Mohammad Ali Bin Marafie

1842 – 1937


Born into the Marafie neighbourhood in the year 1842 A.D., Mohammad Ali spent his remarkable 95 years of life as an accomplished and industrious Nonagenarian until 1937 when he breathed his last.  He was survived by three sons:

Ismael: Born in the year 1870 Ismael, the eldest of the three sons of the Marafie couple, lived for 73 years before he was called to eternity in the year 1943.

Ibrahim: Born in 1874, he had only a short span of life. Having lived to a ripe age of 38, he was called to the heavenly abode in 1912.

Saleh: The youngest of the three, Saleh had significantly spanned from 1894 - 1951

Having inherited his father’s ‘Arms Trade Business’ with its earlier location in Muscat, Mohammad Ali eventually became the think-tank and was instrumental in promoting new business avenues & ventures with India and the Ports of Arabian Peninsula as his close business associates. Eminent personnel from Kuwait, Oman and also from India were privileged to execute their responsibilities under the close supervision of Hajie Najaf Ben Ghalib, his nephew.

Mohammad Ali’s Trade business comprised commodities like timber, rice, spices and wheat. His expertise in Arms trading inspired him to import the same from countries like Europe, India and Muscat while Ibrahim, his son, and Abdulmohsen; his nephew, were appointed by him as his Muscat based Office Supervisors. Later, Ibrahim who took over had been instrumental in reshaping the fortunes of Marafie which subsequently flourished into Muscat and reached to India as well.

Mohammad Ali as a seasoned gentleman, a shrewd business person and a great philanthropist thus captured the hearts of Kuwait.

Mohammad Ali being trustworthy to the core, was asked by The Amir; Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber to nominate one of his sons as his direct agent. His attributes of morality, integrity and loyalty were dearly acknowledged as one- of- a- kind, God given personality by the then Elite Society of Kuwait. This has further inspired The Amir; Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber with the request to appoint a direct Business Agent either from among his three sons or amongst his relatives. Though Mohammad Ali fully endorsed Amir’s high valued gesture, he courteously nominated his nephew Mr. Abulkareem Abul instead of his sons since they were totally engaged in the family oriented business concerns. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber acknowledged his offer with gratitude.

Pilgrimage to Mecca: It is remembered that  Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak, during his reign, when had come to know of the Pilgrimage Ordinance of his friend Mohammad Ali Marafie he summoned the court of Pilgrims before the Amir to elaborate their duties & utmost care and assistance to be rendered towards while accompanying Mohammad Ali who was affectionately addressed as ‘his brother.’ Mohammad Ali Marafie was indeed fortunate to have his friend Abdul Rahman Al-Roumi as his travel companion. Another mention of significance according to Alzulfie People’s Resources is of the great honour & reverence with which Mohammad Ali was received in Mecca & Medina as well that alone illustrates his deep intimacy with King Abdulaziz Ben Saud, whom he had supported with the generous supply of arms to the first Saudi army leading to the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Marafie's Kharoor "waterway":

Dredged and built by Mohammad Ali Marafie by the end of nineteenth century, it was considered the first of its kind in Sharq area; measuring to fifty yards long and nine yards wide, and was extended into the sea bracing the low tides. The kharoor with half yard depth at its start attracted small & medium vessels to "Nig'at Marafie." It was considered as an extension to this Nig'ah.  Maintenance of the same was meticulously carried out at least once or twice a year.

Mansour Al-Hajri, in one of his publications give mention to four waterways ‘kharoors’, namely Kharoor Al-Khurafie, Kharoor Nig’at Almae or Nig’at Al-Abduljalil, Kharoor Al-Sager and Kharoor Al-Bader; all located at Jiblah area (west); whereas the fifth Kharoor of Marafie that had been named by Sheikh Sabah Al-Nasser as ‘Nig’at Marafie’ was the only one at Sharq coastal area with its key location as Khalifa mosque right in front of.


People of Significance in the life of Mohammad Ali Marafie

- Khalaf Pasha Al-Naqeeb

Mohammad Ali Marafie in his flourishing trade with Indian companies, and with the Kuwaitis living in India, would receive the value of imported commodities such as sugar, tea, spices and timber… etc., through a system which was popularly known as ‘Alzad’ that was timely & faithfully executed through his friend Khalaf Pasha Al-Naqeeb. Khalaf Pasha Al-Naqeeb, in Marafie’s mercantile affairs, was considered equally or more proficient than that of the present day ‘Online Fund Transfer’ system, in transferring Funds across.    

- Shaheen Al-Ghanim:

Mohammad Ali Marafie valued friendship and personal relationship intensely. He was known for his selflessness, cordial and close relationship without any tint of prejudice. His deep & inseparable companionship with Shaheen Al-Ghanim is a perfect example for it. Relationship of this nature stands as a vivid example of the Hadeeth Shareef "Two Men Liked Each Other For The Sake of God and Would Apart Thereon. Such strong relationship thus established & enjoyed as one accord had its roots from their grandfathers who carried out maritime trade as a part & parcel of life. This undivided intimacy compelled one to think of them as sharing the same spirit too. Also they enjoyed eating at each other’s residence everyday.

