Qi­bla neigh­bor­hood

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Labeed Ab­dal lo­cal@kuwait­times.net

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.

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