Arabian Gulf on Fire: Fireworks in Kuwait

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Gulf on Fire : Kuwait Fireworks display  November  10,2012

One of the unforgettable highlight from my Expat life in Kuwait was witnessing the 50th Golden Anniversary of Constitution  with tons of bang & fireworks last November 10,2012.It was the best fireworks display I have ever seen in my entire life! My neck was cramped and felt sore from an hour of looking up into the colorful skies. I have never seen so much beautiful fireworks , only on that particular Saturday night.The Arabian Gulf was really on fire, and looking at the Kuwait Towers, it was an amazing sight.

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Waiting for the show to begin

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Kuwait Towers amidst the fireworks display last Nov.10,2012

This country has more than enough money to throw on a 1-hour fireworks display amounting to $15 Million or approximately 4.163 Million KD! Imagine that…

About 77,282  individual fireworks were launched over a 3-mile-long (5 kilometers) stretch of coastline in Kuwait City over the course of 64 minutes. The intense show was part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the nation’s constitution. The elaborate spectacle broke a previous record set in Portugal in December 2006, when pyrotechnics experts set off some 66,326 fireworks across 37 launch sites on the island of Madeira.

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Kuwait made it into Guinness World records by displaying this extravagant fireworks display ever in the whole world. It’s grandeur can’t be compared to the fireworks displays during New Year or America’s 4th of July! I felt so lucky to witness this event and observed how organized chaos within the crowds could stir up so much excitement. I was one of the thousands of Expatriates and citizens who lined up the shores of Arabian Gulf and waited for hours to witness the show. Young and old, mothers with babies, and every single one waits in much anticipation. The Gulf road was partially closed to accommodate the huge crowds hours before the celebration begins. We went here 3 hours before the celebration because the traffic was so bad and we can’t find a space to park the car. The celebration included various activities to entertain the whole family. During the day, there were airplane shows and sea shows apart from parachute, acrobatic, and kite shows.

Whenever I see fireworks, I can’t help but to remember that one Saturday night in a chilly November, I have seen the Gulf on fire….

This post is in response for Daily Post |Flames

Do you like fireworks?

What is your unforgettable Fireworks experience?

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After the Sandstorm

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Traces of Sandstorm

I stumbled upon this photo when I was looking through my archives tonight. This was taken after a sandstorm in Kuwait. This was the sight in the floor at work. Pretty normal during those days. Our office janitor would just shrug his shoulder and say : Alhamdullilah!

After  sandstorm which could last for days, I just stare at the traces all around me. The palm trees are soaked in dust, the windows, and the cars! Everything is drenched in dust, you can smell the pungent dust everywhere.If you notice the architecture in Kuwait, the buildings and facade are normally painted with shades close to this–Beige, rust, or somewhat close to 1011 (Brown beige) or 1015 ( Light Ivory).

The other day, I was cleaning our roller shutters and windows  and this thought made me smile. Here in Germany, almost all windows  are white, painted with 9010 ( Pure white) and you can see tons of cleaning products in the grocery shops. I was thinking that if it’s so dirty in Kuwait because of frequent sandstorms then why I only see Dettol  ?

Maybe they realize that its useless to wipe out & clean when in the following morning its gonna be dusty again.It makes sense.

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My views during Sandstorm days back in Kuwait

I wrote before how Sandstorm happens in Kuwait and my experience of it. It’s a typical scenario and not surprising anymore for me. I guess when you live with it for years and years,  it becomes normal to you. One of the things that will happen to you when you move to Kuwait is that you will never wear clean shoes anymore. The soles of your shoes will always be dusty. There is dust in the pavement, in the road, almost everywhere. Flip flops? Oh forget it, it won’t work while you walk in the streets because your feet will only look like ginger soak in muddy puddles. If you stay in your car and never get out or walk, then you’re good.

After the sandstorm, we clean, we dust off and move on. That’s how life goes on.

 

 

8 Arabic Words to learn if you are an Expat moving to Middle East

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Marhaba! Welcome to the Arabic speaking world. 

