Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Idiot's Guide To Things To Do in Kuwait

So you're in Kuwait, and you're looking for something to do...and your mind's blank because this isn't Europe, or Dubai...or Bahrain either!

What to do? How do you kill the extra time in Kuwait? (of which there's plenty!)

Well, you can stay at home & surf the 'net, or stream a flick or two on a media player (provided that your ISP's speed is capable), order in from Talabat or some similar service, and just munch & crunch the night away. can get in your car, drive around and test the limits of your patience on the road. An SUV whose driver thinks he's commanding a thought-activated sports-car might swerve across your path, or some Tom Cruise wannabe's creating a traffic jam behind him just to stay parallel with some chick in a fancy car, trying to get himself noticed, or a group of loud, noisy bikers might drive past you, all dressed up like Hell's Angels.

If you're one of those exercise junkies, there's a bunch of sports clubs to join and enjoy, like Oxygen and The Platinum Club, . They're all well-equipped, well-designed, and have a lot of subscription types to select, from partial to full membership. Truth be told, they're quite good, and some of them have very good personal trainers.  To top it off, a few of them have broken into very personalized facilities, like the My Session club, where a personal trainer would rent out the facilities to his group of trainees. While many people I know are active participants in this event, I personally find the idea of spending my free time sweating and getting myself tired day in day out is not so appealing.

Another choice would be to drive up to one of the Mega Malls, either the 360 Mall or The Avenues, and immerse yourself in the local culture of sitting in a Coffee Shop and watching adolescent boys and girls walk around aimlessly trying to either get noticed (or laid!), or your plain-vanilla show-offs who are trying to impress their peers with the latest in junkyard fashion. You will definitely find, without having to look around much, a few creatures strolling around, looking like they've just landed from another galaxy, and salivating at the many forms of females that roam around shopping and frolicking about.

Occasionally, you might witness a crime right before your eyes; A group of young kids smoking a cigarette and acting all grown up, with tons of gel on their spiky hair, who would have been better off expending their energy at a well-equipped sports or science club or something. Or, as had recently happened, some crazy idiot jabbing someone with a steak knife!

Still in the Malls, you can shop at the local outlets of the international brands and outlets, and complain about how exaggerated their prices are compared to, say, Amazon or Net-A-Porter, and then be forced to listen to the hapless salesperson explain the difficulties of importing such quality goods and their associated customs duties, and on and on, as if you were living in some remote island for all your life! Or you can grab a meal at some of the local restaurants situated in the malls's food courts, anything from fast-food to haute cuisine, both local and international brands.

At the very least, you can buy a ticket to watch a movie at the local cinema. Here, you need to be a strategic thinker and decide when would be the best timing to watch a movie without the crowd cheering and hooting every time the star sneezed, or whenever cleavage was inadvertently shown. Even then, you may need to download buy the DVD and watch the movie again in it's full, uncensored form, since the local censorship had aimlessly cut of a major scene just because some cleavage was shown! (the showing of "Catwoman" and a couple of James Bond films had the audience leave scratching their heads!). 

If you're lucky (or cursed!) enough to mix with the right crowd, you may get invited to some of those weekend parties that the local 'in' people host at their farms or chalets. While there, you get to sample the bar, well-stocked with some of the cheapest, illegally-imported Wine, Whiskey or Beer that your eyes had ever came in contact with, or try out some of the suspicious concoctions of a local produce that tends to make one blind with regular consumption. One drunk (or high!), and coupled with the right partner-whom you've just met that night-you can Gangnam-Style the night away! Unless your party was raided by the Police, in which case, you'd be organizing a Harlem Shake to your fellow inmates!

If you're less of a party animal, you're safer grabbing a use-n-throw barbecue box and a few bags of pre-seasoned meats from the Sultan Center or Carrefour, and have a nice, quiet barbecue at one of the public beaches. You may, on occasion, be forced to leave your place if the police arrived and shooed you away, but the chances of that happening are few and far between.

If you're one of the lucky ones to have a chalet to go to during the weekends (or know someone who has one, or know someone who goes to someone who has one, and get a second-hand invitation to pass by!), you can enjoy the company of like-minded individuals discussing politics, water sports, the latest gadget, or the latest sports car model, culminating the evening with a late-but big-dinner event. The day would be filled with water sports and other water-based events, like a boat trip to Kubbar Island, where you and ever other one of the hundreds of sea vessels out there cruise around, showing off their biceps or bikinis, complete with not-so-innocent beverages in their hands. You may also get to water ski, drive a jet-boat, para-ski, enjoy a banana or doughnut ride, or even have a beach-side barbecue while you're there. The list goes on.

