If there’s anything that stands out from Kuwaiti culture up to these modern times, Its their DIWANIYA. When I first came to here, I was keen on observing Kuwaiti lifestyle and habits and especially the local lingo of many things. Diwaniya is also one of the first Arabic words I have learned.
Right in the street of where I used to lived, I often see Kuwaiti men gathering together in their Diwaniya area, an extension from their Villa’s front yard. It becomes a common sight so I start to wonder what is this type of gathering and what’s the use of it. I have never seen this habit in Holland or in local areas in Philippines.
What is exactly a Diwaniya?
Diwaniya is a traditional culture of Kuwaitis that literally means “To gather together , or a place of assembly , parlour, Hall or lounge “. It originates from Arabic word “Diwan “ which means the place where the Amir meets his subjects and listens to their concerns. Now every household in Kuwait has its separate hall that serve as the Diwaniya where the Kuwaiti men receives his male guests. Kuwaiti Diwaniyas evolved from the traditional tents with seating pillows, into solid building with modern interiors. Nowadays, sophisticated Diwaniyas emerges with modern facilities which normally the setting for gatherings, public functions or political agendas.
The diwaniya include a main sitting place, called “Diwan”. Doors of the diwan overlook the internal hall that is comfortably furnished for guests. There are many cushions arranged in a specific way to be used as seats and armrests. The floor is covered with woven Persian carpets. The diwaniya, also, contains utensils for preparing coffee, which is redolent with cardamom. Using a special brazier, this coffee is prepared either on the far side of the diwan or in a small annexed room. Coffee preparing utensils consist of graduated sizes of brass coffeepots with lids and long beaked spouts called “Dallal”. Coffee is served in small cups made of pottery. Either the owner prepares the coffee himself for guests or he hires a servant to do this job for him. This is why a Teaboy is an in-demand job in Kuwait.
Diwaniya in Kuwait has preserved its importance in the social, political and economic life. Today, diwaniya is considered of the important social institutes that play influential role in the democratic and parliamentary life. It became a referential indicator and place where many decisions were made. The number of the Diwaniyas increased to the extent that one Diwaniya or more can be found in every street. Some of them receive guests daily, others receive guests for only one or two days per week, and others receive guests only on special occasions.But definitely this is a daily part of Kuwaiti culture that has been passed from generations to generations. For well-off Kuwaiti families, a Diwaniya hall is a luxurious setting, and to be invited into it is quite an experience.
The general atmosphere of diwaniyas became similar to that of social clubs, cultural and literary forums and political salons. Some of these modern diwaniyas are equipped with television sets, radios, satellite dishes, computers and phones. Other diwaniyas set themselves goals to achieve, like sports, economic, political. In the past , Diwaniyas plays an integral part of the candidate or politician running in election in Kuwait ministry. This is the hub for all opinions & informal discussions.They plan schedules and set dates to reach their goals. Others declare topics for discussion days before receiving guests.The public Diwaniyas are open for Expatriates,usually men gather together to chat any topic under the sun during their leisure times.
Historically, Diwaniya is exclusively for men only, but nowadays, a mixed gender Diwaniya are quite a norm or even the Women only Diwaniya. An example is the “Al Duaij Diwaniya of Qadsiya “ which welcomed a mixed gender audience of Westerners, US soldiers, & Embassy staffs that are based in Kuwait gather together to share views about Arab & Western culture.
So if you’re in Kuwait and you heard the term Diwaniya, then you know that its simply means “Let’s get together & have a drink “!
What particular culture you appreciate in the country you’re living in right now?