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Published: April 10th 2010
Two guys from KuwaitApril 9, 2010 Note: You can click on any photo to enlarge it, and then use the numbers at the top to scroll from photo to photo. Be sure to see the photos below the comments on this page and then click on the "page 2" link to see the "extra photos" I've uploaded. :
They wanted me to take their photo. I don't know why. However, in the interest of world peace, here it is.
Last Thursday was the weekend and we had arranged for our group to go to Kuwait City, Kuwait for the day, which is about an hour’s drive from where we are in Khafji, Saudi Arabia.
Things did not start off well. The driver picked us up at 12:30 pm. There were nine of us including the driver and 8 very narrow seats. The driver, who spoke no English, did not seem surprised or bothered by this. The solution was for one of us to sit in the luggage area behind the rear seat (it was a Suburban-type hatchback), which would be highly illegal in the US.
We made it to the border in about 10 minutes, passed through the Saudi checkpoints relatively quickly and then started the process of getting our visas to go into Kuwait. That’s where the fun began.
Waiting for our visas to Kuwait
This is what it looks like inside the building where you wait, and wait, and wait for them to process your visa.
After about 30 minutes of processing, there was a clap of thunder and then all of the power went out. Naturally, that meant the computers went down and everything stopped. If you are thinking this is the point when the back-up generator would kick in, you obviously haven’t been here or you haven’t been carefully reading my blogs! We waited and waited and waited. We were literally trapped between the two countries of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (no man’s land). Kind of like the Tom Hanks movie where he was trapped in an airport. I saw my one chance to visit Kuwait slowly slip away. Fortunately, I had the Guest House pack to-go lunches (or as they say outside of the US “take-away”) so we could have a tailgate lunch on the border. you may be surprised to find out that included chicken, shrimp, and rice - just like every lunch and dinner.
However, about 45 minutes later the power came back on and the s-l-o-w process of creating visas restarted. After a mere two and a half hours sitting between the two countries, we were on our way. We finally arrived in Kuwait City at about 3:30 pm.
Stuck between two countries
When the electricity went out, we waited for two and half hours. We were literally stuck between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The driver didn’t know where to meet the two hosts who were our tour guides, but I’m learning. I had packed mobile phone numbers with me and I was able to call. Two of the client’s employees were our hosts for the day. They are both native Kuwaitis, speak excellent English, and were terrific hosts and tour guides.
It was still raining on and off. The Kuwaitis called it a rare blessing from God. I wished the blessing could have come a day later. Who comes to a city in the desert only to get rained on?
But this is where things started turning around and the day was absolutely amazing and the most fun I’ve had in my six trips to this area. We started at the marina, where the fisherman come in and deliver their catches to the fish market.
One of the videos I’ve uploaded shows how they auction their catches (they dump them on the floor, people gather around, and then the bidding starts). Or you can buy your fish from one of the fish stalls that line the room. There is also a meat market with entire lambs hanging from hooks, and
The natural gas is burned off when they drill for oil.
sides of beef for sale. Then there was the specialty booth that sold only lamb heads, tongs, feet, strips of fat, brains, etc. As Rachel Ray would say, “Yummo.” It’s not for the squeamish and there is no supermarket plastic wrap. By the way, the going rate for a lamb's head is 1 KD (about $3.00 US) and I thought they would make great souvenirs.
My favorite was the date vendors, who would give you samples of the various kinds of dates. There were the spice vendors, vegetable vendors and nut vendors. It was fantastic!
We then drove to a hotel that is attached to an ornately carved HUGE wooden ship. The inside of the boat is a conference room that can be used for weddings, etc. It costs a mere $30,000 per evening. A walk through the hotel redefined the meaning of luxurious.
From there we headed to the Science Museum and Aquarium. I’ve been to a lot of aquariums including the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, but this place blew them away. I have some good photos of the marine life we saw, plus a few assorted other animals and something called Desert Roses, which are
Serious barbed wire
I don't think they want tourists here!
found in the desert and made of gypsum minerals. People look for them in the desert in the same way that people look for sand dollars near the ocean.
Next on the agenda was a car tour of the city, where we drove past the palaces of the Emir (head of Kuwait) and the Prime Minister, Stock Market, Grand Mosque, brand new shopping malls, embassies, and the Kuwait Towers which are a symbol of Kuwait City. In the middle of downtown is another traditional market place. It was near here that Peter purchased his Persian carpet. Yacoub volunteered to negotiate the deal for him. Much conversation, walking away, and shouting ensued. Peter walked away, came back, and offered $750. The vendor became ecstatic because Yacoub had already got the price down to about $600. So Peter was actually negotiating for a higher price!! When he discovered what he did, he decided to let Yacoub do the talking! A deal was struck and Peter now has his carpet.
Michel and I wondered through the market, where he was able to practice his Arabic by talking to every single person there. Actually, it was great fun. I learned a great
deal because we were able to ask any question and have the vendors understand what we were asking (despite the fact that they laugh at Michel’s version of Lebanese Arabic).
By then it was time for dinner and I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. It was crazy-good. There were people everywhere and the platters of kabobs, fresh fish, prawns (shrimp) the size of a Volkswagen were brought to the table. There were stacks of freshly baked bread (see video), humus, salad, and some of the best fish I've ever eaten. The fish was flat and about the size of a large pizza. It was by far the best meal in all my trips to the Middle East.
It was dark when we finished dinner (about 10 pm) and there was one last stop on our itinerary. Yacoub had a friend who invited us to come to his house. He said that every night, for about four hours, he gets together with a group of guys to talk, eat, solve the world’s problems, and smoke the hookah (also known as a hubbly bubbly, water pipe, or shisha in Arabic). There was the requisite tea boy to serve Arabic
The shopping mall is in the background
coffee, sweetened tea, dates, and baklava-type pastries. The house owner spoke very good English and was most hospitable. We all took turns smoking the hookah, which does not contain anything illegal (in either the US or Kuwait). It was very mild and it’s a social thing. It can’t be good for your lungs, but once in a lifetime certainly can’t hurt.
Later we were given a tour of lower part of his house, which was quite lavish. One wall was covered with a bluish flagstone that he said he bought in China. The fountain in the middle of the living room came from Rome. There were materials and items from every country imaginable. However, he was most proud of his garden which contained a small plot of green grass and various fruit trees. There were also bushes with aromatic flowers.
It was now time to start heading back to Saudi Arabia, which we were able to do much more easily than the trip into Kuwait. Before we departed, Yacoub and Jaber gave us gift bags containing elaborate photo books of the company and a glass diamond that contained Kuwaiti oil. Although it would take about a million of
These are the iconic symbol of Kuwait. I did drive past them (and they are beautiful), but this photos is from Ralf, another blogger on this site.
these paperweights to create a barrel of oil, my collection is now started.
We arrived back at the Guest House at 2:00 am in the morning, after a very full day. It was a fantastic experience.
You can click on any photo to enlarge it, and then use the numbers at the top to scroll from photo to photo. Be sure to see the photos below the comments on this page and then click on the "page 2" link to see the "extra photos" I've uploaded.
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