Aside from the food, language is the second thing that you ‘taste‘when you become an Expat. Trust me,learning a few local phrases  will save you from debilitating language bubble trap.Those everyday language dilemma,they will come.

I still remember my culture shock hearing Arabic for the first time. It’s neither ugly nor pleasant to hear, it’s just ‘unknown’ to my ears. I can’t understand a single word. It  sound so strange and I felt like my brain is tortured trying to dissect each word. At home I heard the prayer calls from the mosques and I jumped out of bed, and asked, “Is that  a global warning to evacuate the whole building or some kind of cult gathering,reciting their chants.”? I couldn’t sleep on the first weeks. My system needs to get used to it.

Looking back after 8 long years, I smiled at my poor mind. I realized that it really takes perseverance and “desire”to learn a new language. The other day, I was talking to a friend in English and suddenly I replied in Arabic, and here in Germany, I still found myself  uttering  basic Arabic words /phrases unintentionally like La ( No) , Aiwa (Yes), mafi ( nothing) and the phrase that becomes my favorite expression, Shuno Hada!?

If you’re an Expat in the Middle East, (or planning to be) these are the Top 8 Arabic words that you should know and learn. Knowing the basic lingo is always helpful. Arabic language has core phrases that are essential wherever you are in the whole region and speaking them as the way that natives do will definitely  bring a smile on their faces. Take it from me, learning the street language is the best way to integrate, its much easier &  easy to memorize especially if you don’t have time to study it formally. Remember, Arabic is a language where much words have no direct English translation, so go for it.

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Learning new language- Love it or Hate it?

Khalas – literally means finish, end, and provocably, It’s over. This is probably the most underrated Arabic word that I have learned in Kuwait. It could mean a lot of things depending on when & how you used it. You can say ‘Khalas’ after a phone call, when buying something and you agree with the price, or simply nodding to end a long discussion. Sometimes it’s used to denotes Shut up! or That’s a wrap! Having a hard time to tell the taxi driver to stop, just say “Khalas” and you’re done.

Yalla  -means  Hurry up, Let’s go, come on,or can denote as well as ‘Okay’, when used indirectly. Yalla is my favourite word so far. In Hebrew, a combination of the Arabic word yalla means “let’s go, hurry up” and of the English word bye means “see you later”. This combination is used as a farewell expression (usually when you are in a hurry). Sounds like “OK must go, catch you later”

Shokran –  means Thank you.
A very straightforward ‘shokran’will be your next favorite word and will bring you a long way. People normally reply with ‘Afwan‘( or You’re welcome).

Assalamu alaikum –  Salam, or Assalamu alaikum literally means Peace be upon you. It is used when you  greet people and also before you part with them. It’s like the simple ‘Hi, Hello,and  Goodbye’ in English. Natives always reacts positively when Expats/tourists utter this word. Its one way to show people politeness & being courteous. Over the phone, I’d       love to say ‘Salam’after I’ve said Hello. It always brings fresh vibes in a conversation,          also before ending a call. People normally replies, Salam, or Wa Alaykum Salaam, Waleiykum assalam warahmatullahi wa barakatuh ( And peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you).

 Masha’Allah  -Masha’Allah is a word that you use to show that you are happy about a good thing that happened to someone else.  For example, if your co-worker just had a baby and told you about it, you would say “Masha’Allah”.  Other examples of times when you would use this word are when a friend buy’s a new house or if someone shows you a picture of their child.  Basically, if someone talks about something good in their life, say Masha’Allah.

Insha’Allah – Insha’Allah is definitely one of the precarious words I have learned while being in Middle East. It confuses me at first, but later I understand when & why they kept on saying it. Although at work,I found it vague when I follow-up on things and they just replied ‘Insha ‘Allah’.Insha’allah ( pronounced as in-sha-la) literally means “God willing”. This is a phrase that is said a lot by locals on daily conversations.When you use this word, you want to make sure you use it before it happens.For example, you would say “Insha ‘Allah, I will see you tomorrow” (or  God willing, I will see you tomorrow).

