Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Two days in Kuwait City, Kuwait

So for the first school breaklet (it barely counts as a break in my book...lol), I was once again missing the year-round school with 2-3 week long breaks of our past post. The kids fall break consisted of A day off (well almost a day and half as I managed to book both kids P&T conferences first thing in the morning) and a weekend. So, we looked for places that were close by and were not too expensive of a flight to visit...viola Kuwait City, Kuwait! Direct flights, we could use hotel points for our stay, and since tourism isn't really the country's main industry we could see most of the sights over an extended weekend.

Due to flooding in the our neighborhood the previous weekend, we ended up without any water the day of conferences/flying out. I tried to apologize to most teachers as we just threw on hats and went to conferences....by the time we had returned our water issue was resolved, so we grabbed showers and headed to the airport.

Since we had left Doha on the early afternoon flight, by the time we arrived, went through immigration, claimed our luggage and arrived to the hotel, the day was pretty much a bust. So we explored the hotel, decided on a plan for dinner (Lebanese restaurant for the grown-ups and room service for the kids), and unpacked. We had a full day planned for the next day, so we even did room service for breakfast for everyone. Someone especially loved their personal teapot of hot chocolate.

Once dressed and ready, our first stop was the Kuwait National Museum. Unfortunately, the taxi driver dropped us off at a bank and not the museum. We went in to verify the museum wasn't just on a different floor. The guards had no clue what we were saying, luckily a kind Kuwaiti spoke English and was able to look at the map/street name I had and directed us to where he thought it might be (we quickly learned tourists are a bit like narwhals....everybody knows about them, but sightings are rare). After about a five minute walk, we did in fact find the museum - though it was under renovation/expansion and finding the temporary entrance was tricky too. As you enter, you eye caught one of the coolest things (I personally thought). It was described as a tent that was placed on the camel's back for people to be able to ride in the shade!

They also had a number of relics from the Failaka Islands. Archaeologists have found evidence these islands have been inhabited since 2000 B.C. (Mesopotamians at the time, but the island has been conquered/inhabited by Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and most recently invaded by Iraqis!).  When Alexander the Great was conquering the region, Greeks inhabited the island (and renamed it Ikaros - while the island has changed names, the tour company that takes you out there is Ikaros). So the relics in the museum ran the gamut of civilization influences. I personally liked the dolphin statue!

These miniature figurines definitely show the Greek/Roman style!

When one thinks of arrowheads, more often than not they are probably thinking Native American Indian arrowheads.  This collection of arrowheads were made of flint stone by the Mesopotamians from the Neolithic Age (aka 3000 BC till 1700 BC at the earliest) made me get out of that mindset!

Another large portion of the museum was a display of a traditional ancient Arabic village. The village contained shops from the different craftsman (jewelers, metal smiths, fabric souqs, spice market) and examples of rooms within a home like kitchens, bedrooms, etc. There was even a classroom with a schoolboy standing in the corner for misbehaving. Within that area, there was information about the trading that went on long ago. To orient yourself, Richard's head is in front of modern day Saudi Arabi, Qatar is the thumb shaped peninsula jutting out just above his head, and Kuwait is at the top left where the trade route switches from red to blue (India appears to be very important trade partner).

After we finished exploring the museum, we headed outside to navigate to our next stop. We happened to walk past the national library, which had the neatest outdoor benches!

Our next stop was quite close, the Sadu House. This museum of sorts was founded to preserve Bedouin crafts (primarily woven textiles....Richard's favorite thing!). They were under renovations as well, so they didn't have any weaving projects to watch or tours to give, but a little shop of souvenirs. There was also a cafe connected to the Sadu House. It was quite warm that morning, so I ordered a lemonade...but it was a specialty drink....it was a charcoal lemonade! I only got one as I was a little unsure, but it was delicious. Richard and Clarissa both sampled mine and wanted their own. The ingredients were lemon, water, and simple sugar.....as you will see...there is something that gives the drink it's unique color. The cafe was run by some South African men and they would not reveal the secret!

Next we walked through and around the Mubarakiya Souq. This is the biggest and best souq in Kuwait City. Oddly, it was a bit tricky to find as it is amid other smaller souqs and we can't read Arabic to follow the signs. We made it to the Souq just before prayer time, so we were able to grab some lunch (and chuckle at the stray cat just outside the fish market section). We used prayer time to make the super long stretch of walking (as most places were closing). As we were leaving the souq, we happened upon a monument/fountain. The kids were tired and wanted a break...so they ran around and played hide-and-seek?!?!

We then walked to the Liberation Tower.

