Since the weather is nice recently and we got a new car, we’re traveling a bit more, or better yet not really traveling but going on short trips around here.
I’ve decided I want to see the long praised island of Failaka (جزيرة فيلكا), suppossedly a paradise compared to mainland of Kuwait; well… might’ve been.
Prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, it was a small (we managed to go around the whole island through the desert roads within an hour) and rather populated island with it’s own infrastructure, schools, shops and people, referred to as Failakawans. Also an interest of several archeological expeditions, due to it’s history of settlements dating back to Alexander the Great and even earlier (up to around 3000 BC), Failaka seemed to be blooming and quiet place to live or visit.
Now, in 2010, it’s a sad and mainly empty place, some herds of camels, sheeps and goats roaming in the heat, with few settlers around the small harbour where a ferry Ikarus lands daily bringing in and out people, be it the few tourists (not expecting what they will meet), tradesmen or a truck loaded with sand to place in a dug archeological site (ok, wait a minute… it’s a desert island. It’s got lotsa sand. Everywhere. So why did they have to bring a truck of sand from the mainland, again?); and very few residents living randomly in the very empty and depression invoking streets, be it out of a silent stubborness or lack of money to buy a better housing somewhere else; because the look upon the streets is, believe me, very sad. Strike out the usual shabbiness caused by desert weather and sand getting everywhere making everything yellowish and looking old – but the ruins of housing, mosques, bullet holes in most of the walls, empty window frames and doors, sand piling inside of the past living room, kid’s room, school rooms, broken kid’s slides and playgrounds and literally noone anywhere, a real ghost town with it’s own spirits looking around for justice… simply because it’s an island 20 kilometres away from the mainland, when the Iraqi military came, the poor people didn’t have where to go except their homes, which got bombarded and shot at. Rather nasty trap created from a paradise.
It’s a sad place; don’t tell me that it’s not. It has a lot of potential though; it would be a great touristic aim, if. If the state of Kuwait actually wanted any tourism in the country, if the few scattered Failakawans wanted their silent although depressing place to be disturbed and if, if, if. It’s a poor place and needs a lot of money to be invested in before it can get any back, and honestly, when I see Kuwaitis and Arabs in general as tourists, maybe it’s better that it stays like that, because they will trash the place in no time. Now the beaches there are empty, but rather clean. There’s one small hotel near the ferry landing and it’s hard to say how profitable it can be; with a small restaurant and a coffee and a sandwich shop (which all were either closed or undergoing very dusty maintanance so we didn’t get to try and taste).
At the very moment it’s a place mainly used by Kuwaitis for roaming around in ships, boats and yachts, obviously by someone for herding, and few wooden fishing boats trying their luck.
Failaka can be nice, one day. At present, it’s a 1990 war museum with few archeological sites, camels, goats, and lots of deserted buildings, a place of decay rather than blooming. But still interesting to see.
Apologies to anyone who was worried about us (or me), I just don’t really feel like blogging; the life’s going on with it’s own tempo, most of the things slow paced at the time, with a bit of court running and immigration status uncertainities.
But, more or less, everything’s all right and as it should be.
Hubby took us today out for a bit, as the weather in Kuwait’s finally getting to the human levels (compared to the summer months) in the 30 degrees of Celsius during the day and around 20 in the nights, with a bit of fresh breeze, so the picnic time approached.
We reached a high peak of Kuwait today, getting close to Iraq, and there literally was a dead man’s land, with very few people around, one mosque build at a road junction with few pick-up trucks of food and toy “stands” surrounding it, waiting for the nomads to come by and buy – as explained to me on my question why the heck are these men standing in the sun getting a tan darker than the asphalt of the road, when they could just move over the bay to the City and get some better money.
The month of Ramadan is in the middle, we’ve finally got used to its own specific rhythm in Kuwait, full of not doing much things (unless really very utterly necessarily needed) during the light time and trying to get everything done after iftaar. Iftaar or fatoor is a special dinner during the fasting month of Ramadan, made usually big and stuffing, it’s a first meal of the day during this time and whole families are gathering for it’s occasion, day by day, the whole month; to wait for the adhan – and in case of Shias wait another few minutes after the muezzin announces the prayer time – and with that break the fasting and enjoy the noisy, vivid meeting of parents, children, grandchildren, spouses and relatives. Needless to say that already crazy people get much crazier, especially drivers, trying to speed up as much as possible to get the first bite; blinkers not working, lights not being valid for them and speed bumps serving as launching pads for shooting the cars to the moon, as many people plainly ignore them and literally fly over them. Kuwaiti speed bumps are big, and the cars suffer.
Than all the cacophony leaves to pray and get again together at a tea, desserts and tons and tons and tons of traditional sweets, watching TV, chit chatting and being really loud once again. People come and leave till the time of suhur, which could be best described as a Ramadan late-dinner-early-breakfast, small meal and drink before the morning prayer comes and starts the whole fasting round again.
All that is happening in a pretty narrow time period, iftaar in Kuwait starts roughly quarter to seven in the evening, and my husband’s family gets suhur between the midnight and two o’clock in the morning, with fajr being shortly after 4 am. I’m not personally sure about till when Sunni sisters and brothers drink or eat, but we’ve got into the custom to end all the meals about half an hour before the adhan sounds, to be sure we didn’t invalidate our fasting.
