Culture of Kuwait
Kuwait takes great pride in its rich culture, cherished values and strong traditions.
The Kuwaiti culture is based on Arab culture, traditions and practices that are generally adhered to in the Arabian Peninsula or the Fertile Crescent. The Kuwaiti culture is both Urbans and Bedaw (Bedouin).
Islam has long lasting effect on Kuwaiti culture, traditions and values. Despite the impact of Western education in Urban Kuwait, the average Kuwaiti still steadfastly adheres to the age old customs and values practiced by the ancestors that include among others, a strong respect for elders, family values and respect for guests. They are outspoken and do not hesitate to speak their mind on matters they consider important.
The Kuwaitis take great pride in their hospitality. Guests are treated with great warmth and respect. While family elders enjoy the highest priority in everything, guests are given precedence over the elders as is the custom. However, during meal time, the host waits for the older most to finish his meal before getting up from the table.
An important aspect of the Kuwaiti culture is the traditional greeting that is accompanied by shaking hands and kissing cheeks. It is also customary for people greeting each other to enquire about one's health and that of their family and their work. Usually, the person who enters the room greets first, irrespective of his status, rank and relationship.
Hospitality in Kuwait is often portrayed through the serving of tea and coffee known as Gahwa which has cardamom and cloves as essential ingredients. Nuts, dates and sweets are served with the hot drink. The guest has to shake his gahwa cup two three times if he does not want it to be refilled.
Another important aspect of the Kuwaiti tradition is the humanitarian quality. Imbued by their religious belief, Kuwaitis are well known for the humanitarian services they render or support.
Kuwaiti cuisine plays an important part in the Kuwaiti culture. Food and beverages are very important part of the Kuwaiti hospitality. Guests are invited to sumptuous lunch or dinner of traditional Kuwaiti dishes. Kuwaiti cuisine is an infusion of Indian, Persian, Mediterranean and Najdi cuisines. The national dish of Kuwait is known as Machboos and it consists mainly of lamb, chicken or fish placed over or mixed in a large mass of well cooked fragrant rice, cooked in well spiced mutton or chicken broth. Food is always prepared and served in large amount and it is customary to invite guests over to share this large meal. Other popular dishes include Qouzi, Mutabbaq Samak, Jirish, Harees, Margoog and Mumawwash. Traditional flat bread, known as Khubz which are baked in a special oven, are often served with mahyawa fish sauce. The food is generally served in large dishes around which the guests gather and eat out of the dish in the diwaniya. A Kuwaiti meal is never complete unless it is accompanied by dates and some sweet dishes like Zalabia, Khabees, Gaemat.
The Diwaniyas have existed in Kuwait since time immemorial. In a traditional Kuwaiti house, it is the main reception area where the host receives and entertains his guests. Diwaniyas are an indispensable feature of the Kuwaiti man's social life. Friends and business associates and other guests gather at a Diwaniya after sun set and carry on social discourse right into the late evening or early morning.
For over two centuries, the diwaniyas have been serving as a fundamental part of the Kuwaiti society. They facilitate quick communication and consensus on matters both trivial and critical. They are the core of Kuwait's social, business and political life. These are places where the Kuwaitis discuss matters of great interest. These are places where friends get introduced to others. They serve as important platforms for debates, arguments and election campaigns. Undoubtedly, diwaniyas are the root of Kuwait's consensual political system.
Music is another important cultural component.
Kuwaiti traditional music is accompanied by simple percussion instruments like the small mirwas drums and clapping, along with the traditional Arabic instruments such as Oud, the kanoon and the kaanaan. Other instruments played are the rubabah, tanbarah (string instrument) and habban (bag pipe). Kuwaiti Sawt is a popular music in Kuwait.
Despite strong inroads made by Western culture in Kuwait, the people of Kuwait take pride in their tradition, values and culture.