There is a historical public square in Kuwait called Al Safat Square, yet a square is not an appropriate description for it. Today, it serves as a traffic interchange where you pass by noticing it only because of the monument erected at its center. The rest of the historical square is a pedestrian underpass to connect the three parts that surround the Al Safat Square. It’s tragic that modern day Kuwait City has no public square nor are there any plans to have one, at least none that I know of.
Public squares are an important component of any town or city. It is an open air space, usually rectangular in shape, that serves for public gatherings for different functions. They are widely used as open air markets due to its pavement. In the old days, major governmental announcements happen there, sometimes even carrying out punishments for criminal acts in public.
The need for a public square in Kuwait has not escaped us. During the famous 2005 protests, the parliament members alongside their constituents and supporters used the open space in front of the National Assembly building to gather and voice their anger at the government. That space is now locally called ‘saahat al erada’, meaning Determination Square. It is understandable that the government of Kuwait, given the recent history of ‘saahat al erada’, won’t rush to create new public squares. However, the need to have a public space in the city that acts as a ‘breather’ is critically important.
Imagine a space downtown where you can see people from all over the world, since Kuwait City is becoming a cosmopolitan place with people coming and living here from about 200 nationalities. A space where it serves many different functions, from political protest to religious gatherings. It becomes a gathering space, a focal point, something like the Solidere in Beirut or Trafalgar Square in London. We should look back at how our illiterate grandfathers created the old town with all it’s working components, and see how today in the 21st century we struggle to overcome the shortcomings of modernism in the past 40 years.