Kite flying in Kuwait Bnaider Desert

Kite flying in Khiran, Kuwait

Kite flying reminds me of happy childhood memories.

In Philippines we have long summer vacations. Starting from April to May. School starts once again in June so we had plenty of idle times to kill. In these long summer days, kite flying is best with summer days, windy but not stormy. Children ´s laughs is the music you hear, running barefoot here and there.So innocent, carefree and yes–no restrictions.

Just days full of fun and play.

Before we left Kuwait, we had the chance to see the Kitesurfing and Flying in Bnaider Desert .It was a whole new experience to me. I have never seen those huge kites before in my life. Too bad my daughter is just a baby back then, she missed to see and enjoy this event. We drove to the barren Bnaider desert, where the sight of the rows of power lines and dusty roads is not really appealing without anything to do. Nevertheless, this event truned out to be awesome and one-of-a-kind, thanks to all these beautiful kites!

Lightning McQueen cannot fly, he can only drives fast!

As a child, me and my cousins always love to make and fly our own kites. Have you done it as well?

For us, we gather old plastic bags, cut it in rectangular form and knot it on a padded stick of forming the frame which holds the kite in place.Then we cut some more pieces of the plastic to serve as a tail, as we all know, a kite cannot fly without a tail.Everything is recycled back then. On some occasions, we would also make kites made out of paper, crafted by our own imagination. Learning how to fly a kite become a childhood skill, just like climbing a tree, or riding a bike. We all did it by ourselves and it makes us very proud. My fondest memory was flying a kite in a newly-plowed ricefield. I remember, the soil would be knee high after plowed by a manually plowed with a carabao… so the hurdles are stronger and yet so fun! Yes, those simple farm life where we have the whole fields as our playgrounds.Sometimes running in the mud, catching frogs…and tadpoles.

But the tricky part is when our kites landed to trees and we need to climb it and get it.

Nowadays, it´s very rare that I´ve seen kids flying a handmade kite. Here in Germany, I have never seen it.Although there are many ready made kites sold in the shops and it just take an eager kid with interest to get hooked into it. Still, it´s still a very rare sight for me. Everything now is modern, with gadgets and everything.

Happiness was a little like flying, she thought, like being a kite. It depended on how much one let the string out.
Patricia Highsmith

Once we prepared everything, we help each other fly the kite. One holding the kite, and one holding the thread. We ran as fast as we could and find a good spot in an empty field where the wind is good enough to let it loose. After some attempts, we let it go.

Kite flying for me signals a ray of hope; it might tear down and fall on the ground, but it can be fixed and adjusted for a new game. I mean you cannot easily give up after a few tries. It shows how much you persevere, patience is a key. For children, it´s a mixture of being competitive and yes, being courageous.

Kites are free to fly

So when I saw this Kitesurfing event in Kuwait, memories flooded to me. These kites are huge, colorful and very eye-catching. I think it´s just necessary that these kites to be flashy in colors since the desert is such a barren place and all around is just dust, dust and acres of desert. This event was under the guidance of Andrew Beattie. Andrew Beattie is a member of Al-Farsi Kite team in Kuwait. Al-Farsi with cooperation with Peter Lynn broke the World record of a giant Kite that successfully flown into Britain´s skies.

A happy face of a kid flying a kite
Kite flying in Kuwait

Childhood memories of flying a kite, of my feet on the ground, of my spirit untethered, of the playful wind, of rooftop cries, of joy and curses, of a day ever to remember. 

Norma D Mahanty

While writing this, I suddenly remembered the novel that I´ve read, the Kiterunner, by Khaled Hosseini. Luckily, I also got the book in German ” Drachenläufer” which I scored from a Book flea market. This novel also features childhood stories of two boys which plays with a kite.

Traditional Kuwaiti Festival dance

There were giant inflatable slides for children, kiosks and restaurants and a giant outdoor hall where traditional Kuwaiti songs and dance were performed. I have seen many families enjoyed their day in the desert and everyone was just admiring the kite figures being flown into the skies.It was unforgettable.

