Ma’a Sabeel: Water fountains of Kuwait

In the desert, one of the most important places is where ever water can be found. In Kuwait, a country with almost no natural water resources, fresh water is freely available on nearly every street corner, roundabout and city block. Public water fountains, known locally as sabeel or ma’a sabeel (water fountain of the street or way), they are often sponsored by families in the name of a departed loved one and come in many designs that reflect Kuwaiti, Gulf, Arab and Persian heritages.

The oldest water fountain in Kuwait lives in Kuwait City. The Bin Duaij water fountain was established as a charity by Abdulaziz Mohammad Al-Duaij in 1876. The fountain is a natural treasure and charitable trust, governed by the Kuwait Awqaf Public Foundation.

Kuwait often showcases ma’a sabeel during international exhibitions and artists and architects from all over the world have designed sabeel for Kuwait both at home and abroad. The water fountain in the shape of the 1970s Kuwait Water Tower was designed by Swedish architect Sune Lindström to represent the iconic water towers in Kuwait, for instance.

There’s even an Instagram account dedicated to Kuwait’s sabeel. The account @drinkingfountainsofkuwait showcases the diversity of sabeel that can be found all over the country – from simple stainless steel water colors to elaborately tiled sabeel as monuments to the departed.

Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat