Kuwaiti National Day: Foam and Water

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Introduction

Girls during Kuwait National day

Kuwait National Day Photo by: Tariq Malallah

Listen to this postThe Kuwaiti citizens celebrate their national day and independence day in a way that do not display patriotism or show a sign of loyalty to their country. The festival is more risky than fun and could develop into more violent occasion in the future. Party foam is sprayed liberally on the celebrating crowd without a concern to their health or safety. The quality of the water used in the water guns could be contaminated or replaced with other harmful liquids. Mixing cars, crowds and drivers with limited visions would definitely lead to undesirable accidents. The eye clinic treated hundreds of celebrating participants. Ambulance transferred many casualties because of the car accidents and teenagers fights. This case study will attempt to highlight the development of such dangerous festival and  suggest a solution that will make almost everybody happy. If you are reading this case study to find out who is responsible or whom should we blame then I would advise you to stop reading and search for news coverage in the Kuwaiti newspapers. Containing and controlling the festival can make the festival more safe, fun and profitable and that is what you will find in the few coming paragraphs.

Short History and Problem Development

Celebrating with Music

Celebrating with Music Photo by Tariq Malallah

Kuwait citizens celebrate the national day on Feb 25 and Independence day on Feb 26 and I have been observing how the Kuwaitis celebrate these two days over the years. Twenty years ago, Kuwait citizens used to celebrate the national day by decorating governmental buildings with colorful lights. Kuwaiti  TV use to broadcast school boys and girls singing innocent and beautiful patriotic songs especially made for the year’s celebration. Kuwaitis started organizing carnivals of cars displaying Kuwait national flags on the first year after liberation from the Iraqi invasion. In the few years later, the crowd started spraying party strings in the air as a sign of celebration which was quickly replaced with party foam.

In the recent years, the beautiful and meaningful celebrations were replaced with foam spraying and water splashing mixed with irresponsible driving. Adults, teenagers and children line up on the side of the streets with party foam-spray cans or water guns and cars would slow down to exchange foam and water spray. Law enforcement started designating few streets for the crowd to use for this festival. Key events are the occasions or incidents that took place during the field observations and recorded by the observer (Polkinghorne, 2005). The observations and their analysis would include the key event, and crowd behavior as noticed during the two observations in the field.

Tomato Throwing in Spain

Tomato throwing

Tomato throwing

Small town of Buñol in eastern Spain has tomato throwing festival every year on the last Wednesday of August. The festival is know by the name “La Tomatina“. The festival started informally in 1945 and the town authority were against it but they could not stop it from  reoccurring every year. In year 1959 the festival became official  and the town authority recognize it as an official festival and proceeded in organizing it every year. The crowd use only ripe tomato (125 ton of tomato is used every year) to prevent personal injuries. The festival has the following rules:

  1. The festival last for two hours starting at 11:00 am and stop at 1:00 pm.
  2. You can throw tomatoes only and nothing else.
  3. Participants have to squash the tomato before throwing it.
  4. Ladies wear white clothes and men bare their chests if they want to.

Water is sprayed on the streets after the end of the festival to clean it up within few hours.

Crowd Behavior

Sing and Dance

Sing and Dance Photo by Tariq Malallah

Research on people behavior during mass gatherings indicate that they would act highly rationally and would cooperate during emergencies (Bond, 2009). Diverting the crowd or containing them would lead to crowd violence according to Bond (2009). The best way is to let the crowd express their feelings with minimum intervention from law enforcement.  Bond (2009) recommends giving the maximum information to the crowd and let them use it the best way they can. Bond (2009) states that the crowd would find the best way for them to escape emergencies and would help one another even if they do not know each other. Lacks, Gordon, and McCue (2005) state that the crowd does not serve  a productive function and do not seek to obtain a goal like a group would do. The crowd would have size, structure and cohesion, but do not share a common goal (Lacks, et al., 2005).

Kuwaitis Behavior During A Festival

Spraying the foam

Spraying the foam

In the resent years, the authorities started designating selective streets for celebrating the national day and allow the foam spraying festival to take place. Some of the car drivers chose the celebration designated streets to participate in the foam spraying activities, however, other driver just pass by the street because it was the shortest distance for their travel. The participating drivers would slow down and drive near the crowd the role down part of  window to spray foam from their cans (and could be sprayed at in return). Other drivers would either chose the other side of the street which has less crowd or speed through the foam spraying zone to avoid the mess. Safety is an issue during this kind of celebration because some of the drivers are reckless and participate in the foam spraying activity instead of concentrating on the driving.

Waiting for the coming cars

Waiting for the coming cars

At the beginning of the festival, the participants would hold at least one can to spray on the car. Few hours after the starting the festival, the participant would hold one big can of spray in each hand and the spraying would be more aggressive. The standing crowd would target the front windshield, car body and aim specifically to get their foam and water through the same gap of the side windows. The water sprayers would bring a big plastic barrel containing water-filled balloons to increase the water quantity that they can deliver on the passing cars. Once in a while, one of the standing participants would jump in the street in an attempt to stop the coming cars and other participant would check if the car doors can be opened to expose the car passengers to their attacks. Safety becomes a concern at this point part of it is the occasional contamination of the participants’ eyes with water or foam.

