Men perform traditional Ardah as part of the National Day celebrations. 
— Photos from the Kuwait Times print archives.
2007 Men perform traditional Ardah as part of the National Day celebrations. — Photos from the Kuwait Times print archives.
Kuwait shines during national celebrations over the years

By Passant Hisham and Faten Omar

Kuwait is gearing up to celebrate its 63rd National Day and 33rd anniversary of liberation next week. Over the years, the festivities surrounding Kuwait’s National and Liberation Days have undergone significant evolution, transitioning from traditional parades and community gatherings to more modern celebrations. To gain insights into this evolution, Kuwait Times interviewed citizens and residents from different generations.

Modern Celebrations: Water and foam battles

Joory, a 22-year-old Kuwaiti, shared her recent experiences with Kuwait Times, vividly describing the lively festivities of Kuwait’s National Day. She painted a picture of Gulf Street adorned with cars decked out in decorations and stickers, displaying giant national flags. Drivers and passengers proudly play loud music, creating a festive atmosphere.

Joory noted that the celebration isn’t exclusive to Kuwaiti citizens — visitors from GCC countries also participate, displaying national pride quotes on their cars. She highlighted the water battles that unfold between people on the sidewalk armed with water guns and balloons and the slowly moving cars, whose passengers are ready to open their windows and engage in playful water fights. (Water guns and balloons have been banned this year).

Beyond the water battles, families also peacefully gather for picnics on the grass, enjoying the celebratory vibes and the cool breeze. Joory recalled that before being banned in 2011, foam battles were also a part of the festivities.

Joory’s mother, May, 40, reminisced about her teenage years when she participated in similar celebrations. She recalled joining parades along Gulf Street, where foam was used instead of water guns before the ban. May also reflected on a different era from her childhood when the celebrations focused more on military shows organized by the government.

Vibrant festivities of the ’80s and ’90s

Abdulrahim Ahmad, 68, shared nostalgic memories of the vibrant National Day celebrations in Kuwait during the ’80s and ’90s. He recalled lively parades taking place across the country, describing a grand ship with wheels traversing Kuwait carrying singers who performed national songs. Classic convertible cars adorned with flags were a common sight, with people proudly displaying their patriotism.

“People used to join the festival by showing off their classic convertible cars. In each car, you would find five people with their flags,” Ahmad said, remembering walking with friends along with these cars, waving flags and singing, and how the festivities would end when everyone got tired.

As the festivities reached their peak, illuminated houses adorned with colorful lights added to the festive atmosphere, symbolizing the unity and spirit of the Kuwaiti people. “I remember that citizens and residents used to decorate their houses with colorful lights. Although the colors did not exactly match the flag of Kuwait!”

Lulwa Fadhli, aged 62, reflected on a time when National Day celebrations were both entertaining and educational. She recalled active participation from governmental institutions in organizing events aimed at educating children about the nation’s history. Fadhli remembered taking her children to various competitions hosted by restaurants, companies and Kuwait TV.

“Salem Al-Mubarak Street stands out vividly in my memory as a bustling hub of celebrations, attracting celebrities from around the world to partake in competitions and cultural displays,” she said. Fadhli recalled the vibrant atmosphere with people donning costumes, entertaining children and hosting lively shows in the street, creating unforgettable moments of joy and camaraderie. But she rued the absence of the Hala February mascot, a once-prominent figure in the festivities, leaving a void in the celebration’s charm.

In 1985, the Flag Square emerged as the focal point for these celebrations, standing by the seashore and boasting the tallest flagpole in Kuwait at 36 meters. The Flag Square became synonymous with the country’s patriotic fervor, symbolizing the significance of the occasion and the enduring spirit of Kuwaiti identity.

A look through Kuwait Times’ archives shows how the celebrations evolved in the 2000s to provide an opportunity for different nations to express cultural pride, inviting troupes from various countries around the world to showcase their arts, including displays of folk music and bedouin art by Kuwaiti bands, dance performances by Egyptian bands and dabke dances by Lebanese folklore groups, alongside participation from troupes from Yemen, Uzbekistan, Europe and beyond.

Earlier in History: Grand street parades and carnivals

In earlier years, National Day celebrations in Kuwait were vibrant events held along the Arabian Gulf Street. According to Kuwait Times’ archives and other local papers, National Day celebrations, dating back to 1962, initially featured grand parades and carnivals, without recent elements such as foam and water battles. The parades aimed to entertain the public through a blend of military, artistic and entertainment shows in the streets. Participants from diverse backgrounds, including male and female school students, popular bands, private organizations, large companies and government ministries, showcased their pride and devotion to the country through these performances.

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