Sometimes I just feel like Alice in Wonderland, this being my first Ramadan in an Islamic country and getting around this many members of family is exhausting – I’m quite a lone wolf and these meetings get really big and loud. But it’s interesting and fun experience, so different from our very quite, starving days in Britain, where the day is impossibly long and the country doesn’t change it’s tempo for the month unlike here; here the shops and malls and offices change their working hours to much shorter during the forenoon, noon or very early afternoon, and than re-open again after the evening prayer and keep open much longer till the night, ten, eleven, even longer. It makes it possible to make the fasting more pleasant for most of the people, and especially now when the Holy Month comes during the summer time, which is really hot, makes the thirst manageable even if you got some of the errands running.
We’ve finally moved to our new flat in Rumaithiya, painted and mostly furnished, with only small things left to bring and hang and sort. As we’re still in the struggle with officers and judges regarding some officialities, we’re not entitled to a house helper yet, so it’s up to me to run through the flat and clean till I think that I won’t ever need a treadmill because I burn so much fat just sweeping, wiping, vacuuming and polishing the seven rooms and five bathrooms, taking about four hours a day to do it (and I feel partially sorry for the house keeper, because our high fibre carpets are damn resisting all the good intentions, as well as our uber-comfortable soft and fluffy sofas, which have that kind of material that not only catches all the dust and dirt and hairs, it attracts them and gathers them on purpose, I firmly believe). But, eventually, she gets paid for that.
Our two cute tomcats from Beyrouth breeding station are on the way as I’m typing this entry, flying from Prague to Frankfurt and than from there to Kuwait, and I keep on thinking of them and wishing and praying that they survive their very long and exhausting route in tact, safe and sound, and we’ll welcome them either during this night or by tomorrow morning. Inshallah they will be all right, keep them in your minds, please!
Some of the less glittery part… I’ve noticed the utter difference among certain housing areas, especially closer to the centre of Kuwait City, which is filled by flat units, there’s a huge contrast in between newly built housing and old, usually unmaintained buildings which at best look as rubble and abandoned, but actually accommodate poorer families.
Be it that the actual owner of the building doesn’t have the money to maintain them, or lets them decay on purpose, hoping for the families living there to finally give up and move out, so he can sell the rubble as land for much more money (one-time boost, though) than it would yield being a tenant building in the long run – these patches of land are mostly gathered, or if big enough, cleaned and on the place are build a new, shiny shops.
Most of the actual Kuwaitis seem to live in suburban areas in houses, villas, sometimes the houses accommodate very few flat units, depending on the size and number of floors. Our flat is, for example, in a house of three stories, taking the whole floor, all the 270m square. Nothing unusual in Kuwait; people in here really love to have it big. The flats closer to the city centre or in it are usually occupied by working foreigners, at least as I’ve been told. Foreigners can’t legally own any land in Kuwait (or houses, in other words).
Actual Kuwaiti gets either government housing, patch of a land to build on with a small government donation for the building process, or a flat in these suburban areas; if he asks for it. The process of getting this big boost in life takes several years though, and it’s not instant at all.
We’ve been on a check with Dori’s ear, it’s been only a week we’ve got out of the hospital, it feels much longer to me, though. She’s, alhamdulilah, healthy again and fine, we just gotta keep an eye on the ear for the next year and look out for any signs of reoccurring infection.
One of the main problems and causes of death in Kuwait are reckless and stupidly behaving drivers on the roads; very common is that most of the drivers don’t seem to know how to drive a manual-gear car, as 90% of cars in Kuwait are on automatic shifting, and a lot of drivers just passed through the driving school without actually taking much from it. A widely spread custom is not to use any blinkers on the road and zigzag among the other cars (because you can’t just wait or drive by the speed limit, which on the speedway is at maximum of 120 km/h), so most of the people – except the driver himself or herself – don’t really know what’s coming next.
That’s one of the reasons I take as a no-no for me driving in here. I don’t suppose myself as a perfect driver and I believe that I’m under the average of averages, but giving the light in a turn, letting the other cars zip properly, and simply having that common folk sense around other drivers is something I was hoping to meet in any other person behind a wheel, but perfectly lack in most of the driving peeps in here. And it really doesn’t seem to be related to the nationality. Kuwaiti, Indian, Pakistani, American, men and women, all are in the habit of being rude and idiotic towards any other traffic on the road, be it behind, in front of or next to them. I don’t even mention niqabi women whose niqab is pulled so up and tight that they have to tilt their heads backwards to even see the road in front of them, and I really can’t imagine what else they can (not) see.
Hence it is not uncommon to meet many, many warning messages on the highways and ring motorways, I was even making fun of seeing so many of them – that I will start collecting their messages.
Unfortunately for me I’m not usually quick enough with the camera, and today I managed to snap only two.
So for now… Your family is waiting. Your children are waiting for you. Don’t drive fast, death is faster. Speed leads to death. Punishment for speeding is prison or death.
I wish the drivers would actually take them seriously. (So I could drive too, without any fear of being squashed by a Jeep trying to turn right next to me in an one-lane road. Without a blinker.).