A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kuwait Dodges the Bikini Bullet

Over the weekend, the Kuwaiti Parliament voted down a measure that would have banned "nudity" on Kuwaiti beaches. In the event you were previously unaware of the proliferation of nude beaches in Kuwait (as I was), "nudity" here really meant "bikinis." A committee rejected it on the grounds it was unconstitutional, though in cases like this I invariably wonder why they don't just vote "you're next door to Iraq which invaded you 20 years ago, and Iran, and have the Bidoon, sectarianism, and other social issues, and all you worry about is bikinis?"

Recently a woman in a bikini was ordered off a Kuwaiti beach, in another case a woman lost child custody in a divorce case because of a photo of her in a bikini with  a man not her husband (though in the Gulf the latter may have counted for more than the bikini). Qatar has also been cracking down, and the Kuwait Times suggests higher fees for running for Parliament to avoid nuisance legislation.

The whole thing reminds me of an Egyptian cartoon I ran back in 2011 (at left) in which a man stands among all of Egypt's economic and social problems and is screaming about bikinis.

Dina Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti Royal
In doing the basic research for this post, Google informed me of something I didn't know: the existence of a "professional figure competitor" (a profession of which I was unaware) named Dina Al-Sabah, who not only holds "figure competition" and some bodybuilding championships but also some awards for bikini modeling.

Some readers will have noticed the "Al-Sabah" in her name. Assuming we can trust Wikipedia here, she is a great-granddaughter of Sheikh Salim al-Mubarak Al Sabah (Ruler of Kuwait 1919-1921) and thus a great-great-granddaughter of Mubarak the Great, who is essentially the founder of modern Kuwait. Dina was not raised in Kuwait but her royal inheritance is unforgotten; still, her body modeling might not sit well with the rulers today. Still, I show her photo as a sign Kuwaitis can wear bikinis. Not so badly, in fact.

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