Marafies Ship Shelter

Ship shelter on the sea front colloquially known as "Alnig'ah"*, or  "Nig'at" - if related to the owner as we say "Nig'at Marafie",-  was located in front of the Marafie neighbourhood between Nig'at Ben Khamees and Nig'at Alshoyoukh. With the increase in Marafie family, there arose the need for more space. Therefore, Mohammad Ali Marafie gradually reclaimed Nigat Marafie and built houses. This happened at the beginning of Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabhas reign. He built separate clinics for both men and women and a house for the doctor too. National Jafaryiah School was built by him. Besides this, a ship yard to build small ships was also established. Such small ships transported dates and wheat to Alfallahiya and Almanboujiya. These vessels were also used for transportation within the farm area and to the ships boom anchorage near Alfallahiya.

It is worth-mentionable that Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak permitted his friend Mohammad Ali Marafie to reclaim the sea three meters deep during the high tide. Such reclamation incurred huge fund. Reclamation enabled Mohammad Ali Marafie to build houses for his sons. For the construction, he used rocks taken from the sea and imported cement from Abadan.  These houses were extended into the sea. In winter some of these houses would be flood with high tide that called for frequent maintenance. As a result of which constant maintenance was required. These houses were pulled down in mid sixties when the government needed the land for the new location of the Ministry of Foreign Affaires. The government indemnified Marafie family based on the appraisal of the land.




Often this ship shelter "Alnig'ah" was used to build ships (dhows/boom) such as the well known boom "Bu Hamrah" (Marafie). This shelter used to accommodate 12 mid sized ships (boom). Occasionally and in certain seasons, the family would need more space for their ships, therefore, an agreement was made with owners of other shelters such as Ben Khamees, Al-Shamlan and Al-Ass'oussie to accommodate number of the family ships.

* Alnig'ah: it is a coastal sea water enclosure; the name indicates the shape of "Alniga'" (plural) in Kuwait. They were used as anchorage shelters for small ships, and they were surrounded with walls made of sea rocks in order to keep ships from high waves. Usually these shelters or "Alniga'" are named after their owners, who were responsible for their maintenance.


The Marafie Dhows

The Marafie dhows during 1887 1948:

No records exist with the names of the dhows owned by the Marafie family prior to 1887 in spite of the fact that the fleet of dhows comprised 14 to 16 whereas all Marafie dhows that were seafaring on the coastal areas of Kuwait, Basra, India and Muscat had been registered after the year 1887. The following details throw light on the16 well known dhows he owned:


Name of the dhow/ Albaghlah

Weight (mann)



Almohamadi boom




Al'allawi boom




Fateh Alkhair boom




Almaye boom

3000 gooti maye or "water tins"



Alsfer boom




Alhashemi baghlah
















Bu Hamra

















3000 - 4000 gooti maye or "water tins"



Marafie's baghlah







Mann = 75 kilogram                            Ton = 13.3 mann


Picture of the dhow Almohamadi I


Dhow Almohamadi I (1916):

Almohamadi I, built in the year 1916, is considered the last seafaring dhow. It was the largest dhow in Kuwait that was owned by Hussain Marafie and his nephew Mohammad Hussain Nassrullah Marafie. This dhow, commissioned in India, incurred heavy cost escalation of upto three times its actual cost, ie. Rs.80,000/- Ali, the eldest son of Hussain Marafie, supervised its building

Almohamadi I dhow entered the service at a delicate & precarious period. The reasons being:

  • With the onset of World War I trading business turned dull coupled by the soaring shipping cost due to high commercial risk involvement.

  • Due to the increased shipping tariff in its to and fro Indian journey, expected profit did not come through. Kuwait ports were underdeveloped to receive such sizable dhow, and the Kuwaiti captains (Noakhatha) were incapable of sailing such big dhow (6000 mann with 60 sailors).