Al Farsi Kite Team entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2005 by flying a 1,050 square meters kite of Kuwait Flag. Later in 2018 they broke their own record by flying a kite, Our Planet, of 1,200 square meters.Seeing this once in a lifetime event made me realize that sky is the limit of your imagination. There can never be enough figures of Kites in the skies, whether it would be Tweety Bird, whale, lizard, bear, dog or Cars—anything can soar high.

I knew from experience that Kuwait always love to grabe world records–whether the largest, the longest, or the grandest! I couldn´t forget witnessing the longest Fireworks display there and having the biggest Dhow Ship as my background on my wedding day!

Truly, Kuwait has some hidden gems more than it´s oil!

Have you ever flown a Kite?

Until then, Tschüss!

Ramadan-A day in the Life story from a Non Muslim

Fanous (meaning Light or Lamp in Arabic) is an important symbol during the holy month of Ramadan. These colorful lanterns gives Ramadan a symbolic mood.

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.

A lady in black Abaya in front of the Murals with Arabic calligraphy

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.

A local vendor prapare for another busy morning day in the Souk. Dates (or tmar) is staple for Ramadan, and well known food preference in breaking the fast. It can be stuff with cream cheese or eaten as it is .Have read that the date fruit is mentioned 20 times in Quran therefore its closely related to Ramadan. It´s actually quite impossible without Dates during Ramadan.I love dates and I truly missed eating the good ones…

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.

Kuwaitis enjoy some leisure walks with Misbaha (Arabic: مسبحة mas’baha) in their hands. It has 99 pieces of beads corresponding to 99 names of God in Islam and 2 small beads separating every 33 beads.

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.

Busy Friday at the Souk (market)

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.

A local vendor selling the local ” Desert Truffles” which has become a delicacy in Kuwait.This is a traditional prized ingredients for Bedouins who loves to put these into their rice with meat dishes.Fresh Truffles are only available from November to April in Kuwait and the production highly depends on the precipitation.

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.

Delicate detail of the walls of the Grand Mosque

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.

There is no need to hurry, there is a time for everything under the sun.During Ramadan, time goes by slowly, but if you focus on your intent, you´ll realized that you have all the time that you need.

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.

The next prayer time will be around noon, called “Dhur “(afternoon),so this is the time that I see them praying at work.Afterwards they continue reading the Quran or just meditate or so.Next Prayer time will be on late afternoon called “Asr“which I think is really difficult. By this time, I saw them that they are mostly worn out with fatigue and their energy level is low.For women, they busied themselves preparing for Iftar and wait until “Maghrib”, (after sunset) . After Maghrib, the family gathers around to eat Iftar. The last prayer time is “Isha” (night) .

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.

Lovely colorful lights at night
Quran

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?

Ramadan Kareem and stay safe.

Until then, tschüss!

Eid-alFitr to my Muslim friends!

Eid-alFitr, The feast after end of Ramadan is one of the most-awaited & celebrated Feast in Muslim countries, and Kuwait is far by no exception.

I have always look forward to this Eid during my Middle East days.I have fondest memories that we would have a long break from work especially if Eid and the sighting of the crescent moon falls on weekend. Everyone is looking forward for family gathering, get-together with friends, there is food & sweets everywhere, and I could really see Avenues full-packed! There is sale on most shops as well.

People flocked into the malls wearing their best dresses, the sea-side along Gulf road is jam-packed too, and of course, there is a long lines in restaurants.

But What is the essence of this feast? Is this another  excuse to indulge & procrastinate?

Does this change in any way the overspending and overeating habits that becomes a norm?

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Feed the Hungry !

Just to give you an insight of what is supposed to be happening on this Eid, it shold be like this. After observing a stringent lifestyle during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Also known as the festival of breaking the fast, the day will mark the end of the month of sacrifice and self-purification and will herald the beginning of festivities.

Eid ul-Fitr is one holy festival for Muslims, which marks the end of Holy Month, Ramadhan. It is an Arabic word, juvenile amalgamation of Eid and Fitr, which means festivity and the breaking of fast, respectively. The festival is celebrated on the conclusion of the fasting during the month of Ramadhan. This joyful and blissful day is celebrated to thanks Almighty for his blessings in the holy month of Ramadhan. Muslim grace with presence at the congregational prayer service that held in morning. Eid-ul-Fitr has a meticulous Islamic prayer, which consists of two raka’ah or simply units in a large hall or an open field. Muslims of all age group wear new clothes, cook some delicious and tasty food, invite relative, neighbors and friends to celebrate the auspicious day with them. To fast in Ramadhan encourages sympathy for needy and hungry and motivates Muslims for donating very generously to all underprivileged. According to Muslim belief, they are commanded by Almighty God to do the fasting until the conclusion of Ramadhan as mentioned in Holy Qur’an and also pay Zakat-al-fitr before offering the Eid prayer.

