Arts & Culture The Home Issue

Experiencing home through my aunts’ eyes

A new view of Kuwait.

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By Zainab Mirza

“Hey, those are my towers!” squealed my aunt, pointing at Kuwait Towers, the set of iconic towers with blue orbs standing across from the Gulf, as we drove on the then newly opened Sheikh Jaber causeway. My aunt has the adorable tendency of claiming anything that pleases her eye, which could be anything from Lake Tahoe to the Northern Lights.

I stared at her. And then I stared at the towers.

“They’re so beautiful, no?” she said, her voice filled with wonder.

“I guess…” I replied.

When you live most of your life in one country, you tend to become accustomed to its comforts and conveniences, its landmarks and amenities. The average Moe may begin his morning swearing at the jerk that cut him off on the highway, arrive at work disgruntled, and at the end of the day, either drive straight home too zonked out to do anything else or gripe about the monotony of life with a friend over a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes, crossing another day off his routine existence.

Artwork by illustrator Alia Al Hammadi.

Many of us may relate, and there’s no shame in that. Carpe dieming and following pseudo-positivity mantras of “Do something that scares you every day!” can get exhausting.

I’ve lived most of my life in Kuwait, and I adore it. But I, too, tend to fall into the trap of taking the place I call home for granted.

Over the past couple of years my parents and I have been visited by two aunts and a cousin from India, and another aunt from Chicago. Keen to show them the best of Kuwait, my sister and I wrote up a list of things to do and places to take them, some of which were the historic Souk Al-Mubarakiya, Khiran Resort, Kuwait Towers, Al Shaheed Park and its museums, the Tareq Rajab Museum, the farms, the musical fountains at JACC, the Scientific Center, several restaurants, along with my personal favourites: walking on the Marina promenade while listening to the waves, and exploring Kuwait City, soaking in the history of its buildings.

But oddly enough, even after all the sightseeing, the things my aunts marveled at the most were not what I expected. To start off with, they LOVED Kuwait Towers, a landmark residents rarely give a second glance unless it’s to take a photo of them against an exceptionally blue sky, or to capture their glittering lights for Instagram. Throughout all their visits, “Wow, so beautiful!” was a phrase I heard on repeat and grinned at, whether it was during a drive through the endless expanse of desert, or a shopping excursion at a mall (also an endless expanse in its own way). One of my aunts was so moved by the waltzing fountains she actually teared up. She loved that, if we were out and heard the adhan, a prayer room was always within reach, a luxury not quite as common where she lives. Another always pointed out at the explosions of colour on the sidewalks during wildflower season, or the flora running wild alongside highways and interchanges. “Everything smells so nice here,” said my youngest aunt as she breathed in the fragrance lingering around us after a lady had walked by. I did think that was a bit weird, but to each their own. What really stayed with her though, was how serene and safe she felt Kuwait was.

None of these had ever really crossed my mind. It made me realize that as important as it is to travel to other countries, experience different cultures, and explore what makes those places unique, it is equally important and enriching to invite family and friends to visit you. Not just to show them the uniqueness of where you live, but so you can experience it and appreciate it all the more through their eyes.

A few months after my aunts left, my family and I went up to the rotating viewpoint of Kuwait Towers. As we gazed out at the panoramic views, I looked closely at the sphere of the next tower. The discs on its surface looked like matte sequins stitched onto the tower, traces of thread holding them in place, their shades of blue and green reminiscent of the sea in its various moods.

It sure was beautiful.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.

Zainab Mirza is an Indian writer who has been based in Kuwait for 26 years. She draws inspiration from personal conversations and her observations of society, as a whole. She is also a co-founder of The Divan, a community-centered cultural platform offering individuals a safe space to discuss ideas and question assumptions, and the founder of a writing community called Typelings.