Modern Camping in Kuwait: Good for people, not so good for the environment

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Each year, Kuwaiti residents retreat to the desert for the ultimate camping experience. The article Desert Camping in Kuwait from _The Kuwait Armed Forces Journal_ describes the need Kuwaitis feel to seek refuge in the sand as a traditional way to eliminate stress, stray from the mundane routine of daily life, and enjoy nature.

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However, camping in the modern Kuwaiti style is not quite the same as it used to be. Nadia Abu-Qumasha, a Kuwait national, describes what camping was like in the late 70’s and early 80’s. “Camping in the desert required only a cloth tent [set up on a pavilion and designed much like a military base tent], and a smaller tent used as a bathroom. At night, lights were provided only by oil lanterns, and cooking was done by the fire.”

Today’s modern camping experience involves so much more. It is not uncommon to find five to ten small single pavilion tents, used as sleeping quarters, and two or three large family tents, used as the family gathering place. Two or three bathrooms are constructed out of an aluminum material and are detailed with cement floors, running water, flushing toilets and sinks. A kitchen is also constructed out of this same type of material, which may also include a gas stove and several storage compartments. The family gathering quarters contain satellite television, couches and carpets. Power comes from generators, often only run at night.

Surrounding the entire camp are barriers of wooden poles with lights attached, dug up sand piles, and tires. These barriers are built to prevent unwanted cars and recreational vehicles from coming too near to the family camp. The Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR) has asked Kuwaiti citizens setting up spring camps to avoid creating these type of barriers, explaining that they have a strongly adverse effect on the desert plants in the area, including grasses and reeds.

Abu-Qumasha remembers desert camping when she was a young child, “before you could see the grass, and other green plants, and it was so peaceful and quiet. No one was using buggies [a four wheel recreational vehicle].”

But desert plant life provides more than enjoyable scenery for campers. It is also food and shelter for the desert dwelling inhabitants. Although the modern camping experience may seem like an enjoyable getaway, its affect on the desert environment and natural habitat is alarming. As reported by the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), desert plants are deteriorating in the Kuwaiti environment due to the lack of rain — and the misuse of desert areas by seasonal campers. Campers come and enjoy their time, then leave what they don’t want behind. Among these items, one might find an area carpet or two, used toilets, furniture, tires and blocks of cement

_The Arab Times Newspaper_ in Kuwait recently carried a warning from environmental engineer, Abdul-Rahman Al-Sarhan about the potential extinction of many species of desert animals in the region. “…Life in the desert, as [with] any environment, goes through a circle. Birds depend on plants and provide them with fertilizer; plants depend on insect and birds for pollination of flowers, and so on.”

Although the traditional Kuwaiti camping experience has evolved with changes in today’s lifestyle, the changes have not benefited the environment. The country needs to learn to take care of the desert wildlife and promote so that future generations of Kuwaitis — and non-Kuwaitis, can benefit from these irreplaceable resources.

_A native of Coon Rapids, Kellie Hills is married to a Kuwaiti national and now lives in Salwa, Kuwait. She is enrolled in online courses at Anoka-Ramsey Community College_

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