Safat Square

According to Kuwait Transformed by Farah Al-Nakib, pre-oil Kuwaiti society 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 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 (Mubarakiya) extended into al-Safat. The nature of the space began to change, people built cafés and other businesses. According to Mubarak Al-Sabah: The Foundations of Kuwait by Souad Al-Sabah, 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. In Iridescent Kuwait, Laura Hindelang writes that, “Safat Square lastingly shaped the urban morphology of Kuwait Town. From the 1930s onward, the Department of Finance, the police station, the British Bank of the Middle East, the Security Department, coffee ships and the baladiyya, the municipality founded in 1930, began framing the always-busy square.” 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. The photographs above show Safat Square in 2020, the 1960s, and 1924. The photographs below come from Voice of the Oud, ebay, the flickr of Brett Jordan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s