Break On Through To The Other Side

Did that grab your attention? I thought we should just dive right in to the good stuff without wasting any time.

All right, I’ve got some explaining to do I suppose.
This weekend, Sean and I went to the AWARE Center, which stands for “Advocates for Western & Arab Relations”. It’s a non-profit, non-government affiliated, private organization whose entire purpose is to promote positive, constructive relations between Westerners and Arabs by organizing social activities and information services related to Arab and Islamic culture. We went to an orientation dinner and information session; I definitely think it is an organization I’d be interested in becoming involved with. They organize trips to the Grand Mosque, boat tours, camel rides, dinners where cheeseheads like us can try on abayas and dishdashas; things that would fill pages and pages of the popular blog, Stuff White People Like. It was a great time.

Have you ever wondered what all of the garments Sean and I are wearing above are called?

Do not be mistaken; MOST Kuwaiti women wear ONLY the Hijab and/or Abaya. The Niqab is very rare to see in Kuwait; it is most common in Saudi Arabia. (The niqab is the flap that covers the face.) Most women wear ONLY the hijab on a daily basis. The hijab is the wrap that goes around the neck and head and is a variety of beautiful colors and fabrics.

Further, when you see Sean’s get-up, you may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t that cloth on his head called a Keffiyeh?” Not in Kuwait. Kuwaitis and other Gulf countries wear the “ghutrah,” while the Keffiyeh is primarily reserved for Palestinians.

The fabrics come in all colors, patterns, and materials; one really does appreciate the beauty of it after a while 🙂

Here are a few pictures of our time at the AWARE center. (Note the ever-present theme of FOOD… maybe I should start wearing an Abaya to hide my waistline!)

 

I would like to leave you with the final picture you see below, which I took on a walk with Sean yesterday afternoon. While it doesn’t directly relate to our trip to the AWARE center, I found a connection I thought worthy of sharing.

The Middle East is known as the land of contrast, and I feel the title particularly applies to Kuwait. I spent this entire blog explaining traditional Arab clothing, and the purpose of an organization built to unite cultures. I, a white American female, walk down the street in Kuwait and see women covered head-to-toe, and women wearing a t-shirt and shorts. All of my students have their own iPad, and only a few of the older girls wear hijab to school. Our school is seen as one of the most progressive in the country as it is co-ed. Formal education has traditionally been gender segregated.

Which brings me to this picture. This country is undergoing a radical change. Growth, expansion, economics, and globalization will ultimately change Kuwait. The students that walk into my classroom every day are treading a fine line between tradition and innovation.

What was once a tiny row of Arabic-titled specialized shops is becoming transformed with nowhere to grow but upwards. The Arabic script is replaced with English billboards advertising money, communication, sex appeal, mass media. Kuwaitis are raising both their eyebrows and expectations.

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Categories: Kuwait | Leave a comment

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