Hamdullilah – Hamdullah is the opposite of Insha’allah. You say Insha’allah before something happens and Hamdullah after it happens. Hamdullilah means “Thank God”and you use it to give thanks for something good that happened. People normally utter this word after a meal, or when going after a hard time and its over. Don’t be surprised when you asked someone how are they doing and they just replied “Hamdullah!”. If you are so bored and doesn’t want to elaborate your answer when someone asked how are you doing, simply answer, ‘Hamdullah!’

Shuno Hada – or Shu hada means “What is this? ” For me, its more of a sarcastic way of saying “What in the world..??! ” or at things if it appears to be insane or unbelievable. I love this phrase because I saw many crazy things back then in Kuwait and I just laugh while saying “Shuno hada!?” Talking about Only in Kuwait, right?

 

Do you have any favorite foreign words? Feel free to share it in the comments!

If you would want to learn a new language, which one it is?

 

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Last Glimpses from Kuwait Towers

My Expat life in Kuwait would not have been complete without having a glimpse of one Iconic structure which is the pride of Kuwait, the Kuwait Towers. It has been closed for quite sometime, almost 5 long years, it opened again for the public. It’s just happened that before we left Kuwait last month, I was able to see it again, this time, with my daughter and my husband.

I personally loved the designed concept of this “mushroom water towers “which were designed by Danish architect Malene Bjorn and maintained by the Swedish engineering company VBB- Vatten-Byggnadsbyzan (since 1977 called Sweco).The chief architect  Sune Lindstorm already erected 5 groups of his mushroom towers but the Amir of Kuwait wants a more striking design for the 6th site.Lindstorm made 10 different design but the Amir choses this one.

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These 3 slender towers symbolizes Kuwait’s economic resurgence and also world cultural as well as a famous Touristic Landmark.Its location is ideally settled along the Arabian Gulf, and if you are lucky to have a nice clear,dust-free weather, the view from the viewing deck is awesome.The “Balls of Kuwait “which the locals referred to is designed in modern standards with combination of Islamic themes.Its quite identical to the blue-tiled mosques and slender minarets of Samarkand and Bukhara.
The height of the main tower is 187 meters (614 ft.) and consists of the ground floor,Main sphere and the viewing sphere.The main tower houses the “famed “revolving restaurant , cafe, and reception hall.The lower sphere holds in its upper a restaurant that can accommodate 90 persons and its bottom half a water tank of 4,500 cubic meters.Rising to 123 meters above sea level, the viewing sphere completes a 360 degrees turn every 30 minutes so that visitors can enjoy a full panoramic view of Kuwait city & Arabian Gulf.The viewing sphere is open from 9am to 11:30 pm.They still kept the coin operated binoculars.

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The second tower serves as a water reservoir  and is 147 meters high.The third tower houses equipment to illuminate the two larger towers and supply electricity for some areas in Kuwait City.In my previous post, Kuwait Towers has Led Lights display every now and then .If you drive along the Gulf road at night, this sight could be such a delight.The Towers hold 10,000 cubic meters of waters on the whole.

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There’s nothing much changed since the renovation.The Horizon Restaurant located in Ofok Hall can still experience a world-class hospitality at 82m sea level featuring international open buffet served daily . Now that its Ramadan, there are excellent choices of Iftar celebration held daily.Other notable restaurant housed inside the Towers is the Le Cafe which is a nice place to enjoy the scenic views along the sea.

Breakfast Buffet 8AM to 11:30AM for KD7.5
Lunch Buffet: 12:30PM to 4PM for KD14
Dinner Buffet: 7PM to 11:30PM for KD14

For reservations you can contact them on 22444021 or 22444038

If you plan to visit Kuwait, this is one of the “must see) sight in this city.After the renovation, this is now fully-opened to public and if you have a guest, I highly recommend that you bring them here.
If you want to go to the viewing sphere it’s KD3 per person. If you want to go to the restaurants there is no entrance fee. If you eat at the restaurant then you can go to the viewing deck for free as long as you keep your meal receipt. Children under 4 go in for free so my daughter entered free. If you’re going to the restaurants you can also park inside the Kuwait Towers parking lot.

