When most people imagine Kuwait, they picture blowing sands, scorching sun, and camels. Well my friends, never will I fulfill this stereotype as well as I am about to in describing “desert camping”. I had the opportunity during Eid (remember, the festival of sacrifice) to go on a desert camping trip with around 30 other people from school. I jumped at the opportunity—when else in my life am I going to have such a rare experience?
However, those of you who envision camping as relaxing in a grove of trees on the side of a mountain and watching the sun rise of an alpine lake (*sigh*), this is a whole different ballgame.
To begin, we began driving South out of Kuwait City. Now, I don’t mean fifteen minutes South, we drove as far South as the Saudi Arabia border. I couldn’t believe we had driven so far out into the land of the Bedouin. For miles and miles there was nothing but sand, power lines, and hundreds of Bedouin camps. (The Bedouin people have lived in Kuwait as long as the “Kuwaitis” have, but they aren’t given the same citizenship rights. They live in the desert, in tents with generators, and drive pick up trucks around herding camels. It strangely reminded me of an Indian reservation back home…)
My friend Rachel and I at the Saudi Arabia border. It strangely resembled the Iraq border… and I just can’t figure out why…
Once we got to our desert camp, we found that it was literally a bunch of tents in the desert. Our sleeping quarters were surprisingly comfortable; I slept like a rock all night, lulled to sleep by the icy night air of the desert and the blowing winds…
Above is a very Arabic-style socializing area. This tent was for relaxing and hanging out. In Kuwait, these are called the “Diwaniya”. In the rest of the Gulf world, they are called the “Majlis”. It means the welcoming area to socialize. (When attached to a Kuwaiti home, it is traditionally male-dominated, but certainly not when a bunch of white people rent some tents out in the desert!)
I had to post this picture to give an element of scale to the experience, even though I think it paints the picture a tad on the depressing side… but you know, it’s not about seeking new experiences, but having new eyes.
Even in the desert, I find ways to have fun : )
Our ‘diwaniya’ around dinner time. Thank goodness people brought grills, otherwise I would have eaten soggy garlic bread and raw vegetables!
We passed our evening the way you pass any evening at camp; surrounded by friends, good food and drink, cards, and conversation : )
And in the morning, AN AMERICAN REVIVAL! …just kidding. It’s actually incredibly popular to rent ATV’s out in the desert; all of my Kuwaiti students tell me how they fly around on these things all by themselves every weekend. (They’re 11, which makes me a little nervous for their safety.) The Arab hosts of the camp actually had an American flag for us to raise, even though half of us were Canadian, and one was Eastern European. I just love how this picture—complete with a shooting practice deer at the foot of the flag—screams America.
We could also rent horses, but Rachel and I preferred to just talk to them rather than ride them.
And then, we found camels! Free range camels in the desert! It’s a dream come true. This really made the whole trip worth it for me. They were just grazing on the horizon when we walked up to them. They were branded so I knew they belonged to someone. They were incredibly calm, and let me get really close to them!
A farmer-friend of ours on the trip said they were eating sheep poop, which is high in nutrients due to a sheep’s poor digestive system. Yum!
No, he did not spit on me! ( I love their noses! )
I was nervous by this point, but thought to myself, “If my sister can jump 4 foot jumps on a horse, I can pet a camel!” (hehehe!)
Lastly, the idyllic (sort of) view of one of nature’s wonders. The camels were a perfect end to our desert camping experience. When the sun was chapping my lips and I had sand in every crevice of my body, I envied these creatures who felt right at home.
Slowly but surely, Sean and I are on our way to making this our home, too.
Tune in next time to hear about Kim and Sean’s impromptu vacation to Qatar!