Under Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah (1896 - 1915), the political and commercial importance of Kuwait increased substantially, bringing with it the need for a palace that would be a fitting centre 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 Sheikh Mubarak ordered his palace, which came to be known as Seif Palace, to be built.
Sheikh Mubarak had a close relationship with Sheikh Khazaal Bin Merdaw, a prominent tribal leader on the east coast of Shatt Al-Arab, and it was Sheikh Khazaal who sent an architect from Baghdad to design and construct a palace worthy of the ruler of Kuwait. The architect suggested adding a wing to the western part of the stable in addition to enlarging the original building. The floor was covered in yellow tiles brought from the town of Al Emara, which lies to the north of Basra.
External walls and the staircase were built, and doors, windows and wooden arches decorated with stained glass were also added. The palace was built in 1324 A.H , 1906/1907 A.D.
FIRST EXPANSION OF SEIF PALACE
Three years later, Sheikh Mubarak decided to extend his palace by adding on another wing, which was constructed using the same architectural style. By the end of 1910, the building was completed and it became one of the most beautiful in Kuwait.
Sheikh Mubarak hosted many guests in his palace, including the Danish explorer and photgrapher Ronkier Lens in 1912, and the British Viceroy to India in 1915.
ELECTRICITY COME TO THE PALACE
On October 14th 1912, an Indian engineer was give the task of bringing electricity to the Palace. He installed a generator that ran on oil, and on April 28th 1913 Seif Palace became the first building in Kuwait to have electricity.
SEIF PALACE DURING THE RESIGN OF SHEIKH SALEM AL MUBARAK AL SAHAB
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 following phrase:
SEIF PALACE DURING THE RESIGN OF SHEIKH AHMED AL JABER AL SABAH
The oil generator was abandoned after electricity was introduced throughout Kuwait in 1923. Wooden bridges that had been used to connect various parts of the Palace were demolished and replaced with ones made from cement. The western wing, close to the sea, was also extended.
SEIF PALACE DURING THE RESIGN OF SHEIKH ABDULLAH AL SALEM
The discovery of oil played a vital role in revitalizing the Kuwaiti economy, and in opening up Kuwait to the rest of the world. Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem therefore decided time was right to build a new palace on the eastern side of Seif Palace's central courtyard. Buildings which had previously stood on that site were now 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 feature was the gold-domed clock
tower which overlooked the sea and told the time with a peal of bells.
SEIF PALACE DURING THE RESIGN OF SHEIKH SABAH AL SALEM AL SABAH
The reconstruction of Seif Palace continued during the reign of Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah. A two-storey arched building, tiled in yellow and blue, was added; landscaped gardens were also created and a flag pole set up from where the flag of Kuwait could be flown.
SEIF PALACE DURING THE RESIGN OF SHEIKH JABER AL AHMAD AL JABER AL SABAH
Several buildings were added to Seif Palace during the reign of Sheikh Jaber, including His Highness' suite, and a private duplex to house the various departments of the Amiri Diwan, such as the Centre for Historical Documents.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE OLD SEIF PALACE
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 CLOCK TOWER
The external structure of Seif Palace was 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 30 foot 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.
THE AMIRI DIWAN BUILDING IN THE NEW SEIF PALACE
The three storey building occupies an area of around 35000 sq/m, and includes the Offices of His Highness the Amir in addition to 125 staff offices.
The official entrance on the ground floor leads to a double-height hall which was constructed using "Rosa Castello Portogalo" marble.
The domed ceiling is crowned with an enormous chandelier, weighing a staggering 5 tons while fountains play in the courtyards on either side of the entrance.
His Highness the Amir's official reception hall is 250 sq/m and has a marble ceiling and magnificent chandeliers. The floor is also marble and covered with beautiful Persian rugs. There is a number of smaller reception halls for any meetings and banquets His Highness the Amir wishes to conduct.
The building also includes special rooms for VIP's and top officials.
Secure parking and service rooms are in a huge basement connected to the building.