The Kishk of Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah

I just finished reading a book by Souad M. Al-Sabah about the seventh ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah. He ruled from 1896 to 1915, a period of incredible political, economic, and social transformation. The author credits him with, “laying down the principles of sovereignty in the country.” One of my favorite anecdotes about him was that he toured the market every afternoon in a black Victorian carriage drawn by two black horses. In the wake of a protection treaty signed with Great Britain in 1899, a British political agent named Lord Curzon visited Kuwait in November of 1903 and described Mubarak as, “by far the most masculine and vigorous personality whom I have encountered in the Gulf.” During his reign, Mubarak constructed “a building (popularly known as a kishk or kiosk in the town market) in the town market in which to hold his daily majlis with the townspeople. His office was located on the second floor, from which he observed and monitored all activity in the market below.” In her work Kuwait Transformed, Farah Al-Nakib tells us that this kishk was the only official state building in town prior to 1938, aside from an arsenal in a palace and a customs building. Today the structure still stands in the center of Mubarakiya and serves as a small museum. The photograph on the left of Mubarak was taken in 1910 by a British agent named Captain Shakespear.

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