Kuwait / State of Kuwait

Arab Region’s Capital of Islamic Culture 2016


Kuwait (city):Capital of the State of Kuwait, it is located on the south shore of Kuwait Bay and is an excellent natural harbour. It is the capital of Al Asimah Governorate which includes Kuwait City and the nine Kuwaiti islands.

History:The State of Kuwait was founded in the 17th century by a branch of Anazzah, one of the largest and oldest tribes which traces its origin back to Anaz bin Wa’il. According to some historical sources, Al-Sabah family (the ruling family in Kuwait) and Al-Khalifa emigrated from their homeland (Najd) to settle in “Al kout (the Fort) of bin Urai’ir”, hence the name of “Kuwait”.

Establishment of Kuwait city:In the early 17th century, the city had the name of “Al-Qurain” before taking its current name. Indeed, “Qurain” and “Kuwait” are diminutives respectively of “Qarn” and “Kut”; “Qarn” meaning hill and “Kut” the fort built beside the sea.

Kuwait Landmarks :
Al-Seif Palace
The Kuwaiti ruler’s palace was built in 1904 during the reign of Sheikh Mubarak Al-Kabir. In 1961, it was renovated during the reign of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah. Many features of Islamic architecture can be seen throughout Al Seif Palace, such as the use of arches, Islamic arabesque, and wooden oriels – all are testaments to Kuwait’s rich heritage.


Grand Mosque
Located in Kuwait City, near the coast of the Arabian Gulf, the Great Mosque was inaugurated in 1986 on the instructions of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. This Mosque, whose construction works lasted 7 years (1979-1986), is the largest mosque in the country and can accommodate approximately 170,000 worshippers.


National Library of Kuwait
Founded in 1923 thanks to the efforts of Kuwaiti men of letters and intellectuals, the National Library, which was then called “Al-Maktaba Al-Ahliya”, received a set of collections from the Kuwaiti Charity Association library. The current NLK is located in the Arabian Gulf Street with the task of compiling, organizing and preserving the Kuwaiti national heritage and intellectual and cultural production.

Kuwait Towers
Being an urban monument that symbolizes Kuwait’s modern renaissance, these three towers are distinctively positioned on the coast of the Arabian Gulf in Ras Al-Agouza area (Kuwait City). They were built in 1975 and officially inaugurated on 1 March 1979. The main tower stands on a height of 187m above sea level.
Other prominent landmarks in Kuwait city include the Kuwait Stock Exchange, the Liberation Tower, the Palace of Justice and the National Assembly “Majlis Al-Umma” [Parliament].


Like the other Arab countries, Kuwait has undergone two fundamental stages of development in the education sector. The first stage concerns pre-formal education, with the then educational institutions being limited to mosques and Quranic schools [known as Al-Katatib]. In the 20th century, the country saw a great influx of teachers who taught Quranic sciences and calligraphy to students.
The second stage was characterized by the establishment of many formal schools, the most known of which was Al-Mubarakiya School named after Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah and was inaugurated in 1911. As part of education reform measures, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber founded Al-Ahmadiya School in 1922. Then, other schools were established to support the academic and civilizational development of Kuwait. In 1936, Al Wusta School was inaugurated as the first formal school for girls.
The literary and cultural movement in Kuwait, which began, long ago, during the reign of Late Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, was crowned by the creation of Al-Mubarakiya School and the Charity Association. After the establishment of Al-Ahmadiya School under the reign of Late Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber, two buildings were inaugurated, having a great impact on the country’s population, namely “Al-Maktaba Al-Ahliya” in 1923, and the Literary Club (the first literary club in 1924, and the second one in 1946). These were created thanks to the efforts of Kuwaiti intellectuals and philanthropists. Other cultural clubs were established, including Kutlat Al Shabab Al-Watani [Bloc of the National Youth] (1938), the Club of Teachers and Al-Nadi al-Ahli (1951), Al-Nadi Al-Thaqafi Al-Qawmi (1952) and Rabita Al-Adabiya (1958).