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I have heard rumors and read that the Kuwait Towers are now on UNESCO’s tentative list to become a World Heritage site. The first report was submitted back in May and later accepted by UNESCO in July. It’s only the first step but if it does get approved, then the Kuwait Towers will become the first modernist building in the entire Gulf region to be designated a World Heritage Site.Inshaallah!

Do you loved this post? Make sure to check out my Expat’s guide to surviving Kuwait and notable places to visit  and hit the follow button for more updates on this Blog.X

 

 

 

 

 

My Ramadan Experience as an Expat

Have you ever experienced Ramadan ?

I am not living in the Middle East anymore but I wanted to share with you my wonderful experiences of Ramadan as a Non-Muslim especially in Kuwait.Now that Ramadan season has begun, I suddenly feel nostalgic of its memories in my Expat life.

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Observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan
I must say that I love the overall experience of it.  Before, Ramadan is only a word that I associated  with Muslims. I never have any real clue what is it really all about and what’s  happening during this important month in a Muslim country. I had my first taste of Ramadan when I came to Kuwait last 2008.

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Ramadan Kareem Lanterns -a beautiful sight during Ramadan month.
 

 

So anyway, from the time that our new work timings were announced , a day before Ramadan starts, I was really looking forward  to what will happen on the next days.As a Non-Muslim,our working days were  shortened and even lesser.We started at 9 o’clock in the morning and ended at 2PM. During this time, Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sundown, praying and do increased devotion of recitation of Q’uran. They are abstaining from smoking, drinking liquids and engaging in sexual acts during the time of fast which is strictly prohibited.

Seriously, If you are caught eating /drinking in public during Ramadan,there’s a legal penalty of 100KD /and jail for 1 month, (This is as per the time that this was imposed) also for anyone who forces or helps anyone to eat or drinks.But when I was pregnant,I was exempted to fast.My Boss told me it’s no problem.Normally  I just munch something inside my office and do it discreetly as possible.But the visits to the Doctor during Ramadan was hard for me.I needed to make an appointment usually at night since the shifts were difficult and more flexible at night.

During this time, Kuwait totally changed.A serene peaceful atmosphere during daytime but totally alive at night. Don’t plan to go to Gulf Road during sunsets since real maniacs out there and horrible accidents happens  because people are speeding in their cars trying to get home before sunset. There is some kind of Rush!Y ou can really feel that its Ramadan,even the weather changes.Sandstorms and high humidity becomes frequent.The date trees were budding with fruits.Even the decor were changed,you can see  traditional  colorful lanterns everywhere. All shops,Malls & restaurants are closed during the day so we need to wait until 8 PM to go out to buy something or do errands. Exceptions are some supermarkets who are open.Don’t ever expect that your paperwork in the Ministry will be done as soon as possible.Nope.It won’t be.I observed that Kuwaitis work less on these times.Everything was relaxed.Dressing appropriately is highly recommended.Ladies,be as modest as you can be.Playing loud music is not allowed.

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Muslims are praying relentlessly, anywhere.

Having an experience of Iftar or the breaking fast after sunset is really great.I love the bond between Muslims who shares meal together. Iftar can be so grand and festive in expensive hotels and restaurants but it can also be as simple as sharing their special meal laid on top of a newspaper after they said their prayers.When we go to Fish Markets,we saw the bunch of Muslim workers sitting in a circle and happily eating together.It is such a warm thing to see.There are so many mouth-watering goodies and sweets to indulge and try.I love how rich and diversified the Arabic selection of Ramadan treats.It is a must to try it when you are in a Muslim country.

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Delicious Ramadan sweets,best enjoyed with Tea & Arabic coffee.
 

