Last weekend we went to the AWARE Center for a traditional Kuwaiti experience. We started with dates, ate a delicious Kuwaiti meal and ended with a presentation about Kuwaiti culture. It was great to finally have the chance to eat REAL Kuwaiti food! Most of the restaurants here are from other Arab countries.
Update: I found this post of a Kuwait blogger who went “behind the scenes” at the camel races. Jealous!
Saturday we had one of those moments where we realized that we live in Kuwait. In the desert. Seriously!? We joined 250 other people at the AWARE Center, climbed on buses and headed into the desert.
The ride out was pretty uneventful but it gave us a chance to watch out the window. We were completely surprised by the amount of trash. It was everywhere. Probably the hardest thing for us to see is the complete disregard (by some people) for their surroundings. Kuwait could be much more beautiful if people used trash cans
After about 45 minutes we arrived at the camel races…in the middle of nowhere.
We had just under 2 hours to explore and relax before the races started. Luckily they fed us treats…
…dates, camel butter and camel milk…
We had the opportunity to ride camels. We decided against it. NOT!
(We did not edit the sound so you might want to turn the sound down. Also, sorry for the orientation of the video. Blame the camera man – Jeff. 😉
Abby and I made Jeff go first – it was just a little intimidating! The camel grew more unhappy with each rider – it refused to stand up fort he rider after me. We did notice that my camel ride was recorded by Al Watan TV…maybe I’ll become famous 😉
We went back to the diwaniya to watch the start of the camel race on TV. The older the camel the longer the race. The races on Saturday were 6k and 8k. They start far away and finish at the grand stands. The whole time there are cars following along on the outside of the tracks. Luckily people don’t ride the camels (except for this crazy guy), robots do! The people in the cars control the robots and their little flexible arm that spins around and slaps the camel. It’s crazy to watch!
Although we didn’t start our watch (what kind of runners are we?!), we think the camels ran 6k in 10-15 minutes. The weather was pretty decent (not too cold, not to hot and cloudy) the wind did pick up and we got to taste some sand. The Kuwaiti men had the right idea covering their mouths!
After the last race (there were 3), we headed to a ‘farm’ in the desert for the typical buffet spread.
All sorts of Lebanese food.
On our way back to the the AWARE center we got to see desert camping for the first time. There was even more trash, but this time we saw where it was all coming from. From November to March people are allowed to set up tents in the desert (leave them there) and go out to their camp whenever they want to. They practically make tent cities! We had no idea! But we’re pretty excited to try it for a night or two 🙂
Sorry for the crappy iPhone photos!
Yes…those are blow-up slides!
Just another day in the life of Lissa, Jeff & Abby! To see our entire photo album, click here. Or watch the video below!
One of the things that we’ve learned teaching, traveling and living outside our comfort zone is that life is what you make of it. When we came to Kuwait, we did not want to be seen as transplanted Americans. Our goal was (and is) to be open-minded and immerse ourselves in a new culture. We think this mind-set has helped a lot with our “culture shock” (or lack thereof). Recently, we’ve had some time to take advantage of some of the many opportunities offered to us. Here are just a few!
One of the first things we had the opportunity to do once we got settled was to go on a tour of the Grand Mosque in Kuwait City. The AWARE center hosts a tour on the second Saturday of each month (plan your visits accordingly!). It was a great experience that we will post more about in the near future.
One of our favorite experiences here so far was hanging out at the Hussain & Ali’s after going to the Old Souq and getting to hear about everything carpet. Fascinating!
Three weeks ago, we attended an orientation to Kuwait hosted by the AWARE Center. It was great information and great food. After hearing about their values, we signed up for memberships on the spot!
AWARE is guided by Arab and Islamic humanitarian values which advocate peaceful co-existence between cultures and civilizations. Among key values AWARE promotes are tolerance, better understanding and mutual respect between the westerners and Arab/Islamic world. source
The mission of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is to create peace through the media. A nonprofit organization founded in 1999, UPF produces documentary films for both television broadcast, online viewing, and theatrical release, and implements long-term educational campaigns aimed at increasing understanding between people of different faiths and cultures, especially between Muslims and other faiths. We are convinced of the power of media to empower citizens with greater understanding and to nourish pluralism in America. source
Daniel Tutt was on hand to introduce the film. He discussed the education piece of the organization – many Americans have never had contact with a Muslim, yet judge Arabs and Islam based on what they hear in the media. One of the goals of the organization is to get people talking. I love the idea!
The video they were showing was called “Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.” It was narrated by Susan Sarandon and was originally shown on PBS in the US in June. The premier that I attended was the first time the film had been shown outside the US…pretty cool huh?! It was an eye-opening film, beautiful in every way. You can see the trailer below, “like” their page on Facebook, and seemore of their videos.
The next night Jeff and I went back to the AWARE center for a diwaniya hosted by our our neighbor at school, Bryn Barnard. I read his book earlier this year and was excited to hear him talk about it! He both wrote and illustrated it – the artwork is gorgeous and I learned a ton. His talk was just as interesting and was a GREAT compliment to the movie the night before. If you’re interested in the history of Islam and don’t want heavy reading, it’s a must buy! My iPod Touch died during his presentation and I wasn’t able to get any pictures 😦
Our most recent foray into Arabic culture is taking Arabic classes at the AWARE center! We’ve been eagerly awaiting this learning experience and had our first class on Monday. For the Introductory class, we will go every Monday & Wednesday for 6 weeks (a total of 12 hours of class). After two classes, we’ve learned to read, write & pronounce 16 letters of the Arabic abjad. Most have 3 different ways to pronounce them and 2 different ways to write them (depending on where they are in the word). Yesterday we took a quiz where we had to match words written using the English alphabet to words written with the abjad. Jeff and I both got them all right and were awarded stars! You know they will be going on the fridge for sure 🙂
We both got stars!!
We’ve heard that Arabic is incredibly hard to learn and many people here don’t find it necessary to know the language. We’re eager to be able to exchange pleasantries with Arabic speakers and expand our world view through learning a new language!