The fundamental core of Kuwaiti society is the family. Kuwaiti families are usually quite large, and many different families are interconnected and related to one another through ancestry and marriage. Therefore, there exists a community of interpersonal relationships in which it seems that everybody knows each other through only a couple degrees of separation. Again, this community is founded on the structure of the family.
Kuwaitis keep very close family ties, both in the immediate and extended sense. Regular gatherings and lunches are common. There are a couple of other traditions in which families get together as well, although these are held separately in terms of gender. For the men, the diwaniya is a common custom that has existed throughout Kuwait’s history. A special room in the house, or a tent set up outside, is designated as a nightly meeting place for the men of a family or the neighborhood to meet to discuss politics, business, and just socialize. Click here for more detailed information on Diwaniyas.
The women also hold several gatherings to meet with one another to socialize. Large weddings are a common tradition, where the men and women gather separately, and the women’s reception usually lasts through breakfast. This all-night celebration of the matrimony of two people, of the coming together of two families, demonstrates the importance of the idea of family in Kuwaiti society.
One thing that is common in these different social and family gatherings is the food. Kuwaiti food is primarily based on the staple product of rice. However, there are a large number of different ways to prepare the rice, and each family has their own way of making one of the several traditional meals. One of the most common, and most Kuwaiti, of these rice dishes is machbous, which is saffron rice topped with either chicken or lamb, served with a tomato paste sauce. Considering their history with the sea, it is not surprising that Kuwaitis have a great affinity towards fish. The most common types of fish caught around Kuwait in the Arabian Gulf are hamour, sboor, nagroor, and zubaidy. Shrimps, crabs, lobsters, clams, and a wide variety of other fish can also be found, and when bought from the traditional fish market, these can usually be bought at a very low price. Click Here for more information on traditional fishing in Kuwait.
Although most Kuwaitis prefer eating lunch at home with family and having a traditional meal, it has become common, especially among the younger generations on the weekends, to go out to dinner to one of the many restaurants that keep popping up all over the country.
The large number of clothing stores with names that the people recognize from abroad, from casual to designer, has undoubtedly changed the sense of dress among the Kuwaiti population. Men and women alike are now accustomed to wearing clothes of “western” design. However, it is still common for men, both young and old, to go out in the traditional dishdasha, which is a long-sleeved garment that comes down to the ankles, with a loose pair of pants underneath. The men usually wear dishdasha’s made out of white cotton in the summer, and darker, more woolen ones in the winter. The head apparel is also still common. The gahfiya, a small, round knit head covering, goes on the head first. Next comes the khitra , which is a large piece of cloth, either white (for summer), or small red and white checkered (for winter), which is folded diagonally and placed over the gahfiya. Finally, a firm circular piece called the igal , is placed on the head to hold the khitra in place.
For women, traditional apparel is a bit less common. The dara’a is a loose fitting dress-like garment which usually comes in many beautiful colors and designs. It is still common for older women to wear these out, however the tendency to do so is getting less common with the younger generation. Women in Kuwait are not forced to wear the hijab or niqab, the different Islamic veils. The decision to do so is usually left up to the girl, or is based on her family’s desires.
Another custom that is common in Kuwait is sports. One of the most common sports played in Kuwait is soccer. There are several local club teams, such as the Al-Qadisia Club, the Kuwait Club, the Yarmouk Club, and the Khazma Club- to name a few. The Kuwait national team has won the title of the Gulf Cup for two championships in a row (in 1996 and 1998). Soccer, as well as several other sports, is played throughout the country both professionally and recreationally. Professional national teams, besides soccer, include basketball, swimming, as well as many others. The Amir of Kuwait also established a Disabled Sports Club in 1977. Its aims are to integrate disabled persons into the society by giving them the opportunity to partake in sport, social, cultural, and other such activities. People of any nationality, both male and female, showing minimal disability are allowed to join the club. Types of sports practiced at the club are track and field, swimming, wheelchair basketball, fencing, and several other sports. Water sports are also very common in Kuwait. Most Kuwaitis spend weekends in the warm seasons at the beach, either in one of the local private or public beach clubs, such as the SAS or Messila Hotel clubs, or at privately owned chalets or beach houses. Many Kuwaiti families own beach chalets of different styles and sizes up and down the coast and tend to use them as an escape on the weekends and holidays. Along with these beach trips comes a wide variety of water sports and recreation. Swimming, jet skiing, water skiing, fishing, and just cruising up and down on different sized boats is common for Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, of all ages.