The video shows a police patrol cruising through the empty streets of Kuwait, possibly Salmiya or Hawally, just after curfew, slow with lights flashing. The cruiser stops about halfway down the street and an officer steps out, calling towards a building with a glass-fronted ground floor.
The officer yells again, then walks into the building, and a few seconds later, emerges with a man who was inside the building but not inside his apartment. Who is this man? What was he doing? Why was he not inside his flat after the curfew? The video doesn’t tell us. Instead the man is taken to the patrol, placed inside and the police drive off.
Kuwait has arrested dozens of people already for breaking the curfew. It’s possible, although unlikely, that these curfew breakers didn’t know about the curfew. More likely they are either bored or fed up with staying at home or up to nefarious purposes.
The curfew is as much psychological as it is physical. The first few days were a novelty, something new to experience. We sat out on the balcony, waiting for the siren and disappointed when we heard only the loudspeaker urging people to go to their homes and stay indoors. On the second night of the curfew, our children rushed around getting everything ‘ready’ for the start of the curfew.
And by this, I mean they made tea and cookies and we sat at the kitchen table chatting when the speakers called out. The next day, we celebrated the start of the curfew by having an early dinner, turning off our lights and lighting candles ‘for the fun of it.’
Day 4 and the quiet is what catches my attention. I’m sitting on the balcony, listening to the birds twittering and working on my laptop, when all the sudden I realize the quality of sound around me has changed. The regular hum of traffic on Al-Tawoun Street has disappeared.
The noise of neighbors coming and going, the talking and chatting as people walk around the streets below fades into a stillness unusual for Kuwait, unusual for this time of day. I look at my phone and see that its 5:15 pm. Ahh, I think, so the curfew has started.
Four days in and the curfew has lost its novelty. It hasn’t yet solidified into normality, into just another mundane occurrence of daily life, but the newness of the experience has eroded, perhaps hastened by the weeks-long ‘staying at home’ many of us have already been practicing since the middle of the February holidays.
The silence is a welcome respite from the rush of daily life. If you have a comfortable space in which to retreat, the curfew can be something to look forward to, a time to close in upon ourselves, reflect and rejuvenate. As an introvert, I am always grateful for alone time where I can write, draw, read and relax.
Unfortunately, too many of us live in cramped conditions, in tiny flats with limited space and in many cases too many other people. Tens of thousands of workers here live in rooms lined with cots and not much else. How do they manage the long hours when going outside isn’t a possibility? You can only spend so much time scrolling through Instagram and TikTok.
In such circumstances, the curfew becomes a daily challenge, a mountain to climb or a marathon to endure. When you are cramped into a tiny space with too many people, the curfew feels like a jail sentence instead of a respite. So it’s possible that the curfew breakers are criminals out looking for things to steal, but some of them might also simply be people who don’t have the space or comfort of a home indoors.
Jamie Etheridge is a columnist for the Kuwait Times.
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