One Friday we decided to take a drive along the desert outskirts in Kuwait. There´s nothing much there to see actually. Of course there´s less to expect from an almost barren desert fields. Aside from dust, dust and arid landscape,you might end up thinking like you are in the middle of nowhere.But for a foreigner like me, the sight of a caravan of camels, Bedouin tents (nomads) and the long range of power transmission lines to name a few sounds interesting for me.Kuwait is a very small country and you can absolutely explore the whole country in one day. The best way to explore the outskirts?—of course driving along because you can´t do it by walking or cycling since it´s almost 48+ degrees outside.The roads are well paved and camera-monitored.
And this is why this roadtrip became memorable for me.
I recalled asking myself, have I ever really experienced a real foggy misty day in Kuwait?
Look at the photo below, is it foggy , misty or dusty? could you tell the difference?
Probably not, since oftentimes, I have mistaken mist as dust, because the blurred visions made me felt like it´s all the same. It is scorching hot, humid, and uncomfortable that my eyes hurt.
Anyway, one time while admiring the herd of camels in the Camel farm in Wafra, my iPhone had suddenly shuts down due to long exposures to heat and I received an impromptu message ” Wait until this iPhone cools down..”! So at least that can give you an idea what to expect if you decide to go on a roadtrip in Kuwait and make a pit stop in the desert.
Looking back,in Kuwait, these power lines symbolizes it´s power resources.With it´s high crude reserves, still, it has it´s high´s and low´s. There, water is more expensive than oil.Due to heavy use of air conditioning, reliance on desalination for water, and highly subsidized electricity prices, Kuwait’s per capita electricity consumption is among the highest in the world, at roughly 14 000 kWh.We lived with air conditioning almost all throughout the year and we never paid any electrical bills and you pay peanuts for petrol.
On a clear day, it means no duststorms, one can appreciate the simple beauty of the desert with these power transmissions lines as background. Time flies fast as we venture on appreciating the local scenery.Further on we made many quick stop- overs to admire the dunes, looking for wild desert flowers and breathing fresch air in the secluded beaches.I totally enjoyed killing time there, just watching the desert sun sets and paint the skies with beautiful palletes of purple, and burnt oranges.
Along the way, a small roadside “Bakala” ( or convenient store) , or the 711 of the desert can be seen just like the photo above. They sell almost everything, from cigarettes, drinks, ice cream, toys, I don´t know exactly what are those sacks, but for sure they have something to quench your thirst. Sometimes they sell some vegetables and fruits coming from the nearby farms.
You´ll feel lucky to see some ” infamous war- torn ” walls like this. There hasn´t been Graffiti or public art in Kuwait, only barren walls, a reminder of its painful past.
I can´t say that´s it´s a county side thing, but in the outskirts, these sand dunes are quite pretty sight. People loved to drive around here and just have a breather, camping and BBQ; and of course, enjoy the beach.There are no rivers to amuse us, only rough beaches and coastlines.
Of course, our road trip won´t be complete without a sight of the local desert trees . They looked fragile, and yet very resilient which I really find so unique.Sometimes I thought that this landscape made me think if I am in the middle of nowhere but then a sight of a single tree, swayed by the shy desert winds can be reassuring.
If allowed, one can further explore the roads leading to Kuwait´s neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq as long as you obtained entry permits.Crossing these borders illegally is really a big hassle and without Arabic, you might really get in trouble.The road distance from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia is approximately 796 kms. Saudi is located on the south side of Kuwait so if you travel at the consistent speed of 50 KM per hour you can reach Saudi Arabia in 15 hours and 46 minutes.
I ´ve definitely not seen a mist in the roads of Kuwait but yes, I wished I have gathered a pocket of sand in a bottle, because somehow, I´ve been there.
It´s Friday, a day of rest in the Middle East.No work for almost everyone. It´s a free day for us so normally it´s a rest day.Either we sleep in,grocery shopping, or meet with some friends in Avenues,but sometimes, we opt for another unique expat experience.A trip to the Market or we called it in Arabic,” Souk should be experience by everyone who visits Kuwait.I frequenty visits the Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait City and Souk Sharq in Sharq.There is also one good souk in Fahaheel but it´s far from where I lived .
This time, let me take you to a short tour about a day in the life inside the Fish Market and in the Mubarakiya. I decided to make a post about this because I certainly love going there. My husband doesnt. He does´nt like the smell of fish and walking to crowded markets. But I do. I love the cultural mixture, the smorgasbord around there, the diversity, and the raw mid-eastern and arabic food culture. I grew up in a tropical country where fish and seafoods are also abundant. At a young age, I have learned how to clean a fish and I am happy about it.
