Sunday, August 2, 2009

Discovering Kuwait's South

Tribal clusters in some areas, urban hadar in others. Apartment buildings along the coastal areas with expensive rent, apartments overlooking the Arabian Gulf equipped with gyms, wi-fi-, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and underground parking lots contrasted with closed areas packed with shabby apartment buildings and old shopping centers.

Despite its small size, Kuwait is unique in the way that its population is scattered around its areas. Take Al-Ahmadi, for example, Kuwait's southern governorate. Al-Ahmadi, which is spread over more than 5,000 kilometers south of Kuwait City, is home for Kuwait's most active oil wells. It also houses the head offices of many of Kuwait's petroleum companies, as well as the suburbs of Khairan, Dhuba'iya, and Bnaider and the coastal chalets areas close to Wafra, which is famous for its farms. {Al-Ahmadi}

Ahmadi residents are mainly tribal Kuwaitis, especially from Al-Ajmi tribe. The governorate is perhaps Kuwait's most conservative area as the majority of the expats and nationals who live there are very conservative. It also houses many Shiite Muslims and many Christians, who practice their traditions very freely, but who are outnumbered by Sunni Muslims. In terms of nationality, the governorate's residents are a mixture of Kuwaitis, Western and Asian expatriates, Arabs and GCC citizens, especially Saudis.

The residential areas that fall under Al-Ahmadi governorate are: Ahmadi, Fahaheel, Sabahiya, Hadiya, Riqqa, Ogaila, Umm Al-Hayman, Mahboula, Fintas, Mangaf, Jaber Al-Ali, and Dahar, in addition to the recently completed Fahad Al-Ahmad area, which lies between Riqqa and Sabahiya on Road 40.

Fahaheel, a small town that's the closest thing to a city the governorate, was - and still is - the biggest mall area in the governorate. Best known for its fish market, which has now been replaced by Al-Kout mall that overlooks the Arabian Gulf, Fahaheel bustles with many shopping centers, big malls, restaurants and small shops that sell low-priced merchandise.
{Al Kout,Fahaheel}

The other coastal residential areas in the governorate - Mahboula, Fintas and Mangaf - also lie on the Fahaheel Highway but lack attractions; they have a handful of beach resorts and a hotel, but they mainly consist of apartment buildings and a few restaurants, with no markets or shopping centers except for co-ops which only provide the consumer with food items and household necessities.

Coastal areas are a big attraction for western expatriates and some Kuwaiti families. Due to the great distance between these areas and Kuwait City and the country's major attractions, the rent rate for coastal areas is lower there than in the areas close to the City.


Ahmadi governorate is most famous for the Ahmadi residential area, which is a town built on a slope and is most famous for its greenery and architecture. The area was built in the 1940's by British expatriates who came to Kuwait with their families when oil was first discovered in Kuwait. The town was divided into streets, avenues, and many roundabouts, more than any of Kuwait's other residential areas

Salwa Al-Bloushi, a 57-year old Kuwaiti who was born, raised, and still lives in Ahmadi talked to the Kuwait Times about the development she has witnessed in the area from her childhood until today. She explained that the British who ran the oil companies gave houses to the local employees, but the latter were still segregated from the British. "They lived in the Northern parts of Ahmadi, which is now still resided by the employees of the Kuwait Oil Company. We lived near the souk in an area that was called colloquially the 'Arab Village'.

She explains that the crescent-shaped souk historically offered far more facilities than it does now. "There was a butcher, a small abattoir that sold chicken, a store that sold fresh fish, a big supermarket that brought fresh fruits every morning, a baker, an Indian restaurant, a tailor, a readymade clothes store, a jeweler. You never needed to leave Ahmadi; whatever you wanted, all you had to do was just cross the street and you'd find all that your heart desired," she said.

" At night, the souk was guarded by officers who stayed vigilant until sunrise. She added that there were officers who rode horses, and were centered especially in the north where the British oil company employees lived. Two recreation centers, complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, swings, hockey fields, and a golf course, were built in northern Ahmadi, as well as two churches, one Husseiniya [a Shiite mosque] and many Sunni mosques. The houses had the transformation from Ahmadi's beautiful old styleto the current one began as the British expatriates began to leave Kuwait; the new residents did not know how to look after the place well.

They [the British oil company employees] built something out of this slope that is really beautiful and looked like it was in a Mediterranean country, not in the Gulf. From the window of my house now, I can see the main street where the entrance to Ahmadi is. My husband and I planted this garden, on Kuwaiti soil with fruits and vegetables that you wouldn't think can grow in Kuwait. We grew strawberries, watermelons, oranges, carrots, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and a lot more than that in our garden. The waythe houses are organized, the way they soil is used for greenery makes this place the most beautiful in all of Kuwait for me, certainly the most beautiful. "

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