The neighborhood of Abu Halifa, overlooking the coast, is a quiet one, despite the continuous demolition and construction works nearby. Residential villas and buildings isolate the area from the inconvenience and annoyance of the streets, and only the sounds of birds and sea waves can be heard during the day.
Walking around, a rickety wall caught my eye. Broken glass was embedded at the top to prevent curious people, like myself, from sneaking into the empty yard behind it. However, it was accessible from the beach. On the side of the wall was a closed gate with a sign, smashed in a deliberate manner as if someone wanted to obliterate the memories of the place and its history.
Welcome to what was once called the Gazelle Club. The opening of this club dates back to the period between 1962 and 1964. The social club was established by the late Bader Al-Mulla, and his sister was responsible for the management. It was noted by Kuwaiti historian Hamad Al-Saeedan, author of the Kuwaiti Encyclopedia, that the club included many activities such as horseback riding, water skiing, swimming, sports and mental games. The club also contained a cinema, snooker hall and a ballroom.
The club was famous in its day, even mentioned in a National Geographic feature on the economic boom in Kuwait in a May 1969 edition.
Abu Abir, 54, who was a member of the club, recalled that it was difficult to get access to it. Only those of a particular class were allowed to become members. There were lots of Lebanese, though. “I used to go to the club with my wife and her family and some friends to enjoy the great musical atmosphere there. Our last visit was in 1990, right before the Iraqi invasion, when it was still at the height of its fame. The owner’s sister was always present and loved to chat with the members of the club,” he reminisced.
The invading Iraqi forces occupied the club and converted it into a military center, and built barriers after looting and destroying it. The place has been shut since then and never reopened. Despite the delightful memories narrated by Abu Abir, many conservatives greeted the news of its closure with a cheerful goodbye, because it wasn’t in line with their opinions. At the time, the Gazelle Club was a symbol of freedom and tolerance in the country.
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