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All men in Kuwait belong to a diwaniya or have their own diwaniya.
The word finds its origins in the word diwan. The diwan was the
office of the Amir where he met his subjects, listened to their
problems and met members of the community to hold consultations
Today's diwaniyas are a meeting place for men, where topics such
as politics, business, the stock exchange etc are discussed. It
is also a way of staying in touch with friends, exchanging ideas
and keeping relationships alive in today's fast paced life.
Diwaniya is normally a large reception room within or outside
the main house, with all facilities to make family or friends
comfortable including tea and snacks.
The diwaniyas are a barometre of public opinion, a unique institution
that has existed throughout the history of Kuwait.
The Bedouins were, and are known, for their hospitality, pride,
honour, courage and endurance. Their precarious, wandering existence
demanded these traits as they tended their camels, sheep and goats,
protected their extended family and honoured tribal allegiances.
The Bedu women wove the black tents in which they lived. These
long and low tents were made of strips woven out of goat's hair
or sheep's wool or a mixture of both. The Bedouin's livestock
was also a mobile source of fresh meat. Besides livestock and
dairy products, the woven items made by the women and known as
'sadu' work, were an important source of income.
The modernisation of Kuwait changed the lifestyle of the desert
Bedouins. With amazing adaptability, they took advantage of the
new work opportunities and the prosperity created by the discovery
of oil. Each succeeding year saw fewer and fewer black tents in
the desert as tribesmen opted for government sponsored education
and professional training.
The Bedouin made the journey from tents and camels to houses
and air-conditioned cars, but retained their traditions, their
cultural identity and their character traits. Today, as they go
to University, go abroad for a Masters, and help in the further
development of their country, these traits are kept intact.
In 1979, the Al Sadu Society, based at Sadu House, was formed
to protect and preserve Bedouin culture, particularly Bedouin
crafts, from extinction in the wake of the changes brought
about by modernisation. The weaving of wool is the oldest
craft practised by the Bedouins of Kuwait. The weaving process
is known as 'Al Sadu', a term also used for the Bedouin
The 'sadu', or bedu weaving, has a long history in the
Middle East. It is the speciality of Bedu women who made
the tent in which they lived, and its furnishings, such
as rugs and cushions. They also made articles like men's
cloaks, saddlebags etc. that suited the Bedu migratory lifestyle.
It is a craft that requires a high degree of dexterity
and skill. The designs reflect the austerity of the natural
environment of the desert and are governed by the wider
principles of Islamic culture.
Pearling, an ancient occupation, was vital to Kuwait's economy
at the end of the 19th century. In the 1930s this lucrative trade,
already suffering due to Japanese cultured pearls, experienced
a severe drop in demand because of economic depression in America
and Europe, and the tradition began to die out.
However, pearling was not merely a trade or a means of subsistence
for the Kuwaitis. It was an integrated social system which has
left a rich heritage of traditions to be enjoyed by the present
generations. The general term for pearl fishery is ghaus (literally
diving) and everyone connected with it is known as ghawawis. The
methods of harvesting pearl oysters hasn't changed for thousands
of years and has rich heritage and folklore woven around it.
Today, this tradition is preserved in Kuwait under the patronage
of HH the Amir. Every pearling season, in June, Kuwaiti youth
learn about their heritage by participating in the Pearl Diving
Festival, thus keeping a part of the country's history alive.
Kuwait has a rich maritime tradition, of which boats were
an important part. Dhows, those huge wooden vessels, were
a speciality of Kuwait. Even in this age of super tankers,
dhow building is a carefully preserved art, though its reduced
significance has now restricted this activity to the Doha
Bay area. However, dhow building is a dying art since master
craftsmen's sons no longer follow their fathers' profession.
The same simple material and tools, used for centuries, are still
utilised. Traditionally, teak for planking and for the keel, stem,
and the masts was imported from India. Rope came from Zanzibar
and the sail canvas was made locally.
Falconry, for long an integral part of desert life, grew out of
a necessity to supplement the meagre diet of dates, milk and bread.
However, it eventually evolved into a sport enjoyed by the rich
and poor alike. Hunting parties originally pursued their quarry
on horse back or on camels, but now powerful four-wheeled vehicles
The Saker and the Peregrine are the two main species of falcons
used in Kuwait. Wild falcons are trapped during their autumn migration
and trained in readiness for the hunting season, which starts