Banker by day and fledging writer by night, Abdulaziz AlSmairi explores the dynamics of the Gulf's most exclusive men's club; the dewaniya…
At the end of every year, millions of people around the globe gather to celebrate the New Year. The celebrations differ among nations but the thought remains the same; a celebration is a must. Whenever there’s festivity in the air, a breeze of hopefulness and excitement takes over, especially when you’re on the threshold of a new chapter in your life. It does things to you; it makes you bold and courageous in your decisions and goals. Everyone transforms into a little farm boy who looks up to the stars, turns to his mother and shouts at the top of his lungs “mommy, I’mma be an astronaut!” Granted, he ends up becoming a conspiracy theorist and joins a cult, but it’s the thought that counts. Away from astronauts, farms and unislamic moonshine, the countdown to the New Year is different in Kuwait, especially in a dewaniya.
As the dewaniya fills up for the last night of the year, a man can’t help but appreciate the beauty behind the concept of a dewaniya. It is a gentlemen’s gathering that unites guys in a place where the word gentle is taken out of gentlemen and replaced with heated discussions that may or may not end up in amateur wrestling. However, New Year’s Eve is a special night. It’s the end of the year and everyone is subdued by the hopefulness and excitement in the air, awaiting the New Year. The countdown begins and ten men unanimously countdown in tearful excitement as we near number one. At the end of the countdown, the door opens and amidst the fog a valiant delivery man appears, drops a bag of food and escapes before being eaten along with it. It is actually 1 AM; no one noticed the beginning of the New Year. We are counting down to the delivery man’s arrival after numerous threats and Bond villain accents were used to intimidate the restaurant into delivering the food faster.
Nanoseconds later, like a World War II platoon, everyone takes circular formation on the ground, two lines of ketchup smeared on their cheeks, they begin the distribution of food. However, the circle is not always in the middle of the dewaniya, it is wherever the guy who weighs the most is sitting so as to have him move as little as possible. If for unforeseen circumstances he, who we do not wish to displease, has to move then we must all pay him a tax from our French fries. According to the dewaniya code. For all men, the circle of food is holy and must always be respected. Some say, it’s the modern evolution of the knight's round table. The swords and shields are naturally replaced with straws and empty buckets of fried chicken, however, the chivalry and courage remains even if they’re in the form of paying for everyone or running out in the cold to fetch the food.
After we annihilate the food, the holy circle remains intact and strong from the euphoria of satisfying one’s appetite. However, as the rounds of tea and coffee begin to restore our senses, we come to the realization that it is in fact a New Year and we start to congratulate each other. As every New Year begins with resolutions, we all unanimously agree to make “never ordering from this restaurant again” our first. Like an intoxicated person sobering up and thinking “What have I done?” the aurora of food poisoning gives us flashbacks of past experiences like Vietnam veterans.
Afterwards, the circle slowly breaks and ever yone retreats to their preferred position on the sofas or a quiet corner to weep with regret from what they’ve eaten. After a few minutes of silent grief,everyone begins discussing their hopes, dreams and expectations for the New Year. For such a tightly knit society, we tend to conform to each other’s aspirations since we all seem to be flowing into the same future roles.
If you ask enough questions, you’ll find the true individual in those outlier New Year resolutions that stray from the center of the normal curve. Those resolutions are the ones I love the most, ones that push you outside your comfort zone bit by bit. Who knows, it might even start with a column in Khaleejesque.