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Home arrow Geography arrow Failaka
Failaka geography

Failaka (also Failakah, Faylakah, locally Feileche / Feiliche / Feliche), in antiquity known as Ikaros mentioned by Geographer Strabo in ca. 25 AD and later by Arrian, is situated at the entrance to Kuwait Bay ca. 16 – 17 km far from Ras Al-Ardh in Salmiya and ca. 12 km from Ras As-Sabbiya; and blocks access to the Bay opposite the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates (Shatt Al-Arab).

Failaka has curved shape oblonged in NW – SE direction. Its longer (ca. W – E) axis measures 12 km and its shorter axis in the widest (W) part of the island has 6 km (ca. N – S). The highest point of the island reaching 7.5 m a.s.l. can be found near southern shoreline – to the east from governmental area of museum. Another point of the same height is situated to south east from Sa´ida in the north. The lowest point (0.5 m) lies to the NE from the old port in the middle of western shoreline of Failaka and the second lowest point (1 m) is situated at the eastern side of the Island to the south of Al-Awazim.

failaka_elevFailaka Island represents original prolonged promontory of Ras Al-Sabbiya to the south-east. Its sands and sandstones belong to so called Kuwait group – lime-chalk formation of neocene with secondary pebbles.

Most of the shoreline of the island is sandy with many lagoons. Northern and central southern coastline is rugged.

At the NW edge of the island there is alagoon protected from the west by Al-Khidr and from the east by Sa´ida promontory. In the northern mouth of the Al-Khidr bay artificial barrier built from stones is still visible. Despite the fact that the low sea level makes it nowadays impossible to access the bay, thanks to its shape, offering natural refuge, and position of Island facing the direction of Basra Al-Khidr bay is considered to be natural ancient/old harbour and the natural stop at the maritime route along the western coastline of the Gulf. Its significance started to decay at the beginning of the 20th century and Lorimer found it difficult of entrance.

Failaka has arid climate, but the air has often high humidity. The falls are rare, they usually do not exceed 50 mm per year, and they are limited on the period of November – April in a form of storm rainfalls. Island is recently getting desert character that is followed by complete decay of the original vegetation. Winds blow mostly from NNW; they are warm in summer and cold in winter and in spring; in autumn they are usually very strong not only above the island but in whole Gulf causing the difficulties in sailing.

failaka_landscapeGroundwater level at the most of the island is not deeper than 2 m. When digging for the fresh water, however, it has to be stressed out that the water is getting salty several hour after digging the deep shaft (Shehab A. H. Shehab pers. comm.). There are only 5 spots at the island where the elders of Failaka used to have permanent wells for the fresh water – at the southwest of Island (contemporary museum area), nearby Al-Zor, nearby Al-Khidr, nearby Al-Quraniya and west to Al-Awazim (Shehab A. H. Shehab pers. comm.). Still, occurrence of the fresh water at the island presents favourable conditions for extensive agriculture that used to be developed at the highest spots of the island, mostly along the coastline. The traces of the agricultural activities are still recognizable at several spots of the island (e. g. at the northern shoreline of the island between Al-Quraniya and Al-Awazim, at the southern shoreline around Umm Al-Dakhan and Al-Subahiya).

Related pages

See also


[1] Al-Yamani, F. Y. – Bishop, J. – Ramahdan, E. – Al-Husaini, M. – Al-Ghadban, A. N. 2004: Oceanographic Atlas of Kuwait´s Waters. Kuwait.

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

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

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