By Ahmad Jabr
KUWAIT: Information Minister, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the National Council of Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi discussed with NCCAL officials a blueprint to renovate Abdullah Mubarak Al-Kabeer Palace (Mishref Palace) and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Palace (formerly Sheikh Khazaal diwan), which is known for being the first national museum in the Arabian Gulf. Kuwait is pushing for the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Palace to be nominated as a possible World Heritage Site.
The topic was discussed during a meeting Saturday to review NCCAL’s strategy for 2023-2028. The strategy includes plans to maintain and renovate affiliate sites, museums and theatres, in addition to the old Al-Mubarakiya School, which will be totally overhauled and turned into a museum for the history of education in Kuwait. “Information Minister, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the National Council of Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi has examined various tasks of the council and its buildings that need renovation,” Kuwait News Agency reported Saturday.
During the meeting which was also attended by the NCCAL acting secretary general Dr Mohammad Al-Jassar, the officials examined a preliminary report about tasks set in the strategy, in addition to the condition of the council’s buildings. One of the topics discussed was upgrading other facilities such as Sabah Al-Ahmad Cultural Center and expanding it to incorporate a museum, a gallery, a library, centers for conventions and children, a green spot and an outdoor theater. Furthermore, the discussions touched on reopening public libraries and partnership with the private sector to invest some NCCAL buildings for simulating the cultural movement in the country.
The Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Palace is one of the most famous heritage sites in Kuwait located in Dasman next to Dasman Palace, near the Arabian Gulf coast. This site was built in the early 20th century by Sheikh Khazaal Bin Mirdaw, Ruler of Muhammarah (1897 – 1925 ) on a piece of land which he received as a gift from Sheikh Mubarak Al-Kabeer, Kuwait’s Ruler (1896-1915). After Sheikh Khazaal’s death, it was bought by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Al- Sabah who took it as a family residence, thereafter converted it to the first national museum in Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf region, after which it remained as the property of his heirs until it was taken over by the state and rated as a high preservation building.
“When it was built and for many decades thereafter, the Palace was reported to be the most magnificent structure in Kuwait,” the UNESCO wrote on its World Heritage Convention website, describing the building. “Patterned on regional antecedents, it was large, elaborate two story structure in coral stone and mud brick in a stark contrast to Kuwait’s primarily single story, austere architecture.”
“The remains of exotic chateau-like palace built in early 20th century, emulating a variety of European and Middle Eastern architectural styles on the desert coast setting of Kuwait within Kuwait City’s third wall survives until today as a testimony to a rich heritage representing cultural infusion on a regional and universal scale,” it wrote.
“It embodies the collaboration of architectural styles resulting in the development of traditional craftsmanship and a transition into a combination of architectural and building traditions including Persian, French, Arabian and Indian, representing an active cultural exchange between settlements on both sides of the Gulf Region.” In 2008, the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters took over the Sheikh Kazaal palace for renovation.