by Jamie Etheridge
When I arrived in Kuwait a decade ago, one of the first laments I heard from people here was that there just wasn’t a lot to do. Everyone compared Kuwait to booming Dubai and especially to its nightlife, social and cultural activities. Kuwait, it’s true, had lagged behind its regional peers in development in some sectors. Once the leader in the Gulf, people here turned mostly inward following the invasion and promotion of tradition trumped the embracing of modernity.
That time has now passed, however, and with it a blossoming has begun to take place in Kuwait. This spring has nothing in common with the political upheaval witness in North Africa, nor the Levant, but in Kuwait, is instead a cultural and social opening. Just recently, Kuwait played host to an alternative Arab music festival, and a food festival to be proud of, and has for several years now seen a remarkable growth in social and cultural activities. Moreover these events aren’t limited to locals, or in Arabic only, but embrace a wider audience by mixing Arabic and English and encourage a greater mixing of nationalities and societies.
The last time I visited my best friend in Texas, we discussed all the things I miss about the U.S. She has two kids like me and was explaining their normal weekend routine: Trips to the library, Saturdays at the local children’s museum, open air street fairs and musical concerts and afternoons at the park. I remembered from my own days there how much I loved all of what she mentioned.
Now I realize that Kuwait is slowly developing along these same lines. Granted there are no bars, and the libraries here leave much to be desired. There is also no escaping the simple fact that we are shut indoors from sunup to sundown for three solid months each year due to the heat. But in many respects, my kids have access to many of the same things my friend’s kids have in America.
Check local events listings for the weekend and you will be astounded by all the things that there are to do in Kuwait. From flying kites in Bnaider or open desert food gatherings, to community gardening, artists collectives, crafting and crochet competitions, dance-offs and special mime shows, to go-cart racing and outdoor shopping fests. Nearly every weekend during Kuwait’s social season (typically from November to May) is jam packed with art exhibitions and children’s fun festivals, with concerts, supper clubs, graffiti picnics, dog shows and walkathons along the Gulf Road.
This is a boon for locals and long time residents who are committed to seeing Kuwait develop and blossom. Kuwait is not a tourist hub and probably never will be. But it can be a pleasant place to live and provide a plethora of fun, educational and healthy activities for the people who call it home. It is also refreshing and inspiring to see that it is the people themselves who are initiating this change.
It’s true that profit and not culture is often a driver of these events – but that is true in most places including the U.S. where ticket prices for music festivals can run in the hundreds of dollars, for instance. The financial incentives and rewards are part of what will drive this blossoming forward and compel its continuation. It’s a welcome evolution and one that has before it many exciting possibilities.
Jamie Etheridge is a writer and mom of two living in Kuwait. She is the founder and editor of the Kuwait Moms Guide. You can follow her on Instagram at @kuwaitmomsguide or you can visit the website www.kuwaitmomsguide.com.