Posts Tagged With: Souq

“His car exploded. The man must have had bad luck with money.”

Today’s tales are for the adventurer in you. Kuwait, this tame country of shopping malls and family picnics, has burst out of it’s hum-drum shell to offer me quite the blogging treat this month.

Two, seemingly-to-be-average, trips into Kuwait City and Salmiya ended up showcasing crowds of people with wide eyes and slack jaws. One was for a festival held in the street, and one was for an exploded car.

That’s right. A car exploded. Don’t ask me how. Let’s start at the beginning…

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My friends and I board the public bus to get to the Old Souk (Mubarakiya) in Kuwait City. When the buses are crowded we sit in the “Ladies Seats.” When I ride the bus alone (which is often, it’s really safe!), I also sit in the ladies seats. They’re the six or so seats up near the bus driver. If you ever board the bus and it’s over-crowded, men will stand and ensure the ladies get their “Ladies Seats”. To be honest, it’s pleasantly convenient to know I’ve got a nice spot to watch traffic : )

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When we arrived at the souk, we stuffed our faces at our favorite restaurant. What a feast it was! We dined on hummus, salad, rice, chicken, pomegranate and cucumbers, beans, and endless flat bread. It was delectable.

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After dinner, as usual, we strolled past the shops selling all sorts of sweets and treats. This guy was making Nutella pastries. I had to take a picture of the menu to believe it.


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If you look at the last item on the menu, “Pie nutella chocolate” is where it’s at. For just the equivalent of $5, you get a 10″ pizza-sized pastry baked in an oven and filled with Nutella. Pair that fact with the lack of sidewalks in Kuwait and you’ve got a recipe for a heart attack.


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Ahhhhh, the strange items at the souk. Portable sauna, anyone? I think you sit inside and your head pops out the top. “Deep cleansing of the body through perspiration”. Yum.

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This was where our night took a strange turn. We left the souk with the intent to wander the surrounding area, when we came across caution tape and a crowd of people. We nervously inched closer and saw they were all gawking at a car in the middle of the parking lot. Not just any car, a torched car.

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A car that had completely exploded. Everything inside it was torched. Never to be repaired. Ready for the landfill.

We had absolutely no idea how this happened, so I asked the nearest guy standing next to me. The guy spins quite the yarn saying, “Well, his car exploded, and there was 20,000 KD inside of it.”

Stop right there.

20,000 KD is $70,000 USD. The man’s car spontaneously combusts and he has seventy grand inside? Yeah, right.

No, the man insists, “His car exploded. The man must have had bad luck with money.”

And that was it. Everyone was standing around, looking like, “Eh, an exploded car. Weird, but not too weird. Unlucky man.” They continued to tell me that the car caught on fire and burnt with all the money inside of it.

What are the odds, that in the middle of a parking lot, a car just goes up in flames? Not only does it go up in flames, but it continues to burn to complete, melted, irreparable cinders? NOT ONLY does it become decimated, but it does so with $70,000 inside of it?

I smell something fishy in the Persian Gulf.

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Since this date I have been scouring the internet for any follow up news article, and haven’t found a single one. This was, hands down, one of the strangest things I’d ever seen in my two years in Kuwait.

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Regardless, we soldiered on through the souk, and Abby and Kyle popped into a perfumery to contemplate some fine scents.

Thus concludes the evening of the exploding car. Not to leave a sour taste in your mouth, I thought I’d finish with a cute story of a street festival I found a few days later. Everybody loves a carnival!

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It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I decided to take a walk. I just had to snap a picture of this… “Medical Laboratory” I found in Salmiya. Suffice to say, I didn’t stick around. They sure have different medical licensing issues here than in the States!


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When I got to the main shopping area, I was surprised to see the street completely blocked off. There were balloons, music, dancers, food, and happy families.

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Grimace even made a guest appearance!


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I took this picture not only to show the crowd, but to show you the conglomeration of restaurants on this street! They stretch on as far as the eye can see. (And if you can’t make it out, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts right after the Subway.)

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As if the mascot Grimace wasn’t enough, McDonald’s even had their own break-dancers  It was a happenin’ place. These guys were pretty talented! I wish they danced like that while they made my McFlurries.

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At the Wisconsin State Fair we have corn on the cob, in Kuwait they have kebab stands.

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Just like every state fair in America, the police had a cautionary and informational booth. This guy was to demonstrate the dangers of alcohol consumption… (Remember, this is a dry country, so they take it pretty seriously…)

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I hung out with the police for a while and learned how they dust for fingerprints at a crime scene.


