Kuwaiti Culture: A Fusion of Traditional and Modern
Society in Kuwait is known for the strong ties between its members. Families, neighbors and friends maintain close relationships, and everyone is ready to share and celebrate special occasions with others.
Al-Noon is an occasion when a child has his first teeth or takes his first steps.
Daq Al-Harees means grinding wheat and this occasion is celebrated while preparing for Ramadan.
Al-Mawled Al-Nabawy marks one of the important religious holidays, which is the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. This is celebrated for one day only. The Lesser Bairam, which comes after Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, is celebrated for three days and the Greater Bairam, celebrated for four days which comes on the tenth day of Dhul-Hejja, are important religious holidays.
Al-Israa Wa Al-Mearaj (the Night of Muhammad’s Ascension) and the New Hejri Year are one celebrated for one day. Among the religious occasions celebrated in Kuwait is a celebration called Al-Qarqiaan. It is on the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth nights of Ramadan.
Other holidays include New Year on January 01, National Day, celebrating Kuwait independence in 1961, on February 25, and Liberation day, celebrating Kuwait liberation from Iraqi occupation, on February 26.
Families always treated marriage as an important occasion. Lots of money is usually spent on it. In the past, marriage was a means of strengthening bonds between families of similar social and financial levels and having similar creed. The family used to choose the partner, rather than the bride or the groom. In preparation for marriage, all the family, relatives and neighbors share in the wedding discussion and preparation.
The change in the social relations in Kuwait was reflected in the way of choosing life partner. Relationships between men and women became to some extent more flexible. Young men now meet young women at family social occasions, university, work, clubs and other places.
As a result, a Kuwaiti young woman can become engaged to a man from outside the family. A Kuwaiti man who is studying abroad may marry a foreigner. Moreover, higher education and job opportunities have led to delaying the regular age of marriage till twenty-three or twenty-four.
Folk Songs, Music and Dances
For ages, folk songs, music and dances have represented important aspects in Kuwaiti society. The main musical instruments for most of the songs were drums and clapping. However, it is noticed that after oil was discovered, no more folk songs or music was created.
In the past, specialized women musicians used to perform songs and dances in private parties for women only. Some men might participate only by playing music. Women, at that time, were not allowed to sing or dance in public celebrations.
Though folk songs and music still exist and are found in modern Kuwait, other genres spread. New image is created for old folk melodies as new lyrics are being written for the old traditional folk melodies.
Games and Enjoyments of Modern Kuwait
As the field of daily interest increased, different games and means of enjoyment were introduced. The way of dividing the day into work and study hours followed by weekends and vacations, helped in making a break between work and spare time.
In the past, children’s activities were limited to playing with the neighbors or going to schools teaching the Holy Qur’an. Before discovering oil in Kuwait, children made their toys from simple materials of discharged objects. They would find them in the house and streets.
Nowadays, children enter regular schools at an early age according to their level. School starts with the primary stage until it reaches the university, institutes and vocational faculties in which study is during the day only. Hence, children, now, have enough spar time to perform different activities.
Today, however, many means of amusements are found inside the homes, such as televisions, electronic games, computers and ready-made toys. Children do not have enough time create their toys and make games.
Moreover, interest in the outdoor activities increased. Many families and friends meet in cafes and restaurants of famous hotels. Those places are now considered cultural and social centers, as they organize fairs for paintings, jewelry and food.
The cultural programs in Kuwait include shows held in museums, theatrical productions, folklore shows and movies in theaters. All these compete with television and recorded programs to attract the people.
Concerning sports in Kuwait, some traditional activities are still practiced, such as hunting using hawks. Modern games are, also, found in Kuwait, such as soccer, water skiing, and ice-skating in the skating rinks. In summer time, these places offer a refreshing place for the guests.
From all these means of entertainment, Kuwaiti citizens choose to spend their weekend by the seaside in beach cabins. Sometimes, they choose to spend other vacations in the traditional but modern way. Some Kuwaitis spend spring vacation going on picnics to the desert. Most Kuwaitis spend their vacations abroad.