It’s a time of reflection,meditation,to do charitable works and to learn something that is different from the usual norms.Everyone seems to be friendlier and kindness overflows.Exchanging Ramadan greetings is always encouraged such as “Ramadan Kareem ” and thinking less of ourselves and more of the less fortunate.Ramadan ends with a holiday celebration” Eid Ul Fitr “.It is a joyous time almost same as Christmas but with more religious significance.People dress up,visiting each other and sharing wonderful meals together and giving meals to the poor.One thing that is really authentic during this End of Ramadan is the mass Lamb murders.Sounds awful…right? but LOTS of lambs were cooked and portions were given to the poor.If you happen to pass by through backside of Friday market,you can see a herd of lambs in a truck,having a road trip for their journey to Butchery.This also marks the travel crazy frenzy season.Most Kuwaitis go out of the country It’s totally chaotic in airport.

 

Do you have your own story of Ramadan ? How was it?

Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim friends!

 

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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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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Off the beaten path : Clamdigger

Have you ever tried digging clams?

I did. Of all the off-the-beaten-path adventures I had  in Kuwait, this is by far the one I enjoyed the most.

Why?

Because its something that I have never done before & never expected that I would be doing here.Yes, in Kuwait. Right in the shores of Doha .

One of  my friend asked me if I would like to come with her to dig clams. I said yes, but actually, I didn’t know how exactly it is being done or why in the world are we going to do it. She picked me up at around 2am in the morning as the travel time going to Doha is quite far from where I lived. It was the perfect time, its low tide and the weather is great. It took us about 1.5 hours and finally we reached the place. We met other people there which I haven’t known but my friend told me that we are all going in a group. It was fine with me.

I didn’t bring anything but I noticed that our group brought buckets, spade, a spatula (wooden & stainless) and a big colander! I was just smiling while watching because I am totally curious what’s going to happen.

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Clamdigging and chasing the sun in Doha

I went to Doha to dig for clams out of recreation and for the sake of experience. I wanted to watch the sunrise there. I’ve always been fascinated by how different the sun rises on different locations that I’ve been to. While we walk barefoot along the shores in Doha, I let my feet feel the soft, cold mud-like shore. This is a new experience to me. It’s  still so dark at around 3am and walking in the beach like this is totally exhilarating.  I can feel the wind in my face, but my eyes is fixed on the lighted part from our flashlights because I don’t like to tumble-down in the sand.The only thing that ‘s running in my mind this time is “I wanna dig some clams !”

The journey to reach the area where we finally can start to dig is enjoyable. With great anticipation I sat on my knees and I let my hands explore the wet shores, my hands slowly digging, feeling, and searching. I watched how the others  are doing it and then I decided to use the spade & spatulas. My excitement goes on higher. I wanted to find the clams!

I heard  the others already shrieking & shouting.They have found it. They have dug and found the clams! This made me become more determined.I said to myself that I will not go home until I found one. Finally  my spatula touches a hard shell so I kept on digging until I got my first clam. It started as one piece, then follows another, until I filled almost half of the bucket. I was so happy when I dig those clams. It’s like searching for pearls.You’ll never know where they exactly  are, all you know is that they are just right there, waiting to be discovered.

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Clamdigging-For recreation or wanting something new?

Finally the sun starts to peek out from the dark. I watched with delight as the sun rises slowly. We are surrounded by its golden glow. It’s magical to be able to see silhouettes of people while watching the sun rises.The sunrise in Doha is beautiful. I even beachcombed and found beautiful shells. So as the experience of digging clams.

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A handful of precious clams. Our sumptuous lunch.

“No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need “

{ You can’t always get what you want by the Rolling Stones } 

I’m a big fan of Rolling Stones & this song has one of the best lyrics. In life we need to have focus & goal because this will help us to move forward. As we go through our days, we might get short-sighted and give up at the sight of struggles & hardships. We can’t always get what we want on the first try, but if don’t give up & continue to move forward, we might find, we will get what we need.

This is the lesson I have learned from Clamdigging, Never Give Up.

A few minutes of beachcombing produced these common shells: a ki
A Shell for your thoughts

Thank you for reading & I’ll leave these questions for you to ponder ;

Do you have any dreams that you have finally given up?

What have you done lately that is out of your comfort zone?

