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Home arrow Sites of interest arrow  Al-Khidr

Lucia Benediková and Peter Barta


Al-Khidr is situated in the northwest of Failaka. The site stretches around the western shore of the shallow Al-Khidr bay. Thanks to its shape offering natural refuge and its strategic location facing Basra it has been suggested by a number of authors that the Al-Khidr bay may have served as a port in the past [5] and as such it is known also among the elders of the island. The natural harbour would be very suitable for small vessels (warjiyyahs) of a kind traditionally used in the north of the Gulf.

al-khidr_mapThe Bronze Age site of Al-Khidr consists of 3 separated mounds. Of these, only one (KH-1), stretching in a 30 – 40 m wide stripe some 150 m along the western shore of the shallow bay of Al-Khidr (also known as Dohat Sa'ida), is accessible for archaeological excavation. The other two mounds (KH-2, KH-3) lie inside the modern Islamic cemetery and are therefore inaccessible for detailed investigation.

History of research

Al-Khidr is mentioned by the Italian mission ([5], p. 90-91) as a Bronze Age settlement.

The Kuwaiti-French mission to Failaka carried out a survey of the island in 1999 marking Al-Khidr site as ”Area 5” (Sa´ida; [3], p. 2, 6).

Of notice is the transliteration of the name of the site that appears throughout the letters. The site is being introduced as Al Khidr ([2], p. 204), al-Khadir or al-Khidr / Muqam al-Khidru ([5], p. 90; for ‘Al-Khidr’ see [7], p. 10), Al Khader (AIF 1958-1963, 10).

In Encyklopaedia Britannica [4], Al-Khidr is transliterated and explained as following:

failaka_al-khidr_01"Khidr, al-

(Arabic, contraction of al-Khadir, "the Green One"), a legendary Islamic figure endowed with immortal life who became a popular saint, especially among sailors and Sufis (Muslim mystics).

The cycle of myths and stories surrounding al-Khidr originated in a vague narrative in the Qur`an (18:60-82) that describes the long and arduous journey of Musa (Moses) and his servant to the "meeting of the two seas." In the course of their travels, they lose a fish they had taken with them; a man of God appears, offering to help them in their search for the fish but performs seemingly senseless deeds along the way he sinks a boat, kills a young man, then restores awall in a city hostile to them. Musa questions what the man has done and receives a satisfactory explanation for everything; but by questioning, Musa forfeits the man's patronage. Arab commentators elaborated and embellished the Qur`anic story and named the "man of God" Khidr, claiming that he turned green as he dived into the spring of life, though variant interpretations identify Khidr with the vegetable world.

On a popular level, Khidr has been given a name (most frequently Balya ibn Malkan), many different genealogies, and dates that have made him a contemporary of Abraham or Alexander. Khidr's immortality and ability to assume a variety of local characteristics probably account for his widespread popularity among Arabs, Turks, Iranians, and other Muslims, despite orthodox Islamic opposition. In Syria, Khidr became partially identified with St. George, who, according to a local tradition, is of Syrian birth; in India and Pakistan, Khidr is identified with a water deity (Khwadja Khidr) specializing in the protection of mariners and river travelers; and, among the Sufis, he is associated with their founders, who were often endowed with holiness and sainthood“

Main results



[1] AIF 1958 - 1963 Archaeological investigations in the Island of Failaka 1958 - 1963, Ministery of Guidance and Information, Department of Antiquity and Museums, Kuwait Government Press (in Arabic).

[2] Bibby, G. 1969: Looking for Dilmun. Alfred Knopf, New York.

[3] Callot, O. - Calvet, Y. 1999: Preliminary report on the topographical mission at Failaka, Kuwait (February 26 - March 25 1999). Unpublished report. Kuwait.

[4] Khidr, al- / Encyklopaedia Britannica 1996. CD 1996.

[5] Patitucci, S. - Uggeri, G. 1984: Failakah. Insediamenti Islamici. Ricerche e scavi nel Kuwait. Rome.

[6] Rajab, J. S. 1999: Failaka Island. The Ikaros of the Arabian Gulf. Kuwait.

[7] Salles, J.-F. 1984: Introduction. In: Failaka. Fouilles Françaises 1983. Travaux de la Maison De L’Orient, 9, Paris 1984, 9-19.

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Click on a map to see all known archaeological sites on Failaka island from the Bronze Age up to the present day.