Print Media
Tracing the history of the Kuwaiti journalism reveals that the first printed publication in Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf was “Al-Kuwait” monthly magazine which was released in 1928 by Late Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Rasheed. Other magazines were published afterwards, such as “Al Bi’tha” (1946), “Kadhima” (July 1948), “Al-Ra’id”, “Al-Iman”, “Al Kuwait Al-Yawm” newspaper, the famous magazine “Al-Arabi” (1958) and several scientific series, most notably “’Alam Al-Maarifa”; “Al-Masrah Al-Alami” and “Alam Al-Fikr”. Kuwait also publishes a number of daily and weekly newspapers and magazines that are widely distributed at the regional level such as “Al-Ittihad”; “Usrati”; “Al-Iqtisad Al-Kuwaiti”; “Al-Anbaa”; “Al-Balagh”; “Al-Bayan”; “Al-Siyasa”; “Al-Tali’a”; “Al-Qabas”; “Al-Watan” and “Al-Waei Al-Islami”.


Pioneering cultural figures :
Othman bin Sanad is Kuwait’s best known poet. He was the first to have composed poems in classical Arabic. He also had a vast repertoire of poetry, and he wrote more than thirty books on the foundations of fiqh, science of inheritance, the hadith, Arabic grammar, rhetoric, Arabic prosody [Al-‘Aroud], history and arithmetic.
Abdul Jalil Al-Tabatabai is of the same generation as Othman bin Sanad. Having come from Qatar, he made his poetry known in Kuwait where he settled for 10 years during which he drew the attention of many admirers of poetry who imitated his works.
Kuwait has many other poets such as Abdallah Al-Faraj, Sheikh Khalid Al-Adsani, Saqr Al-Shubayb, Sayed Musaid Al-Rifai, Fahd Al-Askar, Zain Al-Abidin bin Hassan bin Baqir and Ahmad Khaled Al-Meshari.
Kuwait’s contemporary most renowned poets include Ahmad Al-Bishr Al-Rumi, Ahmad Meshari Al-Adwani, Ali bin Hussein Al-Rumi, Abdullah Al-Utaibi, Zayd Al Harb, Yaqoub Subai’i, Ali Al-Sabti, Muhammad Al-Faiz, Khalifa Al-Waqian, Zaid Mehanna and Ebrahim Al-Khaldi.


Short stories and novels
Khalid Al-Faraj was the first to publish a short story called “Munira” (in “Al-Kuwait” magazine 1929). In the late 40s of the past century, a group of young people published short stories in “Al-Bi’tha”, “Kadhima” and “Al-Kuwait” magazines. These included Abdulaziz Hussein, Jassim Al-Qatami, Fadil Khalaf, Yusuf Shaiji, Farhan Al-Farhan, Yusuf Al-Nisf, Ali Zakaria Al-Ansari, Abdullah Al-Mutawa and Yusuf Al-Sayed Hashem.

Notable contemporary novelists include Ismail Fahad Ismail, Laila Al-Othman, Sulaiman Al-Shatti, Hamad Al-Hamad, Fatima Yusuf Al-Ali, Laila Muhammad Salih, Taleb Refai, Buthaina Al-Issa, Bassima Al-Anzi and Saud Al-Sanussi.

The first play to be performed by students and teachers at Al-Mubarakiya School was “Islam Omar” [Omar Converting to Islam], in 1939. In the 40s, Al- Ahmadiyah, Al-Sharqiya and Al-Qibliyah schools presented plays and competed with each other to deliver their best performance.
The 60s and 70s of the past century saw the launch of the Kuwaiti theater movement. Indeed, between 1961 and 1964, four theaters contributed to the growth of this sector; these are the drama groups of “Al-Masrah Al-Shaabi” [Popular Theatre], founded in 1954, “Al-Masrah Al-Arabi” [Arab Theater] (1961), “Masrah Al-Khaleej Al-Arabi” [Arab Gulf Theater] (1963) and the Kuwaiti theater. The Institute of Theatre Studies was established in 1969, before taking the name of “Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts” in 1976.

Music and singing
Kuwait and the Arab Gulf are distinguished by a thriving traditional music culture. Both sea and land music [bahri and barri] can be identified as main components. Song genres have emerged on the ship (Nahma, Yamal, Khatfa and Haddadi), in addition to the Sankani inspired by Indian music.
Sawt, which is highly appreciated by the Kuwaitis, is a musical style of Arab origin dating back to the Abbasid era.

Some of Kuwait’s artists include the following:
Abdallah Al-Faraj:He was born in Kuwait in 1836. He migrated to India and took inspiration from its songs. He was the first to play the lute while singing and the first to create the modern “Sawt” as well as new forms of Kuwaiti art distinct from Indian and Yemeni influences.

Abdullah Al-Fadala:He was born in 1900; he learnt the fundamentals of oriental and western music in India and Baghdad. He had a vast repertoire of songs and musical compositions.