Are you still amazed by simple pleasures like watching the sun rises and feeling the beach in your feet?

 

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Diwaniyas: Kuwait’s own culture

If there’s anything that stands out from Kuwaiti culture up to these modern times, Its their DIWANIYA. When I first came to here, I was keen on observing Kuwaiti lifestyle and habits and especially the local lingo of many things. Diwaniya   is  also one of the first  Arabic words I have learned.

Right in the street of where I used to lived, I often see Kuwaiti men gathering together in their Diwaniya area, an extension from their Villa’s front yard. It becomes a common sight so I start to wonder what is  this type of gathering  and what’s the use of it. I have never seen this habit in Holland or in local areas in Philippines.

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Kuwaiti Diwaniyas evolved from traditional tents with seating pillows or cushions.

What is exactly a Diwaniya?

Diwaniya is a traditional culture of Kuwaitis that literally means “To gather together , or a place of assembly , parlour, Hall or lounge “. It originates from Arabic word “Diwan “ which means the place where the Amir meets his subjects and listens to their concerns. Now every household in Kuwait has its separate hall that serve as the Diwaniya where the Kuwaiti men receives his male guests. Kuwaiti Diwaniyas evolved from the traditional tents with seating pillows, into solid building with modern interiors. Nowadays, sophisticated Diwaniyas emerges with modern facilities which normally the setting for gatherings, public functions or political agendas.

The diwaniya include a main sitting place, called “Diwan”. Doors of the diwan overlook the internal hall that is comfortably furnished for guests. There are many cushions arranged in a specific way to be used as seats and armrests. The floor is covered with woven Persian carpets. The diwaniya, also, contains utensils for preparing coffee, which is redolent with cardamom. Using a special brazier, this coffee is prepared either on the far side of the diwan or in a small annexed room. Coffee preparing utensils consist of graduated sizes of brass coffeepots with lids and long beaked spouts called “Dallal”. Coffee is served in small cups made of pottery. Either the owner  prepares the coffee himself for guests or he hires a servant to do this job for him. This is why a Teaboy is an in-demand job in Kuwait.

Diwaniya in Kuwait has preserved its importance in the social, political and economic life. Today, diwaniya is considered of the important social institutes that play influential role in the democratic and parliamentary life. It became a referential indicator and place where many decisions were made. The number of the Diwaniyas increased to the extent that one Diwaniya or more can be found in every street. Some of them receive guests daily, others receive guests for only one or two days per week, and others receive guests only on special occasions.But definitely this is a daily part of Kuwaiti culture that has been passed from generations to generations. For well-off Kuwaiti families, a Diwaniya hall is a luxurious setting, and to be invited into it is quite an experience.

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Typical scene of Kuwaiti gathering together in Outdoor lounges,parlours or simply referred to as “Diwaniyas “.

The general atmosphere of diwaniyas became similar to that of social clubs, cultural and literary forums and political salons. Some of these modern diwaniyas are equipped with television sets, radios, satellite dishes, computers and phones. Other diwaniyas set themselves goals to achieve, like sports, economic, political. In the past , Diwaniyas plays an integral part of the candidate or politician running in election in Kuwait ministry. This is the hub for all opinions & informal discussions.They plan schedules and set dates to reach their goals. Others declare topics for discussion days before receiving guests.The public Diwaniyas are open for Expatriates,usually men gather together to chat any topic under the sun during their leisure times.

Historically, Diwaniya is exclusively for men only, but nowadays, a mixed gender Diwaniya are quite a norm or even the Women only Diwaniya. An example is the “Al Duaij Diwaniya of Qadsiya “ which welcomed a mixed gender audience of Westerners, US soldiers,  & Embassy staffs  that are based in Kuwait gather together to share views about Arab & Western culture.

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Typically Kuwaiti  : men in Dishdashas  in their Diwaniya

So if you’re in Kuwait and you heard the term Diwaniya, then you know that its simply means “Let’s get together & have a drink “!

What particular culture you appreciate in the country  you’re living in right now?