History of Failaka Island

Failaka Island has a history stretching back 4,000 years and is known for its important archaeological excavations. It is on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archaeology Magazine ran a piece about Failaka in 2013, in which they discuss the following archaeological sites:

  • Mesopotamian Ruins: Danish teams have found evidence that Mesopotamians built structures on the island around 2000 BCE and used the island as a base for a trading network in the Indian Ocean.
  • Dilmunite Ruins: the ancient Dilmun civilization was based in Bahrain. Around 2000 BCE, they, “were leaving their homeland to become seagoing merchants and establish a powerful trading network that eventually stretched from India to Syria.” Their settlements, temples, and jewelry workshops have been excavated on Failaka Island. They are well known for creating interesting seals. Around 1730 BCE, the Dilmun trade network collapsed.
  • Greek Ruins: according to the Archaeology magazine article, the name “Failaka” comes from the Greek word for “outpost.” In her work Voice of the Oud, Jehan Rajab writes that, “Failaka was known to the Greeks as the friendly island. Hence the possible Greek connection for ‘FILIKA’ which written in Greek translates as friendly.” During the time of the Seleucid Empire, Greeks built a fortress and temple on the island–which are perhaps the most iconic ruins today and appear on the 1KD bill.
  • Christian Community: in the 8th/9th centuries, a small Christian community lived in the center of the island.
  • Early Modern Ruins: in the north of the island, at Al-Quraniya, there is evidence of a community dating back to the 1600s. Some have theorized that they were pirates who lived on Failaka to, “attack the lucrative shipping lanes that led to wealthy Iraqi cities such as Basra or to ports along the Iranian coast to the east.”

The photographs of the sites come from the Archaeology magazine article. The stamps date to 1972 and are for sale on this website.

The maps of Failaka below come from:

  • Voice of the Oud by Jehan Rajab
  • Kuwait: Prospect and Reality by Zahra Freeth (the image, as written, was drawn by her father HRP Dickson)
  • The Kuwait Urbanization by Saba George Shiber
  • Looking for Dilmun by Geoffrey Bibby
  • A 19th century British map, according to Doti Watkins
  • The issue “Archaeological Failaka” in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy
  • “Optimal Urban Land-Use in Failaka Island” by Mohamed Aziz
  • Pinterest
  • The National Museum of Kuwait

The aerial photographs were posted on flickr by Thomas Sagory. The first picture of the magazine article was posted on twitter.


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