The Arab Spirit in the Streets of Kuwait

The Arab Spirit in the Streets of Kuwait

Going along the main streets of a small country like the State of Kuwait brings back memories and vivid images as the Arab world makes its presence felt and is represented, from Morocco to Beirut, Tunis and Cairo, then Baghdad, Riyadh, Amman, Jerusalem, etc. These are tracks of love, names which the streets of Kuwait carry and through the features of Kuwait City draw a large map on which the capitals of the Arab world stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf appear, reflecting Kuwait's belonging to its big Arab homeland and rekindling its nationalist memory night and day.

A revolution guided by wisdom

Toward the end of 1940s and the beginning of injection of black gold into world economy (exports in commercial quantities started in 1946), conditions changed in Kuwait, that modest entity whose people suffered severe living conditions, least of which was scarcity of drinking water. Kuwait faced new realities and huge challenges as it witnessed a socio - economic revolution in every sense of the word and in all fields urban development, education, health, business, administration and politics, guided by the strong will of its leadership and people and a steady look to the future.

Roads catering for expansion

At first, the wall, which surrounded old Kuwait City and defended it against external threats and Bedouin attacks, was demolished and mud houses were levelled. Expansion plans were drawn up for building modern towns and new areas to cater for the rapid population growth, and Kuwait became an active labour market which attracted a multitude of minds and hands, mainly from the Arab countries.

Naturally, roads had to be built to link the new, as well as the old, areas, and decision-makers decided to name Kuwait's main streets after Arab cities and countries. That policy was applied whenever there was new development, and it was not confined to the names of streets but extended to buildings such as schools, which are by no means less important than streets. In some cases, street were named after Arab leaders, such as the Egyptian Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, after whom one of Kuwait's longest and most important streets is named. A large number of Kuwait's areas and streets in all governorates are named after Islamic cities, particularly from the Andalusian age, and Arab and Muslim figures.

A well-chosen selection

As Al-Arabi's camera went around Kuwait's streets which carry the names of Arab cities or countries to document them in pictures and words, it was aware that streets in many Arab countries carried Arab names, but Kuwait is different in that the streets are close to one another. The main streets are: Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Jerusalem, Sanaa, Tunis, Riyadh, Amman, Qatar, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco and Port Said.

At first we went to Riyadh Street, next Arabian Gulf Street, then Hawalli and Salmiya areas. We stopped for a while in Abdullah Al-Salem area where there is Sanaa Street and finally proceeded to Gamal Abdel-Nasser Street.

Riyadh Street is the main road leading from and to the capital's heart. It is divided into three lanes, in addition to a hard shoulder (breakdown lane) in each side. At the end of the street stands one of Kuwait's prominent landmarks - Liberation Tower, on the right there is the Ice Skating Rink, and on the left the headquarters of the Ministry of Information. The first part of the street is connected to Safat Square, Kuwait's oldest and most well-known square, which used to be the city centre where official and public celebrations and annual markets were held.

Arabian Gulf Street, which surrounds the capital in a semi-circle form, means a great deal to the people of Kuwait. First, it has been the window on the world from time immemorial, and as part of the many improvements made to the Arabian Gulf coast, particularly the water front project which was completed nearly two decades ago, the area stretching from the coast to the street was enhanced with green spaces, rest areas and all necessary facilities for the convenience of the families seeking entertainment and those who go walking every day to whom the street is a popular destination. Second, the street is a symbol of all the Arab counties on the Gulf, from Kuwait to Oman : Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Finally, this street name confirms the Arabhood of the Arabian Gulf.

There are many state institutions and agencies along the Arabian Gulf Street, including Seif Palace, the Council of Ministers, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Planning, in addition to the Amiri Hospital, the oldest in Kuwait, State Grand Mosque, Kuwait National Museum, Kuwait National Library, a new edifice built to a state-of- the-art design, Kuwait Towers, the National Assembly, the Scientific Center, the only of its kind in the Arab world, the largest and most modern shopping centres and stylish restaurants.

