Major ship owners in old Kuwait were known to have their own harbors, which they usually named after them and built opposite their buildings, stores or diwaniyas to moor their commercial dhows as well as others’ after the season concluded. Such wharfs were built by builders who had gained the needed experience and skills by practicing the profession since early childhood. By the beginning of the 20th century, Kuwait’s government started issuing ownership deeds to the owners of these marinas.
Harbors (neg’aa) are as old as Kuwait itself, since Kuwait’s economy mainly relied on the sea and maritime trading, according to heritage researcher Mohammed Jamal. In his book, Old Crafts, Professions and Activities in Kuwait, Jamal defined the ‘neg’aa’ as a basin on the beach surrounded by rocks and used to harbor dhows and protect them from wind and waves, as well as to conduct maintenance operations. Some harbors had special palm-leaf shades to protect the dhow from the searing heat and other weather conditions. He added that Kuwait used to have around 40 neg’aas.
Jamal said these jetties always had some dhows moored according to the season. He explained that commercial dhows used to dock after concluding their season in June and remained there until mid-August, while pearl diving ones used to be docked after the season concluded in September, remaining there until mid-May. He added that fishing dhows operated all year long, bringing the daily catch ashore to the fish market.
Jamal said some dhows were used to bring freshwater from the Shatt Al-Arab and dock at various harbors, where kandaris (water carriers) took the water to sell it around the city. In addition, some dhows used to carry stones from Eshairej Cape to various jetties, from where they were taken on donkeys to construction sites. Jamal added smaller diving dhows used to be dragged ashore for maintenance operations, while larger ones used for carrying passengers had to be docked and kept in the water, where ‘qalaleef’ (plural of qallaf or shipbuilder) conducted needed repair works. – KUNA