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I’m not a big missile person, so I didn’t ask any questions here. Maybe you weaponry buffs can identify some of them?

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Lastly, like every event in Kuwait. There are fancy cars. There are always fancy cars.

Overall, it was quite the eventful weekend. I sure had a lot to write home about!

I’ve got quite a few more blogs on Kuwait up my sleeve, so stay tuned!

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Kuwait: Round Two. Let The Feast Begin!

As a child, I have a vague memory of a scene from a movie where one of the main characters cries, “Let the feast, BEGIN!” This scene, recalled only in auditory recognition, somehow has always symbolized moments of pure, superfluous, excessive fun. Thus, when deciding what to title this blog, my first blog back in the desert, in the Middle East, in the land of hummus, Hummers, and humid clouds of dust, I thought to myself, “Well, I’m back in Kuwait. Let the feast, BEGIN!”
After toting my camera around for three weekends out and about in Kuwait, I finally felt ready to create a blog. It’s daunting, blogging. There’s a desire to produce work simply so that people can read it, but there must be a high caliber of quality within what I produce. I could just take pictures of everything I eat, or of every pair of shoes I wear. Of what other people wear as shoes. Or what other people eat. But I digress. My point is, that I try to capture a hodgepodge of what Sean and I really “do” over here in the Middle East. Sounds silly, I know, but if I were reading my blog, I would want to know where I go on the weekends, what I do for fun, and yes, occasionally what I eat and what other people wear as shoes.
Do you have a request for a blog topic? Post it below! Let me know what you want to read about! The possibilities are endless… kind of. There are pretty strict censorship laws here. All right. Onto the photographs and stories. Let the feast begin!

 

I snapped this picture the first weekend we were back in Kuwait. It was taken downtown in Kuwait City, on a particularly humid evening. Maybe you can see that in the amount of clouds in the sky. I loved the way the palm trees made everything look so lush! Not to mention the unique architecture that always seems to dot the Kuwait skyline…

 

The reason for this evening’s trip into Kuwait City was twofold. Since Kuwait City is about a fifteen minute drive from where we live, we normally either carpool there together, or take public transportation. This evening we went with our friends Dave, Lacie, and Eric. We made a pit stop at the fabric souk so that Lacie could get some clothing of her tailored. As you can see, ‘Silkland’ offers quite a variety for the savvy costumer…

 

As we waited outside the tailor’s shop in the fabric souk, I looked around in the shops. I was amazed to see the number of men working in a given fabric shop. They were all there, sewing, darning, repairing. All in a row. It made me feel a bit guilty for complaining about the length of time it takes the tailor to complete my requests… and not to mention the price I pay. (Obviously not enough!)

 

After completing our stop at the tailor’s, we exited the fabric souk. It was hopping on a Thursday night!

 

However, before we left, I caught a “wardrobe malfunction” on one of the mannequins. How scandalous!

 

As we drove from the fabric souk to the restaurant, I snapped a photo out of the car of the Liberation Tower. I loved how eerie it looked with the moon and clouds… This tower was constructed after Kuwait was liberated from the Iraq invasion in 1990. It is now open once a year for people to visit and remember.

 

The restaurant we ended up at was a place called “Slider Station,” and couldn’t have been more strangely American. After spending three months in the States, it was strange to encounter a gourmet burger place. Not to mention a non-politically correct burger place. Check out the “Obama Burger”…

 

Don’t worry, it wasn’t just ANY old burger place. Nothing in Kuwait is ever “any old” anything. Slider Station was fancy-pants, burgers on a conveyor belt, fancy. I snuck up onto the second floor, so you can see the conveyor belt that brings your burgers out for you. They were mini-burgers, so you would typically order between 3-5 burgers to make a meal. For the vegetarian, I had an “Italian Felafel” burger. I know, I know, I don’t get it either. Regardless, it was surprisingly delicious! The way the place looked, you’d expect everyone to be sipping cosmos and relaxing to lounge music. But don’t worry, those aren’t liquor bottles in the center of the belt. They’re bottles of hot sauce. Bottles of hot sauce on display that you could not use. I was a wee bit disappointed about the mystery of the “too chic to be eaten, only for display hot sauces”. Oh, Kuwait…

 

Here come the burgers! A magical, delicious, conga-line of consumerism…

 

Once again, I overestimated my blogging ability for tonight. I had originally uploaded 28 pictures, with the intent to make each and every pixel come alive with tales woven especially for you. Alas, all of those tales must be suspended for another night. What a thing to celebrate! There are hundreds of stories that await!

