Loans from the Kuwait National Museum 2017-09-27T14:21:01+00:00

Slide9

Location  Amricani Cultural Centre
Time Monday – Thursday, Saturday 10 AM – 7 PM,   Friday 2 PM – 7 PM

Failaka Island is located approximately 20 km northeast of Kuwait City. The island has a shallow surface measuring 12 km in length and 6 km width. The island proved to be an ideal location for human settlements, because of the wealth of natural resources, including harbours, fresh water, and fertile soil. It was also a strategic maritime commercial route that linked the northern side of the Gulf to the southern side. Studies show that traces of human settlement can be found on Failaka dating back to as early as the end of the 3rd millennium BC and extended through most of the 20th century CE.

Failaka was first known as Agarum, the land of Enzak, the great god of Dilmun civilisation according to Sumerian cuneiform texts found on the island. Dilmun was the leading commercial hub for its powerful neighbours in their need to exchange processed goods for raw materials. Sailing the Arabian Gulf was by far the most convenient trade route at a time as transportation over land meant a much longer and more hazardous journey. As part of Dilmun, Failaka became a hub for the activities which radiated around Dilmun (Bahrain) from the end of the 3rd millennium to the mid-1st millennium BCE.

The cities of Sumer in Mesopotamia, the Harappan people from the Indus Valley, the inhabitants of Magan and the Iranian hinterland have left many archaeological traces of their encounters on Failaka Island. More speculative is the ongoing debate among academics on whether Failaka might be the mythical Eden: the place where Sumerian hero Gilgamesh almost unraveled the secret of immortality; the paradise later described in the Bible.

As a result of changes in the balance of political powers in the region towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE and beginning of 1st millennium BCE, the importance of Failaka began to decline.

Studies indicate that Alexander the Great received reports from missions sent to explore the Arabian shoreline of the Gulf. The reports referenced two islands, one located approximately 120 stadia (almost 19 km) from an estuary; the second island located a complete day and night sailing journey with proper climate conditions. As the historian Aryan stated, “Alexander the Great ordered that the nearer island be named “Ikaros” (now Failaka) and the distant island as “Tylos” (now the Kingdom of Bahrain). Ikaros was described by the explorers as an island covered with rich vegetation and a shelter for numerous wild animals, considered sacred by the inhabitants who dedicate them to their local goddess.

After the collapse of the great empires in western Asia (Greek, Persian, Roman), the first centuries of the Christian era brought new settlers to Failaka. The island became a secure home for a Christian community, possibly Nestorian, until the 9th century CE. At Al- Qusur, in the centre of the island, archaeologists have uncovered two churches, built at an undetermined date, around which a large settlement grew. Its name may have changed again at that time, to Ramatha.

Failaka was continuously inhabited throughout the Islamic period until the 1990s. Excavations on the Island began in 1958 and continue today. Many archaeological expeditions have worked on Failaka and it is considered one of the key sources of knowledge about civilisations emerging from within the Gulf region.

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