Speaking of Heritage — The Dhow ship is probably my most photographed icon, next to the Kuwait Towers, from my years of stay in the Middle East. A distinct symbol of Kuwaiti culture.
This boat, the Fateh-Al Khair, is a graceful against the winds, beautiful boat, originally used for trading and fishing purposes have long defined this oil-rich country’s identity up to the present times. Wherever you go, the iconic Dhow ship is displayed in many public spaces in Kuwait and there are so many museums dedicated to this heritage.This one in particular is my favorite, next to the gigantic and huge Al Hashemi II, which garnered the coveted Guinness World Records for the largest Dhow ship ever built in the whole world.
One of the scenic spots in Kuwait where anyone, especially foreigners can have a glimpse of the Dhow ships and fishing boats displayed and docked gracefully in the harbour. This one is taken in Shouk Sharq, one of the places where I buy fresh local fishes, just adjacent to the fish Market. Here, you can watch the hustle and bustle of the fishermen as they go about their day, making rigorous bidding for their pricey catch.
An ideal place if you want to catch a beautiful Sunset from the Arabian Gulf.
If you are interested about Kuwait ‘s culture and Islamic Heritage, here are further readings which I have written based on my personal escapades while living there.Photo credit to my friend Ramil Sunga for the second photo. I used this photo as my painting inspiration for my series ‘Kuwait’.
I visited Failaka Island in Kuwait sometime during one Eid celebrations.I think I have been to almost all of Kuwait so one time, out of boredom, we booked our trip for Catamaran under Heritage tours to visit Failaka island. I love island hopping and beach getaways but a trip to Failaka is totally off-beaten.
Well,if you don’t know, Failaka is an island , 20km off the coast of Kuwait city.Before the war, people used to live there.This island was totally deserted by its inhabitants since the Gulf conflict and when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.It literally looks like a ghost town, totally different from the skycrapers of the Kuwait skyline as you approach the city. If you are into war relics, desert life and archeology, Failaka might give you a pleasant experience.Of course, seeing the wild camels and eating inside a traditional tent is also a treat!
One of the memorable sights I have seen in Failaka was visiting the Heritage Houses with green windows and doors as well.In Failaka Heritage Village, there are 40 Heritage houses. Visitors who wanted to spend a day or more here can rent these houses which can accommodate 5-15 guests.
The architecture is totally different, mostly made of timber, wood and rough finish. It’s the green windows that really captures my attention since it is so simple, really a cultural heritage.Heritage house is the typical Kuwaiti traditional house, it is the norm of dwelling for local Kuwaitis since 1950’s. These vacation rental houses can’t be considered as hotel or even star awarded due to their very heritage nature.They are periodically enhanced and restored by skilled craftsmen to retain its character.
The traditional houses are the only genuine article in Kuwait and also GCC countries. They are all set into the village streets (Fereej) , all the streets and houses having their own names.Look at the shadow cast from these windows, totally enchanting.In the hot, humid summer months, the sight of green windows and doors can give a refreshing look.
Notice also that in Kuwait, the use of grills (or bars) in windows is very typical. When I saw this, I felt like I am behind bars, making you feel like a prisoner.These type of windows are called “double casement”which opens from the middle.Totally closed, maybe for functional use because of the climate.
When life was slower and simpler, these type of houses gives warmth and comfort to the locals.Placed against an earth tone wall finish, it looks like a breath of life.
I would recommend to visit this place if you are in K-town. It may not be a super attraction, but it is really a place where the past speaks louder than the sights. The war-torn almost barren landscape, the rusty war tanks, the bullet shots in every wall, and the memories of the war is actually the air you breathe.
Green color is the color of life, a symbol of renewal, of nature . Just like these windows that reminds me that out from a gloomy past, the future could still be bright, that life in Failaka can still be safe.
Also,want to know why you should not miss the sunset in Failaka?Read more Here.
How do you feel when visiting war-torn places? How was your experience?