In our next episode, you will see what a “Britney” and a “Brook” shake is, our friend Eric will become a fire-breathing dragon, and the Italian Circus comes to Kuwait…

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Sean Does The Arab Taco

Well, here we are back in Kuwait, with nothing better to do than go out for dinner (and breakfast, and lunch), ride my bicycle, play cribbage, soak up the rays, and walk along the ocean contemplating our next chapter in life. (Don’t worry, what I mean by that is deciding our plans for summer vacation…)

We thought it was high time we shared with you the Arab taco.

ta·co/ˈtäkō/

Noun:
A Mexican dish consisting of a fried folded tortilla, filled with various mixtures, such as seasoned meat, beans, lettuce, and tomatoes.

 

The above definition asserts the notion that tacos are strictly Mexican in origin. To me, a taco is a bit like a vehicle. Everyone has their favorite mode of transportation, but how you choose to get there can make all the difference. Bicycles, SUVs,public transportation, rocket ship, mental journey, the possibilities are endless. To pull this nauseating metaphor to an end, I want to venture in saying that tacos do not have to fit into a specific genre. You can make a “taco” out of anything.

Intro the Arab taco.

Step 1: Go to your nearest souk. If you’re at all lost, look for alleyways filled with colorful fabric, skewered meat, and people calling you, “For you, special price!”. Sit down in an eating area—bonus points if you find a place with no menu.

Step 2: Order copious amounts of food on accident. (Try not to eat anything after 8am the morning of, if you can help it.) In your best “I know what I’m doing, I swear” accent, ask for the following:

– hummus (The soupy-looking dish on the left.)

– shish tawouk (The chicken in the center.)

– bread (Still haven’t figured out how to ask for this one. They bring it on the house anywhere you go.)

– salad (Again, on the house, the dish on the far right of the screen.)

– rumman khair o-salada (The pomegranate masterpiece to the right of the chicken.)

Step 3: The hummus. The Arabic version of guacamole. It’s everywhere. Made out of chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed oil), lemon juice, garlic, salt, and lots and LOTS of olive oil. I just may have more hummus coursing through my veins than I do blood cells. While you wait for the rest of your food to arrive, feel free to dip a few pieces of lettuce into your hummus. Or just eat it with your finger.

Step 4: The chicken. We always order only “one”, but end up with four skewers. Since I’m a vegetarian, the daunting task of demolishing all this chicken lies to my husband alone. He never fails to disappoint.

Step 5: My personal favorite. Pomegranate cucumber salad. Have you ever SEEN so much pomegranate? I am also fairly certain this dish costs around $2.00. There’s a reason why they stick spoons in it when they serve it to you…

Pomegranate is one of the most beautiful reasons to live in the Middle East. Did you know they symbolize fertility? They are in abundance everywhere you go. We are spoiled!

Step 6: Liberally slather your bread with hummus, and place some chicken in the center. Don’t worry about being cleanly about it—with bread this size, you just yank off a corner.

Step 7: Top the bread/chicken/hummus combo with the pomegranate salad and a bit of lettuce & lemon juice. Before you know it, you’re in heaven. Twenty minutes later, you’ve eaten your weight in bread, pomegranates, and hummus, and you’ve paid $12.00 for the two of you.

Now that’s a date night if I’ve ever seen one.



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March: In Which I repair my bicycle, see a saloon for children, and Andrew dons a tablecloth or three.

It is now the beginning of March, and I have become disappointed with my lack of touristy-Kuwait-photographs. It seems that I haven’t been taking pictures of things that amaze and amuse as I did when I first arrived in Kuwait. I have been storing my camera only for traveling outside of the country. Upon realizing this, I vowed to spend a week snapping photos of the strange, the silly, and the sunshine of Kuwait. After all, I still don’t think I have convinced *all* of you that you could live a pretty posh life here, too 😉

Below are yet another series of photos that portray my daily events in Kuwait. Keep your eyes peeled, there are a couple gems!

Last weekend my friend Sharon and I walked to a nearby Thai restaurant. On our way back, we stumbled upon the “Saloon Elite 4 Kids”. That’s right. Saloon. In Kuwait. For Kids. It’s actually not a typo—what we call a “salon” in English is written as “saloon” everywhere you go in arab-speaking countries. They know the place where you go to get your hair cut as a “saloon”. It makes it seem a little Wild West-esque… or a little predatory in the case of a “Saloon Elite 4 Kids”.

