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Kuwait's Al-Mubarakiya market.. A traditional souk with modern appeal

Souk Al-Mubarakiya decorated for Kuwait's national days
Souk Al-Mubarakiya decorated for Kuwait's national days

By Shahad Kamal

KUWAIT, Feb 2 (KUNA) -- Most people in Kuwait tend to seek high-end malls and markets to spend their leisure time wandering about, shopping, or eating different assortments of meals.
With that being said, Souk Al-Mubarakiya -- a location steadfastly rooted in the past -- still remains as a relevant market in our modern times.
Souk Al-Mubarakiya was established some 120 years ago and it took its name from then Amir Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah who was the first to build a "Kishk" (a booth) after a year from his reign in 1897.
Back then, the merchants in Mubarakiya used to import goods from Iraq, Africa, and India after they returned from their journeys and voyages abroad.
Al-Mubarakiya market is well-known for being a place where families in Kuwait could enjoy shopping for traditional and modern clothing, eating a variety of cuisines ranging from Iranian, Indian, and Kuwaiti, exchanging currencies, and other activities.
The market also consists of booths and shops selling dates, incense, perfumes.
Al-Mubarakiya has gold market in the center and also it has shops selling kitchen tools, traditional Arab tea and coffee pots, and other attractive items.
What makes Al-Mubarakiya eye-catching is that the market still retains its old aura despite the passage of time, making the location very popular among Gulf, Arab, and foreign tourists.
While people from the older generations still frequent Al-Mubarakiya, the youth of today have become attached to the market, which saw in recent years the emergence of various outlets, selling numerous products and foods.
"Souk Al-Mubarakiya is very dear to Kuwaitis and expatriates alike," said Director General of the Municipality Ahmad Al-Manfouhi in a statement to KUNA.
He revealed that the municipality of Kuwait was the authority that handles the maintenance of the market and safe keep its facilities.
Al-Manfouhi added that the municipality also was in charge of modernizing facilities in Mubarakiya to accommodate the increasing number of people visiting the market, indicating that such effort won recognition from the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) secretariat last November.
Similarly, head of Kuwait markets development at the municipality Hassan Al-Kanderi said that the municipality -- since establishment in April 13, 1930 -- was tasked with safekeeping Al-Mubarakiya market.
He pointed out that various strategies were implemented recently to upgrade services from installing shades to protect Al-Mubarakiya from weather shifts to establishing paths for the elderly and people with special needs.
The development of the market is a great example of cooperation between the municipality and the private sector, affirmed Al-Kanderi, adding that services will continue to be upgraded to tend to the needs the increasing number of visitors.
On his part, traditional and historical buildings supervisor at the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) Abdullah Al-Bishi said that the council was sanctified by the Amiri Diwan to preserve traditional and historical land markets such as Souk Al-Mubarakiya.
Al-Mubarakiya is one of the locations that still remains dear to the hearts of Kuwaitis and it is imperative to protect and safe keep this land market, said Al-Bishi.
On the visual appeal of the market, historical researcher Hussein Al-Qattan said that Souk Al-Mubarakiya's overall layout was similar to the markets in old Kuwait.
The hallways, the booths, and the streets all speak of the olden days, but the fact still remains that the Souk is here to stay for years to come, said Al-Qattan who indicated that the market has in recent years renovated the original booth owned by the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Mubarak, which is another location of historical importance.
In regards to the inner activities of Al-Muarakiya, shop owner Mahdi Al-Bahrani affirmed that there were products in the market that could not be found anywhere else in Kuwait.
A number of most sought items could be found under one roof, which made Souk Al-Muarakiya more important for local and foreign visitors, said Al-Bahrani.
The appeal of Mubarakiya went beyond the borders of the State of Kuwait with visitors from around the world coming to enjoy their time there.
Bahrani national Ahmad Bahazad said that he made a point to always visit Al-Muarakiya, which considered as an important Kuwaiti landmark.
The place breaths of Kuwaiti history and thus it is important to maintain it, affirmed the GCC visitor.
Reflecting the same sentiment, Omani Suleiman Al-Fajri said that he was amazed by Souk Al-Mubarakiya, which still has a traditional feeling to it.
Al-Fajri affirmed that the presence of different nationalities at the market displayed its importance both as a traditional market and a place for people to spend their free time. (end) shd.gta