I always see people over here in Ingolstadt who loved to catch fish in the Danube river, they spent hours and hours to catch something. I guess they really find solitude in their hobby whatsoever!
The Fish market in Kuwait City is big, it´s a very crowded place adjacent to the “Mubarakiya“.You can find all sort of stuff there. From rugged carpets, pots, clothing, arabic spices, meat shops, cafe´s and gold shops and so much more. In this area, there´s a nearby Mosque, so on Friday, this place can be very busy. You will see all the nationalities of expats and locals . Just walking through the pedestrian makes me really dizzy…It is really an overwhelming experience. The smell, the noises, the chaos and yes, the sound of the buzzling city.
Inside the Fish market there´s also so much going on. I practiced my haggling talent here. With the Arabic that I have learned, I try to blend in the culture. The fresh catch is really awesome. I love having fresh seafoods from time to time. I had the experience of digging some clams when it is lowtide in the beach, but seeing other fish varieties is also something.In Kuwait, I also experience picking my own fish (my favourite was the Red Snapper!) and have it cooked to my preference.
The prices were quite competitive and since Fishing is one of the traditional source of income by the locals, you won´t be dissapointed with the daily offers in the market.
It is okay to haggle for the price but it is always good to do it politely. Most vendors are speaking in Arabic so if they saw that you are a foreigner then they might not understand you. So it´s better to come here with someone who speaks the native language and let them help you, especially if asking about the quality of the catch.
There´s something so endearing about Kuwaiti local specialties and food. Meat are cooked tenderly with arabic sices, lots of Cummin and Garam Masala. We love the authentic grilled Kuwaiti foods and this nice restaurant in the heart of the city called ” Leila”. I believed it´s Lebanese and it serves this yummy buns.
On the other side of the Fish market, there´s the dry goods section where you can find local produces like dates, spices, vegetables and fruits. Kuwait has limited agriculture so ost of the products that are grown locally like dates are quite cheap. It is very hard for me to find here in Germany for a good Dates, most of them are so expensive and not so delicious as what I´ve got to eat there. I am missing it now actually, and the native Kuwaiti sweets…they are super decadent!
Walking around the city made me realized just how nationalistic Kuwait is. Kuwait colors is always displayed and they really loved displaying their Flag.During the “Hala Hala Festival ” in February, the whole country is actually dressing up in White, green, black and Red.
A typical shop design in Kuwait with national colors!
In here you can find as well so many local produce from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. It´s like a mixture of the Arabic food centre .It´s no wonder because there are so many Arabic expats living and working there as well.Outside the market are line of restaurants and shops that serves the local dishes. I love sitting there and enjoy some freshly made Iranian bread and some grilled chicken and meat. The side dishes and Hummus are really good.
Do you have a market experience in other countries? If so, how was it?
Kuwait has very little nature, it is a desert country and you cannot find a lush green field. When we drive along the desert, it is so barren. Nothing to see except the power lines, camels, and dust.
I can count with my fingers the trees that survive the natural hazards like Dust storms and intense heat.Date Palm trees are the most common tree that I have seen during the entire time I was living there.I remember that when date trees starts to bear fruits, the owner would wrapped the fruits with a plastic bag to protect them. We had a supply of the ripen dates ( or T´mar), especially during the months of Holy Ramadan. It´s the same culture where friends would give me pears and apples during harvest time in Fall here in Germany.
This leaning tree in the photo above is quite special. I dunno its name but I find it really nice, with its fine foliage and bended branches.I wonder how it had branches like that? Stretched by life or trying to show it´s tenacity and flexibility through harsh weather. I guess probably I am the only one who notices it since I this impression that many people there just don´t care about gardens, nature or environment.
On the other hand, I remembered this leaning tree very well. My daughter was 1 year old and she plays under it. Now she is a master of climbing trees . I really wonder if this tree is still alive and thriving.It is one of the few trees adoring this playground aside from the hedges surrounding the park.
I see trees from Kuwait as a symbol of tenacity and not for aesthetic purposes. What survives there is really because they have managed to survived and passed the natural hurdles, and not because they were cultivated and cared for. Sadly many plants as well face extinction.With almost zero chance of rainfall every year, what can you expect? How can you expect a natural growth of trees with almost zero irrigation and less water?
