American Missionary Hospital

During the reign of Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah (r. 1896 – 1915), “Kuwait underwent a wide-ranging process of social change. The first state school was founded, inaugurating modern education in the country, the first national welfare society was created, and the first hospital was established to provide healthcare for all.” At this same time, American Christian missionaries were active in the country. According to the paper The Arabian Mission’s Effect on Kuwait Society by Khaled Albateni, a group of students from New Brunswick Seminary established the “Arabian Mission” in 1890. They published a magazine called Neglected Arabia (later Arabia Calling) and founded stations in Basra, Amarah, Muscat, Bahrain, and Kuwait. According to Mubarak Al Sabah: The Foundation of Kuwait by Souad Al Sabah, “in 1911, the first hospital was opened as part of the American Mission. The first doctor to work there was Dr Arthur Bennett and the first female doctor was Dr Eleanor Calverley, who was known in Kuwait as Khatun Halima. Sheikh Mubarak formally asked the American mission to set up a hospital, on the condition that its purpose would be entirely medical and it would not be involved in missionary activities.” The location of the hospital is on the possible site of the earlier kut.

Beginning in the 1950s with the First Master Plan, much of “Old Kuwait” was destroyed, but the American Missionary Hospital (which was closed in 1967) was spared. In Mobilities of Architecture, Lukask Stanek writes that, “prefigured by some forewarnings by Saba George Shiber in the 1960s, calls abounded… to preserve the little that was left of the old Kuwait. The 1981 revision of the master plan declared the Behbehani compound, the American mission, the traditional suq and part of the Sharq frontage as conservation areas. The Al-Ghanim Dasman, the Naif Palace and all historical mosques were to be preserved.” Since 2011, the old American Missionary Hospital has housed a wonderful museum as part of Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah (which means “House of Islamic Antiquities”).

Here are some older photos of the building, sources below.

  1. Voice of the Oud.
  2. This website
  3. Kuwait: Arts and Architecture, A Collection of Essays
  4. Kuwait: Arts and Architecture, A Collection of Essays
  5. 248
  6. 248
  7. The aerial photograph comes from this website

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