Myth #4: The Arabs are a desert people.
To think of the Arab world through the desert and its nomadic inhabitants is a huge distortion of the reality of their societies. It’s like using an account of seventeenth-century English rural life to explain modern Britain. Or Lewis and Clark’s journal to capture the modern lifestyle of American Indians.
Most people in the Arabian peninsula aren’t nomads, but are either agricultural laborers (a.k.a. farmers) or inhabitants of the eight or so major maritime and cosmopolitan cities that mark the coast of the Peninsula (think Kuwait City or Dubai).
A “desert” is where nothing grows. This accounts for only a quarter of the Arabian peninsula! A little less than 50 percent of Utah’s land falls within The Great Basin desert.
Another myth is that people often mix the term ‘desert’ with ‘nomad‘, ‘bedouin‘, and ‘tribe‘. A desert is a geographical landmass, whereas the last three terms describe entire cultures and lifestyles.
“*Gasp* You’re going to Kuwait? Be safe!”
“Kuwait? How does your mother feel about this?”
“Oh, wow, Kuwait! Will they be arming you?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love telling people that I’m moving to Kuwait. I love telling them that I look forward to life in the Middle East. What I find the most frustrating, though, are the comments above. As if I’m going to… I don’t know… East St. Louis.
The thing is, and the MYTH for today—which deviates from my trusty book’o’myths—is that Kuwait is a dangerous place.
Kuwait is actually a VERY safe place! Here is the INTERPOL crimnology report which compares Kuwait to Japan (one of the least violent countries) and the United States (one of the most violent countries). Your mind will be blown. Sorry, nationalists, you might want to make sure you locked your car after reading this.
Hard to believe, right? Kuwait’s crime rate is only 8% of the crime found in the land of stars and stripes! The United States is more than twelve TIMES as violent as Kuwait. Japan is more than four times as violent, and they’re globally known as one of the safest countries.
The bottom line, here, is not to misconstrue what makes the news for what makes a lifestyle. Kuwait—as far as I can tell—is safe, welcoming, and definitely won’t be arming us when we get off the plane. Thank goodness.
Myth #2: The incidence of war in modern times in the Middle East is a continuation from earlier times of violence and conquest, and of a culture that promotes violence.
- To say that there is a “culture of violence” in the Middle East is really a nebulous phrase that is almost without analytic purchase: certainly there are values and practices in these societies, such as parading small boys with guns and holding pompous military revues, that are usable for militaristic mobilization and indoctrination, but so are there in other cultures – notably those of the former imperial powers of Europe, the US and Japan. The history of Europe in the twentieth century, and the brutality visited by some of its rulers on their own peoples, far outstrips anything seen in the modern Middle East.
Fred Halliday, “100 Myths about the Middle East”.
Let’s cut to the chase: Sean and I leave for Kuwait in 72 days. The world cup is held once every 4 years. The gestation period of an elephant is 22 months. There are 182 days between solstices. There are 119 days between Christmas and Easter. At 65 mph, it would take you 16 days to drive around the world. Methamphetamine stays in your hair follicles for 90 days. Children (and adults) enjoy 75 days of summer vacation. Aron Ralston had his arm stuck under a boulder in Utah for 127 hours. It’s all relative.
Until that fateful day, August 15, when we board the plane with our bags stuffed with cheese curds and seasons of That 70’s Show, Happy Days, Storylords, and any other television shows filmed in Wisconsin, I will begin my blog that will carry me over from the isthmus to the sandbox.
At the library I found “100 Myths About The Middle East”, which is surprisingly informative and interesting. Since I have 72 days in Wisconsin before Kuwait, that means I will treat you to SEVENTY-TWO myths about the Middle East that I will PERSONALLY (with the help of author Fred Halliday) DEBUNK! Hold on to your turbans, ladies and gentlemen! We’re in for a wild ride.
Why “Aloha Kuwait”?
My well-read father loves irony. Not only does he own a t-shirt that has astronauts on the moon holding beer cans and shotguns, but he has recently acquired numerous t-shirts of comical political juxtaposition. Tasteful? Tacky? Tactful? You decide. For my last birthday, after Sean and I shared the news of our impending relocation to the middle east, I was gifted a beautiful Persian-Gulf-blue shirt with Polynesian flowers bordering the Kuwait Towers and the line “Aloha Kuwait”.
As if upon arrival I will be greeted by women in coconut bras and a lei around my neck. As if I need to bring a waterproof camera, tiki torches, beach chairs, and a skimpy J Crew bikini.