But then something amazing happened. The great initiative of Kuwait Oasis, started the project ” Great Green Wall of Kuwait.” The enormous tree planting begun using Groasis ´s Waterboxx® plant cocoon and the results are really more than you could imagine.Ghaf trees were planted and you can see the updates and photo gallery showing the gradual growth of the trees planted in the challenging southern part of kuwait deserts.
Someone believe that doing something as simple as “trying” could actually made a big difference. It all started with a great initiative and now serves as an inspiration to the world. Of course you can´t make a desert into full lush green fields and because it´s a desert by nature, but doing something for the environment has long term effects.
In the end, I have seen the great side of it, the sunsets and sunrise beneath these rows of palm trees are quite special. And that´s one thing why I would always remember the “Trees of Kuwait”.
“A library of books is the fairest garden in the world, and to walk there is an ecstasy.” ― E. Powys Mathers, The Arabian Nights
I thought sandcastles are made only in the shores of beaches, I was definitely mistaken.In Germany, every little kid plays with sand and dig their hearts out .It´s no wonder that most child owns a bucket , spade and shovel .If they are spoiled enough, they have little trucks and even a mini wheelbarrow.Mamas take their children for a walk into the playground and tuck these toys in the stroller and their day is complete.
That´s how special sand is…!
But nothing compares to these professionally built sand sculptures.
I was pregnant that time and the heat was really scorching, I laughed because this weather is quite normal in my life in Kuwait but then again, it didn´t stop me from seeing this once in a lifetime largest Sand Sculpture in Kuwait in 2014. With the theme ” 1,001 Nights ” or better well known as the ” Arabian Nights”, we head on to Remal International Exhibition. Looking at my swollen feet, I´m glad I´m wearing flats. I was excited since it would be the very first time I would see gigantic sand sculptures but then the baby keeps kicking me so I was also feeling lethargic.
My first thoughts were ” How did they do it?”
” What kind of sand would they use for making the model figures?”
I know from experience that the budget for this exhibition is no problem for Kuwaitis , since they always opt to do extravagant and unique exhibitions like this. Looking back, it was even easy for them to record the biggest and world -class Guiness World Records Fireworks display that lasted almost an hour to celebrate it´s 50th year National Constitution. I´ve heard that for this one alone, the whole exhibition costed 1 Million Kuwaiti Dinars or approx. 3 Million US dollars!
And yes, my neck hurts from staring in the skies for that but it was a beautiful experience.
There were LOTS of sands in this place!The entire sand sculptures were made of 28,000 tons of sand which is about 1,000 dump truck loads! It´s really big and the walking throughout the place made me really feel fired.The artist behind the gigantic sand sculpture exhibition is no other than Canadian Sculpture and Stone Mason Delayne Corbett along with other 73 Scuplture artists from 25 different countries.
“Open Sesame ” ! -Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Who would have not known the story of Ali Baba and Aladdin and his magic lamp?
Growing up, the stories of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, Alladin´s Lamp, the Seven Voyages of Sinbad and the Sailor is quite familiar to me. Decades have past and these Arabian folk tales, and magic carpet rides still plays a major part in early childhood.I´ve seen quite a few of films and plays depicting these ancient stories .Now as an adult, I realized that these stories tells another far much deeper “TALE”.
The Arabian Nights , or 1001 Nights which is a compilation of different folk stories during the Golden Islamic Age .Of course, the story settings are in the Middle East like the ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, India and China.
The highlight of the story for me was about Sharayar and his wife Scheherazade.Their story really made an impression to me because as tragic as it is, it tells about the story of one woman´s cleverness and will to change his master´s heart. Sharayar found out that his wife cheated on him so he vows to marry different woman every night and kill them afterwards to prevent further betrayal.Then comes Scheherazade whom he married, but she learned about his plans and prepares a tactic to survive from his evil plans.
Her plan? It´s reading and telling stories to Shahrayar every single night, but stopping in the middle of the story for Shahrayar to increase his curiosity. This way, he gets more anticipation and excitement. Sheherazade repeats this pattern for 1,001 Nights! With this technique, she were able to save herself from being killed and stop the heinous crime of killing women of her husband.Now that´s a lot of storytelling!
I realized that Scheherazade wouldn´t be able to do it if she is not well versed in general information. Looking at her character she must have read thousand books and equipped herself with enough knowledge to be able to deliver stories like that. She must have loved to read and study a lot.
Different sculptures depicts the scenes of the stories that Scheherazade told to Shahrayar so it´s like walking into a picture book.The whole place was soooo pretty and beautiful at nightime. I admire the sand sculptures when it is lighted up to the heavens. They all looked so real, wonderfully crafted to the very edges! They were really done well and the details are so intricate. I respect the great labor of the artists, considering that working under the heat conditions in Kuwait is no joke. Paying attention to every tiny detail is very important. One false move and the sculpture would suddenly collapse!
