Contact from Kuwait – Dr Keireine Canavan

Hello and warm greetings to all interested in Bedouin Al Sadu weaving, and the research that I am undertaking during my extended research leave from Contemporary Textiles Practice (CTP) at UWIC.

Initially, the purpose of this blog was to inform and share something of my research methods and outcomes with CTP students and staff only.  However, so many people have shown an interest, that I have widened the approach and hope to be inclusive for all.  The following correspondence is not intended as an academic report of my research; that will be available upon completion of the project.


After a whiz round Scotland, Wales and England and a very long flight, my feet eventually touched the sand, albeit in a sandstorm with virtually no visibility.   I have arrived in Kuwait in the Middle East, caught up on some sleep and started to acclimatise to the hot weather and vast amounts of water intake necessary to stay hydrated.

It is extremely hot – 49/51C.  Last night it was 42 C at 10.00pm, but the sheer expanse of the desert is extraordinary on the eye, and the climate so dry, that it is not uncomfortable.  Our home is on the coast, so occasionally a sea breeze and the very odd, single cloud offer a little relief from the intense heat.  I keep out of the sun, but swimming every day, and exercising frequently.

Life starts very early in the morning (night-time really) at 3.45am with the call to prayers – everyone suffers this, with Mosques every few hundred meters around the city, and a second call at 4.30am.  The nearest one to our house is approx. 300 m away and there are loud speakers in all directions from the minaret.  Some of the calls are very beautiful and tonal, while others are guttural and quite disgusting; all are very loud and meant to wake you up!

During Ramadan, the day starts a little earlier, and after prayers, ‘If-tar’ celebrates the start of a new day and enables people to eat before dawn, after which a few hours work is undertaken before sleep prevails, only to wake up to break the days fast, at about 6pm.  During this period Kuwait is like a ghost town; it is very unusual.  Times are slightly different each day, and are published by the Emir in the local papers.   Then just prior to the alloted time, everything goes wild.  The roads are jammed, people drive in a frenzy, and the restaurants are packed full.  People arrive early, make their order, which is presented before them and wait for the exact time before diving into their meals with relish!  It’s madness, however, if anyone, except very young children, is caught eating or drinking, it would be seen as very disrespectful.  Obviously some people struggle, particularly with smoking, and you read of terrible tales in the papers of people being incarcerated in prison or fined.

As Westerners, we can eat and drink in our own homes, but not publically (all restaurants, of which there are the greatest proportion per capita in the world, and food shops are closed), although our daughters, Imogen and Georgia are fasting and have turned nocturnal, as most of their friends are doing the same.  Strangely they have lost contact with some of their friends, as boys are not allowed to mix with girls during Ramadan.  

Ramadan is clearly a very ancient Arab tradition, and is very family orientated; an aspect which I respect and admire immensely, although it is a little strange to be hiding in your car, to take a sip of water during the day, when the temperatures are soaring to dizzy heights and your body is screaming for water!

But Ramadan is over and also Eid, the celebration period, and a sense of normality has resumed to Kuwait.  The temperatures are also dropping a little, and the weather is beautiful.

I have been very ‘research busy’ to date and made lots of new friends and contacts.  I have been reading copious numbers of books, but have also had time with family and caught up with old friends.  I have had meetings at the British Embassy, the British Council and the Ministry of Education, and thanks to my husband’s contacts, I have met with the CO of the Al Sabah Royal textile collection.  She kindly invited us to her beautiful traditional Kuwaiti home, (of which few remain), where I also met a textile collector/ historian.  We all shared common interests in ikat and Sadu textiles.  Heaven!

I shall be working from Sadu House, which is the Textile Museum part of the National Museum complex, and holds the largest collection of Al Sadu woven textiles (more next time with pictures).  I have been asked to deliver a public lecture at the Museum, about my current and previous associated research, and conduct a series of workshops on natural dyeing and contemporary textile techniques and symbolism.  I am hoping to share some of our graduate students’ work and show lots of beautiful textile images.  I am also delivering a lecture to Graphic students at the American University of Kuwait; something along the lines of the language and communication of Al Sadu through it’s use of symbolism in the sharjarah, which is the patterned panel that divides the men’s from the women’s section of the traditional Bedouin tents.  

Why I haven’t spoken to CSAD Graphic students before, I don’t know! I am always talking to CTP students about developing and communicating their own ‘personal language of textiles’.  Hmm!

I have also submitted an Abstract to present a paper at the Muscat International Conference for Creativity and Innovation in Arts  & Crafts organised by IRCICA, which is the Research Center for Islamic History, Culture and Art ( in February 2010.  So now I shall wait and see.  The conference is in Oman and I would dearly love to travel and see more of the Gulf states.

The Patron to Sadu House, Sheikha Altaf Salem Al Ali Al Sabah and museum staff  have kindly made the museum library available to me, so my time is spent reading a huge number of  fascinating books and documents about Bedouin culture, crafts and traditions: a literature review from articles in the National Geographic dated 1956; to books written by Sir Wilfred Thesiger, a British travel writer who pursued his deep affection for the Bedu people of the Middle East and spent most of his life coursing the Arab deserts on camel-back ( a far cry from his days at Eton and Oxford University); and Harold R. P. and Violet Dickson, who independently wrote about their 40 odd years’ experiences living in Kuwait, from the turn of the twentieth century and before oil was struck; and of course the Internet and even BBC Radio 4 archive; Great Lives about Freya Stark who visited Kuwait in 1933 and stayed with Harold and Violet Dickson.  




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19 responses to “Contact from Kuwait – Dr Keireine Canavan

  1. Cathy Treadaway

    Hi Keireine,
    Thanks for doing this, it’s great to hear what you’re up to. It sound so interesting!

