Safat Square

The following information comes from Kuwait Transformed by Farah Al-Nakib and Mubarak Al-Sabah: The Foundations of Kuwait by Souad Al-Sabah. Kuwaiti society before oil could be divided into three distinct categories: urban-mercantile (townspeople), sedentary-pastoral (agricultural and fishing villages), and nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoral (Bedouin). In pre-oil Kuwait Town, the large, open-air Bedouin market just outside of the city limits was known as al-Safat. In this large, undeveloped clearing, the Bedouin tribes of the surrounding hinterland set up temporary stalls where they traded their desert produce, such as milk, butter, ghee, horses, and sheep with the townspeople in exchange for dates, clothing, firearms, salt and manufactured items. Over time, the urban suq extended into al-Safat. The nature of the space began to change, people built cafés and other businesses. In 1915 a man named Abdullah Al-Zaydi placed a gramophone in a café he owned in Al-Safat Square. This was the first gramophone ever to be used in Kuwait and many flocked to his café to listen. Al-Safat became the main town square used for public festivities. In the 1940s a traveling cinema came to Kuwait. As many as 10,000 people attended the first of these events, sitting on the ground in the middle of the square to watch the film. These photographs show Al Safat in 2020, the 1960s, and 1924.

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