Month: August 2010

Ramadan, Moving and Such

The month of Ramadan is in the middle, we’ve finally got used to its own specific rhythm in Kuwait, full of not doing much things (unless really very utterly necessarily needed) during the light time and trying to get everything done after iftaar. Iftaar or fatoor is a special dinner during the fasting month of Ramadan, made usually big and stuffing, it’s a first meal of the day during this time and whole families are gathering for it’s occasion, day by day, the whole month; to wait for the adhan – and in case of Shias wait another few minutes after the muezzin announces the prayer time – and with that break the fasting and enjoy the noisy, vivid meeting of parents, children, grandchildren, spouses and relatives. Needless to say that already crazy people get much crazier, especially drivers, trying to speed up as much as possible to get the first bite; blinkers not working, lights not being valid for them and speed bumps serving as launching pads for shooting the cars to the moon, as many people plainly ignore them and literally fly over them. Kuwaiti speed bumps are big, and the cars suffer.
Than all the cacophony leaves to pray and get again together at a tea, desserts and tons and tons and tons of traditional sweets, watching TV, chit chatting and being really loud once again. People come and leave till the time of suhur, which could be best described as a Ramadan late-dinner-early-breakfast, small meal and drink before the morning prayer comes and starts the whole fasting round again.
All that is happening in a pretty narrow time period, iftaar in Kuwait starts roughly quarter to seven in the evening, and my husband’s family gets suhur between the midnight and two o’clock in the morning, with fajr being shortly after 4 am. I’m not personally sure about till when Sunni sisters and brothers drink or eat, but we’ve got into the custom to end all the meals about half an hour before the adhan sounds, to be sure we didn’t invalidate our fasting.
Sometimes I just feel like Alice in Wonderland, this being my first Ramadan in an Islamic country and getting around this many members of family is exhausting – I’m quite a lone wolf and these meetings get really big and loud. But it’s interesting and fun experience, so different from our very quite, starving days in Britain, where the day is impossibly long and the country doesn’t change it’s tempo for the month unlike here; here the shops and malls and offices change their working hours to much shorter during the forenoon, noon or very early afternoon, and than re-open again after the evening prayer and keep open much longer till the night, ten, eleven, even longer. It makes it possible to make the fasting more pleasant for most of the people, and especially now when the Holy Month comes during the summer time, which is really hot, makes the thirst manageable even if you got some of the errands running.

iftaar
hubby
playing
iftaar
playing
iftaar
iftaar

We’ve finally moved to our new flat in Rumaithiya, painted and mostly furnished, with only small things left to bring and hang and sort. As we’re still in the struggle with officers and judges regarding some officialities, we’re not entitled to a house helper yet, so it’s up to me to run through the flat and clean till I think that I won’t ever need a treadmill because I burn so much fat just sweeping, wiping, vacuuming and polishing the seven rooms and five bathrooms, taking about four hours a day to do it (and I feel partially sorry for the house keeper, because our high fibre carpets are damn resisting all the good intentions, as well as our uber-comfortable soft and fluffy sofas, which have that kind of material that not only catches all the dust and dirt and hairs, it attracts them and gathers them on purpose, I firmly believe). But, eventually, she gets paid for that.
Our two cute tomcats from Beyrouth breeding station are on the way as I’m typing this entry, flying from Prague to Frankfurt and than from there to Kuwait, and I keep on thinking of them and wishing and praying that they survive their very long and exhausting route in tact, safe and sound, and we’ll welcome them either during this night or by tomorrow morning. Inshallah they will be all right, keep them in your minds, please!

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Urban Kuwait

Some of the less glittery part… I’ve noticed the utter difference among certain housing areas, especially closer to the centre of Kuwait City, which is filled by flat units, there’s a huge contrast in between newly built housing and old, usually unmaintained buildings which at best look as rubble and abandoned, but actually accommodate poorer families.
Be it that the actual owner of the building doesn’t have the money to maintain them, or lets them decay on purpose, hoping for the families living there to finally give up and move out, so he can sell the rubble as land for much more money (one-time boost, though) than it would yield being a tenant building in the long run – these patches of land are mostly gathered, or if big enough, cleaned and on the place are build a new, shiny shops.

housing
Or, perhaps, a new, bigger, better and more expensive skyscraper filled by flats from the bottom to the top, but no more in the financial range of these poor families, which are time to time forcefully pushed out.
Most of the actual Kuwaitis seem to live in suburban areas in houses, villas, sometimes the houses accommodate very few flat units, depending on the size and number of floors. Our flat is, for example, in a house of three stories, taking the whole floor, all the 270m square. Nothing unusual in Kuwait; people in here really love to have it big. The flats closer to the city centre or in it are usually occupied by working foreigners, at least as I’ve been told. Foreigners can’t legally own any land in Kuwait (or houses, in other words).
Actual Kuwaiti gets either government housing, patch of a land to build on with a small government donation for the building process, or a flat in these suburban areas; if he asks for it. The process of getting this big boost in life takes several years though, and it’s not instant at all.
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Your Children are Waiting for You

We’ve been on a check with Dori’s ear, it’s been only a week we’ve got out of the hospital, it feels much longer to me, though. She’s, alhamdulilah, healthy again and fine, we just gotta keep an eye on the ear for the next year and look out for any signs of reoccurring infection.

