American troops far from family dinners and Thanksgiving football games were treated to a hotel feast and an exotic dance, courtesy of a group of Kuwaitis grateful for U.S. protection.
More than 1,800 U.S. troops wolfed down roast turkey and cranberry sauce in a huge hall at a five-star hotel, while sword dancers in white robes and checkered headdresses performed.
"This is great, better than sitting in the barracks," said Spec. Jay Nix, 23, from Portland, Ore.
At the entrance, Bedouin tents were set up, and soldiers had their photographs taken beside camels.
The $87,500 tab was picked up by a number of Kuwaiti families and companies that wanted to show their appreciation for the troops, most with the 24th Infantry Division based in Ft. Stewart, Ga.
They flew to Kuwait last month to counter an Iraqi military buildup just north of the Kuwaiti border.
The buildup raised fears that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein planned to repeat his August, 1990, invasion of the emirate. But Iraq pulled back after the United States rushed tens of thousands of troops to the region, and Russia promised Baghdad to campaign to ease U.N. sanctions imposed after the invasion.
Businessman Faisal Kazemi, 51, was one of the hosts. He brought his two young boys to dine with the troops.
"This is the least we could do for our American friends who came quickly to support Kuwait, and who fought the Gulf War to free us," he said.
Most of the dinner guests were scheduled to leave by mid-December. Only a few hundred will stay to maintain heavy weapons in Camp Doha, north of Kuwait City.
The six-hour extravaganza, complete with prizes and live music, was the idea of an American couple, Sheila and Lionel Gittens, of Mt. Holly, N.J., who have lived in Kuwait for more than three years.
Sheila Gittens said she wanted to give her countrymen and women a chance to familiarize themselves with Kuwaiti culture.
Spec. Terry Beyer, 28, of Freeport, Ill., said the Thanksgiving dinner was his first foray outside the camp since he arrived Oct. 8.
He thought the party and the food were wonderful. Only one thing was missing though, he said: beer.
Alcohol is banned in the Muslim country.