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Kuwait is widely recognized for a variety of important features that the country is endowed with. Some of the most popular features include the four walls of the country that have since been reduced to three following the demolition of one of the walls to create room for the development of the Al soor gardens.
The sole purpose for the development of these walls was to ensure security of the borders against various attacks and invasions that Kuwaitis constantly faced other tribes (Hauer 2010).
The purpose of this report is to provide a descriptive review of the Kuwait walls. The report shall take into account the construction period, the area covered by the walls, the people that constructed the walls, and the materials used in the construction, among others.
According to the history of Kuwait, the Kuwait walls were built round the city to ensure that it was ably safeguarded. These walls were actually very important in the history of the country and also as a way of displaying the solidarity of its people. The major component that was used in the construction of the walls was mud.
The first wall was erected in 1760, the second one was built in 1814, while the third wall was constructed in 1920. The purpose of the walls was to ensure that the country was safeguarded against constant conflicts and wars (Facey, 1999).
There is also another version of the Kuwait wall, that involves planting of some 315,000 trees across the country’s border. Dubbed Kuwait Green Wall, this project is aimed at improving air quality in Kuwait,
History of the City
The city of Kuwait was initially made of tents. Most of the inhabitants of the city were people from the Bani Khalid tribe who originated from the Interior of the Arabic lands. One of the reasons that these people came to the city was to evade the drought conditions in their homelands (Kuwait Statistics, 2012). Consequently, the city came to be known as Kout and thus its name and that name of the country.
The city, due to its environs continued to attract more people, majority of whom were settlers. Other people who were attracted to the city were nomads who were escaping the hot weather in the eastern parts of the country (Kuwait Statistics, 2012). The availability of a harbour in the city further made it a lucrative place to settle in, with majority of the people being attracted by the trade that would emanate therein.
Initially, the walls built around the city were aimed at ensuring that the country and its borders were well defined and confined. However, after the advent of the oil boom in the country, it was virtually impossible to ensure that the city was contained (Kuwait Statistics, 2012). Most of the city walls that had been built were thus destroyed following the many invasions and conflicts that ensued thereafter.
Construction of the first walls
The first wall of Kuwait was constructed period 1760, during the legislative era of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saya. The wall was 750 metres high and was considered as the first means of defence for the people of Kuwait.
This was with a view to ensuring that they were safeguarded from most of the foreign invasions taking take place at the time. It was especially important to safeguard the city and its people from the invasion and attack from the Bani Kaab tribe who had become a menace to the locals, as evidenced by the battle of Al riga.
The length of the wall stretched along the coast towards the current location that is now described as seif palace. The borders of the walls were on the east side of the cost near the ministry of planning. The border walls were characterised by a semi-circular arc that extended towards the west near the central bank.
It is said that the remains of the construction materials have been used to construct the current Grand market mosque, Al kahlifa mosque, Al Hadad mosque and the Al Adsani mosques. Other remains of the wall include the al fadda,Qibll al Mdairis and Al Griwiya. The walls were additionally characterised by five gates namely, Maders and Alfdaa, and Bin Butti, among others. These gates were located to the west of the country.
The main reason why the wall had to be constructed to its height was to ensure that all the weak positions of the country had been covered. This was especially important, given the weak nature of Bani Khalid to protect the country from the ensuing internal conflicts. It has been stated that after the death of Suleiman Bin Mohamed in 1166 AH/1753, the country constantly suffered threats from communities that lived in the south.
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These communities normally operated under the instructions of their leader Saud bin Abdul Aziz. The inhabitants of the city further suffered attacks from the al-Sadoun, located in the northern part of the country.
The major construction material that was used to erect the walls was mud and this was adequate enough to guard the inhabitants of the city from the persistent attacks coming from the nomadic communities at the time. It was also sufficient enough to ensure that the inhabitants were protected from the ever ensuing conflicts that were instigated by the people from the neighbouring tribes.
The construction of the second Kuwait wall
The second Kuwait wall was built and erected in 1973, during the reign of the country’s second ruler. This was after the Al Mintifi tribe tried to invade the country’s borders. The invasion took place when the people of Kuwait were struggling to restore and expand their walls in order to hold the gates of the country (Facey, 1999). The second wall was 2,300 metres wide with a surrounding area of about 273 square kilometres.
This famous wall was accorded the name, the gate of darwaza after the additions of the five darwaza to the features of the wall. This wall was strongly built, a feature that enabled it to remain solid for a very long period of time until 1874 (O’Shea, 1996). In total, the wall lasted for a whole 70 years.
Construction of Kuwait’s third wall
The country’s third wall was built in the year 1920 during the reign of the third ruler of the country. The area covered by this wall extended through the waaty lands located near the slaughter area to the Roman Catholic Church located in Shamiya. It further extended to the areas covering the current Kuwait towers.
