Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Kuwait Liberation Day!

On Tuesday in Turkish class, the medium-sized guy with a beard that I thought was from Libya informed the teacher that he would have to miss Thursday’s class to go to a party commemorating Kuwaiti independence*.  He invited the whole class, and the teacher, eager to attend a party rather than teach a class, announced that we would all attend.  At this point, I was under the assumption that this was a low-key event, likely a few ex-pats and some music.  Still, free Middle Eastern food is hard to pass on, and I hate to be a party pooper.

My assumption was pretty incorrect.  Apparently, the fact that the party was held in the Ankara Sheraton (which has in the past hosted Barack Obama, among others) should have been something of a giveaway.  Let me put it this way.  Imagine the kind of party an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation might throw to impress the elite in a nearby regional power.  This was roughly the scenario for the party that we (mostly a bunch of mangy college students too poor pay the coat check fee) found ourselves at.  No sooner had children in regional dress welcomed us with myrrh-scented perfume** in crystal vessels, than we saw our fellow student from Turkish class.  Turns out he is a high ranking general (!?!) and some sort of military attaché in the Kuwaiti embassy.  We greeted him along with a bunch of other important-looking people in traditional garb and walked inside to the ballroom.

The food was superb, to say the least.  It got to the point where we were eating spreads with forks because we didn’t want to waste room in our stomachs for bread.  It looked like most of the crowd was rich, politically inclined, or covered in military medals.  Obviously, we had no reason to be there, but that didn’t seem to be a problem.  Again, this is party was sponsored by the extremely wealthy government of Kuwait.  I’m pretty sure nobody would care if people came in off the street.  Somewhat intimidated, the members of our Turkish class generally kept to ourselves, though we did have a lovely conversation with the Kuwaiti ambassador to Turkey.  Our general-friend introduced us to Arabian coffee (I was mostly impressed that it was poured out of gold-plated pitchers, though if you ask me, it tasted more like cardamom tea) and some traditional dessert (which tasted roughly like a gelatinous version of the coffee) and thanked us repeatedly for coming.  We left impressed, satisfied, and looking for ways to befriend more Arabian government officials.

*This being independence from Iraq in the first Gulf War.  It seems to me like this is probably the only nationalist holiday in the Middle East where it helps to be an American.

**The perfume thing is common in the Middle East.  Bathing is hard in a region that does not get much rain.  I hear that most Turks still only shower every other day, and I can only assume the showers are sparser in the Arabian Desert.  Perfume helps to mask unpleasant smells, which is especially big in cleanliness-obsessed Turkey.  As such, it is a common sign of hospitality to offer perfume.  The Turkish prefer lemon perfume for what I can only assume is its cleaning solution-like scent.  As it is impolite to refuse, I begrudgingly take some whenever offered.  This is fine in ventilated areas, but on the long-distance bus (where perfume is the first order of business) it is torturous.  As a side note, I am pretty sure I saw Cihan’s wife huff some lemon perfume in an attempt to ward off a cold.  She didn’t look happy about it afterward.

I think the point of this footnote was that that expensive myrrh perfume is many times better than lemon perfume.


  1. Our little David, mingling with generals and smelling like Jesus, drinking gold and eating caviar by the spoonful. We are so very proud!

  2. *so* jealous. that sounds awesome man!