Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kuwaiti Building R.I.P.

So it's finally coming down.

Kuwaiti Building has been something of a landmark for much of my life, and that bit of Manama will no longer be the same when the demolition goes through. There is still a possibility that a final appeal may stall the wrecking crew from unleashing the bulldozers, but as of now that generally appears to be in the wishful thinking territory.

In the thirty-odd years of its existence, Kuwaiti Building has seen it all -- from being the first (I think) modern shopping centre in Bahrain (and possibly the Gulf) to its present state of near dilapidation and horrible neglect. A terrible anti-climax, indeed, to a place that was once the hottest spot in Manama attracting the young, the beautiful and the fashionable, and now surviving by a mere thread of legal manoevering.

As a teenager, I loved going there for the cassettes because there were a couple of music shops that had all the music I wanted. Of course, we are talking about the days before CDs and MP3s became a rage, and cassettes were a teenager's only source of musical ecstasy. Vinyls were very much there, but you couldn't carry them on a Walkman, and besides, only two shops were popular for vinyls - Bambino and Jashanmal, and both were in the souq. But the ones in Kuwaiti Building were pretty reliable, had the broadest range possible and the speakers were like 'wow'.

Anyway, a snack bar on the ground floor used to be quite popular and though I don't remember exactly why but it, nevertheless, attracted a crowd. There were many fashion boutiques back then, and if I'm not mistaken,it still has/had a couple of 'em till the very end (whenever that will take place).

It was a forerunner of the malls and provided the first-ever 'different-shops-under-one-roof' experience for shoppers in Bahrain. It did seem rather exclusive and pricey back then, because shopping in the 70s meant the souq and anywhere else was considered a mere diversion.

It was the arrival of the Yateem Centre in the early 80's and the Sheraton Shopping Centre soon after that eventually set off a chain of events that heralded the Kuwaiti Building's eclipse as a 'hot' shopping centre. Both Yateem and Sheraton were not only conveniently located very close to the souq, they were also very 'modern' in style and architecture. Though not as big and elaborate as the present day malls like Seef and Geant, they did provide a foretaste of things to come. Interestingly, they are still around and are unlikely to close down anytime in the near future.

Kuwaiti Building did not adapt to the changing times, but remained stuck in a 70s or 80s idea of 'coolness' and that, I think, was its main tragedy. It could have moulded itself to new trends, invested in refurbishing and renovation, could have carved a new identity, but no, it did no such thing. It just remained the way it was, and kept providing old timers with a little bit of nostalgia and nothing else.

It shall be missed like so many other structures from the past that are being demolished to make way for bigger structures. Somehow, I have a hunch that whatever building is constructed on this spot will not achieve the same passionate following that Kuwaiti Building once did.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi. Take a look on my shoes
Marina (from France)

Ashish Gorde said...

Interesting shoes.

Mina T said...

Hey I shopped at those cassette shops too - perhaps we passed each other there!! All my lunch money was spent at the shop on the first floor (or was it second?). And audio cassettes last a lot longer than cheese sandwiches - I can attest to that almost 20 yrs down the line (well some of them lasted anyway - and no I'm not talking sandwiches).

Sigh, KB was my bus-stop for many a year!

Anonymous said...

well i lived in kuwaiti building for 2 years and loved the spacious rooms and fabul;ous views i had from the 7th floor allthough the maintaniance was shitty .... and the lift and other places dingy and dirty , but once i entered the house it was oki.... i enjoyed once in was inside the house outside it was the same old world.