‘Cocktails’ in Kuwait

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

When I was a college student I really got a first hand education on the lengths people will go to not only to consume alcohol but to hide it from others as well. The college I attended boasted in its brochure that it was a ‘dry’ campus, which meant that there was a zero tolerance policy for alcohol on the campus and for drunken students returning back to the dorm. And they really enforced this policy. I knew a couple of infamous drunks on campus that seemed to ‘magically’ disappear. I later found out that they were quietly asked to leave the college or face a permanent mark on their record. They opted for leaving.

I never really thought about how people who want to drink alcohol in Kuwait do it. I just assumed that they didn’t, given that alcohol is not readily available except of course on the ‘black market’. However, two incidents that I have heard about recently have shown me that some people in Kuwait are finding a way to drink.

An online friend in Kuwait relayed the first incident to me. She always goes to a certain garden in Kuwait every weekend. And each time she goes she sees a couple of elderly men sitting at a card table playing cards. They have little mugs of Arabic tea and each time she goes she notices that they have an artificial floral centerpiece in the middle of the table. This is strange because why would anyone use a centerpiece to play cards in the garden? She just assumed maybe one of the wives had done it to make it look nice and did not think much of it again until this past weekend. While walking past the gentleman she saw one of them insert his hand into the middle of the bouquet and pull out a flask. He then topped off his Arabic tea and his friend’s too!

The next incident was also witnessed by another acquaintance of mine. And it is very disturbing. This time the setting was a local ‘bakala’. My friend had gone to pick up a few things she was missing at home in order to prepare lunch for her family. As she was bent down inspecting some vegetables a man came in and hurriedly went to the cooler. The only reason she noticed him was because his gait was a little off and he was really rushing about. He grabbed two small boxes of orange juice, 2 big glass bottles of lemonade, and then 2 bottles of aftershave. This guy was clearly out of it and immediately set to work in front of both my friend and the astonished ‘bakala’ clerk. He adeptly opened up both lemonades and dumped the contents into a nearby wastebasket. He then proceeded to mix and measure the aftershave and the orange juice equally into both bottles. The guy then grabbed both bottle of his special brew and stumbled out of the store. This case is the most alarming. A quick search on the Internet revealed the dangerous chemicals used to make after-shave and their fatal effects on the human body (when ingested). The most harmful chemicals include:

Ethyl Acetone – a narcotic that damages the liver and kidneys.

Benzyl Acetate – a carcinogen linked to Pancreatic cancer.

Limonene – a carcinogen that acts as an irritant.

Linalool – a narcotic that causes respiratory disturbances, which can lead to death.

A-Terpineol – an irritant that, when aspired into the lungs, can cause pneumonia and even death.

Depending on how often this guy whips up this deadly concoction you can rest assured he is living on borrowed time, and for what?

So, what’s the solution? Over the years, many non-Muslim expatriates have been quietly pushing for legislation to legalize alcohol in Kuwait. The model they use to rationalize such a step is Dubai and the fact that the selling and public consumption of alcohol is legal there. Should alcohol be legalized in Kuwait? I say a resounding “N0”! The main reason being, for me personally as a Muslim, is that first and foremost Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol and Kuwait is a Muslim country. Whether Muslim or not, I think everyone should try to abide by the set of laws for the country they reside in. Second, as the daughter of an alcoholic I have seen first hand the effects of alcoholism. My father, whom I barely knew due to the fact my parents divorced when I was an infant, drank himself to death. He died at the age of 57 due to cirrhosis of the liver. The main cause of cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, is prolonged consumption of alcohol over the course of several years.

The Kuwaiti government must implement an educational program to alert the public about the effects of alcohol on the human body rather than pretend the consumption of alcohol does not exist in Kuwait. People are drinking in this country and, regardless of whether it is whiskey that was bought on the ‘black market’ or aftershave purchased locally, the problem will only get worse until the public is well-informed about the negative effects of alcohol.


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