Astonishingly, once when Mohammad Ali was extended the lucrative offer of the Kerosene agency in Kuwait by the then Abadan Oil Company General Director, foreseeing the distaste/disharmony an offer of this nature would bring to upset their strong friendship in the long run, he humbly turned down the request and nominated his friend Shaheen Al-Ghanim. Nevertheless, Shaheen Al-Ghanim too refrained from this offer stating his sole interest in Timber & Ships in line with

Mohammad Ali. No better illustration would be more befitting here to convey the true bond of intimacy established between the two beyond all material achievements. They lived as men of principles and values.


-Mohammad Ali and the Pearl Divers:

People of Kuwait, prior to the discovery of oil, were mainly dependant on pearl diving as their means of livelihood. Pearling was the main source of living for many Kuwaitis those days, while the majority were on a meagre hand to mouth existence. Earlier, Pearling trips were financed by the then affluent Kuwaiti businessmen. As a guarantee; the divers’ houses, their sole possession, was demanded as mortgage until the repayment was made in the form of precious pearls on their return. Among those who returned as hapless empty handed divers, having failed to settle the dues, were left homeless. In order to undo this prevailing atrocious system meted upon the pearl divers, not alone by salvaging the divers’ shelter but also by attempting to emancipate the impoverished, Mohammad Ali along with other tradesmen of Kuwait convened to discuss on the various ways of tackling the situation.

To fend off the dire situation, they paid to the then Pearling Master Abdulrahman Al-Roumi an amount of Rs. 130,000/- though only Rs. 100,000/- could be recovered. Shattering all dreams even when the following Pearl Season ran lean, it virtually cornered the divers from all around. This crisis invariably invited the sympathy and compassion of the tradesmen who mooted Charity funds. The Fund System thus established freed them from anymore mortgage, bondage or similar practice.

Thus, the high moral values & gracious sense of generosity inculcated by the forerunners into the following generations as a bright torch leading others to  the right path of care, compassion & courtesy topped with sincere love and good manners is something that we all ought to cherish, practise and enjoy in our God given life.


Languor stricken Najd and Northern Arabian Peninsula:

 The end of 18th century and the beginning of 19th century was a period that witnessed severe drought and famine in these areas. When tribal sheiks of Arabian Peninsula approached for aid to alleviate the severity, it is said that Marafie family, by leaving the doors of his ration store of wheat and dates wide open with utmost generosity, extended all feasible support and help enabling them to overcome the calamity.

Mohammad Ali with all his noteworthy attributes thus endeared him into the hearts of all.


Alshamiya Well

This Well at Alshamiya area owned by Mohammad Ali, is a valuable gift from Sheikh Ali Al-Khalifa as a mark of his genuine friendship and confidence maintained. Due to its close proximity to sea though the well water would turn saline in summer, the monsoons would turn it potable. Using camels & donkeys it was distributed among the family, neighbourhood, friends and those who frequented the Marafie Diwan. To his credit Marafie also had another family dredged well in the same area where they resided.


His Association with the British High Commissioner:

The High Commissioner of Great Britain demanded a fair amount from Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak for payroll and as donations towards the welfare of the tribal leaders around Kuwait. In the year 1917, Sheikh Salem had approached country's elite and wealthy businessmen of that period and discussed the issue at length since the amount requested was not available in country's vault at that time. However, businessmen wholeheartedly consented to the idea, and the payment was made in two instalments by Sheikh Salem. Among the businessmen, who donated the amount, were Al-Sager family, Al-Bader family, Al-Othman family, Marafie family, Al-Ghanim family, Al-Ass'oussi family, and Al-Abduljalil family.

When Sheikh Salem wanted to repay the amount, they refused and considered it as donation towards the development, security and welfare of the Kuwaiti people.  


Family Guest House in Fallahiya:

Among his various other achievements include the Summer Mansion built near his property in Fallahiya area (Arabistan area). The marine rocks, that were needed to build such a stately home, had been shipped from Kuwait together with a master of architecture. Ali Zaid Al-Shiejy manufactured the required doors and shipped them ready made to Fallahiya.

He along with friends would spend the entire summer here. This mansion stood exceptional with its luxuriously outstanding feature of a swimming pool. His friend Shaheen and the elite social circle of Kuwait would gather here. Among them were, captains (Nokhathas), businessmen and members of the ruling family (Al-Sabah). Apart from this, even Sheikhs of Ben Ka’ab tribe would visit this Summer Mansion.

Interestingly, this Summer House had a huge Safe that held enormous sum of cash which had been easily plundered when it was left deserted in winter time. Owing to this, his grandson, Mohammad Taqi Marafie had to abandon this mansion.