  •  Despite the cost hike of Almohamadi I boom, it wrecked on the coastal area of Kuwait beyond salvage. The feasibility study of the project showed that, had Almohamadi I stayed in service for the next five years between the ports of Kuwait, India, and Africa, it could have recovered its cost together with the building of additional medium sized ships. Almohamadis small cannon that was used upon arrival to Kuwait coast is currently in the custody of one of the Marafies families.

    Almohamadi I boom sailed once under captain (Nokhatha) Su'oud Al-Samaka. Father of Abdulrassoul Al-Ostath utilized the wood of the wreckage in order to build two ships (booms) for Kuwaiti people, with the addition of doors.


Altoorah Boom (Marafie) 1904:

It is considered one of the fastest dhows, and was built ten years before WWI; it resembled the current "Almuhalab" dhow in shape, speed and shipping capacity.

It was built in India by Indian ship builders for shipping dates twice to India. Its shipping capacity did not exceed 2500 mann, that is 225 tons. Abdulaziz Al-Toorah, of the esteemed Al-Toorah family, who was captain of the dhow, took Al-Toorah family name after the Boom



The Deed of Allawy dhow owned by Hussain and Mohammad Hussain Marafie



Allawy Boom 1912:

Allawy boom was commissioned in India by Hussain Marafie and Mohammad Hussain Marafie during 1912. It weighed 4000 mann, that is 300 tons. The dhow was in service between Basra and Kuwait, and sometimes to India when the selling of dates delayed in India.

Number of Kuwaiti captains served on this dhow on the navigation lines between India and Africa.

This dhow had a great role in the expansion of the family business, the fact that encouraged Hussain Marafie to start building Almohamadi I dhow in the year 1916. This dhow remained in the service even after the year 1925. It also played great role in procuring arms and ammunitions to Kuwait during Aljahra war. The dhow was used several times in shipping wheat from Basra and Bander Ma'shoor to Kuwait during winter days and it was famous in India and Muscat. Forty Kuwaiti sailors worked on this dhow. It was said that, all of them reached commendable levels in life due to their hard work and esteemed principles.

This dhow was never used for smuggling gold; it maintained remarkable records with British authorities in the Gulf. It would anchor mostly in Nig'at Marafie and sometimes in Nig'at Shamlan due to traffic or unprecedented environmental conditions.


Alsalamati Baghlah 1887 1890:

Mohammad Zaman Marafie commissioned this dhow during 1887 1890 with a capacity exceeding 300 tons. This dhow travelled between the ports of Basra, Kuwait, Muscat and India, and also reached Aden and some of the African ports. It was used for shipping of dates.

Alsalamati is considered one of the largest known ships in Kuwait at that time. She remained in the service until mid of WWI. This dhow was operated by nokhatha Abdulaziz Harb. Alsalamati Baghlah would be anchored at Nig'at Al-Shamlan due to its bigger size. After long service, it  wrecked on the coastal area of Muscat.


Bu Hamra Boom 1901:

Built in Kuwait by Mohammad Zaman Marafie in early twentieth century, Nigat Marafie served as its dockyard. Its shipment capacity was 2500 mann. It took two years to complete this boom under the supervision of nokhatha Bu Hamra.

Bu Hamra served on the navigation lines between India, Muscat, Basra and Kuwait with 40 sailors under his command; his service spanned till 1935. At times this boom would be anchored at Nig'at Marafie, and sometimes at Nig'at Al-Shamlan.


Baghlah Marafie:

It was commissioned in India by the end of nineteenth century and served on seafaring lines between India, Muscat, Basra and Kuwait. This large boom was later sold to Eassa Bishara family who used to be Nokhatha from Sharq area. Baghlah Marafie stayed in service with Eassa Bishara for more than 15 years.


Baghlah Alhashemi I:

Built in India by Haider Ben Mohammad Rafie (Marafie) by the end of nineteenth century, its service lasted till the early years of twentieth century. Later it was sold to a Kuwaiti family known for lumber business and as the owners of ship. This baghlah served between Kuwait, Basra and India under captain (Nokhatha) Abdullah Ben Ghanim.