Before we left Kuwait last year, we were fortunate enough to visit the Kuwait towers.This is a must-thing to do for us since we don’t know if we would ever set our foot back in this place ever again.It’s several times already for me, a first time for my husband and my daughter. Luckily, it’s just in time for its re-opening after long years of being closed for renovation.This time, I’m more excited for my daughter to be on top of the towers and enjoy the cityscape of Kuwait.
Did I ever feel the heat up in the Kuwait Towers? No, not really. The temperature was good from this altitude and there’s Air Conditioning of course!
Now a 2-year old have no idea of what’s up there on top.If she love the views, I don’t know but obviously,she’s more interested in walking through the revolving deck and licking the railings.At this point, she doesn’t have any remembrance of this experience yet,but once she grow up, she can see her photos of herself being on top of the most important landmark in Kuwait, her birthplace.A place that she spent her first year of life. This place would always be special for all of us, and to her.
The view of the Arabian Gulf from above is stunning, the promising skyline of the skyscrapers in Kuwait namely the Al Hamra Tower, the Kipco, Al Tijaria,Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) and others provides a fascinating vista on a clear, haze-free day. The typical beige urban areas, the nature-less landscape, the tempting Aqua park beneath the towers, and the hustle and bustle of the Gulf road. These things make this area very prominent and touristic attraction.
Up above, there’s a reflective wall where you can see yourself in a twisted panoramic view. We had fun playing with photos. It looks surreal, like a myriad of reflective glass. This is one of my favorite photos taken here. For me, It’s so different to see this place because my focus is on my daughter. I felt like it had a different meaning for me , regardless of the same scenic views I’m seeing. Like a tower, we’ve managed to overcome our struggles here, sandstorms, the heat and all. We’ve been through ups and downs in our life spent here but in the end, we surpassed it all.Now, these views are all nostalgic memories, a beautiful postcard.
As for my little Goblin, she’s only 2 but she have collected so many postcards from the top countless times already.She love all the fast elevators and steep views from all her journeys.From hanging out in the highest Rock museum in theMunich Olympic Tower, climbing the Austrian Alps, even napping through the cable cars above and marveled the beauty of the Zugspitze-Arena in Austria, enjoyed the fairy tale journey into the steep magical Burg Eltz castle, making a mess inside the Windmills, learned to step in the steep, claustrophobic Cubic houses and exploring the old ruins of castles along the river Moselle.
She’s not even three and she have these views already! She have been to places before she even learned how to talk…
As for us, we continue to collect postcards, be it from the top or seen from the grounds.
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One of my fondest memories while living in Kuwait was exploring the roads into the desert. We had desert camping where the police check on us 3 times until ordered us to pack our things and go home. We’ve done fishing, picnics, and visited many farms near the desert. Yes–there are farms in Kuwait. There are farms with vegetation,and some with camels and other animals which is popular destination especially during the slightly ‘colder’months in winter .I have tried to milk a camel there and shoot with a rifle in one of these farms.
The road going to Abdaly farms, Wafra and Yasmin farms all the way up to the border of Iraq is surely a lonely, wide, hot arena of arid desert. With only the rows of power lines and palm trees as your view, and of course, watching in anguish, the car-racing maniac drivers who drive as fast as 200 kmph, obviously ignoring the cameras! But surprisingly, if you are adventurous enough,you are rewarded with a close encounter with camels, and a chat with some locals with his pack of goats and sheep.
Expats outnumbered the locals in Kuwait, with 70% of its population is composed of expatriates. So expat life is rather diversified compared here in Germany. One typical street sight in Kuwait is summed up in the photo above. It doesn’t matter where you are and who you are and what you do in life. An office janitor can have the latest gadget phones same as his Modir ( Boss) as well as anybody. Everyone seemed to be glued in their mobile phones anytime of the day. It seems like if you don’t own a smart phone, you are left out and isolated. It becomes a necessity and at the same time a hazard especially for reckless drivers who are pinned to their phones while driving. Taxi drivers,mostly Egyptians, Indians, Bangladeshi or Syrians, have 2-3 phones to manage while they go on their work. Crazy, right? but its true. They are talking to their families and friends while driving around. Insane as it may sound but Kuwait becomes fanatic to smartphones and internet calls. Before I was in wonder, but now, no more, horrific and fatal car accidents happens everyday, especially in the Gulf road and 5th ring road where drivers drive like maniac. Everyday life revolves around internet, social media and chatting. You should take a look at this article to see how far it goes. If you’re living in Kuwait, I know how it feels, it sucks!
