Culture of Kuwait23 February 2016
The Kuwaiti culture is based on Arab culture, traditions and practices that are generally adhered to in the Arabian Peninsula or the Fertile Crescent. The Kuwaiti culture is both Urban and Bedaw (Bedouin).
The Quran has long lasting effect on Kuwaiti culture, traditions and values. Despite the impact of Western education in Urban Kuwait, the average Kuwaiti still steadfastly adheres to the age old customs and values practiced by the ancestors which include among others strong respect for elders, family values and respect for guests.
The Kuwait child was taught from an early age to serve and protect older family members and also to ensure cooperation between clans and not to embarrass the family. A Kuwaiti spends his life building his personal and social respect and reputation which lay behind many social behaviors expressed through hospitality, generosity and loyalty to family.
Men, young and old, go out in the traditional disdasha which is a long sleeved garment that comes down to the ankles, with a loose pair of pants underneath. The head is covered by a small round head covering called gahfiya over which another piece of large cloth called khitra is placed. It is kept in place by a firm circular piece called the igol. The women usually wear a loose fitting dress which comes in many beautiful colors and designs. The hijab or niqab is not mandatory.
The Kuwaitis take great pride in their hospitality. Guests are treated with great warmth and respect. While family elders enjoy the highest priority in everything, guests are given precedence over the elders as is the custom. However, during meal time, the host waits for the older most to finish his meal before getting up from the table.
An important aspect of the Kuwaiti culture is the traditional greeting that is accompanied by shaking hands and kissing cheeks. It is also customary for people greeting each other to enquire about one's health and that of their family and their work. Usually, the person who enters the room greets first, irrespective of his status, rank and relationship.
Hospitality in Kuwait is often portrayed through the serving of tea and coffee known as Gahwa which has cardamom and cloves as essential ingredients. Nuts, dates and sweets are served with the hot drink. The guest has to shake his gahwa cup two three times if he does not want it to be refilled. In Kuwaiti culture, turning down the host's offer of tea or coffee or any such offerings is looked upon as an affront. It is customary to take a few sips as a mark of respect.
Kuwaiti cuisine plays an important part in the Kuwaiti culture. Food and beverages are very important part of the Kuwaiti hospitality. Guests are invited to sumptuous lunch or dinner of traditional Kuwaiti dishes. Kuwaiti cuisine is an infusion of Indian, Persian, Mediterranean and Najdi cuisines. The national dish of Kuwait is known as Machboos and it consists mainly of lamb, chicken or fish placed over or mixed in a large mass of well cooked fragrant rice, cooked in well spiced mutton or chicken broth. Considering their history with the sea, it is not surprising that Kuwaitis have a great fondness for fish like hamour, sboor, nagroor pomfrets, shrimps and lobsters. Food is always prepared and served in large amount and it is customary to invite guests over to share this large meal. Other popular dishes include Qouzi, Mutabbaq Samak, Jirish, Harees, Margoog and Mumawwash. Traditional flat bread, known as Khubz which are baked in a special oven, are often served with mahyawa fish sauce, tomato paste and chilli paste. The food is generally served in large dishes around which the guests gather and eat out of the dish in the diwaniya. A Kuwaiti meal is never complete unless it is accompanied by dates and some sweet dishes like Zalabia, Khabees, Gaemat.
The Diwaniyas have existed in Kuwait since time immemorial. In a traditional Kuwaiti house, it is the main reception area where the host receives and entertains his guests. Diwaniyas are an indispensable feature of the Kuwaiti man's social life. Friends and business associates and other guests gather at a Diwaniya after sun set and carry on social discourse right into the late evening or early morning.
For over two centuries, the diwaniyas have been serving as a fundamental part of the Kuwaiti society. They facilitate quick communication and consensus on matters both trivial and critical. They are the core of Kuwait's social, business and political life. These are places where the Kuwaitis discuss matters of great interest. These are places where friends get introduced to others. They serve as important platforms for debates, arguments and election campaigns. Undoubtedly, diwaniyas are the root of Kuwait's consensual political system. People of all ages also gather at traditional coffee shops called maqahas it leisure time is common.
Music is another important cultural component. Kuwaiti traditional music is accompanied by simple percussion instruments like the small mirwas drums and clapping, along with the traditional Arabic instruments such as Oud, the kanoon and the kaanaan. Other instruments played are the rubabah, tanbarah (string instrument) and habban (bag pipe). Kuwaiti Sawt is a popular music in Kuwait.
Traditional dress for men consists of a long loose robe called dishdasha, a cap over which runs a gothra that is kept in place by a round thickb and called Akaal. The women commonly wear a loose fitting dress called dara'a that hangs down to ankle level. They usually wear a head scarf but it is not mandatory to wear a veil.
Another custom that is an important part of Kuwait's culture is sports and soccer is one of the most common and popular sports.
Despite strong inroads made by Western culture in Kuwait, the people of Kuwait take pride in their tradition, values and culture.
The Kuwaitis like to keep up with time while at the same time, stick to certain customs and traditions that tie them to their heritage and culture. The lifestyle of Kuwait today, however, is composed of a very lavish artistic tradition with a foundation that dates back to the country's origin and its society.