The Fishermen were not actually the inhabitants of Kuwait. Most of them were guest workers from the neighboring poor countries. My boyfriend and i have had good time entertaing with them while they were busy fixing their Fishnets. They spoke Arabic but we were able to understand through gestures what they mean. The are not shy but respectful and friendly.
Along the shores of Kuwait City.
My stay in Kuwait was not enough to discover the unknown. There are too much to see in this short time. I seldome see Kuwaití walking on the Streets. They ride. People we saw working outside were mostly coming from neighboring Countries like pakistan, afghanistan, asians. The culture of Kuwait didn´t prohibit us to communicate and interact with the locals. Of course with courtesy and respect we handled the themes of conversation. In return we had fun when we took pictures together. The fact that i didn´t go out alone as a woman they also handled me with respect.
National Day 2008 on the 25th together with Liberation Day on the 26th february celebrates the 47th anniversary of the indedependence of Kuwait.
As a tiny nation it certainly was clear that this was a significant celebration - the family I visited had National Day brooches with ribbons in the Kuwaiti flag colours and flashing lights! The Crowne Plaza Hotel where I stayed was decorated in many Kuwaiti flags and full length strips of cloth in the national colours as were many of the prominent or national buildings or hotels around the city.
OUt on the streets children were seen to wearing outfits made up in the Kuwaiti colours either on display at traffic roundabouts with police escorts! or at relaxing with their families aliong the beach or whereever I saw children such as visiting the Kuwait Towers. all sorts of items that displayed the Kuwaiti flag were for sale and being bought by families!
Many cars driving along the roads had flags and were hooting, full of people yelling out or throwing white confetti out the window.
Down at the souks not only the National Day decorations but many items I saw for sale such as childrens outfits in the Kuwaiti colours.
Obviously this is a significant occasion to the National Identity of the people of Kuwait and celebrated as so.
Kuwaiti money - the Dinar - I was impressed by the 'We Seek God's Assistance' that is printed on all the denominations of the notes used in the Kuwait currency.
The prices to buy stuff was quite expensive such as accommodation and things for sale in the souks seemed to be no cheaper than buying them back in London - the exchange rate is about 50p to 1 Dinar - such as entry to the Kuwait Towers was £2, getting a 1 gb memory card onto CD (2 CDs) was with haggling £6 from £8 whereas in London I only pay £4. Shisha tobacco was expensive ie the same price as London or maybe more - the same brand of apple flavoured tobacco that Id bought in Tunisia for 50p a box which I guess would be 2 or 3 boxes in a tin - was about £5 for a tin!
Taxis were a good deal - I guess because fuel is so much cheaper - or just plain cheap! the locals were paying only about £4 to fill their tanks!
While working in Kuwait, I had the opportunity to participate in a few negotiations for the rental of a villa. Foreigners generally rent villas rather than houses, as the latter tend to be massive structures built from marble for Kuwaiti citizens. Villas are the size of average houses in North America. The trick is often to find a villa that was built by a Kuwaiti who plans, at some point, to live in it. Otherwise, the quality of construction can be quite shoddy and the landlord can have the nasty habit of ignoring your calls when things need to be repaired. There is healthy competition in Kuwait amongst realtors, so you shouldn't have a problem with your agent, if you contract one. Rents did not suffer the same decline as in Dubai, so there is little expectation that the agent will go bust or that the home owner won't be able to cover the cost of maintenance - however, this also means that rents have not fallen and are on an upward trend. Houses that are well maintained can amaze even the most pampered of families. The villa in the pictures attached to this tip (KWD1500 per month, but knocked down to about KWD1250) had an elevator, 6 car garage, chandeliers everywhere and beautiful bedrooms.
There are two extremely important state holidays in Kuwait (as opposed to religious ones): National Day, on 25 February, and Liberation Day, on 26 February. Unfortunately, I had to fly back to Canada the weekend before the two holidays, but I was able to witness many of the preparations for them. The entire city appears to adorn itself in red, white, green and black and anything that is somewhat solid will have a Kuwaiti flag on it. The buildings are often decorated with coloured lights and some of them adopt interesting patterns, such as leaving on office lights to form the number of years Kuwait has been independent (49 this year, and 19 years since the liberation). Supposedly, during the festivities, roads are essentially blocked as people come out to hold spontaneous parades, waving flags and shooting silly string at each other. It makes daily life hell, but given that there is a week-long vacation, most Kuwaitis don't care about making it to work.
