‘The Pact We Made’: Exploring family life in Kuwait

“The Pact We Made” is Layla Al-Ammar’s debut novel. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 September 2020

‘The Pact We Made’: Exploring family life in Kuwait

CHICAGO: Layla Al-Ammar’s debut novel, “The Pact We Made,” takes readers to Kuwait and the rituals and life of a Kuwaiti family. A mother and father live with their two daughters, one of whom is married. The approaching thirtieth birthday of Dahlia, the unmarried daughter, has the family on edge. Her marriage prospects are a source of tension with her mother, furthering her anxiety and keeping her distant. To her mother she is an anomaly, but a buried secret in Dahlia’s past has been slowly transforming Al-Ammar’s main character.

Readers first meet Dahlia as she entertains a suitor, a man who, like Dahlia’s mother, is thankful that she did not try to become a doctor, despite her good grades, because a wife’s place is in the home. Dahlia’s life is made up of only rituals, no choices: Morning rituals, cultural rituals, familial rituals and marriage rituals. The only time she can find an escape is when she draws — a hobby but not a worthy career, according to her father — and when she’s away from her family with her best friends Mona and Zaina.

But even as Dahlia escapes her familial pressures, she is never quite herself. At night, panic grips her as a yathoom, a devilish entity, sits on her chest until she cannot breathe and then crawls back into hell. The secret deep inside her is eating away at her. Neither Mona nor Zaina can help, because what has trapped Dahlia is her lack of control over her own life, her own body and her own future, as she reflects that “here, in this country, we are taught to listen to others, to subjugate our desires to the wisdom of the collective, the tried and true of tradition. Seek the approval of the masses, of society. Heed, above all, your parents. Protect your reputation and the honor of the family.”

Al-Ammar presents a story of families that enjoy the privileges of vacations abroad and certain freedoms and friendships that keep them afloat amid traditional struggles between generations. Dahlia has two lives, one created with a semblance of choice while the other has no choice at all. There are insights into loneliness and societal pressures that Al-Ammar weaves gracefully into a story that is difficult to tell. Healing must follow, and Dahlia will find out how, one way or another.


Spotify unveils top 5 most streamed K-Pop acts in Saudi Arabia, UAE 

Updated 20 October 2020

Spotify unveils top 5 most streamed K-Pop acts in Saudi Arabia, UAE 

DUBAI: To celebrate the monumental impact of K-Pop on fans around the world, Spotify delved into its listening data for some of the genre’s best-known acts. From BTS to ATEEZ, here are the five most streamed K-Pop groups across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. 

BTS 

Formed in 2013, BTS has spearheaded the K-Pop drive into the Middle East with catchy, upbeat music. The seven-member South Korean boy band recently notched up the first No.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart by a South Korean group with their first all-English language single “Dynamite.” 

Blackpink

It’s not just the boys that are driving the K-Pop obsession. Seoul-based girl group Blackpink, who recently released their first Netflix documentary “BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky” on Oct. 14, are also experiencing a serious surge in streaming. Their latest release “The Album” became the #1 global album on Spotify during the week of launch. 

Twice

Beside Blackpink, Twice have also established themselves in the region. This is a big month for the nine-member girl group: Oct. 20 marks five years since they hit the scene in 2015, and on Oct. 26 they are releasing their second full-length Korean album “Eyes Wide Open.”

Stray Kids 

The fourth most streamed act in the Middle East is Stray Kids. The group consists of eight male members, who are currently preparing for their Nov. 22 virtual concert on Beyond Live, the online performance platform. Their most famous hits are “Grow Up,” “Voices” and “Side Effects.” 

ATEEZ

ATEEZ is one of the most recent K-Pop acts. Formed in October 2018, the eight-member group has already made it to the region’s top five most streamed K-Pop bands. Not just that, but as of September 2020, the group has released five Korean-language EPs, one full-length album and two Japanese albums.