The Seif Palace, Kuwait

The political and commercial importance of Kuwait increased substantially under Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah (ruled from 1896 to 1915) bringing the need for a palace that would be a fitting center of power.

Sheikh Mubarak already owned a house that overlooked the sea - opposite the building were stables and storerooms, and it was on this site that he ordered his palace, which came to be known as Seif Palace, to be built. He had a close relationship with Sheikh Khazaal bin Merdaw, a prominent tribal leader on the east coast of Shatt Al-Arab, and it was Khazaal who sent an architect from Baghdad to design and construct a palace worthy of the ruler of Kuwait which was completed in 1907.

On April 28th 1913, The Seif Palace became the first building in Kuwait and Arab Gulf region to have electricity. On February 7th 1917, Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak became ruler of Kuwait. He installed a staircase connecting the first floor of the east wing with the ground floor. Above the stairs was inscribed the famous phrase: if it had lasted for others, it wouldn't have passed to you.

After the discovery of oil, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah decided its time to build a new palace on the eastern side of Seif Palace's central courtyard. Buildings which had previously stood on that site were demolished to make way for the new palace. Designed by a British architectural engineer and completed in 1964, the Palace was soon recognized as one of the most outstanding in Kuwait. Perhaps its most eye-catching monument was the gold-domed clock tower which overlooked the sea and told the time with a peal of bells.

Several buildings were added to Seif Palace during the reign of the late Emir Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah, including His Highness suite, and a private duplex to house the various departments of the Amiri Diwan, such as the Center for Historical Documents.

On July 23rd 1983, a fire caused by an electrical short, broke out in one of the buildings of the old Seif Palace. Flames, reaching as high as the roof, engulfed a number of buildings, reducing them to ash. What remained of Seif Palace was later destroyed during the Iraqi invasion, in particular the Clock Tower.

After Kuwait's liberation, it was decided Seif Palace should be reconstructed in order to establish new buildings for the Amiri Diwan, the Diwan of the Crown Prince, the Diwan of the Cabinet and the General Secretariat of the Cabinet together with its Departments.

The external structure of Seif Palace is divided into different sections each with different heights and frontages so that it resembled an old castle. Overlooking this, is the Clock Tower which has a small dome, plated in gold. On the south side of the Palace is an open courtyard, with a series of 9 meters high arches that form a vaulted corridor to the main entrance. Behind this stands the Palace, which is on the eastern side of the original courtyard. The upper floor is also arched and bears a remarkable resemblance to the original Seif Palace. The two buildings are connected by a newly built concourse.

The Palace's interior is characterized by space and light - high ceilings and lofty arches are carved in the arabesque style and further ornamented by Persian ceramics in various shades of blue and turquoise. Andalusian chandeliers were used to light the Palace.