If you’re an expat, having a smart phone with internet is a must. It’s a materialistic symbolism too. One can easily get an internet line provided that they have a civil ID to present when they purchase. One’s number is linked to your personal data in the country’s ID system. Another particular sight in is how Kuwait evolved into mobile parenting.While out in the mall or park, you can see that children have iPads and tablet to keep the child occupied in their buggies while busy parents do their errands. Kuwait has become a symbol for parenting in the iPhone stage. When you move to Kuwait, a way to combat homesickness, your mobile lifestyle becomes elevated and your life revolves in your phone.
Hungry? just log in and check into Talabat or call for delivery from Canary for mushakel and kebab. Even if the Matam ( restaurant ) is just around the corner of your flat.I am writing this because I have never seen such incidents like this here in Germany. A total culture clash I must say. Or maybe not yet…
Oh well, Happy National Day Kuwait!
For expats out there, enjoy the long weekend with the Hala February festivities and stay away from the Gulf road or you’ll end up harassed by the water gun fanatics!
Want to know more about Expat life in the Gulf? Here are some related further reading :
The Fateh Al- Khair and its voyage to India and Africa up until 1952 is one of Kuwait’s local pride and symbol of cultural heritage. They are called the “graceful “sailing ships . Built to withstand against the strong winds , these boats are with triangular sail (lateen) set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction. For me, grace is an art and act of doing things in a dignified motion, like elegance against turbulence.
Living in Kuwait means seeing Dhow ships like this on a daily basis, as you see date trees almost everywhere! Staring at them takes you back to the time where in dhows are the mighty means of transport of trading during the good old days, before the oil was discovered. The marine lifestyle of Kuwait is still so very active up to this day, although Kuwaitis prefer to travel leisurely by yachts & private-owned boats. Fateh Al-Khair stands as a perfect memento of Kuwait’s rich maritime culture. I won’t be surprised if they will build another extension of The Avenues with the concept of a dhow ship, after all, it’s the Top 1 Attraction in Kuwait!
Fateh Al Khair, is a surviving deep-sea sailing ship from the pre-oil era, that is displayed as an exhibit in front of the Arabian Gulf right inside the grounds of the Kuwait’s Scientific Center. Fateh Al Khair is 19.8 meters long, 8.1 meters wide and 4.9 meters high. This ship was designed and built in Kuwait in 1938. The building of the ship took 18 carpenters who worked 60 days round the clock and cost approximately 17,000 rupees, which was the currency prevalent at that time. The dhow is made from Indian timber and weighs 95 tons when empty and can sail up to 13 knots.
In my days spent in Kuwait, I visited the Dhow harbor frequently since it’s just a few meters away from where I live. Seeing it against the background of beautiful azure blue waters of Arabian Gulf makes me feel proud that once in my life, I have seen this important part of Kuwaiti culture. She’s a fine noble ship, surviving the harsh winds from her voyages, and now, she rested with pride, gracefully.
Her legacy – a Dhow ship in full sail is represented in the Emblem of Kuwait, emphasizing its traditional importance in the country, where it was used to carry fresh water and in the pearl industry, as well as a trading ship.
Are you fascinated with the Arabian culture?
If you want to read further about the Maritime Culture of Kuwait,here are some useful posts that I have written documenting my experience of seeing them. I got married in the Guiness World Record- “Al Hashemi II “, the largest boat I have ever boarded, and even celebrated most of my special days in one of the traditional “Booms”.
You know you’re an Expat in Kuwait when the sight of the colors red, green, black and white has become a norm wherever you go.
One of the things that stands out and I particularly noticed while living in Kuwait for years was the local’s love of their national flag. It just sprouts everywhere! In the shopping malls, bridges, in the motorway, in almost all building’s facade,in cars and yachts,and oh even in the shirt that people wear! I’m telling you, visiting Kuwait during the festive month of February is quite an experience. As the biggest festival of Hala February approaches, around 4 weeks before the event, almost all houses including office buildings are heavily decorated with life-size Kuwaiti flag. The face of the Amir & the Crown Prince is also almost e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.
