Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bye Bye Kuwait

One of my objectives for this trip home was to find old Kuwaiti musalsalaat and masra7iyyat on DVD to take back with me to London. Thanks to Tooomz, on Wednesday my mission became a success. I first went to Markaz al-Funoon in Salmiya on Fifth Ring Road, but it turned out to be closed for some reason. Luckily, I was on the phone with Tooomz at the time and she told me about another DVD store right off Plajaat Street that she knew for sure had all the old school shows on DVD (a place called Al-Arqam).

The place has everything on DVD. Flipping through their catalogue of old shows and plays, I felt my childhood in Kuwait in the 80s rushing back to me. I felt a strong wave of nastalgia for a Kuwait that no longer is. And I felt warmth as I read the titles and remembered that Kuwait once had a very artistic and creative past.

To start off with, I bought the entire series of "Darb izzalag" (3 discs), all of "Regaya w Sabeecha" (4 discs), and three masra7iyyat: "Bye Bye Landan", "Firsan almanakh", and "7afla 3ala alkhasoog". Today a couple of my friends went to check the place out and I asked them to buy me some more: "3ozooby al-Salmiya", "Bsa6 alfagr", and "Dars khusoosy". Also, the guy in the store is trying to find "Bas Ya Ba7ar" for me on DVD, although Jazz Central told me that he has it and will let me copy it.

So tonight P and I watched the first episode of "Regaya w Sabeecha". Within the first minute, I was falling off the couch laughing at the first spoken scene. "Bo gthailah" (played by Ghanim al-Saleh) rolls up to the two women in his waneit and says: "Waneit, yubba?" and Regaya (Su'ad Abdullah) responds sarcastically with: "Nadree waneit. Nadree waneit, 3ayal sh7asbalek, sarookh?!" with the typical Kuwaiti woman hand gestures. Then they try to open the waneit door and it's locked and Sabeecha (Hayat al-Fahad) starts banging on the door yelling "Shfeeh? Shfeeh, gi6eee3a...?!" I rewound it like five times.

I miss the old Kuwaiti dialect. It seems to be dying with the current under-30 generation. Sometimes my friends tease me because they say that when I bust out in full-on Kuwaiti I sound like an old grandmother. Growing up, I spoke English at home and at school, and so as a kid my Kuwaiti dialect was learned primarily from my maternal grandmother and from TV shows like these. So my sisters and I all still use the phrases that we picked up from my Mom and grandmother. But whenever I use one of them around anyone under the age of 30, I get strange looks. It makes me sad to think that so many of these old sayings, phrases, and even words are going to die out soon. And they're all being replaced with meaningless airheaded phrases like "ay shay".

Anyway, I feel so excited having all of these on DVD. I can't wait to watch "Darb izzalag". I haven't seen that in eons. Same with "Regaya w Sabeecha", although I remember seeing a couple of episodes of it again a few years ago. I'm looking forward to watching them again as an adult, when I can really understand what's going on (since my Arabic has drastically improved), and have a proper grasp of the socio-political commentary of the shows and plays that I probably missed as a kid. But at the same time, I know they're going to make me sad, and angry, and frustrated. Just watching the first episide of R & S today, one of the first things I noticed as they were driving on the Gulf Road in one scene was how you could totally see the sea from the road. No TGIFriday's, McDonald's, Aqua Park fiascos blocking the view and destroying the bay. And of course, I felt my heart beginning to break. But at least it might be good for me to remember that the Kuwait I still love and cherish in my heart was not simply a figment of my imagination - that there was once a "there there".