Hawalli is a commercial and residential area, always bustling with life, where most Arab expatriates prefer to live as flats are readily available there. Two important streets which cross each other in Hawalli carry the names of Arab capitals: Beirut and Tunis, with Cairo Street on the right and Morocco Street on the left.

The quality of the goods sold in Hawalli shows a mass of contradictions: expensive shopping malls and popular supermarkets for limited-income persons; jewellers and pie and Syrian sweet shops; round-the-clock cafés for the Egyptian and Syrian communities; foreign exchange dealers, estate agents, flat and car rentals. Hawalli is also the most popular place for the sale and repair of computers and their peripherals as well as for the sale of all brands of electrical appliances. Hawalli is almost always synonymous with Tunis and Beirut Streets.

Abdullah Al-Salem area in named after the late ruler of Kuwait (1950-1965) during whose reign Kuwait achieved independence on 19 June 1961, its constitution was promulgated, the first parliamentary elections held, various government departments and courts of law established, and Kuwait joined the Arab League and the United Nations. The main street in this exclusive area is Sanaa Street, where Fatima Mosque, the co-op and a lot of other public facilities are found. These include Ahmed Mishari Al-Adwani Art Gallery, an affiliate of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, named after the great Kuwait poet who wrote Kuwait's national anthem.

A major street in the Salmiya area carries the name of Abu Ja'far Al-Mansur's capital city Baghdad. The street begins at the end of Cairo Street, which starches from the capital to Salmiya and on both sides stand the smartest suburbs in Kuwait, the first educational complex for the disabled in the entire region, Al-Arabi Club, one of the most well-known sporting clubs and teams, and Al-Shaab Park.

Gamal Abdel-Nasser Street

The people of Kuwait have special deep-rooted love for the Egyptian Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, who supported Kuwait's existence upon independence against the ambitions of the then Iraqi president Abdul Karim Kassem and sent joint Arab forces to replace the British forces for the duration of the Kuwait crisis. He also supported Kuwait's right to join the Arab League as an active member state, and with his international influence he supported the recognition of Kuwait as a member state of the United Nations, like any Arab country in the 1950s and 1960s having dreams of Arab unity, like President Abdel-Nasser, the icon of such unity. Naming one of Kuwait's streets after him is a token of gratitude for what he did. In addition, one of the largest public parks in the Rawda area carries his name. Along Gamal Abdel-Nasser Street stand Kuwait University and the medical zone complexes.

An old love story

Before Kuwait University was opened in 1966, hundreds of Kuwait's students used to study at the universities of Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut and Baghdad. Returning to Kuwait they felt deep love for their Arab brethren, which was an added value to overwhelming love of Arab nationalism already there.

Kuwait reflected this love officially and popularly in many forms through its interaction with its Arab sphere. Kuwait shared in all the Arabs' wars and battles in which it had its share of martyrs. In times of peace, Kuwait shared its wealth with the Arabs in the form of donations, aid and development projects. Kuwait never fails to step in to resolve the disagreements that might arise among the Arabs and to preserve their unity. It is not surprising then that the majority of the teachers at Kuwait's schools are Arab, so were the first two presidents of Kuwait University. Kuwait's judges are Arab, so are professional footballers. Even the first two editors-in-chief of Al-Arabi were Arab. Street means are just one flower in a bouquet, but it is a special flower as streets continue to be landmarks with the passage of time and change of circumstances.


Ibrahim Al-Mulaifi


Eid is an occasion for rejoicing in Kuwait. Fishing boats have been gathering along Arabian Gulf Street since Kuwait came into existence

The Arab world is represented on street signs in Kuwait City as if they were our national dream of turning the entire Arab world into one street leading to one end

Qatar Street in the heart of Salmiya area, the most populous, bustling with life and popular recreational facilities in Kuwait

Tunis Street, the commercial hub in the heart of Hawalli governorate with a large number of shops and malls. Seen in the photo are Al-Rihab Complex and Hawalli governorate HQ

Kuwait, the capital city lying on the banks of the Gulf with rapid urban development everywhere. It is a city in a state of constant change; however it maintains its Arab spirit

Water towers are found in many areas in Kuwait taking on the shape of the Arabian palm tree rising upwards with its branches going into the sky

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