Dickson House Cultural Center
Parimita Barooah Bora
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Another place of interest around Kuwait is the Dickson House Cultural Center.The Dickson House, located opposite the dhow harbor in Sharq and east of Seif Palace, was originally a Kuwaiti home built in 1870, but was given to Britain to use as residential headquarters. The compound was expanded several times over the years, but stands as an excellent example of early Kuwaiti architectural styles. This home of the first British political envoy stands as a symbol of the strong political ties between Kuwait and Britain.
The house was used as the headquarters of successive British political envoys appointed to Kuwait, beginning with Colonel Knox in 1904, with the last and arguably the best known resident being Colonel Harold Dickson who left it in 1935 to work in the new headquarters at the British Embassy. After his retirement from the political service in 1936 at the age of 55, Colonel Dickson was appointed by the then Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, as Chief Local Representative for the newly established Kuwait Oil Company. This had been formed in 1934 and Colonel Dickson had been closely involved with setting it up with the development of oil exploration in Kuwait. With his new position Colonel Dickson was able to move out of the new political residence to his beloved house on the sea-front. After retiring, Colonel Dickson and his wife Lady Violet went back to live in the house. The colonel passed away in 1959 and his wife, known to Kuwaitis as Umm Saud, remained living there until the 1990 invasion of Kuwait when she was evacuated to Britain, where she died shortly afterwards.
The ground floor of the house is dedicated to mainly historical photography and a few artifacts from the early 20th century like currency notes and so on. We then went upstairs to the Dickson’s' living quarters, and that was the part I enjoyed the most because it is carefully restored to reflect how this elderly English couple lived among Kuwaitis. The museum guide came and introduced himself to us. Mr Ahmed is from Kashmir, India and we were happy to meet an Indian. He explained to us in details the various photographs, the things Dickson and his wife used. Those included writing tools (ink pot, pen case, manual typewriter, hand mill); wooden boxes colloquially called " Beshtakhth" made of ebony, usually used by jewelers and skippers for safekeeping, tea pot, his radio, telephone, Chinese pots, wooden pots, hooks to keep keys and many more. The dining table, bed, sofa, side table, dressing table, chest of drawers, air coolers, the car used by the Dickson’s are nicely preserved. The black and white photos that were hung in the different rooms of the house were of the Dickson couple when they were young, with their children and grandchildren, with friends, their servants, in Kuwait desert, husband and wife riding horse, with then Minister of Public Health Fahed Al Salem, in desert camp, at the inauguration of a new church in Ahmadi in 27-01-1957, a party in the honor of Mr Hasan Ahmed Khalifah Al Saeed for his 30yrs working at KOC in 14-01-1958 , arrival of American Ambassador in Kuwait in 16-12-1957, with the KOC rugby team, as Chief Representative of KOC and many more. The house has a large courtyard at the backside and from the balcony one can enjoy excellent views attracted me the most.
The Dickson House has become a symbol of the deep friendship and strong political relations between Kuwait and Britain which have existed for years and which are still being strengthened and reinforced through political, military, commercial, educational and cultural exchanges.
Dickson House is now the property of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, which has transformed it into a cultural center.
Entry to this house is free. Only your civil ID will be checked when you enter the house.
There are lot more places in Kuwait, where you can go during the weekends or vacation. Will be writing about all of them. So look out for them in this space.
Parimita Barooah Bora is a onetime lecturer and currently she is a stay-at-home mom. Having done her post graduation in English, Education and Travel n Tourism, she taught for few years until her relocation to Kuwait. She likes to share the experiences of her life as a freelance contributor to various newspapers, magazines and websites. Now, as a freelance writer and teaching children in the evenings at home keeps her busy. Member of IWIK Team.
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