One thing I've realized lately is that the majority of people in Kuwait nowadays really don't care about what's happened to it, and what is continuing to happen to it. They don't care that our history has been wiped out with bulldozers and ignorance, and that nobody respects the land we live on anymore, and that there is no longer any sense of community, etc. I say the majority, because the majority of the country is under the age of 25, and that is precisely the demographic I am talking about. It is not an "education" thing - because even some very educated young Kuwaitis just don't really care much. I see it more as an age thing - those of us who were at least 11 during the invasion still have a vivid memory of what Kuwait used to be like and therefore feel the pain of its disintegration more acutely. "They" think we're living too much in the past, that we can't accept change, etc. But that's not it. We're all for change and progress and moving with the times. But the difference is, we know. We know something different, something unique. And it's such a shame that they will just never know. They'll never know that Kuwait. The magic of that place that some of you who are reading this still remember. I think those of us in our late twenties now are the last ones who can remember what Kuwait was like before the invasion. The invasion changed everything, permanently. Socially, politically, economically - nothing was ever the same after 1990. People think the destruction of Kuwait as caused by the invasion ended with the liberation, or at most with the capping of the last oil fire in December 1991. Most people don't realize the severe long term effects that 1990 has had on our nation. Kuwait might have recovered from the crisis, but it never returned.

Oh, going back. The best part is that these DVD's are recorded from videos, which were recorded from TV, and so all the commercials from the early 80s are included! So far we've seen ads for BKME, Commercial Bank, 7-Up, and General air conditioners (available through the Union Trading Company). Extremely vintage!

P.S. *Knock, knock* Sabeecha: "Minhaw?" ... "Dhiab Dayikh Dheeb Bnaider!" "Haw, shillyabek min Bnaider?" "Ya bint il7alal fichey ilbab, ana Dhiab ra3y ilwaneit." "Wee 6a3 7adhek, gool ra3y ilwaneit ba3ad..." LOOOL!


  • I remember we did that last time my sis was leaving :>
    I love those shows....why dont they make them like that anymore?

    wish icould read ur whole post...bs waaaayid 6weeeeeeel!

    By Blogger Delicately Realistic, at 1/07/2007 5:20 am  

  • Kleio,
    i must say i really did laugh reading about those old shows. I need details on how to get to that shop. i want to buy some of those vintage shows and plays on DVD. Also how much did you pay for each one? did he give you something free? HELP PLEASE :) it would give me something good to watch, im sick of Funoon although its still very good :) the convenience of having it on DVD is just too good to pass.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/07/2007 12:09 pm  

  • DR: So true, they just don't make shows like that anymore. Even some of the old actors/actresses who are still performing in plays/shows nowadays sarow maleeqeen. The humour in these old shows are more intelligent, more self-depracating and clever. Nowadays it's just silly, childish humour, or Mexican-soap-opera-style drama.

    I usually write long posts, I know. I can't help it! And this one was more of a stream-of-consciousness one than usual. Sorry! Read the post in increments. :)

    SP: You will laugh even more when you watch them! The place is very easy to find. On Shari3 Plajat, drive in the direction of Bid3 (i.e. keep the sea to your left). You know that mujama3 Sheikha Complex, the big blue-ish one with the Starbucks underneath? Take that right, so that after you turn Starbucks is on your right again. Keep going straight and you will pass a couple of video stores on your left, but look for the one that says "Video Al-Arkam" (that's how it's spelled in English, but it's al-arqam in Arabic). You'll have to go down to the round-about to U-turn and come back up to it. Just ask the guy for the catalogue of old Kuwaiti shows/plays. Also check out the one with old cartoons dubbed in Arabic, like Belle & Sebastian, Grandizer, Captain Majid, etc. :)

    They cost KD2 each, which I initially thought was a bit expensive for copies but which I have since found out is the standard for these old shows. I bought 11 discs and he gave me one for free, so I payed KD20. They were pretty clear - considering they were recorded from videos!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 1/07/2007 12:52 pm  

  • Hey!

    Glad to hear that you ended up getting those TV shows! Darb iz-zalag is a Kuwaiti CLASSIC with some interesting reflections on modernization and family in Kuwait. I should tell you, however, that you paid too much. 1 KD per disc is the standard price irrespective of what it is that's on the CD. The stores on Plajaat just charge more than others (in soug il-yim3a or the gahaawi, for example). Still, the experience of and nostalgia in watching the DVDs (especially while in England) far surpasses the cost.