Kuwaitis are not known to be a partying type of people in the Western sense of the word (i.e. you will not find any bars or clubs here, not least because of the total ban on alcohol), but that doesn't mean that they don't enjoy themselves. In Kuwait, a social gathering generally entails lots and lots of delicious food. If it is a really big, possible traditional, gathering, it might also mean a camel will be cooked up too. In all, if you are invited to a Kuwaiti festivity, don't eat for a good 6 hours before going, and look forward to a pretty extravagant feast. It is something that shouldn't be missed. The same goes for the roast camel, which is a tastier version of beef. Activities might also include things like skeet shooting and falconry, depending on the type of hosts and the area available (as in the West, you will only shoot in an open space and not in the city).
I included this one in the local customs tip because, although it is often considered a sport, you are unlikely to try it out without some sort of detailed and extensive training beforehand. Falconry is a traditional pass-time of the wealthy in the Gulf states and the Crown Prince of Dubai or one of the other Emirates is in fact a world champion at it. Essentially, it involves the training of falcons to hunt small animals and to be tame enough to return to their masters. Even if you don't approve of the use of animals in sport (I'm not sure if the birds are harmed in any way, but I would imagine not), the majesty of the falcons is incredible, and falconry exhibits are great to see if only to be able to get close to them. The birds are usually masked when people are around, so as not to scare or startle them. The rarity of the birds and the costs and difficulties involved in raising and caring for them mean that you're unlikely to see a show at every event, so if you have the chance to witness one, it is an opportunity not to be missed while in Kuwait.
Unlike the general perception of Gulf countries, the actual number of nomadic bedouins in Kuwait is quite low, and the general population is characterized by a tendency towards a highly urban lifestyle. Nevertheless, there are efforts to preserve traditional bedouin culture and the government does sponsor and promote certain events and institutions designed to ensure that future generations are educated on the country's traditional culture. If you go to any official public functions, especially ones aimed at celebrations for the whole family, it is highly likely that there will be some sort of bedouin element to the festivities. At a one event I visited (for diplomats and their families), visitors were treated to coffee and tea inside a traditional bedouin tent. The facilities are obviously those that would be enjoyed by the wealthiest of bedouin families, but they do give you an idea of what it was like to live inside a tent. Remember to always take off your shoes before entering any Muslim house - include a tent!
Camels are still a necessary commodity in Kuwait apparently - the family I visited on my first night told me they had camels in the desert but I didnt get to ask what they do with them - I guess theyre in case theyre needed and still regarded as a valuable commodity.
When driving in the desert we came across a few along or on the road - and out on where Kuwaitis still have their tents - and very happily my taxi driver took me to the camel and livestock markets! Lots of camels there!
Also went past the Camel Racing Club sign (which brings back memories of the camel racing seen at the Festival of the Sahara in Tunisia - with exhausted camels frothing at the mouths unable to run any further) - maybe thats where theyre needed as well!
For a taxi driver that proved a good recommendation from the Hotel Continental - he is Mohiuddin Noor of Asia Taxi, ph 7976637 (car no 98)
I really liked getting shots of the men wearing their head scarves - when I met the family the first night on the patients return to his family there was a large turn out of men present to greet him - all looking like sheikhs in their headscarves and 'gandoras' (moroccan term - yet to find the correct term used in Kuwait as also what the differences are between the colours of the scarves worn). Ive seen white ones worn for weddings and on the men turning up to celebrate their family member's return and red ones around town.
When at Wataniya market, between the Mubarak/Gold souk and the Liberation tower, I bought a red scarf that the seller was adamant was made in or for Saudi and not in China as some of the others I seen, marked as being made in, for sale elsewhere.
