12 November 2008

66 years from now...

Two days ago, I was showing an American visitor around Kuwait and we ended up at the National Museum of Kuwait. If you haven't been there, definitely make a point to go it's a lot of fun.

In the museum's heritage building, where you walk around "old Kuwait" (1940's pre-oil) with the different stores, then you enter a home, then the hall turns into an exhibition display of items, clothing and other things.

I've always been interested in history but have found ours less than exciting, walking through the museum, Kuwait's relative youth really sunk in. I mean, there are people alive who remember this pretty well. My parents, both born in the late 50's, came only 10 years after oil was discovered!

This realization struck a chord in me. I mean, I've known all along that we're young and don't really have a wealth of political experience/tradition either but, we're really really really young!

Things that piqued my interested at the museum:

At the Kharraz (the Cobbler)'s shop, where a mannequin of a cobbler was making shoes with his tools around him, we noticed that the men's footwear was made of comfortable leather like the ones seen here. The womens' shoes on the other hand, the gubgab, were made of wood. A wooden bottom, and a tiny leather strap on top.

If ever we need evidence that shoes are a tool of the patriarchy all around the world. Whether it's foot binding or having to wear extremely uncomfortable shoes, it's all meant to keep women barefoot and pregnant.

As we walked along to the photography exhibition that had pictures from 1942, I noticed that all the women in the pictures were barefoot. Some of the men wore shoes but none of the ladies did. (Of course, in my mind, they all refused to wear these ridiculous shoes as an act of protest not because they were too poor to buy them.)

On display where several official handwritten documents of pearl divers, licenses and such, with photos and fingerprints on them. It's amazing how juvenile they seem today.

One of the placards by a display of old cameras mentioned that there weren't any cameras around so Kuwaitis would have to go get their official pictures taken at the British Consulate. Unfortunately, not all placards had Arabic and English explanations on them and often the Arabic explanation was more informative, which was an inconvenience to my non-Arabic speaking guest.

On corporal punishment:
In the kitab, the Qura'an school where young boys learned basic Arabic through Qura'an and arithmetic, there was a boy standing in a corner with his hands raised above his head as punishment for doing something wrong. I loved that they added that in there!

Trade routes/wealth:
Looking at a trade route map on the wall, from India and Eastern Africa to Kuwait and back, I couldn't help but contemplate the relationship between wealth, slavery (economic or literal), and sophistication.

To think that less than 70 years ago, women my age would've been illiterate, barefoot, and probably had several children was quite breathtaking. To think that from my grandmother's time we've gone from basic literacy to PhD's and being fluent in not one but two languages. From having slaves at home, to well....

We've come a loooooooong way.
Or have we?

I wonder what the next 66 years will bring.


Salah said...

good coverage... it's in my plan now to visit this museum.

What the next 66 years will bring, depends very much on the price of oil!

Salah said...

Is the past better than the present?

check this:


Anonymous said...

I have been there with a few visitors and its a gr8 place!