I don’t think I have explained what a “bakala” is to you yet. A balaka is where all good things can be found for cheap. It is like a 7/11 run by your favorite relative. They’re small shops on every street corner, selling everything from dish soap, salt and pepper, fresh fruits and vegetables, to hairspray and baby diapers. (Not to mention blow-up animals and soccer balls, as you can see in this picture.) Nothing has a price tag, it’s all determined by the old man sitting behind the counter watching television. They are all so friendly, and they even cater to you once they know your “usual” needs : )

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but when my dad and sister were visiting Kuwait, my bicycle broke when my dad took it for a test drive. (He swears it was already broken…) I finally took it to the repair shop this past weekend, where they fixed it right up for a mere 4 KD! That’s less than $15. It needed a new pedal and crank. I love the repair shop; again it’s run by an old man who just hangs out talking shop with his friends and rummaging through old parts. Imagine their amusement when a young white foreigner walks up with a broken bicycle! I never know who is more amused in Kuwait: me or the people I interact with. What a joy it is to be alive!

After getting my bicycle fixed I decided to head over to a place some teachers recommended I visit, “King’s Coffee”. They sell coffee by the kilo, and grind it fresh there for you. I bought a quarter kilo for 1.5 KD (around $5.50), and the man ground it there for me. I sipped a complimentary espresso while he prepared my beans. Upon getting home, I have to say that it is the best coffee I’ve bought in Kuwait! It is so much fresher than the Maxwell House I buy at the grocery store. You can really find anything in Kuwait, it just takes a bit of time to hunt for it. (That should really be the title of this post, “Kuwait – The Great Scavenger Hunt!”)

While riding my newly-repaired bicycle home from Salmiya, I found some interesting art outside of a floral shop. The sign in the background (the one in English) says “Kuwait Flowers”.

This is embarrassingly enough the view from our front window. The parking lot for our apartment has been plagued by this eyesore ever since we moved in. It was actually covered up completely last week, but then for SOME reason they dug it up again! Imagine not watching where you were going and stepping through the caution tape…

We went into the downtown area one night with our friends, Megan and Andrew. We went to the Old Souq. Sean liked this building, although I don’t know what the ’51’ symbolizes.

*Update: A friend of mine recently told me, “the “51” was for this being the 51st year of independence from G.B. I’ve seen lots of pictures from last year reading “20-50″ which was their big celebration year of 50 years as a sovereign nation as well as 20 years after kicking out the Iraqis.”

I post this picture purely for my sister and father. This is the place in the Old Souq where Emily kept finding bags with bird poop on them. The shopkeeper has hung up a curtain above his bags now so that the birds can’t poop on them! It was the most hilarious thing; Emily SWORE she needed a particular purse, which had bird poop on the side. I was determined to haggle the guy for 1 KD seeing as it was filthy. He would swear, “No! No! 3 KD only!” and throw the bag in the back of the shop, only to grab ANOTHER purse from the rack that ALSO had bird poop on it! We went through four or five purses and he would NOT lower his price. We were laughing so hard by this point that the purchase became irrelevant. Needless to say, he doesn’t have to worry about haggling over bird droppings any longer!

In the Old Souq. Look at the ceiling behind Sean… don’t you love their national pride?

Spices, spices, spices. I bought a half kilo of died sage for 500 fills!

We love this man, we call him the “Iranian Carpet Guy”, seeing as he is Iranian and he sells carpets. He sells the best tapestries, souvenirs, and gifts in all of the Old Souq.

Megan and Andrew were having quite the discussion as to which tablecloths to purchase. I think Andrew was trying to make the decision by osmosis…

And THEN we got a package in the mail from our lovely family in Washington state, Amanda and Aiden! (Sean is Aiden’s uncle, and Amanda is his cousin.)

My absolute favorite thing about this package is the custom’s form. How could you POSSIBLY deny a parcel that claims it contains a “paper heart” on the inside?

We love Aiden’s art – I have quite a collection proudly displayed over all of our apartment!

Which reminds me, I hope that Amanda and Aiden (and the rest of our family in Washington) received the card we sent you guys in the mail? Please let us know if you haven’t yet. We were impressed that this package from Amanda and Aiden only took about 5 weeks to get here! Kuwait has been impressing me with their postal service recently!

We love you and miss you all. I hope that the weather in North America begins to warm up and the sun starts to shine. Here it is a lovely seventy degrees and sunny during the day time. The only thing negative about March in Kuwait is that Sean can’t watch March Madness… but that’s a blog for another day.

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