The first wall - with the growth of population and the increasing importance of Kuwait, it became exposed to many dangers. The people of Kuwait under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah bin Sabah, who ruled from 1762 to 1813, thought of building a wall surrounding Kuwait to protect it from danger. The first wall of Kuwait was built in December 1789. It extended one mile around Kuwait City between Fereege Al Nisf in Sharq district and Fereege Al Bader in Qeiblah. The wall was punctuated by five dirwazas (“gates” in Persian): Dirwaza Abdel Razzaq, Dirwaza Al Fadagh, Dirwaza Al Midiris, Dirwaza Al Bader and Dirwaza bin Bati.
The second wall
The first wall did not survive long and many parts of it collapsed. It was restored by Sheikh Jaber bin Abdulla, ruler of Kuwait in the years 1812-1859. The second wall around Kuwait was built in 1814 and was restored after a partial collapse in 1845 when Sheikh Bandar Al Sa’doun. Sheikh of Al Mentefidge attached Kuwait. Seven dirwazas were built along that wall which extended to the seashore at Ibn Abdel Jeleel Nega’a. The gates were called: Al Butee, Abdel Razaq, Al Qarawiya, Al Shiekh (Daheman), Al Fadagh, Al Sab’aan (Al Midairess) and Al Bader.
Collapse and rebuilding
Kuwaiti people took responsibility for building the 3rd wall. The inhabitants of each district contributed to the work by building the part of the wall adjacent to their district. Even during the month of Ramadan they carried on with their work after Iftar till the time of Sohor (meal before daybreak) in the light of oil lamps. During the day, they prepared the necessary building materials (mud, plaster), moving them on donkeys to the site. Water was also carried to the work site, this time by camels. The wall, built of mud with towers and gates built of plaster and mud bricks, started and ended at the sea shore was completed in two months (from 28th Sha’ban 1338 to 6th Shawal 1338H).
On 4 February 1957 the government decided to demolish the wall and preserve the main gates, which still survive today as a witness from the past. This was done to allow for the expansion and redevelopment of Kuwait City. In order to retain the narrative inherent in the wall, the street parallel to the wall, extending from east to west, was named after it: Al Sour.
Opening were cut into the second wall to allow more access for people. The first and main unofficial gate was known as “Al Matabba”. Others were also made, resulting in weakening the wall and then its collapse.
The collapse of the 2nd wall motivated Sheikh Salem Al Mubarak Al Sabah, the ninth ruler of Kuwait (r1917-1921) to build the 3rd wall of Kuwait. This was done after the famous battle of Himdh in 1919, in which many Kuwaitis were killed.
The wall had four Dirwazas (gates): Al Jahra, Al Shamiya (Naif), Al Brai’cee (Al She’ab), and Binaid al Gar. A fifth gate was later added in Al Watia district which was called “Dirwazat Al Muqssab”. The wall was punctuated by five towers between the gates and extended nearly five miles, from the eastern shore of Kuwait City to its western shore. The wall was approximately 4 meters high and 1.5 meters thick in the shape of a crescent.
Along the wall there were 26 narrow slits used for guns and for watching. After the wall was completed an Amiri guard was posted on each gate. At nightfall, three gates were closed and only one was left open to allow people to pass.
The gates survive as remarkable landmarks of traditional Kuwaiti architecture and civilization. They serve as a symbol of the cultural heritage of Kuwait.
First Published in Men's Passion issue #35 November 2011