Diwaniyah breathes life to the desert
AL-JAHRA, Kuwait – Soldiers deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom got a taste of Kuwaiti culture when they participated in a Diwaniyah, a social event that combines elements of a town hall meeting, a formal dinner banquet and a night club soiree.
A majority of the 17 troops that boarded a bus on that brisk Jan. 12 afternoon did not know what to expect beyond the fact that their hosts awaited them at their mukhayyam, a collection of tents situated outside the city limits of Al-Jahra, Kuwait. After a 90-minute drive along the desert landscape, the Soldiers stepped off their cramped coach and onto the courtyard of a lavishly decorated khaima tent complete with an archway entrance, a lighted pathway, a bubbling fountain and a grass lawn.
After making formal introductions the Soldiers took off their shoes and sat on the khaima tent's carpeted floor lined with cushions and pillows. Their hosts soon served tea and hors d'oeuvres while discussing current events. Although typically a male only congregation, the Kuwaitis broke tradition by welcoming the female Soldiers into the conversation.
The discussion gave way to a melody when Abdullah Al Omir, a well known musician among the local populace, picked up a lute—the predecessor to the guitar—and played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Omir then handed the instrument to the Soldiers, some of whom played a few chords.
Later in the evening more musicians set up their lutes, drums, keyboards and violins and played popular Arabic songs. The catchy tunes inspired Americans and Kuwaitis alike to dance the night away.
Between songs and dances the attendees were drawn to a nearby khaima tent enveloped in the mouth-watering smells of an Arabic dinner buffet. There the guests dined on rice, soup, lamb, fish, chicken, salad and an assortment of desserts.
At 11 p.m. the Soldiers said farewell to their Kuwaiti hosts with both parties promising that they will meet again under similar circumstances.
The trip was made possible in part by the 143d ESC's civil affairs section.
“That was the real thing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Cesar E.Rivera, the 143d ESC's G-9 noncommissioned officer-in-charge, as he reflected on the night's events. “By participating in these kinds of engagements, we have a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of the local Kuwaiti culture while learning more about Islamic customs.”
Story and photo by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, 143d ESC Public Affairs