Boom Metwanah:

It is considered as one of the best known dhows owned by Marafie family. It was built by the end of nineteenth century, and it is said that it was built before Sheikh Mubaraks signature of protection agreement with Great Britain. It stayed in service for several years until Almohamadi I Boom was commissioned in the year1916. It was owned by Mohammad Zaman Marafie. Evaluating the immense wealth and prosperity Boom Metwanah fetched to both the owner and the workers who served her, Mohammad Zaman expressed his passion and joy for Booms by building a new Boom  in the same name of Metwanah.

Metwanah Boom served under Nokhatha Abbas Ben Nikhi, who was the most devious and the smartest among the Nokhathas of Kuwait at that time. This boom served on seafaring lines between Kuwait, Basra, ports of India, ports of Somalia, Yemen and Muscat.

It is recounted that in the year 1910, before Nokhatha Ben Nikhi left from Kuwait to Basra with the shipment of dates from Hamad Al-Sagers storage, he received confidential verbal massage from Mohammad Ali Marafie asking him to sail to Muscat and contact his office there, which was managed by Najaf Ben Ghalib (nephew and partner in arms trade). Meanwhile he requested Ben Ghalib to load the ship of Nokhatha Ben Nikhi, on its arrival, with the supply of hundreds of rifles on classified basis before its departure to Kuwait after unloading the Muscat bound goods. British Army, those days, imposed a strict ban on Arms Trading in the entire region. Supply even to Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, despite being their close companion, was considered strictly in this regard. Being aware of the risk involved, Marafie's ships generally carried arms only for the domestic purpose. 

The British army maintained a close watch on all ships sailed from India & Muscat. Once, Hamad Al-Sagers ship with Dates on Board was on its way to the ports of India. Goods carried from India were taken to Muscat first as per their request and finally to Kuwait with commodities like tea, rice and spices.

Upon arrival in Muscat, the shipment to Muscat was unloaded, and those to Kuwait; the arms shipment, as requested, were loaded. The British used to have spies in Muscat, and Abbas Ben Nikhi had an intuition that he was under the scrutiny of a British ship. Instinctively, Abbas decided to take a daring night cruise through the canyon seafaring line but he noticed that the British ship was still trailing him. So he resorted to camouflage by unloading a small boat by mid night with a lantern on, and turned out all lights on Metwana boom. Quietly he continued his sail to Kuwait under the supporting wind. The British captain who stopped sailing taking for granted that the boom was anchored in the canyon woke up the next morning only to realise of the disappearance of Kuwaiti boom which was already on its way.

On Metwanas safe arrival to Kuwait, Captain Abbas Ben Nikhi went straight to Mohammad Ali Marafie to deliver the arms. Marafie took him to Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabha, who extended his sincere gratitude for his defensive yet timely help and patriotic bravery. Sheikh Mubarak gave orders to shift the arms to his palace and to hoist the dhow ashore Nigat Marafie immediately. It was given a thorough wash kept covered with Palm leaves to give an indication of its maintenance since long.

On arrival to the coastal area of Kuwait, the captain of the British trailing ship went straight to Sheikh Mubaraks palace lodging the complaint. Sheikh Mubarak outrightly denied any such incident and advised the Captain to confirm on the same by checking all dhow shelters (Nigah) of the coastal area. Though Captain had returned without any evidence he was sure what he sensed could not be denied.

Later, upon approaching Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah once again in order to confirm what he literally saw was real and not something he imagined, when the Captain pleaded, Sheikh had revealed to him the truth. In a personal meeting with Alnokhatha Ben Nikhi, after obtaining permission from Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabha, the Captain did express his sincere appreciation for his act of bravery and deep sense of patriotism.


Abu Alqassem Marafie dhow (boom)


Picture of Almohamadi I dhow (boom)


Picture of Alhashemi II



Picture of Alghazeer dhow



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