Friday, 26 October 2007

A New Beginning

It was exactly one year before the abject, world-shaking September 11 attacks of Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, in September 2000, when I stumbled over a large advertisement in one of our professional journals which told me that the new Faculty of Dentistry at Kuwait University was seeking applicants for academic positions. I have to admit here that I had never ever considered moving to an Islamic country, in particular not working there. But that was entirely due to lack of information at that time. What Islam meant was not clear to me at all. I was not even interested very much.

A quick check on the internet told me that this was a project mainly engaging well-known international academicians, most of them from Scandinavian countries, with a quite good record of publications. So the question came to my mind, would I fit in that environment? I read Kuwait was the hottest place in the world. But a dear friend who had been traveling in the Middle East in the 1970s and who apparently was still dreaming her oriental dreams now and then quickly convinced me of sending an application, just for fun, of course.

One year later, exactly 10 days after that infamous September 11, I arrived in Kuwait, quite anxiously, of course. It turned out that I was now the 15th academic staff of Faculty of Dentistry, Kuwait University. The adventure began and it certainly did change my life. The Middle East turned out to be one of the most exciting, thrilling, amazing, mind-changing environments I could imagine. Apart from sincere commitment in teaching our so self-confident, diligent, most talented, in fact just wonderful students, I was mainly occupied these six years in Kuwait with a tremendous personal development of new and deep social, cultural and even religious interests in this multicultural society living in the State of Kuwait.

I would like to describe the urban life in modern Kuwait, but even more the nature of this small, oil-rich desert state in the corner of the Arabian (or indeed Persian) Gulf. And of course document my extensive traveling in the Middle East which brought me to Lebanon, Syria, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and many times to Iran, whose rich and eternal history and culture, and spectacular landscapes as well, I could only marginally explore during my numerous visits there. While I have been moving in the meantime for meeting other challenges in a part of the world which cannot be a greater contrast, I hope that my general experience in the Middle East, namely the overwhelming friendliness of its people, be it Kuwaitis or ‘expats’ from so many other countries living in Kuwait, and at the same time that of Jordanians, Syrians, Omanis, Yemenis, and, in particular Iranians, is well-reflected here. As well as my growing concerns regarding an uprising new military conflict in the region.

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