Talking about this particular neighborhood is somehow saddening, if we remember its good old days. We would be the happiest people on earth even if it returns to us in a dream, and we would wish it never ends. Memories about this loveable neighborhood start with my birth on Jan 13, 1967 in our old house that included four small rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a small inner courtyard and a roof.
I still remember our house, that of our next door neighbors and the one opposite ours. Our house was located near Al-Bader house, currently Diwan Al-Bader. It was almost in the place of the Kuwait National Museum. Boodai Company was located down the path towards the sea, where the National Library is currently located. Behind our house was the Al-Sharhan Mosque next to Al-Qibliya school. There was a grocer’s shop towards the middle of the yard opposite KNPC, Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and the old Sumait toy store.
Qibla (pronounced in the Kuwaiti dialect as Jibla) is one of the Capital governorate’s areas. It was named thus because it was opposite Seif Palace and was known as southwest Qibla, near the market area. Similarly, Sharq (east) was named thus because it was located to the east of the palace and the market. Back in the old days, Qibla stretched from the Sheraton roundabout down to Al-Soor Street, eastwards until the Ice Skating Rink and northwards until the banks area including Salhiya. It was located to the west of the city, starting from Seif Palace and extending from Al-Maqsab gate and Watya to the west all the way until the American Hospital and Naif Palace to the south. It overlooked the Gulf or what is known as Kuwait Bay to the north. This neighborhood is one of Kuwait’s oldest ones and included the part on which the Bin Oraier kout (cottage) was built. It is noteworthy to say that most families living in that part mainly depended on foreign trade for a living. They imported various kinds of goods and sold them in the local markets. They also relied on travelling outside the Arabian Peninsula, namely to Iraq, which was the world’s largest date exporter. They also travelled to southern Yemeni cities, Africa and India, which was then the world’s largest pearl market and Britain’s crown jewel. They used to smuggle gold to it and sell it on the black markets, and carried goods on their ships to various Asian and African ports.
All this brought Kuwait a huge income and formed a great portion of Kuwait’s foreign trade. Due to commitment to their businesses, many of them migrated and settled in India, Basra, Aden and other cities around the world to take care of their businesses and investments. They also dominated the date trade, exporting them from Iraq onboard Kuwaiti ships.
Many Qibla residents invested in Iraq, namely in Basra, where they owned palm farms producing dates and exported them to other countries including India. Very few of Qibla families practiced pearl diving and trading, until later years. It is known that the sea played a major role in Kuwaitis’ lives. It was life for them. Without it, Kuwait would have never existed because they got all their income through the sea.