New Habits and Cultures in Kuwait

Trick or treat is almost an international cultural function practiced in different countries around the world but in slightly different versions. Trick or treat in Kuwait is called “Ger-ge-an” and it is practiced in mid of the holy month of Ramadan. This beautiful habit was diminishing and almost forgotten until it was revived slowly 15-18 years ago. The habit was transformed for innocent children knocking on doors to get the candy to  adults wrapping the candy in nice packages and drive cress-crossing Kuwait to hand over the packages to their friends and relatives. The nice packages became elegant and more expensive of course. In the last 5 years this cultural habit started diminishing again for two reasons. First, the cost impact on the family budget was snowballing. Second, the habit is not supported by the local candy manufactures or distributer the way it was advertised and supported 15 years ago.

Passing time

Soccer is the number one sport in Kuwait. Soccer started filing the last few hours before breaking fast in Ramadan since it is the slowest passing hours of the day. About 10-15 years ago, Kuwaitis started organizing soccer tournaments in Ramadan and few companies started sponsoring these tournaments in the last 10 years. The tournaments are have major TV coverage and commercial sponsorship in the last few years. Members of Kuwait parliament are present at the final matches and valuable gifts with fat checks are handed overt to the wining teams. The Ramadan soccer tournaments are booming business and I would assume that neighboring countries will soon copy this business model.

Firecrackers were used by citizens during the Kuwaiti National day celebrations. This habit became popular and picked good momentum few years ago and there was a good supply of firecrackers in the market although it was not legal. The firecrackers business was doing good especially during National day celebrations, and new years evening celebrations. The habit disappeared  and the law enforcement became very tough on the firecrackers’ illegal business after a famous fatal accident to a young girl who was hit by a firecracker rocket.

The Solution

The celebration in Kuwait’s National Day will continue with the same risky habits in the coming years because Kuwaitis seems to enjoy it. There are eyewitnesses who reported families renting a bus to participate in the foam spraying festival.

Containing the problem:

Foam at night

Foam spraying at night photo by Tariq Malallah

The foam festival should be contained in a designated area like Flag Area where people going there know that they will be spraying foam and will be sprayed at. The good thing about such are is now cars can drive through so the people will be protected. Kuwait  has designated area for the car power demonstration and Drag race, why not fencing and area for such festivals. The ideal place would be renting one of the existing sports club stadiums for the festival. Participant would pay small fee for the aftermath clean up plus a markup for the organizer. Crowd who like watching can watch at the comfort of the stadium seats without participating.

Personal protective equipments:

Party foam

Massive foam quantity from a special machine

Eye protection would be mandatory to participate in the festival and participant can either bring their protective equipment purchase a package from the organizer.  The package would have coveralls or rain coat, eye goggles, shower cap, rubber gloves and other simple necessaries. The items in the package would be cheep, disposable and single-use equipment that most of the people can pay for. Coveralls or the rain coats should come in different colors to form teams and groups and make them compete or unite with each other.  First aid and emergency medical staff should be located nearby to deal with unfortunate incidents. Police or security personal are necessary to control the crowd if things started to go out of control.

Commercial aspects:

The organizer can import and sell the package mentioned above along with foam cans, water guns and other party necessities and make good profit. The organizer can contract with one of the numerous satellite channels for news coverage or sell them the exclusive live coverage of the full festival. Copies of the digital photos and video coverage can also be professionally edited and sold on CD’s.

Conclusion

Foam at night-1

Foam at night photo by Tariq Malallah

A peaceful and innocent traditional occasion was transformed into a violent festival that lost the traditional identity. The Kuwaiti citizens are celebrating their national day and independence day in a way that do not display patriotism or show a sign of loyalty to Kuwait. The festival is more risky than fun and could develop to a more violent occasion if not controlled by the authorities in the future. The authorities resisted similar festivals in other countries but they accepted and organized these festival to control the crowd. The festival can be contained in a designated area and organized in  a way to provide the crowed with safe entertainment while making enough profit for the organizers.

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References

Bond, M. (2009). Critical mass. [Article]. New Scientist Archive, 203(2717), 38-41.

Creswell, J. W. (2005). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (2 ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill Prentice-Hall.

Lacks, R. d., Gordon, J. A., & McCue, C. M. (2005). Who, what, and when: A descriptive examination of crowd formation, crowd behavior, and participation with law enforcement at homicide scenes in one city (Vol. 30, pp. 1-20): Springer Science & Business Media B.V.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (2005). Language and meaning: Data collection in qualitative research. [Article]. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 137-145. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.52.2.137

2 Responses to Kuwaiti National Day: Foam and Water

  1. Hellraiser says:

    The irony is that these celebration are to commemorate the fallen during the invasion and celebrate the independence of a country that was gripped by terror not to add more casualties and spread more terror. As an expat in Kuwait, I have sadly witnessed the deterioration of these celebrations from fun to extremely unruly behavior. Unfortunately the blame falls on parents, that have forgotten the essence of courtesy and public authorities for allowing youngsters to wreak havoc on motorist, rendering them blind and littering the streets, which until today has not been cleansed of sticky garbage. unfortunately the lack of organization of these festivities has resulted in citizens taking matters in their own hands and acting like mobsters for 3 consecutive days. I think the whole foaming aspects should be banned altogether or at least contained in terms of the chemicals being imported and as you rightly mentioned designated areas should be allocated. The Ministry of Culture, Education and Information should play an active role, in educating students and citizen on Independence Day with a key focus in taking pride and respect others. Rather than carry sticks and urine filled splash guns.
    As for the expats, a word of wisdom book yourself a ticket to Dubai and spend a peaceful three day enjoying the shopping festival, until one day this issue get resolved.

    • Thank you for the insightful analysis and valuable comments. I hope others share your opinion on this mate and we see major change next year.

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