Kuwait, Musings, Writing

Athnain Magazine: A Polished Thought Experiment

ATHNAIN COVER 3b

So a couple of weeks ago I got word of the fact that one of Kuwait’s most highly anticipated and editorialized magazines, Athnain (Arabic for ‘two’), would be available to order in Kuwait via Tap (I believe you can only access Tap from your smartphone for the time being) and I pretty much made like the wind to snag that sucker!

Now, like many other starry-eyed Instagram onlookers, I was deeply fascinated by the way everyone had covered the launch of the magazine and the way that Athnain itself had created an identity which revolved around the notion of cultured individuals exploring Kuwait’s untapped and unexposed artistic endeavors in a way that was both meaningful and different.

Lofty aspirations? Sure. But, from what I previewed on Instagram and all the other social media buzz, Athnain seemed to have just the right amount of daring confidence and alternative prowess to pull it off. I was honestly the very picture of human excitement when I received a launch invite and all but kicked myself in the shins when the universe so sinisterly kept me from attending.

But after getting my hands on it, Athnain (at least the premier issue) seemed to read more like a polished thought experiment than the purposeful expression on new modes of art, creativity, and identity in Kuwait that I had initially hoped it would be.

And, sure, ‘a thought experiment’ is not an overtly negative term–not by a long shot. No matter what angle you’re coming from, Athnain will challenge or probe your mind in one way or another. That is good for society by any measure and it’s an admirable effect for anyone to have. It just slightly underwhelmed me and maybe that’s partly my fault too (although that would mean I should lower my standards to appease someone else’s ineptitude, so no). And, hell, ‘thought experiment’ could speak for a whole host of different experiences.

So, because I know that different people buy different magazines for different reasons, and because I don’t ever want to come off as a Negative Nancy (I’m honestly not, I just think the key to a good critique is an open attitude), I’m going to briefly tell you guys what to expect from whichever brand of ‘thought experiment’ you’re particularly interested in getting out of Athnain. It goes without saying, of course, that if you’re not super interested in the concept of thought-provoking media (and it’s totally fine if you’re not–I am an absolute connoisseur of reality TV trash, so I’m not about to judge) then Athnain altogether just might not be for you.

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Beautiful, Kuwait, Musings

Ramadan Mubarak Everyone! Let’s All Get Fat and Happy!

Well, its official: Ramadan is finally upon us, and I am excited. And happily comforted. And getting out the sweat pants.

Look, like many of my fellow Muslims, I absolutely love Ramadan. Its one of those months that puts me at ease and delights me in more ways than one.

And, in Kuwait, Ramadan takes on a special flavor all its own. It’s a month long festival of eating, trashy television, and amusing little social traditions that makes Kuwait the one and only place I’d ever really want to be during this beautiful month.

So, as a special homage to this month that everyone enjoys in one way or another (admit it–you love those deep fried dumpling ball delights), here’s a list of all the things that I personally find endearing, amusing, worthwhile, and just plain awesome about Ramadan and spending it in Kuwait.

  • The Make Up Magic Trick – In the daylight every woman looks plain as a milkmaid but come sun down they ALL transform themselves back into vixens of the night (or the Witches of Eastwick) AT LIGHTENING SPEED. The secret? We keep the lipstick hidden in our boots all army-like.
  • Three words: GRANDMOTHER’S WALNUT ATAYEF. – ‘Nuff said.
  • Flex Them Commercial Muscles, Boys! – Ramadan is to Kuwait what the Superbowl is to the US: It’s a commercial bonanza! Everyone awaits in anticipation the crazy awesome and super creative Ramadan commercials that all the companies put out in celebration of this holy month. My favorites so far? The Wataniya ad, NBK, and Quality-Net’s side splitting Indian rom-com ad.
  • Television “so bad, it’s good.” – Of course, the reason why so many companies try to flex their commercial muscles in Ramadan is because TV watching is pretty much a national sport during this month. Turn on your television at any and all hours of the day and you will inevitably find a drama-packed series, a willowy biopic, or a jazzed up game show awaiting your watching pleasure. Head on over to Couch Avenue and check out Jacqui’s uber amazing Ramadan TV schedule for all the details.
  • That Feeling – You know the one. It’s that feeling of transcendent peace and unity that radiates in your chest whenever everyone sits down together for futoor after anxiously awaiting the sound of the cannons at Nayef Palace. That lingering warmth that fills the room whenever we all gather around for tea and my grandmother comes in with her tray full of assorted delights. The glowing, quiet happiness in standing in the Grand Mosque on Laylit Al-Qadr, hands raised and voice trembling. All of Kuwait is bathed in an aura of goodwill and spiritual comfort I’m not really sure I can put into words. It’s just a feeling I get that I can’t imagine getting anywhere else but Kuwait. It’s the reason why I take special care to spend every Ramadan in Kuwait, surrounded by this elusively wonderful “feeling.”

