Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mubarak Al Kabeer Kiosk or Koshk Mubarak - A piece of Kuwaiti history

Perhaps the most popular ‘traditional’ market in Kuwait, Souq Al Mubarakiya is a national landmark and a must see destination for tourists as well as a regular stop for locals and residents. In recent years, a sort of revival has taken place with a growth in visitor numbers and an return of many shops and activities like festivals to the area. The opening of the Koshk Mubarak, a former office and diwan of Kuwait’s seventh ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah, has added to the souq’s heritage and preservation of its past. Built in 1897, a year after Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah came to power, the Koshk Mubarak was a sort of government seat for the late ruler. In Kuwaiti dialect, a koshk (kiosk) is a square building with two floors. The ground floor consists of shops and the top floor has a diwan or council that can be accessed through an external staircase
Sheikh Mubarak was the first to build a koshk in Kuwait. The one now preserved in Souq Mubarakiya was the seat of Sheikh Mubarak, where he would meet the people of the country and listen to the problems of citizens and provide various kinds of assistance to them and solutions to their problems. The koshk was located in a lively area in the economic center of Kuwait, surrounded by a range of markets, including vegetable and fruit stands. After the Amir moved to Seif Palace, the koshk became the first court in Kuwait headed by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 1928, and later served as the headquarters of the Sharia Court in 1934. The koshk’s ground floor had a pearl divers’ affairs office and the office of land registry. Then the koshk became the municipal administration, then a post office in 1942, and then the first branch of the public library of knowledge management in 1952.
New Avatar The National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters acquired the koshk in 2010 and began renovations including restoration work on three sections of the twostorey building. On the ground floor is one of Kuwait’s oldest pharmacies - Abd Al-Elah Al-Qinaai Pharmacy - located in one of the corners of the koshk that opened in 1920. Restoration works also included the Sheikh Mubarak Council, which was used for public meetings to listen to the views, opinions and problems of citizens. A small museum was also established to provide information about the koshk and its evolution down the years.
On March 23, 2011, the renovated koshk was opened in the presence of HH the Amir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Sabah. Souq Al-Mubarakiya is an old Kuwaiti market that sells all sorts of traditional clothes, accessories, kitchenware and other items. There are fruit stalls and fish and meat markets as well.
The majority shops are antique/vintage or just plain traditional. The architecture and decor of the place is modeled on a traditional souq, although it was renovated following the 1991 Iraqi occupation. It is located in Kuwait City near the Grand Mosque and the Kuwait Stock Exchange. Mubarakiya also includes a gold market, a Persian carpet market and the Souq Al- Hareem, a traditional souq run by women.
By Faten Omar, Kuwait Times 

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