Abu
Sabah Al Salim

One of the main problems and causes of death in Kuwait are reckless and stupidly behaving drivers on the roads; very common is that most of the drivers don’t seem to know how to drive a manual-gear car, as 90% of cars in Kuwait are on automatic shifting, and a lot of drivers just passed through the driving school without actually taking much from it. A widely spread custom is not to use any blinkers on the road and zigzag among the other cars (because you can’t just wait or drive by the speed limit, which on the speedway is at maximum of 120 km/h), so most of the people – except the driver himself or herself – don’t really know what’s coming next.
roadsignThat’s one of the reasons I take as a no-no for me driving in here. I don’t suppose myself as a perfect driver and I believe that I’m under the average of averages, but giving the light in a turn, letting the other cars zip properly, and simply having that common folk sense around other drivers is something I was hoping to meet in any other person behind a wheel, but perfectly lack in most of the driving peeps in here. And it really doesn’t seem to be related to the nationality. Kuwaiti, Indian, Pakistani, American, men and women, all are in the habit of being rude and idiotic towards any other traffic on the road, be it behind, in front of or next to them. I don’t even mention niqabi women whose niqab is pulled so up and tight that they have to tilt their heads backwards to even see the road in front of them, and I really can’t imagine what else they can (not) see.
Hence it is not uncommon to meet many, many warning messages on the highways and ring motorways, I was even making fun of seeing so many of them – that I will start collecting their messages.
Unfortunately for me I’m not usually quick enough with the camera, and today I managed to snap only two.
So for now… Your family is waiting. Your children are waiting for you. Don’t drive fast, death is faster. Speed leads to death. Punishment for speeding is prison or death.
I wish the drivers would actually take them seriously. (So I could drive too, without any fear of being squashed by a Jeep trying to turn right next to me in an one-lane road. Without a blinker.).
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All the Glitter (Under the Bisht)

We’ve been, me and my husband, invited to a dinner at one of the many relatives of his. Oblivious to the Kuwaiti tradition of making a walking canvas of myself just to silently compete with other women otherwise they’ll think I’m ugly (or poor), I’d put on my black abaya and scarf with small decoration on the sleeves and scarf, no make-up (which is my tradition), and no camel-hump (I don’t have enough hair to do it even if I wanted to, European genes are talking).
When I came, I was already partially overwhelmed by the glitter in the guest living room, all decorated in heavy baroque-like look, just in violet and silver, with very heavy, sturdy furniture.
I though didn’t, in all my innocence, expect what was coming (and that wasn’t even remotely close to a wedding party). Many women came into the room cloaked in black overhead abayas and bishts, but when the door closed (the men were gathering on a different floor of the house, and as I found out later, it was only about six or seven men, while downstairs I was being examined as a newcomer by nearly twenty piercing pairs of eyes), and their abayas got folded next to them… my eyes started to hurt from all the glitter and sparkles.

glitter
Image courtesy: Unknown source from Google.com


Arab women, Khaleeji particularly, love to blink. Small glitters, big glitters, silver and gold, diamonds and Swarowski crystals, and sixties inspired designs on clothes worn at home or under abayas decorated by, once again, something shiny, and a lot of accessories, rings, bracelets, heavy earrings and other unthinkable decorations; that’s all it takes to be happy among other women and to feel intimidating enough towards each other. To that, of course, is not-much-less-glittery and fancy make-up, sometimes literally re-painting the whole God’s creation, sometimes less and sometimes more, but surely often enough on a big part of population – even early in the morning. Occasions such as dinners, parties and weddings serve as an amplifier to all the regular glittering and make it all one big shine-factory.
Needless to say, that in all my natural modesty and shyness, I still felt a little bit too much as a grey mouse in there – but honestly, the imagination of making my face look like that scared me much more, really. It still hangs above me as the sword of Damocles anyway, as my wedding party still didn’t happen (unlike the marriage on paper).
I’ve got along the sixties fashion ’cause I am a bit on the hippie side, as my dear husband says, and I like to wear such dresses and shirts (without the blinkies, though); but I assume it will take some time to get used to all the sparkling of many Kuwaiti women, my sisters-in-law included.
If nothing, people will assume I’m a really religious person, rather than poor. And that’s good, right?
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