The whole place of Remal is transformed into a giant sand paradise.Tons of sands made into different sculpture figures is definitely one of the best interpretation of human´s artistic skills and talent.
” Stories might not be able to change the world, but they are capable of changing us by making us look at ourselves in new ways.”
To make it even grandier, there are also Fire Dancers, Python show and Fata Ole ; demonstrating the finest in African folklore within a 3-minute dance performed 3 times daily.The largest sand castle made in a contest was 18 feet tall; the owner, Ronald Malcnujio, a five-foot-high man, had to use several ladders, each the height of the sand castle. His sculpture consisted of one ton of sand and 10 litres of water to sculp!
I could write a novel about my Ramadan day to day experiences while living for a long time in the Middle East. But then, summing it up, I decided to write it like a day in the life of a Non Muslim surrounded with Islamic culture.Good thing I have taken lots of photos to remind me and yes, as I look back in it, I still think it was all wonderful experience.
I am grateful , I am really glad.
I was born Catholic and growing up with Christianity doctrines made me feel odd when I was exposed to Muslim Culture and religion.Kuwait is a very conservative country and very traditional Islamic state.Islam is the predominant religion and Arabic is the preffered language. Though lifestyle is modern and yes very competitive, in Expat´s eyes, all of these are just temporary living arrangements.
But what ´s the first thing you think when you hear the word Ramadan? Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word Ramad, meaning “intense heat.” So like heat, Ramadan is a chance to burn away bad habits and carry positive ones throughout the year and beyond.
The month of Ramadan is beautiful, I see it as a solemn time of the year.It is a month of goodness and self-inspection.Inormally view my days as work-home statistics, but then during Ramadan, I felt kinda different.It´s not all about self-righteousness, but more of looking at yourself and deciding to do more good.I´ve got the feeling that during Ramadan, people around me just become conscious of others, they become kinder, and yes,more considerate.probably because this is the highlight month where most locals are serving others, donating help and to sum up--strive for repentance and be good.
I know its Ramadan when I hear these greetings .”Ramadan Kareem“(or May Ramadan be generous to you) is a muslim greeting I have leaned from my colleagues at work and I think this is better than saying ” Sabah el Khair” ( or Good morning).Another form is also “Ramadan Mubarak” (Blessed Ramadan) and at the end of Ramadan, everyone greets with ” Eid Mubarak” ( Blessed Feast).But if you don´t speak any Arabic, you can just simply say “Salam“.
While I was running today, I saw a small leaflet attached to a tree stating well wishes for everyone for a safe Ramadan. I totally forgotten that this is the second year of the pandemic, and as well Ramadan for my Muslim friends.The holy weeks of Ramadan started last April 13 and will end on May 12 and yes, my Muslim friends are fasting!
Fasting for Muslim is not a way to lose weight, I am telling you, fasting and abstinence from sunrise to sunset is NO joke, it´s hard and not everyone understands it and thinks its ridiculous.
Living in Kuwait have exposed me to this culture though I am not a religious person nor an Atheist. But I do believe in one thing, ” faith without deeds is dead“. I grew up in a very conservative Catholic country so my background is quite a mixture of all the religious beliefs I have learned as a kid and growing up in a multicultural environment.Coming to Kuwait had opened my eyes even more to such beliefs and traditions.Above all, I love trying out new things and living as an expat taught me a lot about respecting my host country and its culture just like how I am embracing German culture now.
Anyway, for Muslims ( as I observed from my colleagues), it´s not really all about fasting.I really commend their discipline and perseverance.I see them still trying their best to do their job and not compromising. I never heard them complaining.After a while, I got used to their behaviour and avoid doing things that is not allowed during Ramadan. I am not forced to fast but we respect it and avoid recklessness, loud music, or eating in public. It´s against the law and you could be jailed if you violate it.We should also learn to respect prayer times. Afterall, everything is quite common sense and self-explanatory.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and heightened devotion to prayer and repentance . I´m the only one at work that is not Muslim so everything was really new to me especially their bowing and reciting of Quran. In the office, it´s normal when the Quran is played.I find the whole thing ridiculous at first, but then through time I began to understand it all.They prayed numerous times during the day, starting at the break of dawn, but then during Ramadan, I observed that they do more. Most of my male colleagues take their yearly pilgrimage in Mecca and they really devote themselves to it. They saved money for it, and it´s a great achievement if they´ve done it.
