The historic urban center of Kuwait was within the old city walls (where the Green Belt is today), but “between 1954 and 1959, eight new neighborhood districts were constructed within the first three concentric ring roads; by 1960 a fourth ring was added to the road system and an additional seven new suburbs were completed by 1965.” This ushered in a process of state-led suburbanization, brilliantly detailed in Kuwait Transformed: A History of Oil and Urban Life by Farah Al-Nakib. Kuwaiti families moved out of their traditional homes in the urban center and into large villas in the new suburbs. The neighborhood units constructed beyond the Green Belt in the 1950s and 60s were “intended exclusively for the Kuwaiti section of the population. Apartment buildings were strictly prohibited within the neighborhoods, as was renting of any kind. Non-Kuwaitis were prohibited from owning property in Kuwait and therefore could only rent accommodations in privately owned, multi-occupancy buildings. Such buildings were restricted to commercial areas being developed by the private sector, such as Salmiya, Hawalli, and the city center. By 1969, 81 percent of the inhabitants of Salmiya, Hawalli, and Kuwait city were non-Kuwaiti.” I’m not sure what the statistics are today, but Hawally remains primarily occupied by expats (who make up more than half of the overall population of Kuwait). Here are some interesting sites around the neighborhood:
- Gold Suq – there are several gold suqs around Kuwait, including along Ibn Khaldoun Street in Hawally. At night all the neon store signs are lit up, which looks really neat.
- Al Habesha Restaurant – you can find lots of great local restaurants and many different kinds of food in Hawally, given the diversity of the population, but a personal favorite are the Ethiopian Restaurants across from the gold suq.
- Ornate Water Fountain near Kuwait National English School – across the street from Kuwait National English School and a little further down along Ibn Rushd Street is a beautiful, Safavid-style water fountain. A wonderful example of what you can stumble upon just walking around!
- Bait al Othman – opened in 2013, Bait al Othman museum is centered on the history of Kuwait and is really quite impressive. Thankfully I had a chance to visit back in January of 2020 before everything shut down.
- Hawally Park – the majority of the time I’ve spent in Kuwait has been in the covid-era when many things are closed, so I’ve never actually seen Hawally Park operating, but I have a soft spot for empty amusement parks (kinda spooky!)