The first to establish a hotel in Kuwait and perhaps in the Arabian Gulf was the late Yousuf Behbehani, known as Yousuf Sherin, and as mentioned in the research of the academician Muhammad Ibrahim Habib, Sherine means “sweet taste” in Persian and the qualities of the late Behbehani were sweet and decent.
The hotel built in in Safat in 1947 and I still vividly remember its entrance. It was not far from my father’s shop. The late Yousuf Sherin was mentioned frequently in the British documents because of his commercial adventures and what he was trading in at that time which was actually strange. He was trading in cigarettes, nuts and dried fruits. He imported them from Iran and imported sugar from China. It was in the 1920s almost a hundred years ago.
He ‘imported’ weapons into Kuwait for himself and to the ruler and such work was contrary to what was claimed by Britain which was suspicious about his movements although he was inclined to them. He also helped transfer the remains of Shiites to Najaf and Karbala to bury them there for a small sum of money but often free of cost which was not legitimate work at the time but he enjoyed the satisfaction and protection of the ruler.
He also contributed to organize many pilgrimage convoys in those difficult days due to the roughness of the road, the distance, the semi-insecurity and the lack of means of transportation. The transport was expensive for the pilgrims and profitable for those who worked in this business. The cost was between 2,000 and 5,000 rupees (KD 150 to 500) per person and as his business expanded in this area, it caused him great losses.
The Sadu House Museum is located on the Arabian Gulf Street and was once a home of Yousuf Sherin where a number of his grandsons were born. The house was built by Yousuf Al-Marzouq in 1929. It was the first house build of concrete under the supervision of an Indian architect. Yousuf Sherin bought the house in 1938 and carried out some renovations before the State acquired it in 1979 and was dedicated to the Sadu museum.
Unlike the rest of the old houses and Diwans of Kuwait the name of Yousuf Behbehani was not placed on the building for his commemoration and I do not know why.
Morad, the second son of Yousuf Sherin, was born in 1918 and died at the age of 87. Most successful of his sons in business he had a close relationship with the late Amir Jaber Al-Ahmad. The late Morad was famous for importing radios, and the first shipment from Switzerland was 100 devices imported in 1943, two years before he was born.
He also set up a private radio station for music. He was one of the first Kuwaitis to arrive in America and imported air conditioners, and then became an agent for Carrier air-conditioners and the agency has been with his family for 80 years.
He was also the first to import expensive watches and opening the first television station which then became the nucleus of Kuwait Television. He also obtained the Volkswagen agency and other vehicles. He was also the first to introduce advanced printing to Kuwait and participated in the founding of Al-Ahli Bank of Kuwait, was the chairman for a long time.
These are distinguished personalities within their surroundings, and they have clear hallmarks, yet they were ignored inadvertently or deliberately, despite the achievements and cleanliness in their careers.
He was an honest trader in his dealings, and we did not hear otherwise about him when we were with him in the banking world. However a street in Mishref is named after him no more than 400 meters long and this is indeed a shame despite his heirs’ approval.
The history of the deceased and his biography is much greater than that shameful offer, especially in the light of what we have come to see names of those who have no biography or history compared to him while they stand more prominent in the naming of roads and streets.
I also do not remember that I have seen a street that bears the name of his late father, is this another coincidence?
By Ahmad alsarraf