At first I am quite excited when Ramadan starts because it means we need to work less.Many shops are closed during the day so people enjoy shopping until midnight and especially eating out in restaurants.Most restaurants have Iftar buffets and packages for companies, even Hotels offers the same.During this period, ( which practically lasts almost a month), our work schedule is shortened, and yes, we really have lesser output than the normal days. This means we need to do all the deadlines before Ramadan starts, and postpone all important meetings until Ramadan is over. Most inspections are preferably scheduled not on Ramadan, its quite normal. This also applies to all parts of the government since most of them worked only for 4,5 hours, maybe even less.Doing paperwork this time is hard because of timings.
” There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music,but if brain and belly are burning clean with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire”. – Rumi
Through time, I have learned that true Fasting with intent is a privilege.I mean anyone can fast if they really want, but fasting without a meaning and purpose is just nonsense! It could even endanger your health.Abstinence is quite rigorous and requires a disciplined stamina.The period of 29 or 30 days—the dates change every year, following the lunar calendar of 13 months is pretty exhilarating.When your stomach is empty, your concentration might suffer and you barely can´t think.
The weather during this month is actually very warm, with average of 26 -38 degrees , humid & dust storms is frequent.After breaking their fasting, people usually went out to visit the Mosques, eat in restaurants for Iftar, meet friends , walk in the beach or just cool down inside the mall.
I find it also worth mentioning that the Muslim´s tradition of breaking their fast is quite remarkable.It´s a holy ritual of gratitude and thanksgiving. ” Iftar“, the feast of breaking the fast after sunset marks a glorious victory every single day for every family. I have been invited in numerous Iftar, with close friends and their family and it is really amazing, not only the food but also the ambiance. Sharing a local Arabic home cooked meal is one thing that really bonds people and I give high thumbs for their elaborate food preparations. Arabic foods is really good and again, I kinda missed it all.I enjoy myself a platter of dates, nuts and their tea with cardamon and spices.
As i said, ” Ramadan has the invincible power that brings people together” .Families, friends, colleagues sits together and share a meal, talking about the day´s about.It´s a time to focus on seeking forgiveness and being “kinder“. I was once in the Friday market and it´s about sunset so I really saw how normal people breaks their fast. They tedioulsy prepare their meal, pray together and they eat together. It´s very simple but really humbling to watch.One vendor laid out old newspapers on the ground and prepare the dishes elaborately. First the fruits, Laban or fermented drink juices, then some meat, vegetables and bread.I can see from their faces how grateful they are for this simple feast.Then they gather around , chatting and eat with their fingers.
In the arid, humid climate of Kuwait, it´s a tough challenge in the days of Ramadan. With scorching heat outside, you won´t even have the energy to go outside.The prayer times seemed like interruptions in our daily routines, but then it´s quite the opposite. My colleagues would get up and get their prayer mats and wait for others to gather around in the big hall patiently. They would do this every single day and watching them really amazes me.
Muslims do the Salah (prayer) and goes to the Masjid together if they can. There are plenty of masjid and prayer halls in Kuwait, even inside malls they have it.In the Grand mosque, they have these racks of slippers to wear after they removed their shoes and washed their feet. The “Fajr“(Sehar) at dawn, the early morning prayer is the start of their spiritual journey during Ramadan.My friend who converted into Muslim since her husband is Muslim would wake up an hour early and gather her children to get some “ Suhoor” to have something to eat .It´s a family ritual so they can have something to last as they go through their day.
They wash their feet and faces, and stand by each other. The color of your skin doesn´t matter. Your title, education, job or what car you drive.Once you´re inside the Masjid ( Mosque) , everybody is equal, everyone is bowing their heads and pray the same prayer, everyone looks up to one Allah.For a non -muslim like me,the sound of the prayer time is heard everywhere and it becomes a natural signal for me to take a moment as well and yes, take some time to meditate.
At the end of Ramadan comes the big celebration of Eid el- Fitr. But this important date depends highly on moon sightings. I remember asking my colleagues how do they know when is Eid, and they told me that it depends on the appearance of the new moon so they usually wait until night to confirm it.
It´s bigger than Christmas I think. It´s a special day filled with celebrations among friends and families and people really take time off or go on family outings. Kids are showered with presents and some give or donate money to the poor.It´s very common as well that everyone dressed up extra on this day. This festive moment reminds me of children waiting to open their gifts left by Santa Claus on Christmas Day or Sinterklaas in the Netherlands.
