I had a friend visiting Kuwait last weekend, and while Ramadan is not exactly the best time for non-Muslims to visit (the "no food served outside of room service" policy is a tad annoying), nevertheless I gave him the grand tour of the city, forgetting how abundant sunshine and sparkling waters are in rare supply where he comes from so that was enough to lift his spirits.
Colonel Dickson was the British Political Agent to Kuwait from 1929-1936, who then worked for the Kuwait Oil Company after he retired from the British government. Col. Dickson passed away in 1959 but his wife, Dame Violet, also known as Umm Saud أم سعود, remained in Kuwait in their family home on the Gulf Road until she passed away in 1991 at the age of 92. Most people in Kuwait still remember Umm Saud, as she was a fixture in Kuwait up until the invasion.
At the entrance we were greeted by a lone security guard who was reading a large Qur'an. I felt bad interrupting him, but what choice did I have? He asked us to wait while he summoned the "museum guide". I expected an animated man or woman, you know the types - very enthusiastic and utterly in love with their subject - but instead we got a stern, poker-faced man from India who was clearly annoyed at our presence. I don't mean any disrespect to any of our Indian friends, but his accent was so thick and unsuitable for a tour guide, I had no idea what he was saying half the time. Fortunately, being well-versed in the history on display I found myself stepping up to explain to my friend what he was looking at... which just added to the guide's annoyance!
The ground floor/foyer is dedicated to historical photography and a few artifacts from the early 20th century like currency notes and so on. It was fascinating to see aerial views of Kuwait City in 1962 and earlier and reflect on how far the city has come. It's also very easy to make out some of the landmarks that are still around. I explained to my friend where everything was, while the guide just stewed in the background, frustrated that some stranger had completely upstaged him.
After that, we went upstairs to the Dicksons' 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, in such a genteel existence. "Art Nouveau" furniture in the living room and bedroom.. or was it Art Deco? I can't remember what the guide said and I had to look up the difference for the links! Plus many photographs of the late Dame Violet Dickson at various pivotal events in Kuwait's modern history.
You would think that a historical center commemorating the lives of important British figures would escape the plague of spelling errors blighting this country... but you would be wrong. So ridiculously wrong, as evidenced on this plaque above a doorway leading into the "Dining Room" (WTF?!)
My favorite part of the house is the large balcony facing the sea. I could easily spend afternoons there watching the sun go down. But first I'd make sure that the surly guide is nowhere around!
As we departed, we were asked - ordered actually - by the guide to sign the guestbook. He wouldn't let us leave without signing it so we each scribbled something and bolted out of there, laughing our heads off at the bizarre experience.