Follow by Email

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Other Salhiya, Kuwait...


Salhiya, an area in downtown Kuwait, is usually affiliated with its 'uptown' mall and hotel complex which contains the 'creme de la creme' of international (mostly French and Italian) fashion-retailers within its, somewhat hermetic, confines. However, only about a hundred meters outside, crossing the street by the main entrance and heading towards the back of the row of up-market coffee-shops and restaurants, a completely different universe of retailing and socializing takes place. On an area that only covers a few city blocks and is mainly defined by a commercial spine stuck between a multi-storey Brutalist parking garage and a stretch of abandoned apartment blocks a truly mixed (both culturally & commercially) and 'buzzing' (and perhaps gritty) neighborhood practices its daily trade. This mixture (and physical proximity) of individuals from a variety of places and social stratum is truly unique occurrence in Kuwait. It's the only urban locale in Kuwait that, at least for me, sounds, smells, feels like a city. A place for casual conversations, people-watching, a quick cup of tea or Turkish-coffee, that do not necessitate one to adapt ones mannerism to the more regimented social confines set by the persnickety establishments around the corner. In its droll and density it embodies the anonymity and individuality that a truly cosmopolitan city needs to contain. Places like this are difficult to design, and are usually the result of planning related ennui rather than something intentional, something designed. However, as suggested by people like Jane Jacobs and other thinkers of her calibre and genre, places like this are what make a city so attractive to many of the urbanites that occupy its various nodes and arteries... These back-streets of Salhiya, rather than the gilded shops nearby, contain the true life-blood and character of Kuwait City. They should be celebrated rather than lambasted. Let's hope the nearby city-planners have the astuteness to let this neighborhood be and thrive, rather than neutering it (in the name of 'progress') with yet another lifeless shopping mall...


The main venue is stuck predominantly between a Brutalist multi-storey parking garage and an abandoned apartment complex...

An internal stretch of shops selling anything from plastic sandals to perfumes...

A stretch of abandoned apartment complexes flank the shopping district...

A, roughly, 180 degree, panorama showing (to the far left) the narrow entry leading to the buzzing (workers) shopping district, and the more grand entry (on the right) to the more high-end shops within the interiors of the 'Salhiya Complex'...

3 comments:

ghadah alkandari said...

how romantic your description is of downtown kuwait! i used to view cairo the same way when all MY egyptian friends saw was squalor, neglect and pollution. but i agree with you and do tend to find charm in the buildings and 'life' surrounding the fancy hotels and shopping centers in salhiya.
and as always, i learned a new term. it's going to be my new favorite word and i'm going to point it out to my loved ones every time i see a building in its style: that's brutal! thank you :)!

lentgfur

Thomas said...

Seen and reviewed through Brutally frank rose-tinted glasses...

Thanks Ghadah...

Good luck with your upcoming exhibition - break a leg...

Emran said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.