Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Architecture in Kuwait

Fascinating article in today’s 

Arab Times on architectural transitions in Kuwait from a talk given by Salah Abdullah, an expert in the analysis of architectural history, at the Aware Center. This is just an interesting excerpt, but you can read the entire article by clicking on the blue type above.


Old Kuwait
Eng Abdullah also explained the architecture of old Kuwait and how a number of elements have influenced Kuwait in making its buildings and architectural layout what it is today. “In the past city development in Kuwait was completely spontaneous and simply divided. In this it has been similar to many old cities, like London. But what dominated was the Arabic and Islamic culture which is the mainstay of interior designs of many Kuwaiti homes. Building materials were usually taken from nature — sea rock, mud, limestone and gypsum. The shape of old Kuwaiti architecture came to suit the environment and circumstances. Houses were adjacent in a manner that indicated the unity and corporation of the people and streets were usually narrow. Mosques were placed very close to houses, to allow the elderly to walk without trouble.

Construction in the past depended on Kuwaitis themselves. The engineer called ‘ustad’ at that time supervised the buildings and the laborers. They carried rocks, prepared mud bricks and started building. This process was called ‘collective vernacular architecture’. At that time three critical customs were kept in mind when constructing the houses. These included the privacy of women, segregation of guests — male and female — and future family expansion. Therefore to tackle these problems, the family part of the house where women rested was pushed to the back, far away from the street, so it was impossible for anyone passing by to see inside. The family entrance was also separated from the guest entrance. There was also a separate entrance for male and female guests. “The Diwaniya which persists until today also dominated the architectural buildings of the past. Diwaniyas for women were built on the west side of the house and male Diwaniyas on the east side,” explained Eng Abdullah.

I remember moving to Kuwait, I was shown 21 villas, and most of them had a kitchen outside. I was puzzled, then a friend told me that Kuwaitis don’t like the smell of food hanging around inside. What happens is . . . you forget. You get used to things, and after a while, it is like “oh yeh, the kitchen is outside” and you forget that it’s different. Recently, having dinner with Kuwaiti friends, they told us that their kitchen is inside, but they have a separate oven outside for cooking fish, because of the smell. I’ll have to remember that when they come to visit me in Seattle! Don’t cook fish, Intlxpatr! The smell goes all over the house!

January 29, 2009 - Posted by | Building, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Privacy


  1. where do you get halibut cheeks around here

    Comment by error | January 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. Demolish all outside kitchens… own all the your rooms… for the smell (including fish) air a few hours and Bukhoooooooooooor.

    Comment by Bu Yousef | January 30, 2009 | Reply

  3. I agree with Bu Yousef although here at my house we do use that same method (separate place for cooking fish)

    Comment by MacaholiQ8 | January 30, 2009 | Reply

  4. I think its common in most eastern kitchens, back home in India, fish and other smelly stuff is prepared in a separate area called the ‘work area’. Thats where you see a lot of blood and guts ! 🙂

    Comment by Mathai | January 30, 2009 | Reply

  5. Of Women , Fish , Men and city Architecture ;

    Great post Intlxpatr ,

    The dilemma of the fishy smell from boiling or frying fish spreading into every nook and cranny of modern homes has dogged architects and home owners for ages .

    The vexing question was and still is How to protect the House wife from the fishy smell that is part and parcel of cooking this delicious and nutritious food. How would the gracious hostess manage to get rid of this mess and smell before the arrival of the invited guests.

    To compilcate matters further research has shown that a sizable portion of the Male gender (worldwide not least the kuwaitis )has exhibited extreme attraction to Fish Smelling or fish mongering Women especially after a recent fish meal preparation or even after a fishing trip .

    Due to the similarities of such men who have affinity for the fish smell like cats ,the researcher has classed the group as CAT MAN ,they exhibit this strange phenomena and behave and Do things in peculiar way like cat once stricken with the smell.

    Another interesting fact the research has shown too that this syndrome has afflicted the majority of the Nepalese males (out of all people) to the point where it has become such a common part of their culture that they named their capital city after it CATMANDO.

    SO there you have it

    Comment by daggero | January 30, 2009 | Reply

  6. Oh, Error, I wish I knew! Why do you ask, I don’t mention them in this post? They were my father’s very favorite of all fish specialities. . . . You can get them in Seattle, in the summer, in the right restaurants – Ivar’s.

    I agree, BuYousef, own your house! Bukhoor, unfortunatly makes my husband wheeze; we think he might be allergic. What a pity, it smells SO GOOD!

    Mac – It makes sense, given the sensitivities here.

    I’ve seen that in Africa, too, Mathai. I’m glad I don’t have to work in an outside area!

    Daggero! I don’t even know where to start. You had me laughing so hard, I had to tell AdventureMan, and now he is laughing too. He says your comment is a CATASStrophy!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 30, 2009 | Reply

  7. I thought I left a comment here.. I don’t know if I misplaced it or you have moderation on >_<

    Comment by teagirl | January 31, 2009 | Reply

  8. ROTFL @ daggero’s comment

    Comment by Aafke | January 31, 2009 | Reply

  9. Teagirl, I found it in Spam, and I approved it, and then I deleted all the spam. But when I went to look for your comment, I can’t find it. I might have deleted it with the spam, but I know I approved it!

    Anything with more than one url address goes to spam. I always check, I always try to rescue the non-spam, and I think this time an accident happened. 😦 Can you send those references again, and I will watch for them?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 31, 2009 | Reply

  10. Adventure man , nice comeback
    Intlxpatr and Aafke , glad you liked the comment

    Comment by daggero | January 31, 2009 | Reply

  11. Daggero, when you first started commenting, I thought it was AdventureMan messing with me. The two of you have similar senses of humor. I cannot imagine what it would be like if the two of you were in the same room together.

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 1, 2009 | Reply

  12. Error . . . do I know you?

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 1, 2009 | Reply

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