Why Wait Kuwait

Nada Faris
5 min readApr 6, 2023

This is an edited version of the spoken word poem first performed at Taste of Jamaica in April 2014.

Nada Faris holding the 1st place trophy with Ayana Shanti, CEO of Taste of Jamaica

My mother woke up on the 2nd of August and took a shower
singing Abdulhaleem’s “Thalamoh
loud enough so that my father
who was getting ready himself in their bedroom
could sing along too.

They argued before heading to work
— two engineers on two courses
she, to the Ministry of Electricity and Water
and he, to the Ministry of Finance —
by clutching Abdulhaleem’s cassette and pulling hard
for the winner would listen to his songs in the car
and as all previous tugs-of-war
my mother emerged as the victor.

Oblivious to contours in Kuwait’s security
my mother drove her Shuffer along the 4th Ring Road
6:12 am flashed in front of her
marking forever the moment when Iraqi soldiers
burst into the Ministry of Information
and fired on the soundproof door
where Mohammad Al-Sager had been reading
the Six O’clock News.

The Iraqi missile hit the third floor of the ministry
and cut out all transmission.

Though Salwa Hussein and a team of sound technicians
had successfully linked the OB Truck to radio aerials
and said with a voice still echoing:
Hona Al-Kuwait!”
in spite of Saddam’s agenda
to rename our homeland
as the 19th Province of his state.

Mother parked her Shuffer and walked into the ministry
then came face to face with an Iraqi in a military uniform
stroking his rocket launcher like a Persian cat.

“Get to work,” he spat.
And she did.

She, and other previously spoiled civilians,
who’d been shallow, ignorant, and to be honest, racist,
then contributed to a multifaceted resistance
that saved their nation
and generations of citizens
from evanescence.

So what does it mean to be a Kuwaiti today?
Tell me.

Because on the 2nd of August
and on the months following,
it meant solidarity and courage;
caring for family members, as well as neighbors,
because everyone was human,
worthy of assistance;
it meant standing up to dogma, to violence,
even though it made your kneecaps weak,
and your breathing loud
— not finding a spotlight for a quick selfie
with murder in the background.

Tell me.
What does it mean to be a Kuwaiti
when Arab countries ripple with anxiety,
and we squirm, uneasily searching for others to blame,
even though we have all precipitated this calamity
we now call the Kuwaiti identity?

Tell me.
What does it mean to be a Kuwaiti?

Because I cannot, for the life of me, fathom
how a population that never forgot the invasion,
that continues to penalize Palestinians
for the PLO’s transgression,
have buried memories of their unity and their resilience
among martyrs they have too forgotten.

So I’m just wondering
why we’re waiting
and what we are all waiting for
before we realize at stake is more
than our egos,
more than mere discomfort:

it’s the loss of everything we stand for,
live for, wake up in the morning for —

so why wait Kuwait until we learn
what wars are made of?

Mom and dad at Hajj a few years ago


Today’s nationalistic poem might seem odd to some of my American friends.

However, life in Kuwait is fundamentally lived in nationalistic terms. Everything depends on what it means to be Kuwaiti here: legally, socially, and economically.

Whether or not you are deemed Kuwaiti by the government impacts both major and minor decisions.

For example, one of my friends recently gave a workshop on filmmaking at The National Council for Arts and Letters. To support him, I shared his flyer with a group of creatives, who took a look at that poster and said, “It’s only for Kuwaitis.”

Being a Kuwaiti myself, I didn’t even care to read the fine print.

We are talking about a regular, creative workshop.

People in Kuwait are being excluded from all kinds of spaces, activities, and resources. This is why the work that has been done over the past 10 years to create Anglowaiti spaces that transcend these barriers are crucial.

In fact, some locals are even pressuring the government to build a hospital that’ll only serve nationals with an approved Kuwaiti citizenship because they don’t want to wait in line while non-Kuwaitis receive treatment before them.

It is in this climate that my friends and I are creating art, a climate in which national identity plays a primary role in Kuwaiti life.

In this poem, I reflect on the diversity and genuine desire to reach beyond labels by drawing on an example from the experience of a small but brave resistance that ended up protecting the country from the invaders.

Ten years ago, when I started writing and touring in Kuwait, I would’ve much rather written different types of work, to be honest, works that were more specifically joyful to me (like Young Adult Fiction at the time) or works that were designed to improve my writing skills.

And yet, because I recognized that there was a need for art to be expressed as a social practice, I often asked myself:

How can I be an authentic poet, born and raised in this environment, speaking to a particular community, and not express my concerns about national identity? And how can I advocate for an “Anglowaiti Literature” that challenges identity myths but then shy away from a subject that affects the daily lives of millions?

In my next post (on Sunday), I’ll share the introduction to, Before Young Adult Literature, which is a book I self-published to continue my conversations on identity, literature, language, community, and creativity with my readers.

But more on that next Sunday.

This picture of the contestants is foggy because people were smoking hooka in the Ethi-Sudan Restaurant and Café were the slam poetry competition was held
A snapshot of when I performed this poem at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Global Arts Community Performance, Cleveland, (USA) as part of the International Visitor Leader Program (IVLP): Empowering Youth Through Performing Arts, April 2018



Nada Faris

Kuwaiti writer interested in language, literature, identity, community, and creativity. Sharing notes from my 10-year journey.