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Culture & People
 
 
 

General

The influence of Islamic and Arab culture on Kuwait's architecture, music, attire, cuisine and lifestyle is obvious. The most distinctive characteristic of local Kuwaiti culture are diwaniya. Briefly, it involves large reception rooms used for male social gatherings attended mostly by family members and close friends.

Architecture

Kuwait's architecture is largely inspired by Islamic architecture. The most prominent landmark in country, the Kuwait Towers, were designed by Swedish architect Sune Lindström and are a unique blend of traditional minaret and modern architectural designs. The National Assembly of Kuwait, another famous landmark building, was designed by the famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1982.

Visual Arts

In Kuwait, as in many Islamic countries, the art of calligraphy is one of the most long-standing and thriving forms of expression. Arabic calligraphy is considered to be the ultimate expression of god's words. Because in traditional Islam sculptural and figurative forms of art were perceived as idolatry, calligraphy was considered an acceptable, alternative form of art and expression.

Music

Kuwait's musical traditions were well-recorded until the Gulf War, when Iraq invaded the country and destroyed the . Nevertheless, Kuwait has retained a vital music industry, both long before the war and after. Kuwaiti music reflects the diverse influences of many peoples on the culture of Kuwait, including East African and Indian music.

Kuwait is known as the centre, along with Bahrain for sawt, a bluesy style of music made popular in the 1970s by Shadi al Khaleej (the Bird Song of the Gulf). Nabil Shaeil and Abdullah El Rowaished are the most popular modern sawt performers, who include influences from techno and Europop in their music; Kuwaiti sawt musicians are well-known across the Gulf region. Other popular groups include the long-running Al-Budoor Band.

Clothing

In Kuwait's urban centres, Western-style clothing is becoming popular, particularly with young people. However, many Kuwaitis still wear traditional Arab clothing. Most Kuwaiti men wear a dishdasha, a floor length robe with a centre front opening which is put on over the head. The headdress of the Kuwaiti male consists of three parts. The gutra is a square piece of cloth which is folded into a triangle and then placed centrally on the head so that the ends hang down equally over the shoulders. It is held in place by an ogal, a double circlet of twisted black cord, which is placed firmly over the head. Often a gahfiyah, a close-fitting skull cap, is worn under the gutra to stop it from slipping.

Many Kuwaiti women dress in western clothes. However their traditional clothing, such as the thobe (a straight-sided long overdress), is still used on festive occasions. Women are veiled according to Islamic law. When in public many local women cover their chic western clothing with an abha, a head-to-toe silky black cloak. Bedouin women may also wear a burqa, a short black veil which leaves the eyes and forehead exposed, or occasionally a bushiya, a semi-transparent veil which covers the entire face. The hijab, or Islamic headscarf, which conceals the hair while leaving the face unveiled, is worn by many Kuwaiti and expatriate Muslim women.

Both men and women love perfume and wear it most of the time.

Diwaniya

Diwaniya is a unique institution in Kuwait's culture which is not seen in other countries in the Gulf region. Diwaniya's are a gathering place for males (usually takes place in the evenings, once or twice or even thrice per week, and sometimes even every night), where Kuwaiti men sit together in comfortable couches and discuss any possible matters, be it political, social, economical, local or international. Diwaniyas can be called a symbol and proof of Kuwait's democracy where people are free to discuss whatever they like without fear of persecution. Usually tea is served and sometimes snacks are provided by the host. Women also tend to host private diwaniyas at times, however they are not often as widespread and do not mix with male diwaniyas.

Some prominent merchants or MPs announce their diwaniyas timings with the addresses in the newspapers, so that members of the public can come and visit them.

 

 
 


 


 
 

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