Failaka Island – Zoor, Kuwait - Atlas Obscura

Failaka Island

Zoor, Kuwait

Wander among the ghostly ruins of an island where civilization flourished for thousands of years. 


Failaka Island lies about 20 km off the Kuwaiti mainland.  Archaeological excavations unearthed tools dating from 3000 BC, and ruins show that Mesopotamian civilization existed on Failaka island in 2000 BC.  Other artefacts show that the island has been continuously inhabited since then.  This record was almost broken in 1990.  

Prior to 1990, two thousand people inhabited the island, most living in or around Zoor (also spelt Zawr), the only town on the island.  During the weeks leading up to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, most people fled to the mainland, and the few that remained behind were forcefully deported by Iraqi troops.  Over the last few months of 1990 and the beginning of 1991, Iraqi forces used Failaka Island for target practice.  Beaches were mined and infrastructures damaged.  In February 1991, a US-led coalition forced Iraqi troops stationed on Failaka Island to surrender.

In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, some of the original inhabitants returned to live on the island, some others turned their property into a weekend retreat, but most did not return.  The beaches were demined and the infrastructure was partly restored.  Today, most buildings on Failaka Island lie abandoned, riddled with bullet holes, covered by a layer of sand and overgrown with the sturdiest indigenous vegetation.  The ground is littered with cartridges, bomb casings, and other miscellaneous military items that have stood the test of time.  North of Zoor, Iraqi tanks and military vehicles, semi-destroyed and abandoned, make for an eerie sight. Another notable location on Failaka Island is the National Bank of Kuwait building, which must have been a particular favourite for target practice considering the amount of damaged inflicted on it.

Know Before You Go

There is no public transport on Failaka Island. Ikarus is a ferry boat company running tours of the island, but they are a bit rushed. An alternative is to rent a car in Kuwait City, put it on a KPTC ferry, and stay on the island overnight. Accommodation options are limited, but they do exist in Zoor. Parts of the island are off limits as the Kuwaity Army uses them for military maneuvers.

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