My First Kuwaiti Holiday.
The weekend of February 25 2016 marked as a National & Liberation Holiday weekend for Kuwait. For me this meant we got an extra off day of work, unless we volunteered to work (which of course I did because we all know I’m about my money).
For Kuwaitis this was a HUGE weekend.
I kid you not when I say that Kuwaitis started decorating and celebrating as of February 1st. I’ve never seen so many lit up buildings, flags and even cars pridefully showing off their Kuwaiti flag colors.
It didn’t take long to figure out that what was coming was a big deal, I just didn’t know HOW BIG. So I went ahead and asked Google “What Is Kuwait National & Liberation Holiday” just to get a little bit of historical knowledge and understand the big fuss.
Don’t worry – I’m not going to make this into a history lesson, so bare with me.
National Day February 25: is celebrated to honor the country being able to stand alone as a state, but still signed under a defense treaty with Britain / US.
Check out this link for more information: http://www.da.gov.kw/eng/articles/Artile_on_Kuwait_Liberation_Day.php
Liberation Day February 26: is celebrated in honor of the country’s independence from Iraq after the first Gulf War – There’s a lot more to it & if you’re interested in the full history check out this link: http://www.da.gov.kw/eng/aboutkuwait/invasion.php
As the big weekend approaches Kuwaiti families either get ready to travel or stay in Kuwait to participate in the weekend celebrations. You’ll see locals of all ages wearing national costumes as part of the holiday tradition to showcase their pride for their country.
At just 1 or 2 days away from the weekend you start to see people out in the streets with water balloons, water guns, honking and enjoying being in the moment as they celebrate Kuwait’s Independence.
A lot of my local friends warned me to stay indoors if I didn’t want to get soaked by water balloons or water guns. Traffic is 100 times worse than it typically is & if you thought you would be safe driving in your car, think again; but before you do make sure your windows and doors are locked.
On a side note, one of the things I promised myself when I moved abroad was to fully immerse myself in the culture and I think this weekend happened to be just a perfect way to do that.
So; some of my local friends stayed in town for the festivities and invited me to tag long with their families and celebrate. What happened that weekend was definitely something to remember!
Thursday February 25: This is declared a holiday and isn’t mandatory to work. I however chose to work. I finished at about 6pm and it took me almost an hour and 30 minutes to get home. Typically it takes me 15 minutes. My entire drive home was entertaining. Cars were covered in Kuwaiti flag colors. There were people squirting each other with water guns. If you had your windows down you were for sure going to get a water balloon thrown at you. The best part was the “young-hip-look-at-me-guys” with their decked out cars, blasting music and throwing water to any group of young girls that drove by them, just for a little bit of attention.
I really wasn’t sure how to re-act, except I remembered everyone said to lock your doors and windows – because they will try to open them while you’re stuck in traffic just to get a water balloon in – (lol)…& that’s exactly what happened.
Friday February 26: My friends invited me to their Chalet (beach house) to celebrate. Typically the drive takes about 35-40 minutes depending where you are going. I really had to convince myself I wanted to participate and drink a lot of coffee before I thought about getting in a car to sit in traffic.
I started off towards chalet in the afternoon. UGH. Worst traffic EVER, but I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I put some tunes & kept driving. This was the first time I’ve seen Kuwaitis driving peacefully (kind of lol). They seemed happy & were on a mission to celebrate. Aside from the traffic, the over-all drive was alright. People were blasting music, showing off their rides.
And just when I thought I made it & got off on the exit – I hit more traffic and things escalated QUICKLY. What normally takes 2 minutes to get to, literally took an hour. Traffic was completely still. People were lined up on BOTH sides of the road throwing water balloons at each other and the cars passing by.
This is the time where it was extremely important to have all doors and windows secured. My car was literally attacked (lol). The first few minutes of the drive were cool, then I started to get irritated because well, there’s a huge difference from a child throwing water balloons to a grown man throwing water balloons. They were hitting the car so hard I thought something was going to break and then I would be sent to Kuwait prison…
At one point a huge group of guys surrounded my car and started shaking it, trying to open the doors. I was really nervous. I don’t think they meant any harm, but it was just overwhelming. I was asking myself if this was the way they impressed girls; it couldn’t be.
Now lets just make it clear that It’s really cute when the little kids are trying to throw water at you. Their power is almost non-existent. They’re harmless. It’s cute to see them dressed up. Trying to use their little arms to throw water balloons, or hold up their big water guns. It’s great to see families come together and make this possible for their children, help them and spend quality time together.
I think the fun switched into worry when the “older” boys were launching water balloons so hard at my car I thought they would break a window. I was worried the car was going to get dented. By the way, this is my big brother’s car, so you can imagine how freaked out I was. I was irritated that it was taking so long to get to a “safe“ destination.
Finally by the time I got to my friends place I was so frustrated. I was out for blood. I was going to put my throwing skills and frustration in one mix. This is when the fun kicked in.
Once we became part of the “throwing” team – my frustrations disappeared. I started to have fun. Water balloons were flying out of everywhere. I was covered in water and dirt. Everyone was having so much fun. It’s A LOT more fun when you’re out of the car and doing the throwing than actually being in the car while your car is being attacked.
This entire weekend reminded me of Carnaval in Venezuela, which is one of the most celebrated events of the year usually taking place 40 days before Easter. As a kid I remember our family and friends use to caravan, fill up buckets with water balloons, water guns. Dress up in costumes. It was a lot of fun.
The overall experience was phenomenal. I experienced a typical Kuwaiti holiday and spent an awesome time learning about the history of Kuwait and getting to know other locals.
I’m thankful for this experience. It’s given me a new memory, a new story to tell and has taken me back to great childhood memories.