So, have a wonderful Ramadan everyone! Be sure to eat up, keep the Qur’an (and the remote) in hand, and cherish this beautiful month for everything that’s its worth before it passes you by and leaves you, once again, without my grandmother’s PERFECT atayef (or maybe that’s just me).

All my love! (Photo credit: AP/Kevin Frayer)

Kuwait, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Marriage and The Choice of The Matter: To Let or Not to Let?

So, marriage is a big freaking deal. For most people its the end all and be all OF LIFE. Which is fine. Some people want to spend their entire lives trying to come up with medicine or art or business ventures that will benefit the world, and other people want for nothing more than to settle down, start a family, and contribute to society by raising good human beings.

Both are noble causes in their own rights and especially so for women. Yes, if a woman chooses to take up the post of Holly Housewife and give up a career to raise a family she is not stupid. Nor is she cold and masculine if she decides that she wants to dedicate a good chunk of her life to an ambition or a cause. Hell, if a woman decides she wants to swing from trees all day long and call herself Jane of the Jungle, as long as she’s not hurting anyone, it’s cool.

People can advise her, share their opinions, they can even try and entice her with chocolate and shiny things for all I care. BUT! If she still stands by her choice and seems to truly believe in it then they have to back off and allow her to live with her own choice in her own life.

And this is the thing that really, REALLY gets on my nerves about an aspect of Arab (and NON- ISLAMIC) culture: The choice factor when it comes to women and marriage.

Example: I have a friend in Kuwait. She’s Kuwaiti and she knows a certain fella who is also Kuwaiti. They’ve agreed amongst themselves that they want to get married. Cool? Cool.

As is the tradition the man respectfully bought himself and his mother to the girl’s doorstep in order for the families to get rightfully acquainted then he honorably asked for the girl’s hand in marriage from her father.

The man is educated, ambitious, polite, kind, mature, well-off and seems to truly love her. She is also quite fond of him.

But yet the family of the girl declined his offer of marriage and effectively broke their daughter’s heart in doing so.

Now, I know. The family of the girl has every right to not only scrutinize and look into every aspect of the man they might be giving their daughter away to, but they also have complete authority to reject this man if they find something truly wrong with him and find that he is missing an essential quality of what makes a good husband.

That aspect of the culture I have absolutely nothing against. In fact I highly respect it and agree with it in principle.

But in practice, unfortunately, this is not always the case.

You see this man who, for all intents and purposes, has all the makings of a great husband and who my friend has actively and maturely chosen for herself was rejected by her family for the following reasons:

  1. He didn’t live in a posh, hoity-toity, shove-a-stick-up-thy-ass area
  2. His skin color was considerably darker than theirs (OH YEAH.)
  3. His second cousin’s twice removed nephew once had a spat with some one or other in her family
  4. (and this is the kicker) he was not of a “pure-bred” or an a9eel family lineage

YUP.

Now, if you want to be a racist, materialistic, bitter, flat-out idiotic human being that’s your choice. If a girl chooses to marry a guy based on the ludicrously horrible criteria listed above it is also her choice. BUT! If your daughter chooses to marry someone who is pretty much perfect in every way that actually matters, you have to put your personally insane preferences aside and look at the actual person. Because, guess what? At the end of the day, you are not going to be the one who has to marry and live with this choice YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. That would be your daughter.

Are you going to live in the house? Have the babies? Have to look at this person every morning for the rest of your life? If the answer is no to any of these questions then, sorry, you can’t judge based on those external attributes. Say all you want about the respected authority parents have over their children and the Arab traditions, nothing will justify that kind of meddling.

Look, I’m not criticizing Arabs for being materialistic and all that. I’m really not. Everyone on planet Earth is, to a certain extent, materialistic and cares about what people think or say. Whoever says that they are not even slightly so IS A LIAR.

What I am saying is that, if someone was to choose to live a certain way, and by their own standards, without actually hurting themselves or anyone else then they should be allowed that choice.

So if your daughter chooses to try and fly to the moon, let her. And if she chooses to spend her entire life in the pursuit of the world’s most expensive purse, let her. And if she chooses to marry someone who is perfect for her and NOT for you, let her.

All my love!