Kuwait by night

Last month my travels took me to the wonderful environs of Kuwait city. In the past I’ve mentioned my “disaster magnet” characteristic (as I now refer to it), and this trip was no different. But before I go any further, let me just say that the people I encountered in Kuwait were an absolute pleasure. Any problems I experienced were obviously the work of Fate, who has it “in” for me…

Upon arrival at Kuwait International airport (shortly after midnight) I towed my short-stay bag along the corridors which held masses of people waiting to embark on their own flights. There was even a tiny glass room in the middle, which was crowded with worried-looking men, all working feverishly to maintain the high smoke level in their small share of atmosphere. It was like a human version of an aquarium one often sees in the middle of shopping malls, only this one doesn’t get cleaned so often. After a few minutes following the exit signs, I found the place where one gets the visa to enter the country. As a European from a designated country, getting the entrance visa is just a formality: present passport, get verbal approval, go to the nearby stamp machines, buy 3 dinars worth of stamps (approx €10), give stamps to official who affixes to the visa and hands it to you.

Easy, unless the stamp machines are all displaying “exact change only”, the nearby bank has run out of small change (notes) and there 50 non-Kuwaitis ahead of you all bearing 20 and 50 dinar notes and looking for change. It was nearly 2 hours later before I got through this mêlée to emerge at the arrivals hall where the driver had almost given up on me.

It was very dark, I had lost 3 hours due to the change of time zone and I had a very early start the next morning. The hotel porter refused to leave the room until he was tipped, which was a little more than I’d normally surrender on account of the previous difficulty getting “small change”. The room was a two-storey affair, not exactly the cleanest I’ve encountered, and devoid of any wifi signal. Two hours of sleep (despite the noisy air-con) and I was heading into day 1 of my week’s stay, without breakfast on account of exhaustion.

The work day was busy, with many people passing through the office. The coffee was undrinkable, so I stuck to water, and I didn’t notice anyone ever take a break to eat. Lunchtime seems to be an unknown concept. Maybe they took breaks separately, out of sight. Whatever the reason, I found myself going through the entire day unfed, and when I eventually got back to the hotel I discovered room service was another unknown concept. Really? Yes. Seems room service was only for getting my shirts ironed. In the end I worked on my report, and retired for the night having not eaten since being on the plane.

Day 2 was better, in that I managed to have something for breakfast. That night I found that globalization has indeed reached everywhere because just 15 minutes away from the hotel I found a few well-known fast food restaurants. You’ll know their names. I won’t mention them. Yes, it tastes the same. Pity.

My day start and end times meant that for the most part I didn’t see much daylight. I did manage to find a trickle of wifi if I sat near the door to the hotel room, and this was enough to get more work to do (because when the day was ending in Kuwait, the “same” day was just starting for others). There was little daylight for the rest of the week, as it got dark by 5pm each day.

On the last day I managed to get two hours to myself before going back to the airport, and I spent that time with some relations who live nearby. (Yes, we get everywhere.) Although all I had seen of Kuwait since my arrival was night-time, it was a spectacular view from their top floor apartment.

I thought on arriving that Fate was going to be playing tricks on me again, but it wasn’t so bad after all. Indeed, I can safely say that Kuwait by night is worth seeing.

Categorised as: LUE

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