The main reason for building this particular wall was with a view to curtailing the border war between Kuwaitis and the Najd. Once World War 1 was over, the British defeated the Ottoman Empire. As a result of these developments, Kuwait was declared an Independent sheikdom once the British had annulled the Anglo-Ottoman Convention.
However, the new sheikdom still had to be under British protectorate. As a result of the defeat of the Ottomans by the British, a power vacuum occurred in Kuwait, and this only acted to escalate consist between Najd and Kuwait.
Construction of the walls began on 14th June 1920. The walls were also completed the same year, after two months. This wall also had a fence built around it to ensure that the city was safe from any resultant ground attacks. This is after the Kuwait army had been defeated in the Himth battle. Materials used in the construction of the wall comprised of clay, paste and mud.
The gates of the wall were designed from wood and were four metres high and 1.5 metres wide. The wall was a further 6400 metres long with the surrounding areas covering an extensive 7500 kilometres square (Hauer, 2010).
Fig 1: Diagramatic representation of Kuwait’s third wall (Facey & Grant, 1999).
The wall had by five gates, with one built later on after the four had already been constructed to act as a slaughter place. It also had five towers. The names of the gates were, Dasman, Albraiasa, Nayef, Jahra and Gate Brocade as it is widely known in its English translation.
It should be noted that the four gates of the walls were named depending on the location and direction that they faced. This wall was however, later demolished on the 4th of February 1957, following the order of the 11th ruler at the time, Sheikh Salem Al Sabah.
This is after the ruler, together with the cabinet minister made the decision that the walls had to be brought down but the five gates of the wall had to be maintained. The wall was later replaced with the construction of the Al Soor gardens.
Fig 2: Diagrammatic representation of one of the gates (Facey & Grant 1999).
To ensure that security in the city was maximised, a guard was assigned to man each gate. The purpose of the guards was to regulate the opening and closing of the gates. It was the duty of the guards to ensure that the gates were opened in the evening after the residents were done with their Maghrib prayers and to ensure that they were closed thereafter.
Each of the guards carried a safety weapon for their own protection (Global Markets 2009). This system of protecting the gates continued for a period of time before Sheikh Abdullah Al Mubarak Al Sabah enlisted the use of well-trained army officers.
Kuwait’s green wall
The latest version of the Kuwait wall is the Kuwait Green Wall, a project that has been started with the aim of planting some 315,000 trees on the country’s border. This mega project hopes to achieve this major fete within a period of 10 years. The 315,000 trees shall be planted in rows of three, on the country’s political boundaries (Alsafat 2013).
In a complete departure from the aim of erecting the other four wars, this one is aimed at reducing desertification in Kuwait so that the future generations can benefit from a greener Kuwait. The project planners mainly hope to use volunteers to make the project a success.
Besides, planting of trees will undoubtedly help to improve air quality in Kuwait, not to mention that the project with create alliances among institutions, companies, and individuals who will take part in the exercise. This will go a long way towards fostering peace and harmony in Kuwait.
One of the security strategies that the people of Kuwait seem to be very interested with was the constant construction of city walls. This was one of the ways through which the inhabitants of the city would be guaranteed of their security from the constant wars and conflicts that arose mainly from the neighbouring communities around them.
As part of the design, the walls were built with various gates, many of which had more than four gates (Global Markets, 2009). This was probably to ensure that they regulated the number of people who would either come in or the leave the city at any given time, as they were under the guard of security men who were later replaced by the country’s military officers.
However, the third wall was eventually destroyed following orders from the 11th ruler of Kuwait after he had reached a consensus with his cabinet members over this matter. Even though the reason for doing so is not mentioned, it can be assumed that the political stability of the country had improved by this time and that the Sheikh must have been sure of his ability to ensure the security of his subjects.
The wall that was destroyed was eventually with the Al-soor gardens, but the initial gates of the wall maintained. The Kuwait Green Wall is yet another version of the Kuwait walls but with a different purpose- that of improving air quality in Kuwait and reducing desertification in the country.
Alsafat. (2013). Kuwait Green Wall.. 315 thousand trees on the border. Web.
Facey, W. (1999). Kuwait by the first Photographers. New York: I. B Tauris.
Facey, W., & Grant, G. (1999). Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. New Jersey: Taylor & Francis.
Global Markets. (2009). Kuwait 2008 Hospitality Market Overview. New York: Global Markets.
Hauer, G. (2010). The T-Walls of Kuwait and Iraq. New Jeysey: Callisto Publishing.
Kuwait Statistics. (2012). Kuwait City History. Web.
O’Shea, M. (1999). Kuwait. New Delhi, India: Marshall Cavendish.