Highlights of Kuwait's foundation |
Kuwait Times - 09 August, 2012
Some believe that the age of Kuwait is in the range of 300 years, as it has been previously stated that ‘Grane or Qurain’ was the earlier name of Kuwait, according to local Kuwaiti historians.
Grane at the time was a small fishing centre, or tiny coastal village, located south of the current Kuwait city.
The first direct mention of Grane was in Dutch documents from 1756, its name being shortened to Qarn, referring to the “animal horn”, as the shape of Ras Ardh on the chart of the Gulf on the map, and it is important to recall that the residents of this area from that period used to minimize the names of places and villages, as example for the shortened name “Shuwaikh and Fahaheel”.
Most probably the current Kuwait City was not of strategic importance at the beginning of the 17th century due to there being no human settlements, as its nature was an arid desert, with the exception of Failaka Island, which was considered the centre of Maritime trading activity centre and Jahra (Khadmah) a centre of trade, particularly in road convoys travelling from the Arab Peninsula to the Levant, and vice versa.
Assets of the name ‘Kut’
The concept of the word Kuwait (nomenclature) was shortened for the word Al-”kut”, referring to the small fort, a Babylonian expression Iraqis inherited from the Babylonians, where it was one of the cities of Babylon, named “Côte”.
The word is popular among residents of Najd and Iraq and some non-Arab lands, while others say that it’s an Indian term referring to the city of Calicut.
Other believe it is a Portuguese word belonging to the period of Portuguese occupation of the bay at the beginning of the sixteenth century where they used to build such “kuts” on the Gulf Coast, but the famous Kuwaiti historian Abdul-Aziz Al-Rashid says that the location of this fort is in the same place as the current building housing the American hospital on the gulf street near the national assembly. Further, Al-Rashid said that it was probable that the fort was built by Al-Sabah, themselves, though the majority of historians believe it was built by Bani Khalid.
Bani Khaled and the emergence of Kuwait
Kuwait derived its name from a small fort (Al-Kut), Kuwait being shortened to this word, which is calling on all of the nearby sea or rivers and is suitable for docking of vessels, this small fort belonging to Bani Khaled, a leader of the tribe which Kuwait formed as a part of the territory of the Bani Khalid, the powerful Hasa tribe which dominated north-east Arabia.
They came to power in 1670 when Barak, their leader, defeated the Ottoman Turks, forcing them to leave ‘Al-Hasa’, which had been under them since 1555. It is said that Mohammed bin Ghurair Al-Hamid, successor to Barrak, built this fort in 1670 or shortly thereafter. The fort was built using dried mud, and they controlled the fort as a weapons store for his arms and ammunition, and for housing guards.
The Bani Khalid maintained peace and ensured the free flow of commerce by safeguarding the movement of goods from the coastal areas to Syria by the nomad tribes of his people, and as a result of this situation groups of Bedouin and fishermen settled around the fort for a period of time.
This period that preceded the rule of Al-Sabah, estimated to have lasted seventy years, saw a steady increase until the population grew and was in need of representatives who could conduct their affairs.
The way to Kuwait
The founding of the original settlement of Kuwait is believed to have taken place about 1713, when a group of people of pure Bedouin Arab origin from central Arabia were, according to tradition, driven by drought to leave their own lands as a result of famine and forced them to move in search of water and pastures.
The name of this group is Utub or Bani, Utba (Ottoobee) from the Arabic root meaning to travel from place to place, they are a part of a famous Arabian tribe (Anza), such as Al-Sabah (ruling family of Kuwait), Al-Khalifa (ruling family of Bahrain), Al-Galahma, and Al-Zayed, and they formed a confederation of roving families who immigrates from Al-Aflaj at the centre of Najd (Saudi Arabia).
The Utub were originally related families who moved from central Arabia either as a group or separately, settling in various places on the eastern coast of Arabia before establishing themselves permanently in Kuwait. No definite date can be given for the migration of the Utub, though some believe that their migration occurred around 1660.
Qatar was the first destination for them when it was under the influence of Bani Khalid, and they must have learned seafaring in Qatar, as they learned to live as pearl traders and fishermen and stayed for about forty years. Later they were forced to leave Qatar, following quarrels with Al-Musalm, the residents of the town under the influence of Bani Khalid.
To the Persian coast
After leaving Qatar, they dispersed into the country, some of them living in Persia while others living on the island of Qais in the Persian Gulf, and still others emigrated to Khor Al-Sabiyya south of Basra.
According to Ottoman historical documents, the people of Utub, including Al-Subah and Al-Khalifa, settled along the Persian coast in the city of “Bandar Daylam”, located on the north side of the Iranian coast. During that time there were thought to have been several battles between themselves and the “Al-Hola” clan, who were supported by the king of Persia. The cause of their dispute was due to claims on pearl diving areas.
Basra is the next step
The Utub were forced to leave the town after being attacked by the “Hola” clan. They eventually chose to go to Basra to live under the stability of Ottoman sovereignty in about 1701. They arrived in Basra in about 150 vessels, and then asked permission from the Ottoman governor to live there.
