Sights, sounds and smells are what you will walk into when you reach SoMu Mubarakiya. A space founded by Ahmad Al Ghanim, it is a little area comprised of 14 restaurants, textile and coffee shops.
It gives Kuwait a new taste of cultural modernity! As I walk through SoMu and have my diner at Chutney’s an Indian inspired restaurant owned by Amal AlFares, then grab a coffee at Caffeine by co-owner Ali AlHasan and later walk over to Lina’s Art Café owned by Lina Hijazi and grab a delicious desert before making my way over to Wayed Chic owned by sisters Sarah and Maali AlQabandi to see the new fashion collections; I ask myself if I am in a big metropolis like New York or Toronto as it does have that feeling.
Let’s fast forward; over 200 years ago, a marketplace was created in the Al-Mubarakiya area as a platform for vendors to showcase their produce in a raw, non-commercial way. The Souq – market – soon became a cultural hub, catering to visitor, whether for the weekly grocery shop or simply an outing to a space bursting with tradition and vividness. With Sheikh Mubarak Al Kabeer’s Kiosk in the center of it all, people were able to openly communicate their hopes, dreams, and worries to their leader.
A once deserted area with no beauty, culture or anything, SoMu Mubarakiya (which stands for South Mubarakiya) was nothing more than rubble and abandoned stores. A visionary and creative, Ahmad Al Ghanim took the area into his hands and created a now booming hub for intellectuals, artists, creative and all. A welcoming feeling when you pass by the shops and speak to the owners, try free samples, enjoy the never ending sights of children playing, friends gathering and creativity being spread across tables; it is the new wave in Kuwait. A new hub, an area, a place where people gather to enjoy the very finest of Kuwait;
SoMu is a wonderful place for all to enjoy regardless of your desire. “At first I had no idea or concept. I had a lease on a store but absolutely no idea what I was going to do” said Ali AlHasan a co-owner in Caffeine. “However I knew I wanted to be here”. The story of the shop owners in SoMu that I had the absolute pleasure to meet all had the same vision. “At first we were 3 partners” shares Lina Hijazi of Lina’s Art Café, “then I found myself with an idea and my eventual partners could not continue. So I decided what a better time to start my dream than here in SoMu”. According to all the shop owners I spoke with, Ahmad Al Ghanim – the brainchild behind his store THOUQ -wanted to do something different and creative. The result has been SoMu a heaven for all who hang out. And it really does capture your heart.
SOMU is thriving with new and locally conceived businesses. Most of the new restaurant outlets and cafes have indoor and outdoor seating areas. If you’re fan of all things Parisian, then a visit to the French-inspired Flower Latte café is a must. If you prefer dining organic, then the burgers at Brothers Street Food Burgers and 7th Heaven restaurant will definitely tick all of the boxes. Looking to dine at an establishment that fuses old Kuwaiti traditions with modern values, and then definitely head to Msayaan. SOmU can still be accessed pretty easily from the main road.
“We just opened” explains Maali Al Qabandi, “It is amazing the feedback we have had. People from all over Kuwait come to Wayed Chic. It is a brand, a concept, a name that embodies tradition and modernity. We want people to recognize our traditions here in Kuwait. Our store, Wayed Chic, is a Kuwaiti label that embodies Kuwait and the international fashion design scene”.
In conclusion, SoMu Mubarkiya has generated quite a buzz I recent years. My favorite time to enjoy a leisurely stroll there is on weekend evenings or just after sunset as well. You can spend an evening there then stop for some desserts and coffee or walk around until you cannot feel your feet anymore. In any case, if you are planning on visiting the Souk Mubarakiya soon, don’t miss SoMu!!
By: Natasha E. Feghali