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Thursday , October 1 2020

‘Al-Shawi’ profession in Kuwait fading as a result of modernism

Shepherds prefer goats over ewes

Kuwaiti Al-Shawis herding sheep in the olden days.

KUWAIT CITY, Aug 22, (KUNA): Al-Shawi is an Arabic-inspired word meaning the shepherd who wandered around the desert for sheep, since Kuwaitis in the past relied on goats and sheep to provide them with milk. People in Kuwait used to take their sheep to the Shawi every morning to rid of them during the day as to avoid dirt and reduce the expenses of feeding them.

While on this subject, Mohamad Jamal, a Kuwaiti heritage researcher, explained in his book “The Old Crafts, Trades, and Commercial Activities in Kuwait,” that Al-Shawi usually kept sheep in a spacious courtyard to graze outside, located in Kuwait City, in which each Shawi had their own adjacent neighborhoods. Jamal explained that Al-Shawi transported essentials through a bag woven from wool, fixed at the back of the donkey and rode it when walking was tiresome.

Outside of Kuwait springtime, there was a land with grass and water wells where Al-Shawi was spotted sending off the sheep to graze from the grass or bringing water in a large pot for them to drink until the day ends, then at the start of sunset the sheep became full of milk, he added. Shepherds in the east go behind the Darwazat Al-Buraisi in the area now called Mansouriya, while the shepherds in Qibla region headed to Shamiya, Jamal mentioned. Some of the most prominent herbs that grow in Kuwait’s desert help to increase the amount of milk in cattle to give milk, butter, ghee, as well as providing flavorful sheep meat, he noted.

These plants are usually less in the summer but are not eaten by sheep and the number of sheep Al-Shawi has ranges between 150-250 domesticated animals, mostly goats, as the majority preferred to raise goats over ewes, Jamal said. Al-Shawi was paid half a rupee for each sheep taken care of, by time it increased to one rupee in the fifties along with one rupee for each goat vaccinated, he pointed out.

Jamal went on to say that the Shawi knows all the sheep he took care of and vice-versa, as the herd of sheep followed Al-Shawi around, noting that when the sheep returned in the evening to the city, the owners go to Al-Shawi to receive them and some of them returned to their owners’ homes. The most well-known professional Shawis in the past are Shawi Zuweid in Derwazat Al-Abdulrazzaq, Shawi Obeid in Sawabir and others, he said.

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