the current residence.

The Residence was built with Basra Bricks and steel girders from Scotland. It was the first building in Kuwait built with steel girders which allowed rooms to be bigger than the height of a tree. At the time it was built, the building was really stunning for guests because they had never been in such large rooms.

The house originally was heated in the winter by 12 wood/coal burning fireplaces. All but three have been enclosed and are no longer used except as a decorative piece. The main terrace is designed in an arc to help catch the sea breeze and that a portion of it will always be in the shade to help create a natural breeze when the wind is not blowing in the summer.

Originally the embassy did not have AC and at that time it was normal in the middle east for people to sleep on the roof during the summer. Colonel Dickson and his family did that as well. But, the colonel was a bad sleepwalker and his wife Violet was scared he would walk off the roof since there were no railings. Initially, she tied his toe to the bed to keep him safe. Later she had a custom 2-inch-deep bath made that was the size of his bed. When he went to get out of bed, he stepped into the water and woke himself up.

On the first day of the 1990 Iraq invasion, the Ambassador then, Michael Weston calculated the embassy had 30 days supply of food and water for himself and his head of the Political Section Larry Banks. More than 5 months later, surviving on a little more than canned food and stagnant water (they drank the swimming pool), Ambassador Weston and his head of Political, locked the Embassy and climbed out a window and made their way to Baghdad until the coalition forces assisted in liberating Kuwait a little over a month later.

Today, the British Embassy residence is still used as the ambassador’s residence, and so is considered to be the oldest continually occupied residential building in Kuwait.

Note: The colored photo is by Verity Cridland and taken in the early 60s.

Categories
50s to 90s Animals & Wildlife Photography

The oldest photos of pet dogs in Kuwait

This post was supposed to be a silly one, but after I started writing it I went down a rabbit hole and found some interesting information, so bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago I got access to Tarek Rajab Museums’ private photography archive, and part of their collection were the family photos of the Dicksons. While going through those photos, I came across a number of photos of their dogs. They were beautiful shots and I joked that they were probably the oldest photos of pet dogs taken in Kuwait. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was probably true. How many people in Kuwait had cameras back in the 1920s let alone one they’d use to take random photos of their dog? Not many.

I found five beautiful photos, some taken outside the Kuwait wall which you can clearly see in the backdrop of the photos. H.R.P Dickson lived in Kuwait with his wife Violet Dickson, and daughter Zahra Freeth from the 1920s until the 1940s.

I started off by trying to find the names of their two dogs, so I took out my copy of H.R.P Dickson’s “The Arab of the Desert” to see if he mentions them anywhere, and ended up finding a whole chapter where he talks about Salukis. Turns out they were popular dogs in Kuwait at that time and mostly used for hunting. Also, unlike other dogs, Salukis were not considered “najis” (unclean) so were allowed to enter the tent and lie on the rugs and mats. But, Dickson never mentioned his dogs, so I started to think maybe they weren’t his.

I kept digging and it led me to buying the book “Saluki: The Desert Hound and the English Travelers Who Brought It to the West“. In it there are a few pages that talk about Dickson’s dogs and turns out they actually did get two Saluki dogs in 1929 while in Kuwait. The dogs accompanied H.R.P Dickson everywhere he went because he found them to be a good conversation starter with tribesmen, and his wife Violet was mostly responsible for walking them daily. I couldn’t find the names of the dogs, but at least I got verification they were in fact their pets.

I believe the young girl pictured above is their daughter Zahra.

Update: I managed to find out the names of the dogs! Brian Duggan, the author of Saluki: The Desert Hound and the English Travelers Who Brought It to the West dug up photos Zahra had sent him and on the photos she had written the names and the dates of two male salukis, Dhabaan and Khataaf.

Brian also discovered that in the book The Arab of the Desert, HRP Dickson mentions the name of his female saluki as well, Turfa.

Categories
50s to 90s Travel

Celebrating 70 Years of Kuwait Airways

Kuwait Airways is currently celebrating their 70 year anniversary, so I decided to share some old photos my mum took back when she was a Kuwait Airways flight attendant.

Back in the early 70s, my mum traveled to Iran via Kuwait Airways from Lebanon. On the way back while transiting at the Kuwait Airport, she saw a Kuwait Airways ad looking for flight attendants. So once she got back to Lebanon, she applied, got the job, and ended up moving to Kuwait a few months later.

Anytime my mum brings up her experience as a Kuwait Airways flight attendant, she always mentions how great it was, and how she got to travel to so many places and meet a lot of people.

Some of the photos I’ve shared here, I previously posted on the blog around 18 years ago, but in low res. I’ve now rescanned all the photos including new ones I hadn’t shared before, and then tried to restore and recover as much of the details and colors as possible without over editing the images.

Just to add a bit more context, the photos here range from 1974 to 1976, with the oldest being the one of my mum in the orange colored uniform. The uniforms in the photos were also designed by Dior, except for the orange one which was designed by Nina Ricci. Finally, the last photos which look like they were taken on a private jet were in fact taken onboard the Emir’s plane (Emir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah) which she served on during the last period of her career.

I’ve uploaded all 16 photos to my Flickr account, to check them out click here.

Categories
50s to 90s Kuwait Photography

Photos of the First Flood – Kuwait, 1934

Last week I was given access to the Tarek Rajab Museums’ private photography archive, and over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my favorite finds. But, since it’s raining today I figured I’d share the first batch of photos taken after “The First Flood”.

I posted about the first flood back in September, but the photo I had found then was low resolution. That’s why I was pretty surprised to come across three high resolution photos in the Tarek Rajab Museum’s archive.

In Kuwait, the year 1934 is sometimes called Sanat Al Haddamah (the year of destruction) since torrential rains caused a lot of destruction to the old town of Kuwait.

Within only an hour, Kuwait witnessed unprecedented torrential rains that reached 300mm and caused raging floods and waters that swept away a third of the mud houses in Kuwait.

These three photos show the aftermath of the flood.

Categories
50s to 90s Sports

When Muhammad Ali Visited Kuwait – 1972

52 years ago to this day, boxing legend Muhammad Ali visited Kuwait as part of his broader trip to the Gulf region, which included his religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

During his visit to Kuwait, he engaged in various activities including meeting with local leaders, interacting with fans, and spreading messages of peace and unity. He was given a hero’s welcome and everywhere he went he was accompanied by an entourage of famous media personalities and athletes.

Thanks to the archivists Bader Alshaiji, I was able to get a hold of some photos of Muhammad Ali’s visit to share with my readers. A lot of these photos haven’t been seen since they were originally published 50 years ago.

For more photos from Ali’s visit, click here.
Make sure you visit Bader’s Instagram account if you’re interested in more old photos of Kuwait @badshaiji