Normally, Muslims wake relatively very early in the morning of Eid-ul-Fitr i.e. always before sunrise and offer pre-sunrise prayer (Salatul Fajr). In addition, Muslim keep in view the Sunnah (actions and traditions of Prophet Muhammad) follow it and clean teeth with toothbrush or Miswaak, and take shower or “Ghusul” before the Fajr prayers, put new clothes or the best available cloth, and also apply perfume.

Many Muslims attend communal prayers and listen to akhutba or sermon on the first day of the month of Shawwal. These prayers are held outside or in large venues, such as sports arenas, in some places. Many Muslims may travel far to participate in these activities. Some communities organize different festivities, such as communal meals or events for children, on this day.

If a Muslim has not given zakat al-fitr during Ramadan, he or she can give this on Eid-al-Fitr. Zakat al-fitr is a form of charity consisting of a quantity of food, such as barley, dates, raisins or wheat flour, or its monetary equivalent given to the poor. Many Muslims may also prepare festive meals to share, wear new clothes, visit relatives and give presents or candy to children. Cards can also be sent, often featuring the words “Eid Mubbarak” (blessed Eid).

QATAR EID AL FITR
An Arab woman, right, decorates a girl’s hand with henna as a preparation to celebrate Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan . Most of the Arabian Gulf countries celebrates  the Eid al- Fitr day. (Photo Credit : AP)

But do these Eid-alFitr rituals really happens?

Do you have an Eid-alFitr experience?

I just wish  for a blessed and peaceful Eid to all my Muslim Friends. May this festivities gives the credit it deserves and the spiritual harmony it should have in all our hearts.

My prayers for the victims of the recent blast near the Prophets Mosque in Saudi Arabia.

To all my Muslims friends back in Kuwait, Eid Mubarak!

 

 

Abaya : Fashion or Function

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Veiled Woman in Black Abaya
What’s your perception when you see women dressed in Black Abaya?

In Kuwait, traditionally & culturally, the clothing for women is the Black Abaya, while men wore the Dishdasha or Kandoura. For men, the color of Dishdasha ranges from beige, gray, off- white, white and during winter, they wear the Black ones. Now,there is a simple explanation while Black is the choice for color or this type of clothing for Muslim women here. It’s not because Black is a fashionable color,although I personally agree on this, but rather simply that it is most concealing. The sun is the most brightest here in middle east. It shines so bright and the heat is real and struggle.You cannot wear thick clothes in the summer and so many layers is also a no-no, rather you need something to cover your skin from burning at the same time for your skin to breathe.The Abaya or also known as cloak covers your whole body from your arms up to your legs and thus giving you ultimate protection from harmful rays of the sun.

The color black relates to the hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world.In color psychology this color gives protection from external emotional stress.Wearing this black cloak relieves you from unwanted attention from lustful eyes and gives you a sense of protection.This is the whole concept of Muslim modesty. Women wear the black Abaya that totally disclose everything underneath.

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Abaya : Fashion or Function
If you knew the controversial photo of the late Princess Diana before about the see-through skirt that evokes too much attention then this is the absolute reason why white is not appropriate color chosen for Abayas here in the Middle East.

Now on the daily life of Muslim women here in Kuwait, wearing Black Abaya is more of a functional way, It is more than a culture behind the cloth. It is easy to put on, you don’t even know what they wear underneath. Some even wear their pyjamas or casual clothes. If you are a busy mom, then Abaya comes handy like rushing to get the kids to school, going into the grocery shop or even just a quick run down to the Bakala across the street. This saves so much time in putting on decent clothes. I have tried wearing the Abaya on certain occasion  when we entered the Mosque and it was a great privilege at the same time experience. I have great respect for this culture.