Abdullatif Al-Kuwaiti: Born in 1904, he was the first Kuwaiti singer whose songs were broadcast on Baghdad, Cairo and Delhi radio stations.

Mahmud Al-Kuwaiti:Born in 1904, he began his life in shipbuilding. In 1929, he recorded his first song in Bombay, entitled “Golt Iwgafili wirfai Al Buchi”.

Saleh and Daud Al-Kuwaiti:They are recognized as distinguished artists in the early decades of the 20th century. They were taught by Khaled Al-Bikr, who was himself taught by Abdullah Al-Faraj. The two brothers went frequently to Iraq to record their songs; they settled there in 1927 and established an institute for teaching instrument playing and the fundamentals of music.

With the advent of radio in the 50s and television in early 60s, interest in music arts significantly increased, and several young singers and composers appeared on the scene. In the contemporary era, Kuwait created the Higher Institute of Musical Arts in 1973, as part of its interest in teaching the fundamentals of music.

Plastic arts
Plastic arts appeared in Kuwait in the 19th century, with the creative talent of such artists as Abdallah Al-Faraj who was known as a painter, sculptor and calligrapher. Sami Muhammad has also excelled as a well-known sculptor internationally.

Mahboob Ahmad Al-Amerhas also distinguished himself as a journalist and illustrator. He has published articles in Al-Bi’tha magazine for which he designed the cover page. Singer Saud Al-Rashed was known for portrait painting. Were also known in the field of caricature Ahmad Zakaria Al-Ansari and Ahmad Al-Nafissi; Sayed Hashem Al-Honayan and Muhammad Al-Fawzaan worked as art teachers.

For his part, Mojeb Al-Dousari was the first Kuwaiti artist to study plastic arts methodically. He taught drawing at Sharqiya School in 1943 and, on the occasion of his graduation, he launched his first art gallery at Al-Mubarakiya School. In 1945, he went to Cairo where he joined the Institute of Decorative Arts. In 1952, he went to England to study at the Liverpool Academy of Arts. On his return to Kuwait, he taught at Al-Mubarakiya School and the Al-Shuwaikh High School. He also created the “Drawing Group” for some students for whom he provided all drawing material. One of his students said that Mojeb was known for his high artistic potential and dreamed of developing an artistic movement in Kuwait. Mojeb Al-Dousari died in 1956 at the age of 34.


Kuwaiti people knew cinema thanks to their trade travels to countries with movie theaters such as India and Zanzibar. The first film projector was introduced in Kuwait in 1936. Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC), formerly known as Kuwait Cinema Company (Cinescape), established Sharqiya cinema in 1954 as the first movie theatre in Kuwait. Then it opened other locations (16 movie theatres in total according to 1999 statistics).

Kuwaiti film productions
“Umm Saud” [honorary title given to Dame Violet Penelope Dickson], wife of Lieutenant Colonel Harold Richard Patrick Dickson, who was one of the British administrators in Kuwait, was the first to have filmed pearl diving ships. Also, Muhammad Husain Qabazard was the director of the first Kuwaiti feature documentary film in which he used some archive footage of Kuwait Oil Company.
At the outset of 1950, the Ministry of Education, which was at that time called “Da’irat Al Maarif”, established a film department which produced nearly 60 educational films between 1959 and 1961. The Ministry [formerly called “Da’ira” – Department] of Social Affairs and Labour has also produced cultural films on marriage traditions and diving. For its part, the Ministry of Information established another film department, taking over the management of film production. Other directors have distinguished themselves in this area such as Mohammed Al-Sanousi with his film “Al-‘Assifa”, Khaled Al-Sadiq (“Al-Saqr” followed by his famous film “Bas Ya Bahr”), Hashem Muhamad, Bader Al-Mudhaf, Abdullah Al-Muhailan, Abdul Rahman Al-Muslim and Amer Al-Zuhair. Some contemporary young directors are Ahmad Khalaf, Walid Al-Awadi and Abdullah Bushahri.

Cultural institutions
Considering the notable progress at all levels, Kuwait has spared no effort in setting up and promoting the cultural institutions that provide the society with enlightened minds. The main institutions are:
1- Kuwait University (established in 1966).
2- Public Authority for Applied Education and Training.
3- Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts.
4- Higher Institute of Musical Arts.
5- National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters.
6- Kuwait Writers Association.
7- Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait.
8- Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS).
9- Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR).
10- Dar Souad Al-Sabah Co.
11- Foundation of Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain’s Prize for Poetic Creativity.
12- Kuwait Cine Club.