Behbehani House Complex

Last night I visited an exhibition of beautiful embroidered pieces put on by Yero (the Yemeni Education and Relief Organization), whose mission statement is to “empower Yemeni women and to educate their children.” The exhibition was held in the Dar Al Funoon art gallery. The gallery has been open since 1994 and is located in number 28 of the Behbehani House Complex, one of my new favorite places in Kuwait. Omar Khattab writes in his chapter “Socio-Spatial Analysis of Traditional Kuwaiti Houses” in Methodologies in Housing Research that the twenty eight-house complex was built in the 1940s and is named after its developer, Yusuf Behbehani. His information on the complex is also included in the book Cities in Transition, where we learn that after the Behbehani family left in the 1960s, the complex fell into disrepair before further destruction during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Khattab comments that, “in more recent times, another form of invasion has occurred, that of restaurants and commercial facilities. Only eight out of twenty eight houses in all are still used as residential units.” The work I found from Khattab on Behbehani dates from the early 2000s, I asked last night and was told that now only three of the houses are still residential units and that perhaps only one person lives there full time. The complex is in Kuwait City in the al-Watia area, which apparently means “footmarks” in the Kuwaiti dialect as people used to stroll beside the sea shore and leave their footmarks on the sand.

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