The origin of Abaya can be traced immemorial. Since the ancient times, people who are nomads in the Desert are wearing cloak type garments that protects them from the arid climate, strong winds & freezing cold desert winter.Through times, the style & evolution of Abaya in Fashion becomes a worldwide statement for the Arabic nation. Nowadays, Abayas are available with stylish embroidery, some even with Swarovski crystals, and tailor-made for the owner. In Kuwait alone, there are hundreds of shops particularly only for fashionable Abayas and its accessories. With this country’s ever – changing lifestyle, wearing the Abaya has become a Fashion statement for women together with their Arabic Oud perfumes, stilletos and luxury handbags.

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Cultureshock : For the love of Covering-Up.
How about you? What particular cultural aspects in Islam do you appreciate?  Or have you ever tried trying out foreign and local customs from your country?

How was your experience?

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The Kuwait Grand Mosque’s grandeur

For my first post on f Architecture and Beyond, I would like to share with you my personal Glimpse on Muslim Rich Islamic Culture through the wonderful experience of having my first ever Mosque visit.

Since I was living in a Islamic country where Masjid (or Mosque ) are a common sight, I thought of exploring this in a very conventional way. Everyday I hear the prayer calls,and eventually I  got used to it. I was curious at the same time in awe of the culture behind this structure.

It was one fine Saturday morning when I decided to join the Tour and Lecture hosted by Aware Center for the Grand Mosque in Kuwait, the locals refers to it as the Masjid Al Kabeer. As a Non-Muslim Expat ,I am always curious and fascinated of the vivid Islamic culture. I have high respect on its teachings and my interest in Architecture and beautiful structures always lead me to amazing discoveries such as this.

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Embracing Islamic Culture

A Kuwaiti Symbol of Islamic Heritage

Kuwait Grand Mosque is strategically located overlooking the Arabian Gulf and opposite the magnificent Seif Palace or the Government Head Quarters. This striking structure is world -renowned Islamic landmark in Kuwait. Almost every year, Kuwait is visited by dignitaries,tourists & students from all over the world . But discovering inside is quite an experience that leaves me breathless. As we all know that Mosques are religious establishment and although it is open for public praying purposes, exploring it in detail requires an appointment & a guide. During the month of Ramadan, The Grand Mosque is attended with approx. 180,000 worshippers.With its courtyards alone, it can accomodate 60,000 worshippers. It is the main host for congregational & annual Eid Prayers as well as various religious ceremonies. The 5 daily prayers are usually held in the Annex Hall that hold 500 worshippers. It has a special Prayer hall for Women with a separate ground floor entrance on the southern side that can hold 1000 worshippers.

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The Architecture  & Beyond

The design of the Grand Mosque is according to the traditional Islamic Architecture with hints of Kuwaiti & GCC influences. It has the Islamic touch that is in harmony with Kuwait’s pride of architectural distinct features.The combination of modern construction techniques, fully patterned Islamic ornamentation  and Arabic calligraphy is imminent on both exterior & interiors of the whole structure.The main structure ,foundations,intricate columns,majestic ceiling & Minaret were built using fortified concrete.As you gaze through the outer courtyards,you will see that the outer walls were coated by natural rocks,while inner ones coated with mixture of marble ,Morrocan gypsum,and other magnificent colorful ceramics.It was so beautiful .The main courtyard on the eastern side of the grand Mosque includes water closets & ablution areas. It has Three Prayer halls and the Grand Mosque has 21 Doors made of Indian hand-carved Teak wood.

 

The Dome and its ethereal Beauty

This is the nucleus of the Grand Mosque’s design. I was staring at this beauty for long time that leaves me open-mouthed because it was so beautiful. It was so intricate, almost ethereal. Aesthetically, the huge dome was decorated with attributes of Allah in a hand-carved Mosaic. It includes 144 windows to provide natural light.

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The Dome inside the Grand Mosque

Facilities

The Grand  Mosque has a special building for Administration,and a 350 sq/mts Library that includes hundreds of Islamic books and references to be used for special researches while doing their research and writings. It has an underground parking that can hold up to 500 vehicles. There is a special entrance and Hall to receive His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah  and other dignitaries.I was thrilled to see this hall. I gazed,touched and  was mesmerized by the beautiful ceramics,intricate Moroccan gypsum geometric wall carvings .There is an enormous chandelier that adorns the Hall.The highlight in this Hall is the replica of the first original Quran traced back to the 7th century A.D.The Amiri Hall was awesome.