I haggled a little and got 1/4 of a dinar off which is about 50p but I dont mind not haggling much when someone seems to be honestly trying to make a living rather than charging any unreasonable price because Im a foreigner or a tourist(as was with the Apple tobacco for Shisha which was more expensive than buying it back in London! - and told him that - and Id bought it in Tunisia for £1 for equivalent size that £5 was being asked for in a Kuwaiti souk! and my flatmate bought some in Doha, Qatar for only £1 as well just a few weeks ago).
So I bought a 58cm red scarf for about £4.50, an interesting souvenir!?
When I asked my taxi driver if theyre (the red ones) the same as the ones the men wear in Syria and elsewhere he just answered no theyre different. But sorry cant elaborate much more than that! But I will ask when Ive got the chance!
PS - Ive since asked and been told that traditionally the red ones are for winter - made of woollen fabric and heavier for warmth whereas the white ones are generally cotton for warmer weather - and that that is the only difference - but recently red ones have started being made in cotton fabric as well (like the one I bought!).
Its worth taking the chance to get out and about - well I did by being driven by the family I spent an evening with from their home back to my hotel near the airport which entailed driving through a new city and the homes in it, not to mention the ones where the family I visited lived, were really impressive - and huge - almost like small palaces!
When I got a taxi to drive me in daylight out into the country we drove past lovely new homes that were also like small palaces and of really impressive architecture and design!
I was told that generally these homes are for individual families and that this is the lifestyle of normal Kuwaitis who enjoy the wealth of the country generated from the oil that Kuwait yields which is distributed by the rulers in the form of affordable housing, free medical care and reliable employment.
Theres quite a range of mosques noted around Kuwait of various shapes and sizes. I would like to have down to see the pyramid shaped one I read about at Salmiya but didnt have the time.
When I made the comment to my taxi driver the early morning we were going thru the centre to see the externals of the Grande Mosque that there were a lot of mosques in Kuwait he answered that it was a muslim country so there must be a lot of mosques in Kuwait! No surprise in that!
Anyway I had walked past the Grande mosque the evening before but what I thought would surely have either of the main entrances werent and therefore it had looked closed to me whereas it mightve still be open as this mosque does allow non-muslims to enter for visits which is what I would like to have done.
2 nearby mosques at a Call to Prayer time I heard, also noted later when passing other mosques, have the most lovely sound of singing the call to prayer! which Im sure Ive not heard before other than talking the Call to Prayer as in say Morocco, and the two seemed to be trying to out sing the other! but it was a lovely sound.
Id seen these depicted on the rough maps Id been given by the hotel around the roads of Kuwait and on my travels - ie from the Crown Plaza Hotel/Fuwiniya into Kuwait City and from Hotel Continental in the direction of Jahra with my taxi driver I got to see these quite well when driving past along on the freeways - even if driving quite fast Im glad the photos have come out!
They are rather distinctive and I thinkjrather pretty - but Im rather biased to things blue!
You can also see in the photos the homes in those areas being supplied the water much needed in such a dry and sandy country - a lot of oil which makes very cheap petrol but water is the highly sought commodity in addition! - which I was so impressed by the so many beautiful designs of these homes out in these new suburbs - and their size which I was told does house a family, maybe incorporating some degree of extended ones but usually a lot of room to go around!
Maboosh! - luckily on Kuwaiti Airlines there was an Arabic food option included and I got to try lovely Maboosh - spicey, but not uncomfortably hot with lamb and rice.
When I got to Kuwait I got the chance to meet the families, of the man I was escorting to get back to his home in Kuwait, who had Maboosh on the menu as well! and delicious - an excellent way to enjoy a country is to meet and relate with people of the country and what better way than in their homes! See the lovely big houses the Kuwaiti people generally live in, the clothing they wear, how they relate to one another and what they talk and think about, meet their extended families and enjoy their warm welcome (well for me luckily they were a warm welcoming family pleased or excited to see their father brought back from London home again).
They told me they do have a bit of rice in their diet/usual dishes but not predominantly nor do they have cous cous - 'its Moroccan' they said but available in the markets. Their tea is black tea or green tea (not with mint) and their coffee 'Arabic coffee' has a taste like verbena is in it.