In the Miya-Miya shops ( 100 fils shop or like the Euro shops), tons of things are being sold with designs of the flag as well. From head scarfs, earrings, hats, glasses, pins, dresses, almost anything that you can wear on yourself! In my old neighborhood alone, where most of my neighbors are Kuwaitis, all villas have this giant size flag hanging from their roof top down to their basement. It’s like their identity symbol. A competition of the biggest flag and I don’t really know who’s winning. Children wear dresses made out of the Kuwaiti flag colors. The colors green,white and red are made into a frenzy lights that dazzled at night. Kuwait loves sparkling, dancing, and almost surreal light displays.Well if you’re in an oil-rich country like Kuwait, you will put lights everywhere,too. This country is really a must see especially in February when they are celebrating their culture, national pride and liberation in their National Day.
I have never seen this kind of patriotism and pride which ever you may call it. Young children are part of this and they enjoyed it the most,for the fun part. In my home country, or in the Netherlands or even here in Germany on a daily basis. Even a Bakala in Kuwait has a flag in their doors. In the Philippines, flags and the ways that its being used is somewhat only in sanctified functions.Here, I know that a surge of display of flags and symbolism comes very timely during sport tournaments and of course, during Football season and its fanfare.
What local sightings do you appreciate or see in your neighborhood?
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Window shopping and sighting in Kuwait is definitely a treat.It certainly gives you a window of the local culture. From the posh window displays inside the high-end luxury shops inside the Avenues mall up to the cosmic traditional Souks, the sight of unique display could bring a smile on your face. Take for example this particular display inside the Souk Al Kabeer. For Kuwaitis on the bigger sizes, it certainly offers the suitable clothing for a fact that there are no changing rooms inside the Souk.
Kuwait is ranked first with 42.8 %, Saudi Arabia (35.2 %), the Kingdom of Belize (34.9), Egypt (34.6), Jordan (34.3), the UAE (33.7) South Africa (33.5), Qatar (33.1), Mexico (32.8) and the United States (31.8) when it comes to Obesity and overweight people.
Kuwait’s love for fast food is one of the factor of the obese lifestyle. Where else can you find where there are more than number of Burger chains you can found in such a small country. Even the Starbucks giant is located almost in every corner. From my neighborhood before alone, we have 4-5 Starbucks within 500 meters range! It’s no wonder that Kuwait also has high rates of Stomach Stapling than any country–Another American branding that landed on Kuwait.
Typical sight inside the Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait, during the not-so busy times inside the wet market. Almost half of this old man’s life is spent as Expat in Kuwait, inside the souk working as a vendor and rumbling in the streets of Kuwait City. “Baba” whom I fondly called him as I haggle for the fresh vegetables he is selling. Like the story of one Tea Boy ,life goes on like this, counting the days where a certain “magic”could happen and change the course of his routine, in his life spent as a modern nomad , or also known as Expat.
Do you like visiting wet markets? What fascinates you the most?
The spire of the Liberation tower in Kuwait looks so small against the vast expanse of the Kuwaiti skies. More like a tiny needle. Tiny as it may seem compared to world’s super tall structures, at 372 m, the Liberation Tower is the world’s 38th tallest free-standing structure, by pinnacle height. It is standing proud & big symbolizing Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi invasion.
Climbing this tower is one of the significant experience I had while living in Kuwait.While up in the viewing deck of Kuwait Towers, I had feasted my eyes on the azure blue seascape of the Arabian Gulf,but not so with the Liberation Tower. Since it’s situated in the middle of the city, the views are different of course. The views above the revolving sphere is phenomenal if you really like to see Kuwait in a different angle. Kuwait has a promising Skyline though surrounded with a flat, urban dwellings. Up above, looking down at the brown desert landscape makes me think that Kuwait is indeed a tiny place,scarce with natural resources , but incredibly diverse.
Are you afraid of heights? Do you find it interesting to climb towers ?
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