    • alsaduweaving

      Thanks Cathy. So much is developing. Off to Islamic Art lecture tonight at Museum at Kuwait Textile Arts Association. Friends/ contacts are so kind; lending me old books and articles, and gifting their personal experiences of craft and culture in Kuwait. Keireine

      Dr Keireine Canavan Programme Director/ Principal Lecturer BA (Hons) Contemporary Textile Practice Cardiff School of Art & Design UWIC

      Tel: +44 (0) 292 041 6634/7 Email: Blog address:

  2. Karen

    It sounds absolutely fascinating Keireine, I shall be watching your blog regularly. Enjoy!

  3. Anna N. Brancale (CTP level 2)

    Hello Keireine,
    your blog is fantastic and inspirational. I shall be reading it as often as I can.
    The desert must be beautiful but very hot.
    Take care.


    • alsaduweaving

      Thank you Anna. It is great to know that you and CTP students are following my research. It is our shared love of textiles, and the language of world textiles that is so communicative and inspirational. Keep in touch….. by email, blog or textile! Keireine

  4. helen watkins

    Hello, good morning! Not so hot in temperature here, but a totally glorious autumn day, with frosty start and mellow sunshine filtering through.
    Very very interesting to read about your experiences and imagine the life that goes on over there in Kuwait.
    Lots of pictures in my mind, but can’t wait for your images to make it real! It sounds like you have discovered a treasure trove!
    Look forward to the next stash!
    Love to the girls.
    Best wishes, love from helen.

    • alsaduweaving

      Thanks Helen. Lots more news and images to be sent over next couple of days. I was out photographing very early this morning, to catch the start of the day and before it got too hot. Believe it or not I am missing the crisp, sunny autumnal days with all the beautiful colours of this time of year. Keireine x

  5. arthur bolster

    I have heard of Dr C.
    But who’s this Wilfred T?

  6. James Ison

    Hi Keireine,

    Just a quick to say that I have just come across your blog and will now be a regular subscriber, it all sounds incredibly fascinating. My love to both you and G if she’s with you… take care


    • alsaduweaving

      Hi James – fabulous to hear from you. I can’t believe just how many people have found the blog and have contacted me. Wonderful to be in touch! K

  7. christina

    Hi Keireine,
    The crisp sunny days have turned into wet grey ones for the moment! The colours are lovely though and I’m discovering Wales very slowly. Visited the Three Cliffsbeach which was wonderful.
    Can’t wait to see your next news and images,it’s a perfect antidote to here!

  8. pip

    Dear KC
    I flitted into your blog again today and am thinking its soon time for the next hit.
    I have questions but answers I will be pleased to receive directly as its the opportunity I miss of seeing you talk and describe with the passion and feeling you have for this research, the contacts PLUS the knowledge of the place.
    So – this is really to prove we enjoy the blog and beg for more

    • alsaduweaving

      Thanks Pip…. I’ll do my best ….. and send more pictures of Kuwait, and information on the data being collected from three generations of women; about their memories, knowledge, practical experiences and current values of Al Sadu …. it is so fascinating. x

  9. Imi

    Good job Mum!
    I’m definately impressed with the blog and glad to see your making most of researching in the sun.
    Keep it up! I like to know what you’re up to!
    Lot’s of love imi xoxo

    • alsaduweaving

      Thanks Sweetie


      Dr Keireine Canavan Programme Director/ Principal Lecturer Contemporary Textile Practice Cardiff School of Art & Design UWIC

      Tel: +44 (0) 292 041 6634/7 Tel: +965 6609 5290 Email: Blog address:

    • Dear Prof. Dr.

      We have the pleasure of inviting you and All Universities in your country for participate in the SMARTEX-2011 Conference in Egypt 23-25 May 2011.

      We have the pleasure of inviting you and your colleagues to take part in work of SMARTEX-2011, Conference , Egypt . 23 – 25 May, 2011.1st World Textile Conference, KaferelSheikh University , Egypt . With Ivanovo State Textile Academy (ISTA), Russia .
      The Textile and Apparel Branch in Home Economize Department, of Faculty of Specific Education, KaferelSheikh University , Egypt , organizes the 1st World Textile Conference on May, 23–25, 2011 at the Development & Information Center DIC. The conference is multidisciplinary, with participations of leading International Scientists from Textile Teaching, Research and Development Institutions, top level local Industrial Managers, Industrialists as well as Business Representatives. The conference provides a unique forum to promote the creativity in science and technology of textile materials. This event will focus on discussing the latest innovative trends and technological advancements in textile processing along with their impacts on textile products obtained there from, within the economy and environment dimensions.
      This is why I would appreciate very much your contribution, both in scientific papers and your presence and presentations, at our:
      SMARTEX-2011, Conference , Egypt . 23 – 25 May, 2011.
      1st World Textile Conference, KaferelSheikh University , Egypt . With Ivanovo State Textile Academy (ISTA), Russia .
      The First Call for Papers (PDF format) is attached. Please inform your colleagues and friends about the SMARTEX-2011, Conference , Egypt . 23 – 25 May, 2011.

      I am looking forward to seeing you in KaferelSheikh University , Egypt .
      Best Regards.
      Associate Professor of textiles & Apparel,
      Home Economic Department, Faculty of Specific Education,
      KaferElshekh University , Egypt .
      The Egyptian coordinator For Memorandum Agreement with (ISTAR) Ivanovo State Textiles Academy , Russia
      Cell phone: (+2) 016 9288940
      Home phone (+2) 0403608776
      Work& Fax: (+2) 047 3234944

  10. Lise

    Hi Keireine,
    A very interesting blog, utterly fascinating subject, well done. Keep us all informed.

  11. Dr Ali Alnajadah

    Dr. Keireine,
    Well done. I can see that this blog will be an active and very interesting one. Keep up the good work.

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