According the travel sites, Liberation Tower is the second tallest structure in Kuwait. Construction began prior to Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990. During Iraqi occupation construction stopped, but the tower didn't not get damaged. After the invasion, construction resumed, upon completion in 1993 the tower was named 'Liberation Tower' to symbolize Kuwait's liberation from Iraq! Sadly, the tower is currently closed for visitors to go up in. We rested a bit in the shade of the tower, but then continued on (this stretch of the walk was a meer 45 minutes long in the middle of the day - high that day was 88ºF). At last, with no complaining, we made it Tijarya Tower. This tower is mostly businesses, but had a small mall at the base. Inside that mall was a place (our destination) called Minus 11 Cafe.

Minus 11 Cafe is a built of ice! The table was ice, the chairs (and thrones) were made of ice, there were igloos, slides and all sorts of chilly fun. We ordered a round of cold drinks because of the long hot walk there, then moved onto warm drinks because it was -11ºC in the place after all (you get two drinks with your admission fee).

You can huddle together for warmth

Or lounge on an ice couch!

The kids really enjoyed it, after two warm postings they were feeling a little deprived of winter activities. Upon our exit, the kids were given padlocks to attach to the grate inside the cold weather attire donning area and by the window.

We figured after cooling in the ice cafe, we would be recharged for another walk (only 30 minutes this time), but once we hit the street Clarissa a person who shall not be named whined announced their displeasure in walking some more. So we hailed a cab and got a lift over to the Kuwait Towers.

Richard remembers watching the news during the Iraqi invasion and these towers being prominent in the skyline. So it was quite a treat to actually go up to the observation deck! It was only 3KD/person (about $10 USD) to go up to the top of these water towers.

If you look closely at the sky line, in the middle far away is the Liberation tower! We started our day slightly to right of the skyline at the museum along the Arabian Gulf. We did walk a lot!!

I thought the tower below us looked like it was covered in blue/aqua buttons!

So at the top, there are two floors. On the second floor the outer 2 meters or so, rotated around the center. Since it wasn't overly crowded we just had a seat and enjoyed the views.

After we had our fill of the towers, we headed back down and walked a bit more to the Sea Bridge. Along the way we pretended to lay an egg, pose with the towers, and contemplate the meaning of life.

 We also happened upon a fancy fast car!

We then walked out to the end of the Sea Bridge, which provided more photo ops with the towers behind us, as well as a great skyline shot as evening was coming upon us.

We were able to catch another cab back to our hotel. The city of Kuwait is rather expansive! Wikipedia says the city is 200 sq km (80 sq mi). So cabs were necessary (and no Uber in country). Back at the hotel, we checked out a display case. It was probably one of the neatest things at the hotel, it was a small display of items/photos from the 1990 Iraqi invasion.

While really neat to see war artifacts and how the invasion affected the very building we were standing in (that occurred while we both alive) was sad as well. It's sad to see how much destruction war can cause and scary that it affected everyday people doing normal things.

That evening, after dinner, we headed to the hotel pool/hot tub to play/soak our sore bodies from all the walking we had done (really wishing my step counter hadn't bit the dust a while back!). It was fun to watch planes land as well, our hotel was quite close to the airport!

We found out that every morning, the hotel offers a shuttle to The Avenues. According to the mall website, The Avenues is one of the largest malls in the world with 1,100 stores spread across 12 districts. Each district had a different/distinct architecture to it. I can't find how much area it covers, but we were told that one of the districts is a mile long! On our flight into Kuwait, Clarissa's glasses had broken (one of the side pieces fell off) and were using bandaids to hold them together. We figured we would be able to find a glasses shop that might be able to repair them. We found several, but sadly they were unfixable. After our morning and lunch at the mall, we caught a taxi over to Marina Bay Beach. This is were the boat trips to Failaka Islands could be caught. In addition to all the ancient artifacts (ie Greek/Roman ruins), there is also a number of rusted out/abandoned tanks and such. Good photography material!! Sadly, it was too windy to make the 20 kilometer crossing over to the Islands, but we were offered a harbor cruise of sorts along the coastline. Figured why not!

The captain played some music and we took in the scenery.

We started along the coast (above) and to the far right you see the tiny Kuwait Towers. We travelled to this close to the towers (below)! At one point, I saw a dorsal fin or two. I pointed but the captain had no clue what I was pointing to, so continued along his route.

On the way back, the wind/seas/waves definitely picked up and we took a few waves pretty hard. Clarissa had moved to the back and was soaked as we pulled back into the harbor!

All of us were wet, so we treated ourselves to some warm Toll House chocolate chip cookies (from the Toll House Storefront!!). Yum!!

We headed back to our hotel to get some dry clothes, dinner and pool time again. We then had to pack up as were flying out the next morning! Kuwait City was a perfect little getaway for our long weekend. It provided us the chance to scratch another country off our map. Other the military and oil company employees, very few people can say they have been to Kuwait!

On our flight back to Doha, upon landing the flight attendant's disembarking message was first spoken in Arabic and then in English. At the end of the Arabic part of the message, Clarissa turns to me and says "they just said Thank-you"...that was a super proud momma moment as her 'less than 2 months' of Arabic class has already taught her enough to understand a few words in messages!!

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