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Beautiful Blue & Gold carpeted floor inside the Grand Mosque

Travel Tip :

If you want to have a rewarding experience like this, I highly recommend to check out Aware Center. They can take you into a wonderful experience as they did to me. They hold their personal guided tours for the Grand Mosque which includes Lectures on Islamic Culture, Islam & Historical significance. You can sign up and enjoy a wonderful morning.Children & Non-Muslims expats  are welcome. Please be reminded that women should be dressed modestly on this visit. You will be asked to wear an Abaya & cover your head before entering the Mosque.They have a very cozy Diwaniya Hall to receive the guests and welcomed with refreshments, brochures and souvenirs.

If you are in Kuwait, you can check out the Aware Center’s official website to view their schedule of events, normally they hold Grand Mosque Tour every 2nd Saturday of the month. Their representative, Ms. Iman Martin is very knowledgeable and such a great guide.

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Have you ever been inside a Mosque as a Non-Muslim? How was your experience?

If you like this post, then you might want to check out my other post on Exploring the Kuwaiti heritage sites in the Kuwait category. Feel free to browse and learn more about fascinating things you can only find in Kuwait.

Once again, Salam & Thank you for reading!

Kuwait :From an expat point of view

I came to Kuwait in May 2008 totally ignorant about this country. Yes,i know about Saddam’s invasion but i haven’t got any clue what to expect from this country. You see, sometimes, when you make big changes in your life, it’s so spontaneous that you embrace it enough to get it through your skin overnight. Now, for almost 8 years of living and working in this small, yet oil-rich country, Kuwait has been close to my heart. My second home. I have embraced the Kuwaiti way of life, Muslim culture, the real heat during Summers , the fierce Sandstorms, the Authentic brightness of the sun, and the parenthood in this culture.

I’m telling you, Kuwait is not your typical tourist destination .If i were a tourist, i would never put Kuwait in my Bucket List. Why?  No nightlife, No public partying, no alcohol, not much “Green Nature “ to see here, (yeah there is Desert), No Pork! Public Transportation is bad, besides,who would want to go out in the scorching  heat? Kuwait is totally dormant especially during Ramadan. It doesn’t have an appealing profile in Wikipedia, or  in Tripadvisor. But still, there are approximately 2.4 Million expats living here.People are attracted to go to Kuwait  mainly to earn money. People go here to work, and this is  from my own perspective.

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Kuwait Towers.The Symbolic Architectural Heritage of Kuwait.

Now from the moment you step out of the plane and out from the Airport, you inhaled Kuwait. The air you breathe in  is different. The heat & humidity is quite a shock to most foreigners .The heat is real. It could stung your skin. If you come here during the months of May to August,then you might really praise the invention of Airconditioning.You cannot survive here without an AC. When people complained to me that they have hot temperatures, i shrug & always said,“Do you know how it feels to have 50 deg temps?“Getting used to the heat is one of the hurdles you need to overcome. A good pair of Sunglasses is also a  must-have. Never ever come here during Summer!!

As we all know, Kuwait is an Islamic country. Arabic is the main language spoken although English is widely understood by  Kuwaitis .Paperworks in Ministries are all in Arabic so it’s a nerve-wrenching experience to deal with them if you don’t understand it.Prayertimes are widely observed.Every place has it’s own Mosque (Masjid).I have seen cars parked in the middle of the highway, just because the driver needs to pray.I have seen my colleagues pray together, inside the mall,in the park, even in the island of a Roundabout.

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Kuwait Skyline showing modern Skycrapers like Al Hamra Tower.

 

In Europe, where in it is  pedestrian-friendly, the car stops to give way to the pedestrians .In Kuwait, the cars and its drivers rules !Maniac drivers are the King of the Road most especially in the major highways. I saw men driving with  kids in the driver’s seat,no seatbelts,annoyingly feet up on the dashboard,mobile phones are stucked on their cheeks!People are even driving on New Year’s Eve. I often wonder what in the world they are doing spending all their time driving around. Social status is also depends on the car that you drive. Swerving and cutting lanes is common and mostly causes accidents. Driving in Kuwait is not for the faint-hearted. Autobahn in Germany has no speed limit, yet the percentage of road accidents is lower compared to Kuwait who has speed limits set,  yet has a high road-accident rate .Kuwait has broken the world record of number of  traffic deaths.Not really the kind of record to be proud of.

