It was a balmy July night in Bneid Al-Gar, a neighborhood in Kuwait City overlooking the Persian Gulf. Kuwait could be oppressively hot in the summer but I recall summer evenings being tolerably warm and sometimes nice. I loved Kuwait at night. It seemed like the city lit up (especially during Eid), the lights from modern buildings and towers built in the 1970s and 1980s reflecting off the Gulf.
As my family and I waited for a taxi to take us to the airport, I craned my neck and stared at our apartment building. My family was embarking on a big trip, one that I had enthusiastically fantasized about for weeks. We were visiting my older brother who was attending university in a small town in Southern Illinois. My family had only lived in the flat in Bneid Al-Gar for about a year. This flat was a lot bigger and more modern than the modest apartment in Hawali where I had spent most of my childhood at that point. It was in a fancier part of town, one with a lot of modern high-rise towers catering to “ajaneb” (foreigners).
I kept staring at our building, craning my ten year old neck as hard as I could, to get a glimpse of our flat at the very top. I was proud of our building — full of large windows throughout. It struck me as fancy. I’d spend hours perched on the back of our couch staring out of those windows. From one side of our living room, I could stare out at the American flag marking the American Embassy, with the Kuwait Towers and Persian Gulf behind it off in the distance. From our perspective on the top floor, we could even make out the times when the Embassy had various functions. The other side of our living room faced a large fancy complex of high-rise towers that were still partially in development. We could even see their pool and I envied a man who regularly swam there. I wondered what it was like to be an American or Westerner living in Kuwait. Their lives seemed so much more glamorous than ours with Embassy parties and swimming pools in apartment complexes.
I don’t know why that night I had spent so much time staring at our building. But I’m glad I did it for it was the last time I’d ever see it.
A couple of weeks after our arrival in Illinois (on August 2, 1990, to be exact), Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in an invasion no one saw coming and that changed the course of my family’s life. Like the nearly 400,000 Palestinians…