Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City

When I came to live in Kuwait, my resourceful niece, Little Diamond went online and found all kinds of fabulous books about Kuwait, books you can’t find in Kuwait. Five interesting books, mostly about an earlier era in Kuwait, when my Kuwaiti friends tell me it was still one community.

“It was like paradise” they say, and they sigh.

I found another book recently, a book I have never seen before, although it was published in 1994, so it is not old. It is The History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City (and the influence of it’s elements on the Architect) by Saleh Abdulghani Al-Mutawa.
Although I intend to give this book as a gift to a friend, I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside, first. Should have resisted – I ended up reading the whole book.


This man loves architectural details the way I do, but he has studied them, and he is on a mission to bring back elements of uniquely Gulf architecture to the Gulf. One reason I love this book is that I know the buildings he has designed; I had a friend who lives in one, and we all marveled at it’s architectural elements.


I particularly love the wind towers.

I lived in Jordan for two years with no air conditioning. I don’t know why, but we didn’t miss it. We had our windows open all night and early mornings, we had rolled down shutters to keep the harsh sunlight out and we had ceiling fans – we managed.

Life would be different without A/C; life styles would change, but it would be manageable.

I want to quote from this book for you. Kuwaiti readers, you probably know all these things, but my readers in other parts of the world – like me – may find this fascinating.

Architecture and Building Materials in Old Kuwait City
Building materials were taken from materials available in nature: sea rock, mud, limestone and gypsum. As old Kuwait’s economy depended on the two journeys for diving and travel to Africa and India, Kuwaitis imported teakwood from India, and jandal (trunk) and basajeel (bamboo) from Africa (Mombassa – Kenya). These completed the elements of the construction. The shape of the old Kuwaiti architecture came to suit the environment and circumstances. Houses were adjacent in a manner that indicated the unity and cooperation of the people. Streets were narrow in such a way that the sun did not fall on the full street, and that made the streets cool and shaded. Mosques were the places for prayers, where they pray five times a day, were near the houses. There was a mosque in each district to enable the elders from walking to it without trouble. Kuwaitis care much for their religion.

Construction depended on Kuwaitis themselves. The engineer, called “ustad’ at that time, supervised the building and the laborers of Kuwaitis prepared for it. They carried rocks, prepared mud bricks, and started building.

Kuwait city was spontaneously and simply divided. In this it is similar to many old world cities, like London. There were three districts: Sharq (east), where the sun rises, Qibla, where the sun sets, and Wosta, which lies between them. The three districts were surrounded by their fence which the Kuwaitis built to defend their city.

By jandal, the author means trunks of trees, which you will see incorporated in the illustration above, painted black. When he talks about the fence around old Kuwait, he is talking about the wall which once existed. You can still find the (re-creations) of the gates to the city, except we can’t fine the one that is supposed to be around B’naid al Gar.

More to follow!

February 26, 2008 - Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos


  1. […] History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City […]

    Pingback by just this once | Info trend it | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. there is a great documentary on the same subject by Habeeb Husain, you should look it up……!!!

    Comment by EXzombie | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. OK, EXZombie, I need a little more. I have googled every variation of Habeeb Husain I can think of, along with Kuwait architecture, and I come up blank.

    Who is Habeeb Husain?
    What is the title of his documentary? Was it on Gulf architecture, or Kuwait architecture
    Was this for TV? A movie?
    Where did YOU see this documentary?
    Is Habeeb Husain Kuwaiti?

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  4. Heh heh heh – I finally found a reference to Husain Habeeb’s Symphonic Poem – guess where? EXzombiesm, February 5, 2008.

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  5. […] tagged harshOwn a WordPress blog? Make monetization easier with the WP Affiliate Pro plugin. History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City saved by 3 others     siponkid bookmarked on 02/26/08 | […]

    Pingback by Pages tagged "harsh" | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  6. My husband would LOVE this book. Where can I find a copy?
    Google-ed and couldn’t find reference to hard copy anywhere for sale. Help, please.

    Also, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time. I really enjoy your posts on Kuwait and your excellent photos.
    Thanks for taking the time to publish your thoughts. -hm

    Comment by HM | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  7. Welcome, HM.

    I found mine at a used book sale; someone was leaving Kuwait.

    There is a place I have been told I should go because it has a specialized and fantastic selection of books, and I can’t remember if it is called Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah (Kuwait Museum of Islamic Art), or Dar al Funoon.

    The only other thing I can think of is checking Amazon – I can often find out of print books on Amazon, through their subsidiary dealers, but . . . they usually cost a fortune, like double, triple, quadruple their original cost! Check locally, first! Oh! Try Jarir Bookstore; they often have these kinds of obscure books. Good luck!

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  8. […] another couple books which feature or include the unique architectural elements in Kuwait, but not The History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City, the book I reviewed earlier. Some of these other books may be even […]

    Pingback by Kuwait Book Store « Here There and Everywhere | May 6, 2008 | Reply

  9. Amazing blog.I really enjoyed reading this blog.Your house looks so amazing.Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.keep sharing with us.
    Architecture Kuwait

    Comment by Alene | March 8, 2017 | Reply

  10. what page is that quote on?

    Comment by rose | October 11, 2017 | Reply

    • Rose, I bought that book for a Kuwaiti friend, and gave it to him as a gift, many years ago.

      Comment by intlxpatr | October 11, 2017 | Reply

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