Did you know that it´s common in the Gulf countries during end of Ramadan to pardon prisoners?
Everyone is just happy , and greeting each other ” Eid Mubarak” ! Most families exchange visits with each other and eating is non-stop. The food is really flooding. Women gets special Henna tatoos on their hands and yes, spends the rest of the day shopping with kids. Most of the shops, especially in Kuwait offers big sales .There is something special about Ramadan evenings, maybe because I just love seeing the lovely lights.
Because of the pandemic and corona restrictions, I guess it´s a complete Ramadan experience for my muslim friends, but then in solitude of lockdown, would even be more meaningful.
” Ordinary men hate solitude. But the master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” –Lao Tzu
Have you ever tried fasting? What do you love to do in solitude?
I think one of the most memorable memories I´ve had in Kuwait was meeting up close and personal with Camels. Yes,not in a Zoo, but rather in awild Camel farm.Camels are integral part of Kuwaiti culture and it´s valued highly in this country.
Before I never even imagined that such farm exists .Before I have always wondered how it is to ride them or even touch them, afterall, they are not that high standard animals.They are wild, big and some people can´t stand their smell.I prefer seeing them wild like these rather than when they are touristically made up for people to take photos , and ride them.
I asked a friend to go with us and we took a drive along the 6th Ring road and further down in the direction near the Iraqi borders. This trip offers sights of the neverending highway with only views of desert trees, swayed by gentle breeze, the wide barren dessert is very inviting and hundreds of Electric power lines stood before us.There´s something peculiar about the ARabian landscape over here. The Camel farms of Wafra and Kabd can be reached almost an hour of driving .Along side the road we came across huge trucks and some on-the highway Bakalas.
My friend knows someone who owns the farm there and arranged the day of our visit. We were able to visit the camel farm quickly and even allowed to use their tents. Seeing them wild, in herds and some even rearing their babies is definitely worth this trip. I even tried milking a camel and it was one of a lifetime experience that I´ve ever had. I have never heard of Desert Ship before but meeting these camels made quite an impression on me. They are indeed a superanimals of the desert.
All I know that they symbolize endurance to me.They are tough animals so to speak. They can tolerate long hours in drought and carry heavy aprrox. 200 kg of weight loads without drinking and still walk up to 40-50km a day!
I saw camels of different sizes, colors and built. Some looked so calm and weak but the others are quite nosy and aggressive. I remember they loved Kubz or the local Kuwaiti bread to munch. Most expats in Kuwait indulged in adventure like this especially during the winter months where the heat is bearable and the light cool breeze is a luxury against the 48 degree summer temperatures. Most families make a family trip and have desert camping on these sites.Now I understand why these animals are strong, resilient and very domesticated.In this farm I think I´ve seen more than a hundred camels plus other animals like goats and horses.
Kuwait is an oil-rich country, with a high income economy and personally I know that (KWD) Kuwaiti dinar is one of the highest valued currency in the world. 1kd is equal to approx.2,77 Euros. Working in this country have helped me so much about understanding the locals and I have learned so much from its culture.
Speaking of camels, one of the unique sights in Kuwait is their Camel racing.I haven´t been able to watched it live on the tracks but I have heard that it´s quite famous and unique in Kuwait.
I have heard that only female camels are used in racing because the male camels doesn´t obey orders.This actually made me laugh!
Their beige skin is soft to touch and their face is quite dorable when seen up close. Did you know that camels have two rows of thick eyelashes to protect their eyes? These eyelashes serves like wipers to prevent their eyes from dusts and sand storms.They are able to close their mouth and nostrils to keep away from the dust.I watched how they move, and sit lazily, and they are a bit friendly.They loved to munch on cactuses with thorns as well, no wonder they have that kind of mouth!
Quite fascinating as well is that apart from the largest Dhow Ship that has been built that entered Guiness Book of Records, is that a camel named Bedour also bag another World Record.It´s for being the most expensive Camel purchased in the world amounting to 2 Million dinars from a camel auction in Safat Camel Auction in Sulaibiya in Kuwait.The seller even refuses to take Atm or cheque payment.Ma´shallah!!
This year is not only all about the tons of masks we bought and wore, or the excessive disinfecting of everything we´ve touched and our hands turning into a resemblance of chicken skin. Aside from all this hygienic crazy mantra that becomes a new norm now, I realized that this year was actually a no ordinary for me, personally.