After negotiations, the Ottoman governor apologized for not being able to accept their request, fearing that their trade would be threatened across the Gulf by the “Hola” clan, since the “Hola” considered the “Utub” their enemies. Ottoman officials believed that the “Hola” would attack Ottoman commercial vessels in the Gulf if the Ottoman provides shelter to the Utub.
Finally, they arrived in Kuwait
Sailing south they landed at Kuwait, which was under the influence of Bani Khaled. Kuwait derived its name from the fort they built there, called “kut”, and as indicated in some documents, the history of their settlement is often given between 1713 and 1716. According to some chronicles, the Utub also stopped at Sobbya and Feilka before settling in Kuwait.
Kuwait before Utubs arrival
Kuwait before the arrival of the Utubs was a small village that was economically prosperous and inhabited by a group that was loyal to Bani Khaled.
The Bani Khaled, who were based in Al-Hasa, a city in Saudi Arabia, allowed the Utub to reside in Kuwait. According to traditional accounts, the settlement was led by three Utub families, each having their own responsibilities.
The wealthy Al-Khalifah were in charge of pearl diving and trade; the Al-Jalahma commanded the boats and supervised naval protection; the Al-Sabah served the governor, who imposed law and order and handled Kuwait’s relations with the Bani Khalid and others living in the Arabian desert.
In less than four decades they had reached a degree of prosperity, which with the expansion of their community made it necessary to choose a leader from among them. Especially if we know the extent of the conflicts that took place between the princes of the Bani Khalid for succession, this situation offered a chance to the Utub to practice some form of independence.
Sabah I (1756-1764) – founder of the ruling dynasty
The absence of strong centralized rule in Eastern Arabia made it possible for the Al-Sabah to become totally independent of the Bani Khaled. Sheikh Sabah Bin Jaber Al-Autbi was chosen as the head of state by the inhabitants of Kuwait to administer justice and the affairs of the thriving town, probably around 1752 to 1756, and he ruled for almost 10 years. He was succeeded by his younger son, Abdullah (1764-1814), and from that time onward the Sabah family has continuously ruled Kuwait.
Murtadha Bin Alwan in kuwit 1709
The first mention of Kuwait was in a manuscript from a Syrian pilgrim called Murtada Bin Alwan who visited the area in 1709, including an earliest description of the town of Kuwait, with the text first being published in 1978.
“Fifteen days after our departure (from Al-Hasa) we came to a town (balad) named Al-Kuwait in the diminutive from (of Al-kut). It is a sizable town that resembles Al-Hasa. To be true, it is smaller (than Al-Hasa) but in its buildings and towers it is similar.
We had pilgrims with us from Basra who parted with us here in Kuwait and continued their journey on a road called Al-Jahra. The distance from Kuwait to Basra is four days, though by boat it is only one day, since the harbour is in the immediate vicinity of Kuwait. Fruits, melons, and other victuals are brought to Kuwait from Basra by boat every day. We stayed there one day and two nights and then in 20th of the month moved on with God’s blessing in the direction of Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf.
“This town Kuwait is also called Al-Qurayn. All the cereals, wheat and others arrive by sea because Kuwait’s soil does not allow for agriculture, nevertheless prices are lower there than in Al-Hasa because so much is transported here from Basra and elsewhere.” There are some notes in Murtada’s story.
There is the first mention of the name Kuwait. “Qurain” and also Al-Jahra are the second note, along with the similarity between the two cities, Kuwait and Al-Hasa.
It certainly refers to political relations between the two cities, although Murtada did not give any signals about the ruling power in Kuwait, but his speech highlights the economic prosperity around it. On the other hand, his speech indicates stable, friendly relations between Kuwait and the two cities of Hsas and Basra.
Carsten Niebour report (1764)
In 1764 the Danish explorer Carsten Niebour visited Kuwait and estimated its population at about 10,000. He told how the inhabitants lived by fishing and pearling, which employed more than 800 boats. It was obvious from this account that the settlement had grown in wealth and importance and that, under the Subah leadership, it had retained its independence in an area dominated by the Ottomans and various powerful sheikhs.
Early boundaries of Kuwait
There is no written evidence to show the boundary of the Utub with certainty north of Kuwait. It must have extended to Jahra village, where the wells were superior to those of Kuwait Failaka, and Um Al-Naml, which was ruled by the sheikh.
The town was not walled in from the beginning, as Bani Khaled protected it and other Bedouin tribes respected them. The date estimated as when the new wall was built is 1760; about eight years after the Bani Khaled had lost their influence among the Arab tribes. English records state that the town was walled in by 1770, and in any case the wall served as an adequate defence against Bedouin raids as recently as the early 20th century.
After this brief presentation on the history of the founding of Kuwait, it has to be pointed out that well-established facts indicate that Kuwait was not governed by any other governor, except the Al-Sabah family, since its founding and, second, that there were no internal wars since its founding.
The reason for this is the cohesion of Kuwaitis with each other. A third point is that since it was founded, it has never been occupied by any foreign country.