If your hosts are into it, you can get to spend an entire day on a boat, hanging on to a nylon thread, waiting for something to bite at the bait hanging at it's end. During this stress-free activity, you can get to sip tea, munch on a few biscuits, get acquainted to the unique smell of fresh-fish-on-ice, or maybe the equally unique - but more potent - smell of sweaty armpits that emanates from your fellow fishing mates. Things will quickly turn into excitement once you realize that something's biting, and you struggle to stop the nylon thread from cutting into your fingers as you try to pull the catch up to the surface, all the time enduring the joking and heckling that you're getting from the more experienced of your crew.

As you get to the shore, you can't help but feel inclined to help your friends who are preparing to tow the boat back to dry land. In this case, and depending on how stingy your friends are when they bought a dedicated towing vehicle, you may be called upon to assist them in pushing the boat onto the carrier, all the while weary of the fact that the crappy, rusted SUV with the faulty gearbox doesn't look nearly capable enough to carry it's own weight, let alone a 20-foot boat! So you're spending a good 20-40 minutes trying to tow the boat out of the water. In some cases, one of the spectators, who may have been watching you and your friends make right asses of yourselves, would have had enough joy to feel generous enough to offer his assistance. You will then notice that his full-sized SUV would easily coast through the sand dunes, park in front of your friends' cheap SUV, roll out the towing cables and magically drive inland, cheap SUV and boat in tow in a little under 5 minutes! At this point, you and your friends are left feeling uncomfortably small and insignificant  which can well be a source of discussion and much jubilation in the evening, and for many evenings to come!

Sometimes, if it happens while you're at the chalets, you may get to hear about an illegal car race on the main highway. Still, not much to do there in terms of activities; Watch some souped-up automobiles drive past you in a second, cheer, and then get shooed away by the police patrols. You may occasionally find yourself standing amongst short, thin, strange-looking creatures, (closely related in shape, color and form to those creatures you'd find strolling the malls!) with shoulder-long hair,  glazed eyes, tight dishdashas  and reeking of stale Marlboro cigarettes, seated in the back of white (always white!) Nissan or Toyota pickup trucks, or sometimes old, rusty GMC Suburbans. They're there to fill in the time between races, by looking strange enough to warrant gossip and a few chuckles of laughter, or as an unscripted entertainment show when they drive their vehicles across the highway in well-exercised zig-zag form like the daredevils they believe themselves to be...

A word of caution here is critical. While seemingly jovial and harmless, these creatures tend to multiply within the timespan of 15 minutes if you brush them the wrong way, or openly make fun of their appearance. What seems to be a single Suburban with four or five people on board may sometimes morph into seven o eight GMC's and pickup trucks (also white!) chock-full of them! I believe the correct terminology to this activity is locally called 'Faz'ah', similar to the Call To Arms on a battlefield.

Occasionally, menacing yardsticks and baseball bats appear in their hands out of nowhere, so be sure to stay clear of them if you're planning to have a laugh at their expense.

Or, as a variation, you can borrow some of the off-road capable Banshees and test your skills against sand dunes filled with iron rods and sharp rocks and stones at 90Km/h. Another round of events during the night, however, would be a clandestine, invitation-only party, which can be a 'lite' version of the one described earlier, but without the Police element to throw the festivities up

A sleep-over at the chalets means an activity-filled day in the morning, so you'd better make sure you've got a pair of swimming trunks with you, and a change of clothes.. 

Either way, once you wake up in the morning, you can accompany your friends to the nearest Starbuck's and either shake off your hangover away with a Mocha-Caramel-Frappacino Latte Dulce De Leche mumbo-jumbo (a popular diabetes-inducing drink masquerading as coffee, with different variations of sugar, cocoa and powdered milk, to the uninitiated!). Later in the day, you can drive off to Spoons and check out other people who drove the 30+minutes just to be there, and then take photos of your meal with your smartphone and show them off on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, as if the entire world's devoid of all deep-fried appetizers and fancy burgers except Kuwait!

In conclusion, Kuwait's a pretty active place to live in. Water sports, night life, fun-filled shopping malls, fancy restaurants, the works! However, as with every other country in the world, you need to seek out the right kind of activity and find one that best suits your lifestyle. 


1 comment:

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