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Souq Al-Mubarakiya - Explore the old and new at the heart of Kuwait
February 23, 2017, 10:07 am
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Located in Kuwait City, between Abdullah Al-Mubarak, Abdullah Al-Salem and Palestine Streets, Souq Al-Mubarakiya is one of the oldest souqs in Kuwait. It was also the center of trade prior to the discovery of oil.

The souq has an unmistakable charm which preserves Kuwait’s past beautifully to reflect the country’s rich heritage and culture. With old men and women manning their stalls, selling everything from herbs, spices, and apothecary goods, to clothes and accessories, there is nothing one cannot find at a reasonable rate. Explore the markets and enjoy the various sights, sounds and smells as you are transported into ancient Kuwait where life was simpler.

Over 200 years ago, a marketplace was created in the Al-Mubarakiya area as a platform for vendors to showcase their produce in a non-commercial way. The Souq – market – soon became a cultural hub, catering to the needs of every visitor, whether for the weekly grocery shopping or a simple outing with family or friends.

With Sheikh Mubarak Al Kabeer’s Kiosk (a small, separated garden pavilion open on some or all sides) in the center of it all, people were able to openly communicate their hopes and worries to their leader. Soon afterwards, a Diwaniya was born, dubbed as Diwaniyet Al Ra’eel Al Awal – The Elders and Founding Fathers’ Diwaniya or commune. The Diwaniya became – and still is – a place for the country’s elders to meet and discuss everything from social issues to the coming elections.  

Following the Iraqi invasion of 1990, the infrastructure of the Souq was heavily damaged. Nonetheless, necessary renovations were made, retaining the traditional elements characteristic of the commercial trade center, whilst also injecting the marketplace with a hint of modernity in the form of light-displays and play areas for children.

Given the warm summers in Kuwait, the way in which the Souq was originally planned and built, served the purpose of providing visitors with plenty of shaded areas. While mornings at the Souq are as fun in their own way, it is when darkness falls that Mubarakiya comes to life.

SOMU, The new old souq

Sights, sounds and smells are what you will walk into when you reach South Mubarakiya (SOMU), the new ‘old’ district, marked by the previously renovated SOMU Square or Thouq Square.

Located behind the AlFares Mosque, SOMU at first was nothing more than rubble and abandoned stores until visionaries Ahmad Al Ghanim and Bader Al Hejailan decided to give it a new life.

When the original Thouqers first opened their lifestyle, fashion and accessories concept store at the old Mubarakiya Souq, people assumed it would be a failure. As a concept store, ‘Thouq’ embodies everything that Bader and Ahmad stand for: an artistic vessel that showcases the finest talents in Kuwait and the region, with new items and concepts arriving on a weekly basis.

Despite what people thought, Al-Mubarakiya has now become a thriving hub for arts, culture and fashion. An example of art would be the Gulf’s biggest mural located in the heart of SOMU. Created by the Thouq team as a tribute to Kuwait, the mural stretches across two perpendicular walls.

Standing strong for more than sixty years, the ‘Thouq square’, where the Thouq concept store is located, still echoes with remnants of a bygone era where locals toiled, engaged in commerce, and more importantly met with individuals from all parts of the world.

What was once a thriving hub is now something distant to youth due to the presence of modern malls and chic outlets. In order to gain back their interest, Ahmad and Bader took the effort of renovating the Thouq Square and partnered with a group of young individuals. Today, almost all of the spaces around Thouq are booked, and many restaurants along with concept stores are coming up. Most of the new restaurant outlets and cafes have indoor and outdoor seating areas, ensuring that a visit need not be seasonal.

This year, the Wireless Mobile Data Company (WiMD) will launch its free Wi-Fi service in Kuwait, starting with Souk Al-Mubarakiya. The project will help boost sales and attract consumers.

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