I don’t know why but only in Kuwait that Men stared a LOT.I mean, its really crazy and uncomfortable the way people stares. I would believed that you could get so much attention if you are a Celebrity or a supermodel walking along the street and wearing flashy outfit! Don’t forget that Kuwait is a Muslim country and although Non-Muslim women here are not required to wear the Abaya, they are expected to dressed conservatively. I noticed that Kuwaiti women are fashion & beauty-conscious. They love the glamour & glittery lifestyle. Their wardrobe are always trendy and up to date with fashion . Of course, they have money to splurge on make up , clothes & everything. There’s never too expensive for them. You can always see fashionable women totally made-up even on a very laid back environment just like grocery shopping. International brands flocked in Kuwait’s top malls like The Avenues. From designer shoes to bags, they wear it even going to supermarkets. It’s no wonder also that Kuwaiti women are one of the top users of make up.I mean,they really wear it.Loads of it.Everyday.The number of salons both for men & women are more than the number of gasoline stations.

For most expats working here, An attractive salary offer without any taxes is the top reason to stay. Utilities are minimal. But the high cost of housing is getting higher due to rise in Expat population.If you are working from a private sector then you have benefits like Free Healthcare, Accommodation ,Transportation and Annual vacation leaves with Airfare .But sad to say that most disturbing inhuman acts of molestation and abuse for domestic workers are also coming from here.It breaks my heart to hear many stories of ‘Kabayans’ who are victims of injustice .I have high respect for these women who really work hard  just to provide for their families. In Kuwait , modern slavery is prevalent.

When i was new here, “Diwaniya”caught my attention. It’s totally Kuwaiti.  Every Kuwaiti household  have a  Diwaniya area,mainly a hall or Annex from their reception area for the purpose of meeting & gathering with male friends,colleagues and guests. This tradition is traced back since immemorial. The men usually dressed in their Dishdashas discussing various topics while relaxing,casual smoking,drinking tea,Arabic coffee & Sheesha, nibbling sweets or dates .I find it cozy with their beautiful soft cushions.

As an Expat , I could RANT a lot more about bad things about Kuwait, But then I would be a hypocrite to say that these things are absent in Philippines, in The Netherlands or even in the US.Every country has its own issues.  Maybe the extremities are different but injustice & social problems are prevalent anywhere.There is no such thing as perfect place. As an expat, I have learned to accept this country, with its flaws and everything, After all,it is my own freewill to be here. It doesn’t mean that I approve of the rudeness, Hypocrisy, Wasta System, Modern Slavery and Racism but Generalization is complete ignorance.

I have read lots of hate blogs about Kuwait. It’s like spitting it out as a vomit. So many hate and disgust in their words. Kuwait have wounded their hearts. People have the right to voice out their own opinions and some have low tolerance of anything that pisses them off. It may not work for you, but it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t work for others. I have known kind and decent Kuwaitis so in the end, I tried to keep an open mind and looked on the positive side ;

KUWAIT –A country with distinct heritage.Has a stable currency and one of the richest country as per Capita terms. Kuwaitis are more liberal and westernized compared to other Arab countries.Their government is progressive.Yes,their lifestyle is grand,and spend like crazy ,living in big villas & mansions, but they have the money to spend. They can afford the luxurious life.They have Oil and the State owns it.They are endowed.When a Kuwaiti marries,the government gave money .Education is free.NO TAXES!Gas prices as 70 fils (around 0.25 USD) per liter.Expats bring their families here and settled.One way or another,they know that life is better here compared to their home country.Or else they would have left already.

For those expats  in Kuwait, they have a reason to still stay here. For those who have left already, they’ve had also a reason to go away.

I hope i have given you an idea what to expect as an expat in Kuwait. But how about you, How is your experience as an Expat ? If you like this post, please feel free to hit the like button below & share it. I would also love to hear  your comments below.

 

Again, Thank you for stopping by !