‘The Safe’ of the Mansion:

Mohammad Ali Marafie had a safe bought from India, the one of its kind; that could hold enormous amount of Riyals at a time. Due to its inexplicable holding capacity  it is believed that Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah eyed  at it as a perfect piece that could hold all official documents securely, a safe of the only kind…that had found its long  way through many locations until it had its ‘safe landing’ in the Government’s Finance Department. Though the whereabouts of this Safe is little known ever since, according to Ibrahim Jassim Marafie, (born on 01/08/1923) Ismael Marafie had been using this as a locker to keep golden pounds in safe custody.


Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah and the Reclamation of the Sea:

During the reign of Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak, Sheikh gave permission to Mohammad Ali Marafie to reclaim the sea in front of his Palace. But due to shortage of rocks, proper expertise and high cost, reclamation could be carried out only to the extent of three meters of dredging. Therefore, he restored around 70 meters of Alsief street inside the sea with 40 meters width, on which he built several homes in addition to storage area for timber.

The technical skills, and engineering possibilities of such a grand project left the then People of Kuwait spellbound.


Family Dwelling:

Mohammad Ali built a dwelling for the family on top of his house, facing the beach. Colloquially it was called "Mokhtassar". It comprised a large room with three windows ornate with coloured glass called "badceer". This had enhanced proper ventilation. Additionally, the walls too were covered with mirrors imported from India. The room was elegantly furnished with exquisite cushions and ornamented pillows.

This dwelling was built towards the end of the 19th century. The exterior walls were constructed with the specially imported Basra bricks. Sheikh Mubarak, whenever frequented here along with other dignitaries upon a sumptuous meal, expressed his wholehearted admiration at the architectural splendour as a true reflection of his meticulous planning and wise thinking on the feasibility of how to make life more constructive and enjoyable with one’s resources.


Ice Making Machine

A Jewish entrepreneur then imported an ice making machine that had its debut manufacture in India. Though he installed it in Hussain Marafie’s building, being a Jew, people refrained buying the ice from him. This coerced him to sell the device to Mohammad Ali Marafie who availed this opportunity for the optimum benefit of the Kuwaitis at large. This event took place during the reign of Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak.


- His Relation with King Abdulaziz Al-Saud:

When King Abdulaziz Al-Saud faced intense economic crisis during the period of the kingdom’s unification process, Mohammad Ali readily stretched his whole hearted support.  Having known of the sound financial stability & status of Mohammad Ali, who was then known as "Mahdalie," King Abdulaziz sent an Al-Sarhan family member as an envoy to Mohammad Ali with the request of provision of arms towards the strengthening of his efforts of unification. As was the custom, he closed the message by offering his sword to Mohammad Ali as a collateral security until the forthcoming Spring Season during the period when the sum could hopefully be returned. Such gestures which are always symbolized as a perfect embodiment of the high moral values of honour, integrity and reverence though, Mohammad Ali, in due respect to King Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s prestigious status, refused any collateral security. Instead he had instantly given orders for the sanction of the supply of arms and ammunitions imported from India & Muscat.  

The commendation Mohammad Ali achieved from the King, for his sincere cooperation rendered in order to  fulfil King’s goal of achieving the Country’s Unification, is undoubtedly noteworthy.

King Abdulaziz Al-Saud timely reciprocated Mohammad Ali’s ever memorable favour by showering the optimum royal assistance, support and reception during his pilgrimage to Mecca. Mohammad Ali was received at the borders by the King’s Personnel. On reaching Alzulfie, the King received him personally and extended a royal red carpet welcome to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, as a tribute, the King did organize a grand official farewell  upon his departure to Kuwait.

Sa'ad Sultan Al-Salem recollecting the narrations of his  father Sultan Al-Salem who was the then officer in charge of Naif Palace, had said that when King Abdulaziz approached Sheikh Mubarak for support, Sheikh immediately referred him to Mohammad Ali who was in his capacity as a full fledged arm merchant. Without a second thought Mohammad Ali is stated to have made a generous, cost free supply with 2000 rifles and ammunition.


- Sheikh Mubarak’s Letter to Najaf Ben Ghalib 1332 Hijri (1914 A.D.):

Najaf Ben Ghalib, the nephew of Mohammad Ali Marafie, He had numerous business offices around. In Muscat he held two offices, one for himself and the other in partnership with Mohammad Ali. His other offices were located at Bushaher Port, Bandar Ma'shoor, and in Kuwait. His ardent loyalty & faithfulness inspired Sheikh Mubarak to entrust him his private & confidential affairs – transporting arms, ammunition and even wheat.  On Rajab 30th, 1332 (Hijri) i.e., on June 23rd, 1914 Sheikh made a special request to Mohammad Ali to contact the British High Commissioner Major Naler Palioz for the shipping of 151 boxes of ammunitions to Kuwait.



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