If you read my profile, you would know why I went to Kuwait. For those who did not, then here is the story. When I was
an undergraduate student at University of Puget Sound, we had a geology student from Kuwait who had trouble reading English.
A few other students and I would take time to sit with him and have him read to us in English and we would correct his
mistakes. We became friends and saw each other around campus and in the Geology Department. I left there and went on my
way into the world. I came back for a visit when I was leaving for Saudi Arabia and saw him briefly. Over time I would
follow his career and saw that he had finally gone back to Kuwait and was teaching at Kuwait University. I wrote him a letter
in the spring of 1994 to see if we could establish communications again. In June of that year, he called me from California,
where he was attending a business conference, and said he got the letter. We talked for awhile and he wanted me to come to
Kuwait to see his country. I told him I could not afford to and he said “no problem”. Next thing I knew was I got a round
trip plane ticket to Kuwait from New York. I just had to get a ticket from Denver to New York. I got the company I was
working for to pay for it if I took some of their literature with me.
When I got to Kuwait, a man who would be my guide for my stay there met me. He got me through customs and immigration without
any delay. Then I met my driver who would be driving me around to where ever I went. They took me to the hotel and said they would
pick me up in the morning to meet my friend.
I was staying at the Safir Hotel, which was probably a four or five star hotel. I had a large room with a balcony that had a view of
the Arabian Gulf. The Arabs around the gulf call it the Arabian Gulf. The Iranians call it the Persian Gulf. The room had a mini bar
in it with no alcohol. Alcohol is forbidden in Kuwait and some other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia. The expatriates have ways
of getting it from the black market or making it in their homes. When I was in Saudi Arabia, most homes in the ARAMCO Compound had their
own stills for making alcohol. I am not a drinker, so it did not bother me. The next morning, my driver and guide picked me up at the
hotel and took me to the KFAS (Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences) to meet my friend. I found out how important he was in
Kuwait. He was the Director General of KFAS and reported directly to His Highness the Amir of Kuwait. KFAS got its funding from all the
business’s in Kuwait who had to contribute 5% of their profits to KFAS. KFAS did scientific research on various items and was translating
Scientific America to Arabic. They also helped other countries in research and scoured the world for scientific materials. My friend
told me that I would be escorted around and shown places that they thought would be of interest to me. If I wanted to go anywhere else,
I just had to tell my guide and I would be taken there. I could take photos of anything I wanted to except for a few high security areas.
They had a few areas that had been visited by Iraqis before the war and they had taken photos of those areas so they would know where to
go and what to do when they invaded Kuwait. The one area I could not take photos, was the oil refinery down in Al Ahmadi.
One night I went to a diwaniya with my friend. It is a gathering of men in a home and is held in a special room for that purpose. The
room is called a diwan. The men sit around on cushions on the floor, or just on the floor. Some may sit in chairs depending what makes
them feel comfortable. Arabic Coffee and Tea are served along with various treats. Gulf Arabic Coffee is not like Turkish Coffee. It is
more like American Coffee, but with cardamom spice in it. It is much lighter in color. The coffee is served in small cups with no handles,
sort of like Chinese teacups. It is poured from fancy brass coffeepots. Custom says you should only have three cups. When you hand
the cup back after the third cup, you wag the cup back and forth sideways to indicate you are finished. There is no sugar or milk added to
the coffee. The tea is very sweet and has a lot of sugar in it. It is served in small clear glass cups with straight sides and handles. The
cup is usually on a glass saucer with a few sugar cubes along side it. Even if the tea is sweet enough, you usually add one of more cubes to
it. The men just sit around talking about various subjects and laughing at jokes. They may even be discussing the latest NFL Football Game
that they saw on satellite TV.
I could go into many of the Kuwait and Moslem Customs and beliefs here, but that would take a long time. There is a good book called
“The Other Kuwait” written by Lee R. Lambert and Erin Lambert (ISBN 0-9626397-1-0). I met them while I was over there and they had sent
me various books before I left for Kuwait. Many places I visited gave me books about Kuwait and the areas that I visited. I now have a
substantial library on Kuwait. It includes a copy of the Holy Quran that is written in Arabic on one page and English on the opposite page.
I read it from back to front as it was written in Arabic. That was one reason I was given a large suitcase while I was there. To bring
back all the gifts that I was given by my Kuwaiti Friends.
The first place they took me to was a shipyard where a dhowl or Boom was being rebuilt. The Boom was important in the history of Kuwait. It
was used for hauling water and other goods. It was also used for pearl diving, cargo hauling and fishing. The Boom is being replaced
by more modern steel hull boats are disappearing from the Arabian Gulf. There had been a Boom in front of the National Museum but
the Iraqis during their occupation burned it. Since I was there, the rebuilding of the Boom has been completed and it is not back
where it belongs. Other names for the various types of boats were Baghia, Bagharah, Sanbook, Shu’i and Jalbut. I saw models
and pictures of the Booms in many different places around Kuwait. I was given two models from different people to bring home.
One night we went to a covered food market where food from different countries and the local farms was brought there to be sold. I saw fruit from
many countries in the Middle East. Most of the seafood and meat products came from local farms and the Arabian Gulf. There were shrimp there
that were the biggest I had ever seen. They must have weighed a few pounds apiece. There were many different types of fish there also.
I was given a tour of the Grand Mosque in Kuwait City. It may not be the largest in the Middle East, but it was the largest that I had seen.
Following custom, I took my shoes off before entering it. I estimate it could handle a few thousand people during the daily prayers. The Moslems
pray 5 times a day facing the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. They are called to prayer by a recording broad-casted from the minaret or tall
tower attached to the mosque. While there, I was given some books about the Moslem religion and a copy of the Holy Quran. I got to go into the
special prayer room used by His Highness, the Amir of Kuwait. There were a few times I wore shorts when we were going out to the desert or oil
lakes. But usually around town I word long pants. Normally it was not a good idea to wear shorts.
I was allowed to spend some time on my own to go around to places that I just wanted to see on my own. These were places that my guide did
not think I really wanted to see. Not because they were wrong to see, just that they thought I would only want to see what they though was
important. I have found the same when friends visit us and we think they only want to see the special sites. We are use to seeing some things
that we do not consider being worth seeing, but our friends want to see them. I would usually go out to see the local shops looking for curios
to buy to take home.
They took me to an open market in a very large parking lot. It was just like some of the flea markets or swap meets I have gone to in Denver and
Phoenix. People would rent spaces and bring in all sorts of things to sell or trade. I had to barter for most items. Usually I would ask the
price, and when the seller said a certain price, I would offer about half the price. Then we would barter back and forth until a final price was
reached. Sometimes I would offer a price so low that I did not think they would accept. A few times I wound up buying something I did not
really want. What surprised me at the open market was that they had dogs for sale. I knew that the Moslems consider dogs to be “dirty” and
did not keep them as house pets like we do in the states. This goes back to times when rabies did not have a cure or shots to prevent it in dogs.
Similar reason that they do not eat pork. Goes back to days when people could get worms from pork. One of the holy books says “if a dog licks
your plate, you must wash the plate seven times, and the seventh time with sand.” They use dogs for hunting and as guard dogs.
When we had visits from our Kuwaiti friends, we kept our dog outside.
More on Page Two.