    Pakistan was great (I came back a day early) and I got a ton of books for next to nothing. More on that in an email I'll send you at some point. In the meantime, enjoy England and raise some hell in XXXXXX!

    By Anonymous Boss, at 1/08/2007 2:26 pm  

  • Boss: I asked around and most people have agreed that KD 2 (or minimum KD 1.500) is usually what the stores charge for the old Kuwaiti shows/plays, because they are harder to come by. KD 1 is the standard for normal pirated DVD's, but these are different. Also, apparently very few stores actually carry these on DVD. Either way, it was totally worth it!

    I'm glad you had a good time in Pakistan. Enjoy the States and we'll keep in touch. Oh, I edited your comment by removing the name of my school. Too much info for public eyes there! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 1/08/2007 2:32 pm  

  • Apologies, I was going to get you "bes ya ba7ar" as promised from friends of mine who have it but it slipped my mind with my pre-travel madness...if you don't have a copy by the summer plz remind me I will be back in may/june depending on whether i take a class during 1st summer session...PS I loved your post, I relate to your nostalgia for the old days and for the way Kuwait was pre-invasion. Those were the days!

    By Anonymous harmonie22, at 1/10/2007 4:35 am  

  • loool ADORABLE thanks for the laughs :D

    By Anonymous nonblogger, at 1/10/2007 1:33 pm  

  • I was struck by your comment about the difference in effect the Iraqi invasion and occupation had on children, depending on age. I wonder if this has to do not so much with remembering Kuwait before but with the abilities older children would have had to think about the terrible experience, in a way that younger children could not?

    I am a frequent visitor to Kuwait, engaged in research on the effect of the invasion and occupation on Kuwaiti citizens 16 years later, and I have noticed a similar trend. The older the children were, the more they now feel an enormous responsibility to their country. The kids who are teenagers now, in comparison, seem rather wild and irresponsible in many ways. A lot of this may depend on age and family attitudes, I don't know.

    Anyway, your blog is very interesting. I stumbled across it googling "Violet Dickson", having just visited Bait Dickson.

    By Blogger Red Shoes, at 2/02/2007 10:09 pm  

  • Non-blogger: You are most welcome. :)

    Red shoes: Thank you for your important comment. I completely agree with your statement: "The older the children were, the more they now feel an enormous responsibility to their country. The kids who are teenagers now, in comparison, seem rather wild and irresponsible in many ways." I'm not sure what the reason for this might be. It could be completely coincidental, and might be symptomatic of the experiences of younger generations of the world at large. But I personally believe the invasion/war played some part in it as far as Kuwait is concerned. Those of us who are old enough to remember still divide our lives by "before the invasion" and "after the invasion". We remember something different than the Kuwait we see now - something immensely special, and the memory of it is tragic. Not because history has played out its natural course and the times have changed. But because we know that something was ripped out with force, and deliberation. And yes, we know first hand the pain of what it was like to lose our country, during those seven months of occupation, not knowing if we would ever get it back. And even though we got our country back, I think we recognize, in a way that future generations aren't able to, that something special was permanently lost - in so many different aspects and dimensions. And I think for all those reasons combined, we don't take our country for granted. I can't speak for everyone else, but I for one do certainly feel an enormous sense of responsibility for my Kuwait. On the one hand, because I know what it feels like to literally lose it. And on the other, because I can identify the long-term damage and downfalls it has experienced over the past 16 years as a result. And if I can see the problems we face so vividly and do nothing about it, then I am just part of the problem. So I am determined to do my part, however small, to help it.

    It's really wonderful that you're doing research on this. I would be interested in hearing more on what you're doing, if possible. If you'd like, you can Email me at: q8kleio@gmail.com. Again, thank you for your comment. I really appreciate your interest in all this.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 2/03/2007 12:52 am  

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