This year also is the year for the first time that I joined a photography competition here in our local town, hosted by one of our local Bank, the Volksbank Raiffeisenbank Bayern Mitte.I actually mostly forget its name because you know, its long and its kind of twisting my tongue. Well, that´s what German does to me.Anyway, turned out that loved our photo and included it for next year´s Calendar called “ Die schönsten Motive Fotowettbewerbs 2020″.
I was thrilled and excited.I was not expecting that my photo could be chosen considering that there were so many nice landscape photos who were chosen in the whole region.We just got lucky, I guess. We received a prize and donated half of it to another organization.It was a great experience and I think it made our year a certain mark, to remember, to be thankful for the beauty of nature who seemed to be the only one unaffected by depressing situations around us.
The photo that I took is titled “Glacisbrücke im Herbst” ,or the Glacis Bridge in Fall. I love this photo particularly since it caught the mystic beauty of Fall in my neighborhood, plus this bridge is quite fascinating as well since its one of the landmark near to where I lived.
Whenever I crosses this bridge, I am being reminded of this recognition.Who could have thought….?
When I was still living in Kuwait, I took pictures of most of the places where I visited. It´s pretty normal since I am an Expat working there and yes, the culture is different and there are so many things that is new to me.My iPhone Gallery was filled with snapshots, candid selfies and landscape portraits which I even used most of the time in my Blog articles.Using these Photos rekindled my memories of being in there and appreciating the unique beauty that Kuwait has, like for example this “Mushroom ” Water Towers .
At first glance you wouldn´t even imagined that it´s a modern water supply system, but then it was.The shape, the color, the size, everything about this symbolic reinforced concrete system is unique.Maybe to local Kuwaitis it´s just a normal water towers but definitely not for me. I am still amazed and perplexed of its function and design.Clever design from VBB , A Swedish engineering company, with Sune Lindström as its chief Architect.No wonder it won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, cycle 1980.
Mr. Antoon Kuhlmann from Hortus Nijmegen in the Netherlands along with Dominique Clement sent an email to me informing me if they can use my photo as a research material to be used in their upcoming manuscript about Mushrooms.What a brilliant idea!
This book really expains what special role Mushrooms played in Arts, Culture and yes, in Nature.I was totally honored to be a part of this book, to think even that Kuwait´s Water Towers was used as an example how Architects used mushroom as a concept for building a modern water system.
Just in time before Christmas I got a copy of this Book and couldn´t feel more proud than ever.It is cleverly done !Unfortunately, it´s only in Dutch language.
This post is not a promotion of the book mentioned above. I just felt grateful that one of my post and photo was used to compile all the amazing information supplied by this book.The Dutch Autors did a wonderful job in coming up to this phenomenal piece. If you are reading up until this part and interested to buy a copy, you can find the link Here.
Thought this year was only staying at home, social distancing and wearing masks…not for us actually.It was a no ordinary year because of this Online Art Project by the International Youth Library in Munich ( International Jugendbibliotehek München) called ” Kinder, malen sich Selbst” or the I-solation, Children ,draw yourselves, an online Exhibition initiative organized by this Library . The exhibition was joined by 800 participating children all over the world!
And my little daughter joined herself into this exhibition and by Spring of 2020, her drawing was submitted to the Library.By around June, we were invited to visit the Exhibition and had a Tour in their Library and see the beautiful grounds of Blutenburg Castle. It was her first, at the age of 5.
But as I wrote before, this year was actually a legendary year for all of us.Came December and we are still under stressed because of Corona infections, in Isolation and wearing Masks in School.Christmas Markets are cancelled and we entered a second Lockdown on Dec 16. Another melodramatic feeling of isolation creeps us, but then home is where we felt the most safe, well I guess, for everybody´s sake it´s the ony way out.
Nothing more to expect, we can´t change the tides.But then, we managed to have a meaningful Christmas season at home, without the frantic craze and glittering lights.
Here in Germany, children and adults are crazy about Adventskalendar. It´s literally a calendar, a coundown from the start of Advent to Christmas Eve.So this time, our local town hosted a drawing competition for children for the Adventskalendar with Winter moments as a theme. Once again, my daughter had her entry and yes, her drawing was chosen to be in the 15th day of Adventskalendar. On that day,she met the Christkind to receive her prize but of course, with a mask and distance!
I guess a Not Ordinary year means that we stopped expecting, and more of appreciating and giving.4 days to go til this year ends and I just want to document it here in my Blog what a meaningful year it was as well.There´s nothing much to tell of what we did, but we did the best of what we can do…
I think we´ll do this again next year if there´s another chance again!
