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Kuwait’s ice industry, a historical perspective

KUWAIT: With the temperature in Kuwait soaring up to 50 Degrees Celsius and beyond, people mostly tend to stay at their air-conditioned dwellings drinking icy cold beverages to fend off the heat. Today, it might be typical and even normal to fetch ice from the refrigerator or the nearest supermarket, but getting ice in the past was not as simple as a walk in the park.
Back in the day, Kuwaitis need for ice was satisfied via shipments from Iraq’s Basra city, heritage researcher Hussein Al-Qattan said, revealing that the first rudimentary ice factory was established in the late 1800s by Mohammad Al-Fawzan. Qattan added that ice, known ‘Falj’ in old Kuwaiti dialect, was not only sold by shops and small factories, regular folks used to buy and re-sell ice as well as make their own home-produced molds to peddle.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of old ice peddlers was in the classic Kuwaiti drama ‘Darb Az Zalag,’ roughly translated as the slippery road, said Qattan. One of the show’s characters, played by late actor Khaled Al-Nefisi, was a vendor selling ice at his ‘Falj Bu Saleh’ spot next to his house, said Qattan, affirming that this specific portrayal helped in a way to historical document this profession. According to the researcher, most people in the past were able to afford ice with the margin price being around 2 to 4 fils in today’s currency.

He said that ice was stored in special water-filled vases made from glass and metal, adding that the ice molds were chopped down to smaller pieces to fulfill the needs of clients. As time went by, big factories began to sprout in Sharq, Murqab, and Shuwaikh areas, leading to more ice production and the advent of various ‘goodies’ such ice-cream, said Qattan. – KUNA

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