Wednesday, February 25, 2009

National Day

Today is Kuwait's National Day, which happens to tie in well with tomorrow -- Kuwait's Liberation Day. The Liberation Day celebrates the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq after the first Gulf War in the 90s. I remember being in Kuwait a couple of years ago and many of the buildings we visited had pictures of what they looked like after the Iraqis left. For the most part the Iraqis really laid waste to the city, many of Kuwait City's large buildings were ruined or burnt, and the iconic Kuwait Towers was apparently used as target practice. There is probably still a bit of resentment in Kuwait over what happened.

When I was there all of the ruins had been cleaned up and there was no sign of the war damage except for one building. In a suburban neighbourhood was a house that was used as a base by resistance forces but the Iraqis had discovered it, which led to a 24+ hour siege/battle between the resistance forces and the Iraqi military. I think by the end of it the Iraqis even used a tank to shell the house. The resistance fighters inside were eventually killed or captured, with any captured ones being executed within two days.

Four days after the battle the liberation forces entered Kuwait. Shame they were not just a bit earlier.

In memory of the resistance fighters who died in the battle the Kuwaiti government kept the house preserved, bullet holes and all, as a memorial/museum. It is a must-see if you are ever in Kuwait. There are massive gaping holes in the walls from who-knows-what, bullet holes everywhere, and half the roof blown off. They even kept a few wrecked cars from the battle and there is an old Iraqi tank across the street.

We also visited the museum in the suburbs of Kuwait City that had been left untouched by the Iraqi forces so still had all its exhibits. The museum consists of a number of large rooms that you reach through the basement of a non-descript house. The story I've heard is that when the Iraqis invaded the owners of the museum immediately took down any signs identifying the house as a museum, removed road signs pointing to it, then spread rubble around the front of the house to make it look derelict. The ruse worked and the Iraqis never discovered the museum. I could see why as it took my friends and I a long time to find it, to the point where we were knocking on doors in the neighbourhood to ask people where it was. But it was worth it as the collection of Arabic weapons and artefacts was huge and it took us a couple of hours to go through it all.

So why am I talking about Kuwait? Well I have a Kuwaiti friend who invited me and a couple of other guys from work to a function hosted by the Kuwaiti government for National/Liberation day. It was at the Ritz Carlton and since the invitation said it was two hours long I expected a room with maybe a hundred people, some speeches, and waiters wandering around with a few nibbles. What I wasn't expecting was a red carpet with Kuwaiti dignitaries wearing bishts or military uniforms greeting all the guests, followed by a full sit-down buffet dinner! Many of the guests were ambassadors, US military leaders, elite Qataris, and a few hundred others. The Kuwaitis had really splashed out for the function, and when dinner was over more Kuwaiti dignitaries lined up to thank the guests as they left.

After a function like that I felt that the least I could do is tell the wider internet world that today is Kuwait National Day.

Happy National Day to all you Kuwaitis out there!

No comments: