The Art of Islamic Patterns

Over the years that I have been roaming around in Kuwait I have encountered so many different types of fascinating Islamic patterns that I truly find beautiful. If you are an art enthusiast like me, you would notice pure creativity in  single window or facade details. From doors to the walls, from floors to decorative Arabic mashrabiya.

Are you like me who ponders when seeing a work of art? for even a single pattern?

I am writing from my own perspective of things that I see here in Kuwait  but to quote Monty Python, what has Islam ever done for us? You know, apart from the algebra, the trigonometry, the optics, the astronomy and the many other scientific advances and inventions of the Islamic Golden Age.

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Islamic pattern is a pure Art. The Arabic calligraphy combined with decorative tiles which has been carved and all handmade is a gem in every significant building. Aside from the lavish cost of the whole building, I consider it as a treasure because it’s all made of hard work of skilled craftsmen.

I always like art and interiors, when I live in Kuwait, I notice that there’s always the stunning patterns that grace mosques, madrasas and  Amir’s palaces not only here, but in other parts of the world also.

Islamic craftsmen and artists – who were prohibited from making representations of people in holy sites – developed an instantly recognizable aesthetic based on repeated geometrical shapes.

The mathematical elegance of these designs is that no matter how elaborate they are, they are always based on grids constructed using only a ruler and a pair of compasses.

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Although the size and grandeur of this chandelier from Germany  is huge, I was in awe just gazing at this marvelous dome inside the Grand Mosque particularly in the Amir’s entrance Hall.Every single detail was carved into perfection and unified patterns.

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These decorative and colorful wall patterns are all geometrical figures which has symbolic meanings. The choice of color, shape and texture fitted perfectly to the base and provide aesthetical harmony.

If you take a closer look on Islamic design, you can mostly conclude that all these patterns are  based on Greek geometry, which teaches us that starting with very basic assumptions, we can build up a remarkable number of proofs about shapes. Islamic patterns provide a visual confirmation of the complexity that can be achieved with such simple tools.

Amazing right?

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These gigantic lamps are also a striking piece accentuating the brilliant ceiling patterns.

Here is a quote from Eric Broug, who is a Dutchman &  one of the most active practitioners of Islamic geometric design working today.

“Geometry is really a universal language, everyone can – and does – relate to it instinctively,” he says. “There is a joy to be had in starting with a blank piece of paper and to draw lines and circles and end up with a pattern that is recognizable and beautiful. This process connects you very directly to a design heritage.”

If you wanna know more about this wonderful subject and learn from Eric’s approach, you can check out his books about Islamic designs here.

I never knew how wide & deep the insights of these patterns not until I browse on his writings about Islamic designs. He had a great job showing how wonderful world of these patterns.

As I have noticed,geometric patterns make up one of the three non-figural types of decoration in Islamic art which also include calligraphy and vegetal patterns.  Whether isolated or used in combination with nonfigural ornamentation or figurative representation,  geometric patterns are popularly associated with Islamic art, largely due to their aniconic quality.

These abstract designs not only adorn the surfaces of monumental Islamic architecture but also function as the major decorative element on a vast array of objects of all types. While geometric ornamentation may have reached a pinnacle in the Islamic world, the sources for both the shapes and the intricate patterns already existed in late antiquity among the Greeks, Romans & Sasanians in Iran.

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Take this Moroccan door detail for example,notice how the shape of the door knob that is exactly the same as the overall door patterns just the colorful designs & color are enhanced.

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Points for aesthetics is the similar floor & ceiling design. Such balance & Unity is achieved in this approach.The overall effect is so calming and yet striking to your senses.

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Islamic artists appropriated key elements from the classical tradition, then  complicated and elaborated upon them in order to invent a new form of decoration that stressed the importance of unity and order. The significant intellectual contributions of Islamic mathematicians, astronomers and scientists were essential to the creation of this unique new style.

Considering the rich origin of these patterns, I am amazed how intricate the modern designs which were derived from the past heritage. If you visits various hotels, function areas and Diwaniyas here, you can find that these Islamic patterns are always present in the design.

I love the Art of Islamic Patterns, how about you?

Do you find any interesting patterns from your place of living?

What do you find unique in the places that you’ve visited?

 

 

Country Living, Are you still enamored?

Does the idea of living in a quiet, open spaces, beautiful serene landscapes, with a slower pace of life appeals to you?

Where privacy & tranquility has no cost, let alone it doesn’t come in a Spa!

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For years, I am always fascinated of the idea of seeing lots of country feel neighborhood. I always dreamed and strived in my own ways to always be close to nature. Here in Kuwait, my views every morning is the my neighboring flats & buildings. It’s a good thing at least that we have large windows in the living room where we have sea view & access to natural (yet so strong !) daylight. Every building has its own charisma, either with eclectic design or just its amusing lighting. City life is also good, It has its pros & cons naturally and  it makes you feel like you are on a fast-paced of life where technology and modern buildings makes your life appealing…but sometimes depressing.

Who wouldn’t want a daily dose of Vitamin G? “Vitamin G” stands for Greenery—trees and plants, which the country has in spades. Not merely pretty, they also come with serious benefits that science is just beginning to understand. Scientific studies have shown that when humans are deprived of greenery, they can suffer in a variety of significant ways.I was really fascinated when I have read that or instance, a study found that when humans spend even a few minutes on a crowded city street, their brain is less able to retain information or control impulses.

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But what about the idea of viewing vast acres or hectares of just pure greens around you? With the animals flocked freely grazing? That the chirping of birds is the normal music you hear instead of honking of cars?

The other night I was awakened by loud honking of cars. I knew it must be coming from the busy street just below our apartment. What on earth is happening? It is 2am in the morning! The odd thing about living within the busy streets with a mixed used complex is the outside noise that cannot be fixed by good acoustics in your building. There is a scientific study which  found out that residents of apartments with views of concrete/asphalt reported higher levels of aggression and violence than did their counterparts living in identical buildings with tree views.Personally, I would prefer a view of trees or gardens instead of a view of Satellite dish, roof tops, busy roads & parking area..let alone a garbage dump!

Have you’ve been inhaling clean, fresh air? or you are too busy to notice. There is something about healthy in country living. The air you breathe and its quality,  People living around more trees and grass generally experience lower levels of air pollution, which has been linked to conditions associated with asthma and heart disease. Well here in Kuwait, dust is something that has been a constant particulates in the air.

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One of the perks of country living is that a normal bike ride or just having a walk in the woods is like a trip to the Botanical Garden and Zoo. One time while Me & my daughter take a spin in the neighborhood, we see horses,ducks, roosters, chickens, goats, and rabbits! All happily grazing & hopping plus a sight of an old windmill that adds to a picturesque view.

There’s fewer psychological problems in living in rural areas. I have read from the articles and journals in the  Schizophrenia Bulletin, at least 10 studies have shown that people in urban areas are more likely to develop psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. The available evidence suggests that more than one-third of all schizophrenia cases may be related to (or greatly exacerbated by) environmental factors in an urban setting.

Additional studies have shown that rural residents are less likely to have anxiety disorders. Scientists examined the prevalence of extreme anxiety in more than 345,000 residents of the Netherlands—male and female of all ages—and found substantially lower rates of disorders among those living in relatively green regions. In residential areas with 90% green space, the annual prevalence was 18 per 1,000; in areas with only 10% green space, the rate increased to 26 out of 1,000.The same study found that green environments can also relieve sadness and depression. This is  definitely something to smile about.

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The idea of growing your own food sounds good too. In the country you have the chance & ability to produce your own food. The food produce are fresh, and not loaded with preservatives. In the country, you can easy grow enough fruits and vegetables for own consumption.Most importantly is the low crime rate. It’s very unlikely that you will be mugged. Life in the country is much safer than in the city when it comes to crime which is virtually non-existent in the countryside. You can literally let your child loose and explore.

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What about you? what are your living preferences? Is country living appealing for you or you can’t be enamored by it?

Thanks and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Iranian Bread & Zubaidi Fish

 

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Warm & delicious Iranian Bread

If there’s anything that is a MUST in every Kuwaiti household for a weekly groceries,that is a bunch of Iranian Bread and Zubaidi fish (or Silver Pomfret).

While in Western culture ,the  bread ( loaf or any other type )  is the queen of every table and for Asians, it is rice, then here in Kuwait, this is every family’s staple. For  Kuwaitis, Iranian bread is as  almost as important as oil. They have eaten Iranian bread since they were born and start solids. Their grandfathers also did the same. Every morning after prayers, people dash to the Iranian bakeries and queue to get their stock. Since Kuwait became richer, maids and drivers now queue up instead, but still there are a lot of people waiting. They eat it with almost anything. With grilled fish, kebabs, chicken, hummus, tahini or just as it is. Its simply delicious.

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An Expat’s  favorite meal : Kebabs, shish tawook, Hummus, fries & Iranian Bread

The Kuwaiti nation eats also rice, and other things but you cannot compensate them with something else. I love Arabic bread (smaller pita bread or Kubz) that you can usually find in packs at the co-op). It’s very nice, but it cannot replace warm Iranian bread. Sometimes when I go to buy the bread, I eat one on the way back because it’s so warm and fresh and tasty, especially if you pay a bit extra like 5 fils and get sesame seeds on them. As an Expat, I have grown fond of eating this especially when its fresh and I used it to make home made shawerma. My Dutch husband taught me an very awesome trick to preserve breads, and that is putting it in the fridge and just take it out to defrost when I would like to eat it. It tastes as fresh as it was & surely, we don’t have stale & wasted bread anymore! This is how I preserve Iranian bread & Kubz.

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Local sightings : Local bakers using old-fashioned oven in making Iranian bread.

When I visit the Mubarakiya, I still see locals who make Iranian bread in a very old fashioned stone ovens. Normally you can find these small bakeries tucked in any governorate but mostly in nearby Co-op. One place I visited before was the one in Shamiya where I really love the taste of it. The smell and the sight of it is very interesting and every Expat should try this. Whenever you eat out in a restaurant ( or locally called as Matam ) they normally served hot & freshly baked Iranian bread along with any meal, while in any other fancy restaurant they also served different types of bread like the one we have tried in Leila’s ( a Lebanese restaurant ) which is more of hot  buns. I could finish the bread while waiting for our orders!

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Leila’s hot delicious hot buns
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A sumptous Zubaidi meal with rice

Although Kuwait is  abundant in all types of food, having a home cooked meal of Zubaidi & rice is always special. This very tasty fish with rice is often served in homes in the Arabian Gulf.  Zubaidi (Silver Pomfret) fish is Kuwait’s national fish that is local but can be found in the frozen section of many Middle Eastern or Asian shops. (You may have to degut them yourself). While some prefer to eat them with rice alone, others  make Kuwaiti Tomato Sauce (Dukkous Al-Tamat) to serve as an accompaniment.

Have you tried any Arabic  dish with Zubaidi or the Iranian Bread? How was your experience?

Read more on my Expat guides & tips in my Life as an Expat in Kuwait section and learn to embrace the Arabic culture to beat your culture shock.

25th Anniversary of 1991 Kuwait Oil Fires

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Kuwait : Desert on Fire photography by Sebastiao Salgado as featured in NY times

April is a significant month in Kuwait commemorating the 25th Anniversary of 1991 Kuwait Oil Fires. I wrote before in my previous post “ 25 YEARS -A lookback on Fires of Kuwait “ the devastation of Kuwait from these burning oil wells for almost 10 blazing months!

In April of 1991 following Iraqi military setting the Kuwait Oil fields aflame, Photographer Sebastião Salgado who  is a documentary photographer and author of eleven books, including the forthcoming “Kuwait: Desert on Fire” documented this world renowned environmental disaster.

 

Sebastião Salgado shares his personal views   from his assignment and showed moving photos He took from the time the Oil fields are still breathing out heavenly smoke which was recently published by NY Times. He made wonderful and yet heartbreaking photos of this significant event and you can view it Here.

If you are interested to purchase original prints of his works, then you can expect to get it at approx. 2,000 KD or US$6,630 .

As we remember this tragic piece in the history of Kuwait which took billions of dollars and years of work to clean up the mess of Saddam Hussein’s failed scorched earth policy, Twenty-five years later, we need to open our eyes that wars are raging in much of the Middle East, and oil fields have already been set aflame. We must remember that in the brutality of battle another such apocalypse is always just around the corner.

I just prayed that this would be the last Oil Fires to be ever recorded in history.

 

Earth

Feels like Home…

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My perfect landscape..a view of Mayon Volcano

What’s the picture now in your mind whenever you think or look back from your hometown?

When was the last time you were back into your old home, or even the place you were born?

No matter where I go, I always look back to where I came from. Suddenly, thinking about the place  where I spent most of my childhood create a nostalgic feeling inside me. I remember my fondest childhood memories spent gazing at this beauty…everyday! From the time I open the window I see her. She’s our ever-present backdrop. Our ever beautiful wallpaper. She is so alluring that many have tried to climb her, some have succeed, but some have been unfortunate. Many are enamored by her mysterious perfect cone.From dusk til dawn she’s constantly changing. One day she is clothed with fluffy clouds and only her cone is shown, other times, she is totally hidden, like a shy maiden covered in veil.

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Mayon Volcano with Cagsawa ruins

I have seen her fierce eruptions. I tell you, She is one fierce ,active volcano. Despite her enigma, which has left a trail of death and destruction brought about by almost 49 eruptions in the past 400 years, her tantrums has become spectacular fireworks displays to behold.We spent the night looking at her cone tip with visible lava flowing. It was a sight I could never forget. Until now I remember those times I saw it as something exciting & yet terrifying. I would always asked my Grandmother what if the lava reaches our house? Where shall we do? But then on, I got used to this.I have heard of the tragic stories when she became so furious and left a disastrous eruption and devastation that I couldn’t even imagine. Just picture a church tower was the only visible ruins that  remained from the eruption, the ruins of Cagsawa church.

The  Cagsawa Ruins (the church tower up above in the photo )  was a lavish Spanish church before it was buried by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano, the worst in history. For almost two centuries the Cagsawa Ruins has stood as a symbol of Bicol region’s impressive landscape, rich history and the people’s strength and resiliency to face and to rise from the ravages of Mother Nature. I love to visit this park whenever I have the chance to go . It has been a long time, and now I am longing to see it once again.

And yet, even though I have seen beautiful castles, and wonderful nature from other parts of the world, Mayon Volcano is still my  Muse. She was & will ever be.

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Quitinday Hills

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.~Lin Yutang

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The view from Sumlang Lake

Never forget where you came from…Never lose sight of where you want to go.

If you have the chance, would you like to visit once again your birth place?

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How to beat the Heat in Kuwait

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I bet Siri can’t even handle the heat in Kuwait

The heat in Kuwait is real. I’m telling you, for Expats like me, this is by far the hardest culture shock I have been battling over the last eight years. But then, I got used to it eventually.

The photo above is the screenshot of my iphone4 way back 2 years ago . I visited Wafra farm to see herds of camels & other desert animals. It was on a raging hot summer, ( as it seems to be all year-round summer !) and naturally, my phone couldn’t just beat the heat when I was being out for long time in the desert. For a moment it was like that and it refuses to function. It needs cooling down first.

So How do people living in Kuwait “cools down “during a 50 degrees temperatures outside plus a roaring humidity and occasional sand storms? From the time that Ramadan is approaching,(June-July) ,it could be the hottest month that lasts up until October. So how to beat the heat is simply : Water, Water, & Water!

  • Drink Up!-Drinking enough water & liquids is essential in this arid climate. Dressing up in cool,breathable clothes & staying in the shade,one can be able to survive the strong sun here. Kuwait has an abundant varieties of any type of beverages except alcoholic drinks. There are so many shops & restaurants that serves different juices, smoothies, & refreshing drinks that will definitely cool you down. My personal favorite is making homemade smoothies or getting the Samadi or frozen yogurts.
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Home made healthy smoothies to beat the Heat
  • Boat Trips -The Silsan Est. for Boats & Marine Equipment has a number of boats for rental. Like for example the Silsan 1 has 4 cabins on board and can take up to 30 persons to the island of Um Miradum for 120kd, or up to 45 people for 185kd. The Silsan 2/3/4 can take up to 45 people from their location at Salmiya Yacht club (@Sultan Restaurant) for a cruise around the bay or to a trip to Kubbar island or Failaka.
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Boats and yachts for rental in Marina Crescent
  • Jet Ski rentals – Jet skis can be rented from various locations in Kuwait,such as near the TGIF restaurant along Gulf Road for 15-20kd per hour depending on the age of the jet ski.More than 1 person can share the time and the skis can also be rented for half-time/hour as well. One needs to submit their Civil ID card & sign an agreement that you will be responsible for any damages. I personally enjoyed this experience.
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Jet skiing in the Arabian Gulf along Green Island
  • Soap Football – Kuwait is a huge Football fanatics and during hot summers, one can enjoy to get wet & wild in the water -and-soap drenched rubber football field that can be played near the Swimming Pool complex and the beach area between McDonalds & Naif Chicken restaurants along Gulf Road. Rates could be 15kd for an hour of playing.
  • Aqua park – This wonderful Aqua park is Kuwait’s water entertainment complex that is located just beside the Kuwait Towers.Inaugurated in 1995, the park spread over 60,000 sq/mts and includes kiddie pools,giant slides, waves pool,river pools, Jacuzzi and Adult pools. It has waterfalls, juice stands, restaurants, and other exciting park amenities. Other activities that can be enjoyed inside the park is paint ball, soap football, beach volleyball and go-karting. The park is open from April until October, Saturdays to Wednesdays (10am~10pm), Thursday ( 10 am ~11pm ). Tuesdays are for Women only from 2:30pm ~closing time. Fridays are for Families only. I really enjoyed visiting this water park and their Slides is really an exciting one.

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Kiddie pools in Aqua Park
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The refreshing allure of Aqua Park
  • Scuba Diving – Kuwait has several diving clubs which welcome new members or those wishing to learn how to Dive.The Kuwait mantas Diving Club was originally formed in the early 1970’s as a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Cub ( BSAC) and  aims to provide well-organized safe diving and training at the lowest possible cost to its members.The Palms Dive Center (PADI) at the Palms Beach Hotel & Spa in Salwa is a full 5 star diving club. You can check out their website for rates & details here.
  • Swimming in Beaches/swimming pool complexes-Cooling down in the Public beaches along Arabian Gulf and enjoy a beautiful sunrise & sunset while having a family picnic is one of the typical way to enjoy summer in Kuwait.

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My daughter is a beachbum in Kuwait
If you are not fond of Water sports and prefer to stay indoors, then a trip to the Scientific Center might just what you need. Here you can view the giant Aquariums and see  the wonderful Marine collections of Kuwait.Other Indoor Activities during Summer includes ;

  • PAINTBALL in Kuwait is a combination of the childhood game “tag” and “hide & seek”, but is much more challenging and sophisticated. Although there are many different game formats, typically a group of players will divide into two teams to play “Capture the flag”. The number of players on each team can vary from one, two, five, ten, up to 18 on each side of the field. In this battle, teamwork is essential and strategy is required to overcome your enemy and become number one. Rules for playing paintball vary widely, with most designed to ensure that participants have an adrenaline-filled rush in a safe environment. Basic package as low as 6.5 KD admission, including gun and required safety equipment.
  • SHOOTING RANGE-Enjoy firing a gun, or just want to get out some pent-up frustrations, the Mayadeen Public Shooting Range is for you! They have a range of guns and rifles in different shapes and sizes. Their prices are very reasonable and include safety equipment and the use of professional instructors. Make sure to bring your civil ID or passport as you won’t be able to fire a gun without one. They accept credit cards and Knet and there is an ATM machine at the location. The Mayadeen Public Shooting Range is located off the 6th Ring Road right by the Hunting and Equestrian Club and the Sahara Golf Club. You can contact them on 2475 9999.
  • TRAMPO KUWAIT: Newly opened and located in the new Promenade mall in Hawally, the place is packed with fun for kids and adults alike. With over twenty trampolines, Trampo Kuwait is the place to let off steam. Ideal not just for toddlers and children, but also adults. Booking in advance required for one hour slots. Open from 10 am to 4 pm and 8 pm to 1 pm during Ramadan. What’s App 60694352
  • ICE-SKATING RINK: For 1,5 KD per person, there is not much that can beat the heat than a couple of hours spent on the ice. The ice-staking rink is an Olympic size and caters for figure skaters, hockey players, as well as those of us who just want to go for a couple of hours to play around without breaking anything or anyone. Ice stakes are available for rent and there are even ice penguins for little ones who need a helping hand and something to hold onto.   Al-Soor St, Kuwait City, tel. 22411151 / 22411152

Salam & Thank you for reading and If you want to follow more of my Expat Guides & tips, feel free to
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The frenzy Toddler Life

Do you have a toddler in the house?

Toddler is an age of wonder, humor and loud meltdowns over palm tree pony tails and spaghetti noodles. In fact, toddler is an age where if you don’t or can’t find the humor in all the little things that can go wrong in a day you will end up crying in the corner before breakfast is over. For me, I only appreciate coffee or tea if its made before my toddler wakes up.

Thankfully ,this stage I believed can be  survived,( As What to expect says so..!)

As I ponder on her toddler days, I can find  wisdom and humor to the generation below her, and hey, I know I am not alone.So, how is your life  been with all the messes?

Have you been bending a lot too?

Who pick-up most of the scattered toys?

For the last 1.5 years, I realized this ; “What is a home without children? ” Quiet. The silence is always golden.

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Natalie trying to ride her Papa’s wooden Bike when He was a Toddler himself. A memento for the 2nd generation.

I can know if a household has a toddler or not. Just listen to the loudness of noise or the total absence of it. When you call someone, the crying, shouting, and loud attention seeking tiny human is breathing out her lungs just for you to cut off that call short.

If you have a toddler, its like  having a blender without a top cap over it.Imagine staring down a blender full of berries and knowing you have to start it without the lid. That’s pretty much how I feel every time I have to take my toddler out amongst the general public even for a short 20 minutes —even to the nearby supermarket, you know it’s going to be terrible, but you don’t really have a choice. I cannot risk to let her loose in the aisles or else we’ll be paying for many broken items. Did I mention that all of a sudden she doesn’t want to sit in her stroller?

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Kissing frog is old school. Now its Kissing the barks of Trees. Very nature-Friendly Kid.

Silence is golden- unless you have a toddler.In that case, silence is very very suspicious.Be quick, be very very quick to check her out. She might be eating something from the floor or licking the window glass and trying to flatten her nose though it.

That exercise looks adorable though.

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It feels great to learn to scribble on my Face !

Toddlers have their own set of rules, and until you can convince them that your way or the highway is really the only set of rules in the house there will be a lot of screaming, yelling and maybe trying to tell you in their own language “HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME GO TO BED AT A DECENT HOUR?”. Spell rebellion. They’re so cute, but they can get SO MEAN. All she wants to do is to run, make a mess, cling to me and repeat the same routine.

She used to loved to devour grapes, but now, she just turn her nose up when she sees it. Has her taste buds suddenly twisted? Toddlers are like mini-versions of drunk people.

 

My daughter is no exception. For the past few months, I’ve been in a constant state of anxiety, worrying that my child may accidentally kill herself. She stumbles through life on unsteady feet, not paying attention to what is in front of her, off to the next adventure, and she never fails to inadvertently stumble (or rather, crash) into danger. We are always waiting to hear the next bang, boom, screech or howl.I cannot forget the sound when she fell out from her crib.It was horrible thug.

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The Frenzy life of a Toddler

I’ve heard many parents of toddlers complain about what a headache they can be. They pee & poop in odd places.  They stumble and fall into things and are basically one giant bruise. They throw tantrums. They refuse to eat their meals. They rip the pages out of their books, Hold on forever to anything that is color blue, eats wood etc.  They won’t sleep in their own beds but rather sleep on the edge! They splash in mud puddles and lick the windows and lick the tires of the stroller & bike. Toddlers are a pain in the ass. It’s just the truth.

As much stress and anxiety as my toddler causes me, most of the time, I can’t help but just laugh… Ahh Toddler Life!

For Mamas & Papas out there who can relate, How’s your  life with a toddler in the house?

 

Kuwait from A to Z

 

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Kuwait from A to Z

 

As the time I leave Kuwait comes near, I thought it might be a great tribute to posts more about this fascinating country which has been my home for the last 8 fruitful years. If you want to know more about what’s it like to live here, you can also check out  how to survive Kuwait  and my top Expat tips to enjoy the hot summers here.

So, how can you describe Kuwait alphabetically  from A to Z?

The only way for you to enjoy living in a foreign country is to embrace its culture & open your mind for changes. It won’t be easy at first, but experiencing any culture is the best way of learning. I have come to know  many facets of this country and here I share with you the A to Z of Everything about Kuwait  alphabetically. Enjoy!

AAVENUES – The world-renowned super-mall in Kuwait. It has beautiful architecture, and wide ranges of restaurants and shops of worldwide brands for all taste preferences.  The Avenues is among Prestigious MEED Quality Awards for Projects 2013 for Leisure and Tourism Project of the Year and The Avenues Among Prestigious Arab Town Organization Award (ATO). This place has becoming the modern touristic icon in Kuwait. I love this place and everything in it. It totally revolutionize the whole mall concept!

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The Avenues-designed by international  designer & Architectural London-based firm Gensler

A-AL-HAMRA TOWER – The Al Hamra Tower is a completed skyscraper in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Al Hamra is the tallest building in Kuwait and the 23rd tallest in the world. Another beautiful piece of architecture visible in Kuwait skyline.

 

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Al Hamra Tower

B BAKALA – The Arabic version of mini-stop or 711 convenience store in every corner of Kuwait neighborhoods.This is an original Kuwaiti thing.People just need to honk from their cars and the storekeeper will bring his order.Bakala always saves my day when I need boxes of water & eggs for my pancakes!

BAKLAVA-Kuwaitis loved sweets, so do I! It’s a part of their culture and Baklava is one comfort food in Kuwait that is present  in every corner, there is a nearby sweet shop selling this and this is the ultimate Ramadan dessert.

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B-Baklava,Kuwait’s favorite dessert during Ramadan

C-CARS – People in Kuwait loved Cars. I’m telling you, they have a serious love affair with cars here. SUV’s , Hummer,Maserati, and almost all brands of  luxury cars, you name it, its here.They are as common as people having 3 smartphones ! Cars like Porsche, Lamborghini & R&r are just parked out in the sun, out in the dust. Pink limousines parading in Gulf road is a typical sight. During New Year’s eve, people drive in their cars, into the desert, even into the shores of the beach. Unfortunately, Kuwait has  the highest accident rate in the world, because people drive like a maniac, once again topping global records.

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How to drive a Porsche Cayenne in Kuwait

D- DATES (Tamr ), this exquisite & delicious fruit from the palm tree which is abundant in the whole region. This is my favorite and I love bringing these to my  love ones in Ph & NL. An experience in Kuwait is not complete without eating this. During Ramadan, dates are usually the ones being eaten first after praying & breaking the fast.My daughter loved eating dates .This is for sure one of the things I will be missing from Kuwait.

E-EXPAT POPULATION -Did you know that Expats in Kuwait  make up 70% of the total population?Yes, from Westerners to neighboring GCC expats, they are here. There are so much cultural diversity in this tiny yet oil-rich country.

F-FAILAKA ISLAND– Failaka Island is  about 20km off the coast of Kuwait City, tiny Island that stands as a constant reminder of the Iraqi invasion a quarter-century ago.Prior to the Gulf War, Failaka was reportedly home to about 2,000 residents, but they fled when the Iraqis invaded and most did not return. Over the years, the homes and offices they left behind have crumbled, many still scarred with bullet holes from the war.Today, much of the island lies empty and in ruins, although a small tourism industry has emerged – with boat trips, overnight accommodations and cafes springing up on Failaka for curious sightseers. Failaka is also still used today for military exercises by the Kuwaiti army.

 

F-FRIDAY MARKET- or locally known as Harag.This is the famous Expats & local Flea market in Kuwait.The place to buy a secondhand dress, an Afghan coat or an illicit antique from Iran, this enormous semi-covered market is a shopping extravaganza – but, more importantly, it offers a look at contemporary Kuwaiti culture and cross-border relations. Five minutes shuffling between dusty textiles and sipping the coffee of a good-natured vendor delivers more in the way of insight into the complex web of Kuwaiti affairs, domestic and international, than you could absorb in a month of lectures on Arabic culture.

F-FAREEJ SOELEH-If you want to experience an authentic Kuwaiti dishes & dining ambiance then you need to go to Fareej Soeleh just before Marina mall in Salmiya. This place is so unique in its decor and seating arrangements. The restaurant’s entrance has an old Ford pickup as a permanent fixture and have become its landmark. First thing to make a note of is that dining area for bachelors is on the first floor and for families is on the second floor.

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Logaymat-Kuwaiti sweet balls

They say you can tell how authentic a local cuisine restaurant is by the number of locals who dine there.  Freej Soeleh is packed on the weekends, especially on a Friday after prayer services.  They serve a sample portion of logaymat as soon as guests are seated which is a nice touch and always makes  you want to order more at the end of the meal.

G-GRAND MOSQUEThe 8th largest mosque in the world.On 27th Ramadan year 2008, around 180,000 worshippers attended the night prayer. With such a huge crowd, the mosque was overflowing with people praying in the streets.the architecture of this mosque is world renowned and the intricate details of the Islamic calligraphy is highlighted in this prominent structure. This mosque is open even for non-muslims to marvel through its arranged tours.I love this mosque so much that I visited it almost 4 times!

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Green Island in Kuwait– once before a reclamation area, now a beautiful island.

G-GREEN ISLAND is a man-made island right beside the Kuwait towers. It’s a haven for beautiful landscape & a home for migrating birds. The design of the Green island is unique and has been a famous place for family picnics, leisure spot and tourist destination.The Green Island is located along the coastline, extending from Al-Shuwaikh to Ras Al-Ard, spanning an area of 785,000 square meters. It is surrounded by natural rocks brought from Al-Fujairah Emirates. In fact, even the sands at the beaches of the Green Island is said to have been imported from other countries. Established on 22nd February 1988, and owned by T.E.C, the island includes about 50,000 coloured shrubs and seedlings planted here, and with all the colors and greenery, it doesn’t render the feel of being in a desert country.

H-HARRIS– Your second landlord in Kuwait. The good, the bad and the Ugly are typical face of a Harris (aka guard/janitor/caretaker).

I-INSHALLAH !  ( If Allah wills it ) You know you are in a Muslim country like Kuwait when you hear this word. Inshallah has no English equivalent; it just simply means “If God wills “. In the Quran S18.A23-24 it says “and never say of anything , “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow” unless adding “inshallah “. Since a person cannot predict the future,Inshallah is said even for something expected, like coming home for dinner.

J-JUICES – or locally called  Aseer is a daily staple here. There is a huge variety of juices available  in Kuwait that becomes handy especially during the hot summer months. there is a juice shop in every corner or even can be ordered online through Talabat or in some cases, the brochures just dropped in your doorsteps.What I love is the abundance of flavors. I didn’t expect to find even the tropical fruits  like coconut, soursop & pineapples , but you can see them here or even in supermarkets.

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Colorful, healthy world of Juices in local Kuwait.
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Kuwait Towers

K-KUWAIT TOWERS – An iconic landmark of Kuwait. The face of Kuwait and its best Architectural heritage.After being closed for almost 5 years, it reopened again to public last March 8. This is a must-see for every visitor because the view from its viewing deck is magnificent.It has been closed for quite sometime but last March, it reopened again to public.

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K-KUBBAR ISLAND -Among nature’s best spectacles is the well-known Kubbar Island, relatively Small Sandy Island in the Persian Gulf located in close proximity to Fahaheel. Kubbar is located approximately 29 kilometres off the coast of Failaka and 30 kilometers off the southern coast of Kuwait.  Kubbar Island is a serene getaway that gives the nation of Kuwait its pride in picturesque locations. The island is nothing short of spectacular and is unspoiled in every way. The sparkling blue waters and grainy crystal sands make the beaches on the island so enticing for the tourists. Even though the island’s infrastructure remains yet to be developed,  Kubbar Island local tourist industry is beginning to flourish; it provides boating, sailing, swimming and water sports.

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A trip to Kubbar island for fishing, snorkeling , boating & diving is one of the tourist attractions in Kuwait by westerners & other Expats.

K-KUWAITI DINAR – or KD  for short is the currency of Kuwait. Its one of the strongest in value in all world currency . 1 KD is equivalent to approx. 3.32 $ US.

K-KUBZ ARABI  – Kubz is a type of short bread, flat baked & is widely staple food in Kuwait. Kuwaitis and all other Muslim expats enjoy eating Kubz with their favorite dishes.Your experience in Kuwiat won’t be complete unless you eat grilled meat, lahem, shish tawok with tahini or hummus with a warm Kubz bread.Yum!

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Kubz or Flat bread in Kuwait

L-LINGERIE shop in the Basement Miya Miya stores. You won’t believe this but Kuwait has its own Red Light District Lingerie shop located mostly in the basements of a Miya- Miya stores (Dollar thrift shops).There are variety of sexy lingerie, costumes, and scantily clothes you could ever imagined displayed here that would makes you wonder what sort of fun the one who wears these are engaging. This is Victoria Secret & La Senza’s local rival.

M-MUTLA ‘A RIDGE located on the further north of Kuwait, this place is famous for its rather rugged desert terrain and if you are in for a real desert experience, you can have a glimpse of this place from the  360 virtual tour of Al-Mutla Ridge. Thank you Alex Dennis Bolado.

M-MUBARAKIYA – this is the country’s renowned market infused with traditional Kuwaiti & Arab culture & design. From clothing, perfumes, carpets, fruits & veggies to shoes,everything is ever-present in Mubarakiya. There are old restaurants inside that still baked their bread in the stone-ovens.This is a must-see for every visitor and Expat here.

M-MASHRABIYA – a type of projecting oriel window enclosed with carved wood latticework located on the second storey of a building or higher, often lined with stained glass. The mashrabiya (sometimes shanshool or rushan) is an element of traditional Arabic architecture used since the Middle Ages up to the mid-20th century. It is mostly used on the street side of the building; however, it may also be used internally on the sahn (courtyard) side.

N-NATIONAL MUSEUM – Kuwait boasts of a National Museum that houses various antiquities and ancient collection from the past of this country’s historical past. One of the interesting sights is the Failaka Antiquities Room which shows relics and archaeological finds from the island. Designed by French architect Michel Ecochard, visitors can enjoy this historical museum, which represent the Kuwaiti life in the past, their everyday activities, the rich trading history of Kuwait and its traditions.Kuwait National Museum also houses the adjacent Planetarium which have astronomical shows which I personally love.

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O-OIL RESERVES in Kuwait this is what  makes Kuwait where it is now.  Oil reserves in Kuwait make up 8% of the oil reserves in the world. Kuwait is OPEC’s third largest oil producer and claims to hold approximately 104 billion barrels (16.5×109 m3). This includes half of the 5 billion barrels (790×106 m3) in the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone which Kuwait shares with Saudi Arabia. Most of Kuwait’s oil reserves are located in the 70 billion barrels (11×109 m3) Burgan field, the second largest conventional oil field in the world, which has been producing oil since 1938.

P-PEARL MARZOUK ( Al Marzouk Pearl ) One of the most prominent structure in Kuwait and one of the few who have been undergoing restoration .Recently, Kuwait Real Estate Co., have commissioned the rethinking and redevelopment of this significant modern housing complex to PAD10, an architecture and design firm known for their excellence in design and attention to detail. The team is headed by an amazing person which I personally knew, Mr. Naji Moujaes. The renovation began in 2011 and is slated to complete in 2013 .Pearl Marzouk is located along the green lawn & promenade of the Scientific Center overlooking the sea that gives the residents an outstanding view of the Arabian Gulf.

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Pearl Marzouk in Kuwait

Q-QOUT MARKET – The travelling & hippest market trend happening in Kuwait. They are a very trendy group of artists, farmers, bakers & home-based artisans who gathers together to share their passion with the local community. They recently have their venue in Pearl Marzouk and I was personally impressed by their community.

R-RAMADAN – The Holy Month of Ramadan is one of the highlights of Muslim festivities celebrated every year.This is holy observance of Fasting & prayers of all Muslim worldwide. It is such a great experience to see & partake in this wonderful festival.I always love the atmosphere during Ramadan. The working hours are shorter, people are all friendly & the joys shared during Iftar & futoor. The delicious sweets during Ramadan is also not to be missed along with the spirit of giving.

S-SHAWARMA – Now if you’re in Kuwait, this yummy sandwich is not to be missed. You just need to try it because its delicious. They have so many shawarma shops in Kuwait, almost in every corner of the neighborhood. My personal favorite is the one in Wadi Rum, just in front of Marina Mall in Salmiya and the chicken shawarma of Kurdo. They come in a meal of fries & a drink and side veggies.

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Shawarma sandwich or roll

S-SADU HOUSE – Sadu House or Beit Al-Sadu is a very prominent Textile heritage cultural center of Kuwait.The Al-Sadu project started in 1978, as a private initiative by a group of concerned Kuwaitis with the aim of preserving the traditional art of Bedouin  weaving. In 1991, the project was transformed into a weaving Craft Co-operative Society whose shares are owned by the weavers and artisans themselves.

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I love the whole ambiance of this center. Its full of creativity and Kuwaiti culture infused in their traditionally woven materials.they have an Arts & Crafts shop that displays a wide range of local artist’s  and artisan’s work inspired by traditional weaving. They offer a wide range of gifts from bags, wallets, & diaries to traditional camel bags, rugs, wall hangings & home furnishings.They also hosts workshops and weaving courses and has a Library where there is a digital records of all the traditional weaving textiles & traditions of Kuwait are available for researchers, artists, students, and cultural organizations.

S-SHEESHA –  (Hookah ) the only form of nightlife you can have in Kuwait.Sheesha Parlors are widely available in Kuwait but some restaurants have this service for costumers who wants to smoke  while dining . For Expats, trying out in a Sheesha Cafe might surprise you, there are various flavors to choose from and the crowd inside might just be what you need to kill time, play billiards, chat with friends or just watch Football game.

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To smoke or not to smoke sheesha ?

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Arabic figurine of smoking Sheesha spotted in Mubarakiya Souk in Kuwait

T-TAREQ RAJAB Museum-Another highlight in my stay in Kuwait was the visit to this beautiful privately-owned Museum. I have never imagined that this type of collection ever existed in Kuwait . To be able to see the vast amount of collection from antiquities to jewels  is really a beautiful experience.

The Tareq Rajab Museum houses a collection of over thirty thousand items collected over the last fifty years, of which approximately ten thousand are on permanent display. Tareq Sayed Rajab was the first Kuwaiti to be sent abroad to study art and archaeology.

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T-TAXI – In Kuwait, Taxis have become so handy & affordable. Since there is no good public transportation Kuwait, having a Taxi so easily quite become a convenience. My observations though are; they don’t have meter ( or they choose not to operate it ) , they have fixed amount for every destination and the drivers tends to chat you up, otherwise they are just friendly. You can roam around in your favorite supermarket or to nearest mall by 500 fils or just 1kd fare. Taxi drivers like to give away their phone numbers and you can contact them the time you want to go out & they are waiting at your doorstep. Not like in Holland that Taxis are expensive and there are only designated place where they are located.Riding a taxi is one of the experience that every expats should have. You just need to choose wisely so you don’t end up inside a smelly car & crazy driver!

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Expat Guide -How to survive your first Taxi ride in Kuwait

U-UBON– Ubon is a trendy  Thai bistro at the center of Kuwait City by architect Rashed Alfoudari. This place’s signature Pendant lamps , the black and white furniture and the small area kitchen is at the back of the restaurant covered by mirror wall. The space is a bit small , enough for 10 tables , but the food is brilliantly delicious as well as for the service by the owner himself Mr. Rashid , a vibrant young architect with his architect team , whom they’ve developed the whole concept of designing the bistro and bringing real Thai food to the market , the location is in the heart of Kuwait city , opposite Abdullah Takki store , no reservations , you have to show up.

V-VIMTO -This flavorful non-alcoholic drink is the flavor in every household in Kuwait purchased especially in the days of Holy month of  Ramadan.I have to try it for me to get convinced and surprisingly, it was good.

W-WAFRA FARMS – Kuwait is not all Desert. There are vegetations as well,just like in Wafra Farms. A trip to Wafra is a worthwhile drive.Wafra is the southernmost area in Kuwait. It is part of Ahmadi Governorate and is well known for its fertile soil andfarms. It is parallel with the Saudi border. Wafra and Abdali in the North, are the only two cities in Kuwait known for farming and the animal sector. Wafra Farms are fed by the underground lakes. The farms have a very original cone-shaped mud dovecotes with hundreds of birds. People tend to visit the Wafra Market to buy fresh vegetables.

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Road to Wafra Farms

W-WASTA System – A colloquial term used in Kuwait for a “special sponsorship or backer system “. It is not what you can do that matters, but its actually who you are. This is very rampant in Ministry works and transactions. If you have a “WASTA”, then things are in favor in your way. It could be done in seconds while if you’re the unlucky one, you’ll wait for days, even to nothing. As an Expat, I don’t know if this is favorable or not, since its a real pain in the ass if you are the one needing the efficient service and you can’t get it in a legit manner. Wasta system sometimes just sucks!

X-X-CITE – One of the biggest Electronics shop in Kuwait which is under Alghanim group of companies. They sell almost everything from mobile phones, computers, electronics, and appliances up to cars & household items.

Y-YACHT SHOW– A popular annual event for yacht & marine enthusiasts in Kuwait.Where else would be the best venue to showcase the huge 15,000 +  private owned yachts & boats than in a prestigious show in Kuwait Yacht show held in Marina. I have written about life in the sea in Kuwait that shows how Kuwaitis love marine life and has been an integral part of their culture.

Z-ZUBAIDY FISH – Pampus argenteus, often called either the silver or white pomfret, is a species of butterfish that lives in coastal waters off the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This is one of the common favorites for Fish in Kuwait along with Hamoor (Grouper).

 

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Fish vendor selling Zubaidy fishes in Mubarakiya Fish Market

So, how do you well-know your own country in alphabetically speaking?

So,there you go, Everything Kuwait from A to Z. I hope this post helps you out if you are planning to start your Expat life in Kuwait.

Thank you for reading!

 

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