History of the Jews in Kuwait - Extracted from articles by Yacoub Yousif Al-Ibraheem and published in Alqabas in October 2005
Most of the Jews who lived in Kuwait came originally from
Iraq after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at
the time of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 A.D.
In 1776 when Sadeq Khan captured Basra, many of the inhabitants
left the country and among them were the Jews who went to
Kuwait. With the Jews' efforts, the country flourished with
its buildings and trades.
Around 1860, their number increased and their trade flourished.
The Jews had a market called "The Jews' market ",
which was next to the market Mosque.
It was known that the Jews used to make alcohol and sell
it to the public.
The Jews were known to be very careful with trading. They
were mostly wholesalers and worked with India - Baghdad
and Aleppo. They even exported to Europe and China.
There were about 80 Jewish families in Kuwait living in
one district where the Bank of Trade is now.
The Jews used to wear long gown (Zboun) and Fez which made
them look different from the others. Some used to wear European
suits but they covered their head with Fez. They had their
own Synagogue with their Sefer Torah. In the Synagogue,
they had separate place for the women.
Saturday is a sacred day. Jews didn't work that day. They
also had their own Cemetery which shows that they lived
there for a long time.
Kuwait's population is now thirty five thousand and most
of them are Arabs.
Before 1914 there were about 200 Jews. Most of them went
back to Baghdad
and few went to India.
There were two wealthy Jews in Kuwait but the rest were
middle class, being Jewellers or material traders. Among
the wealthy Jews were Saleh Mahlab who
owned the first ice factory in 1912.Gurgi Sasson and Menashi
Eliahou who were
traders and financiers.
When Sheikh Salem al Mubarak came to power in February 1917(he
was the 9th ruler). He wanted to stop the Jews from dealing
with spirits. He called them and warned them. There is no
evidence that they were kicked out of Kuwait. The truth
is that they went back to Iraq when King Faisal the first
came to rule Iraq.
The King had Jewish acquaintances like Wiseman and Sasson
Heskel who became the Minister of Finance in Iraq.
The Jews' Community welcomed the King on 18th July 1921
and offered him the Torah covered with gold which he accepted.
On his arrival to Baghdad, King Faisal lived on the river
side "The Tigris" in a house that belonged to
a wealthy Jew - Shaoul Sha'shou'.
After the floods in 1926, the King moved to another house
that belonged to Menahem Daniel who was a member in the
After the British invasion of Iraq in 1917, Iraq's economy
flourished. Most of the
trades were in the hands of the Jews. Many became very rich.
In 1920, the population of the Jews in Iraq was one hundred
Kuwait was afflicted by the encroachment of the economical siege which was compounded by the 'Ikhwan' military threats and the decline of the pearl trade. All of this was saddled with events of the great depression of the world in 1929.
The motto of the Jews is that "the Country is for its
people and the trade for
In around ten years during the twenties, all the Jews left
The History of the brothers Daoud and
Saleh is the son of Yaacob ben Ezra al-Kuwaiti. He was
born in 1905,at the time his father left Baghdad to Kuwait.
He was originally from Iran. His mother is from
Habbousha family who were very religious and belonged to
the Lawi family
His brother Daoud was born in 1910.
The Kuwaiti brothers loved music and singing since their
childhood. They used to cut pieces of palms from the Palm
tree and knot it with hair from the horse's tail
pretending they were playing music. A relative who used
to trade with their father, was visiting Kuwait at that
time from India, was impressed with the way they played
the music, so he bought them a Violin and a Lute.
At ten Saleh could play the Lute.
In 1912, records became popular and they used to play it
in Coffee Houses.
At that time, the way to learn music used to be by hearing
and by trying to imitate. Seldom someone used to help. On
the whole music used to be passed from father to son.
Saleh with the Violin and Daoud with the Lute, had the ability
to play and sing.
When in 1928, they returned to Basra, they started immediately
to work with
Mohammed al- Qebbantchi...just two days after their arrival.
Then from Basra they went to Amara and worked in a Night
Club. They returned to Baghdad in 1930.
They became famous and started to compose songs to all singers.
In 1932, they were among other musicians visiting Cairo
to attend the
"1st Conference of Music in Cairo".
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