Do you have a foreign word that lingers in your mind? or reminded you of a place you´ve been to?
I can understand a little bit of Arabic but I can´t read or write it. I think it´s one of the most complicated language in the world that I have ever encountered, German still on top! 🙂 In Arabic, so many intricate strokes,so many unknown lines, its really an artistic language, i meant on the writing technique.Arabic writing is a way of ” Kunst” .The very first time I have heard the Quran prayers, I find it really intriguing. I thought, are they singing, wailing or saying a poem? Hearing it almost 5x a day , then it becomes naturally a part of my senses, just like a song that reminds us of a memory. Whenever I hear it, I know that it´s the prayer time, or Salah. At work, when I see my Muslim colleagues gather and start their prayers, I know that the prayer call is always on time.
In my days in Kuwait before, I always hear the word ” Yalla”. It signals a new day, a new beginning, and another call of the hour.
Looking back, there are many useful and simple Arabic words that are really helpful to Expats. It´s very handy if you happen to know and memorize them. The words ” Mashallah, ( normally means something beautiful, a form of adornment, or compliment) “Salam Walaikom“ ( Muslim greetings of peace) , and “Inshallah” ( God willing..) are very important words to take note aside from the usual “Shokran ” ( thank you) and “Afwan ” ( you´re welcome)
But for me, the one that stands out is “Yallah “.
Yallah, Yallah means many things. It can mean, “let´s go” , or okay, or a form of agreement, encouragement and exasperation. When I needed to call a Taxi, I dialled “Brother” ´s number and just say “Yallah” and he immediately understands me.Brother is an expat from Bangladesh whom I really trusted while I was in Kuwait. It is very normal to get service in Kuwait so you can have a regular taxi service to avoid running into rude taxi drivers. With Brother, I felt safe and I don´t need to worry to much.I´ve lost contact with him so I don´t know anymore what happened to him. I hope he is safe during this time of Pandemic.
The word Yallah really depends on how you use it in a sentence. It can also means ” Hurry Up!” or quickly get it done.Just like the life of an Expat is always on the go for changes whether its a new job, a new place..or a new, challenging weather to get used to.
Friday is the rest day in Kuwait ( as well as in other Muslim countries). It´s a no- work day, and a day to rest, sleep-in, do groceries, meet friends, watch a movie or just stay at home.Normally I would visit the Friday market with my friends ; haggle like a pro, and often utter the word “Yallah” to convince the vendor. I terribly missed the authentic flavors of Shawarma and freshly grilled kebabs, the Biryani and Baklavas.The Madjool dates that I buy in Lulu Hypermarket is unforgettable.The hustle an bustle in the old Souks is really chaotic, but nevertheless beautiful to watch. The number of expats in the streets is overwhelming, as well as their authentic smell. It makes me dizzy, and claustrophobic. They say that smell can trigger memories in us. That once our memory is impaired, then our sense of smell is also affected. It makes sense though…
Yes, some things are really unforgettable…Ma´shallah!
One of the fascinating things I did was watching the fishermen haul their boats and getting ready to unload their fresh catch of the day. Everywhere in Kuwait, you can have a glimpse of the Arabian Gulf . Aside from boat trips, fishing is quite a normal sight. Along the Road no.5, traffic is always heavy, and crazy. Since cars rule the roads and definitely Kuwaitis loves speed , it´s really easy to get distracted and things go unnoticed.It is a scary thing to ride your bike there. The weather is scorching hot, and there is definitely no cycling paths! Yaállah!
At the beaches in Salmiya, Khiran and Mahboula, are the perfect place to watch sunrises and sunsets. I lived in the area of Salmiya for a long time.I loved watching the sea from our windows and it brings me such nostalgia.Those were beautiful scenic views of nature, so simple and yet so precious.
Strolling through the streets of Kuwait can be quite strenous especially if you are not used to hot, dry climate as high as 48 degrees in Summer.Wearing long sleeves and long pants in a heat like this? and living in an air conditioned room for almost every single day…? Yaállah Kuwait!
But this weather did not stop me from discovering its hidden facets and gems. These “Mushroom” like water towers are really beautiful, and there are lots of Arabic traditional teapots spread all over the city, serving as water fountains landmarks.In Kuwait, we always drink from the bottle but I really don´t understand why they are fond of having landmarks in a shape of an arabic teapot?
I wish that Kuwait continues to grow, as a city, as a place ful of compassionate people and that the expat community will thrive to be an important part of its growth. As an Expat, I believe that our stay in any foreign land gives us a chance to contribute something and make an impact to any circle we belong.