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KUWAIT    INFO & DIARY

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The State of Kuwait,  دولة الكويت is an Unitary constitutional monarchy, covering 17.820 square kilometres in-between the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. It is the home of 4.348.395 citizens, of which 99,98% are Muslims.
The currency is Kuwaiti Dinar, worth 20,71 Danish Krone and €2,78. The GDP is US$161,885 billion.
The climate with it immensely hot summers create a desert, even at the 500 kilometres of coastline, which only host some marshes.
More than 363 species of birds were recorded in Kuwait, twenty eight species of mammal are found in in the country; among them, the Asiatic cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, Caracal, Caracal caracal, Arabian sand cat, Felis margarita harrisoni, Wildcat, Felis silvestris, Asiatic lion, Panthera leo persica, Arabian leopard, Panthera pardus nimr, Striped hyena, Hyaena hyaena, Golden jackal, Canis aureus and the Ratel, Mellivora capensis. I'm most likely to see Felix domestica....
I fail, finding any information on the flora, but I am convinced; here must be some interesting desert plants - if the goats haven't gotten to them first.

DIARY
I arrival from the fantastic Oman in the afternoon. While I use to "hit the ground running" I just realised; I have not really been able to find that much interesting sights in Kuwait at all. I will drive around to see, if I can find something interesting, but no rush at all.
I have secured a e-visa from home, but the immigration bounces me. Apparently, I should have picked up the visa somewhere else. I go to the visa pick-up desk, but he refers me to another place - in the other end of this rather large airport. Here, I'm asked to take a number and something else, which get lost in Pinging-English. Finally, my number is called, and a girl look at the passport, stamp a paper, and ask me to go to another counter. She get my pass and papers, but lack a stamp. I have to draw it from a machine. The machine only accept 1 dinar bills, and I have to find an ATM. It refuses to pay out more than 30 Dinar/600 DKK, but I can't be picky. Back with my stamp, get it on a paper, and show it to yet another guy. He scan my fingers, one by one, and take my picture. Then I can go to the immigration!
I find the rental car-stands, but not my company; they are hidden in the basement. I have paid, but there is an additional one month insurance of 12 dinars - cash only, receipt later. I get the car and set the GPS for my hotel, as the sun is getting low by now.
It is a short drive, but I end up in the middle of a huge area, where all buildings have been torn down! Apparently, my Block 1, Street 129 is not the one in Kuwait City, but 20 kilometres away in Abu Halifa - which do take me some time to figure.
The sun is gone at five, and I get to drive through some dubious areas. In general, at least the part I get to see from Kuwait, this late afternoon, are worn down, shitty and misused. The sealing really bad, buildings worn down, trash everywhere and the traffic is intense and the horns are frequently used. All in deep contrast to The Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.
I finally make it to the hotel or rather apartments. I thought I had paid, but apparently not. I get a big, but not that fancy room with kitchen and washing machine, but no desk. There are several shops and takeaway restaurants in the area, and unfortunately, I get to choose an overpriced burger (mushrooms and Switch cheese), which is greasy and grouse. Eight time the price of the great falafel-burgers I'm used to in Oman.

21. As the weekend starts tomorrow, I decide to head for the Kuwait City Souk this morning. The road into the city is nicely aliened with green trees, but the sealing is terrible. I usually don't drive with both hands - here I do. The skyline comes up, with some impressive and creative buildings. At the same time, half of the buildings are more or less falling apart.
I find a gravel field in the edge of town to park on, and pass those who want to pay for parking, while I walk the 600 metres to the entrance of the old souk. At first, I wonder why they call it old. Then I find out the actual houses are truly old, only the cobbled paving and the fancy wooden roof over the alleys are new.
The areas are divided into different goods. The first part I find have wristwatches. A lot of them! The shops are only opening by now, and I make it to the butchers quite fast. Tiny shops, but a lot of them. The next alley have the vegetables, fruits and dates, then come the fishmongers. It seems like most date sellers are from Iran, the fishmongers from Bangladesh and the butchers Egyptians. A few of each are Kuwaiti. I see the cloth-sellers area, the households, the teapots, the raw perfume, the mixed and the small amplest for perfume. Some sell praying beans, but they are fare from looking orthodox. One look like a fat Turk in a "I love NY" T-shirt.
I do several loops in this lovely maze of souk shops, and several stops at the cafés, where the Kuwaiti sit and enjoy a small glass of sweet tea.

Then I head for the harbour. Somehow, the internal ministry occupies well over a kilometre along the beach, making access quite difficult, as they are NOT hospital. A long walk bring me to a harbour with wooden fishing ships. The ice is brought by trucks, but the big fish market is right next to.
The first I see here, is live chicken and quails. Then there are a lot of vegetables and fruits along with so many different dates. Then come the fishes, shrimps, octopus and crabs.

Next to the fish market is the huge Souqsharq, with all the fancy shops - and Mark & Spencer and Hennes & Maurice (could be more fancy). Between the mall and the city, the marina is found.
When I return to the old souk, the shops are starting to close for midday, and I find some great falafel-burgers for 0,100 dinar. I could get 25 of these for the price I paid last night!
I find my car, and aim for the Saudi border. After I clear the city, the sandy desert is occupied by massive tent camps. I guess this is where the Indians and alike live. After 50 kilometres with these camps, it is 50 kilometres with what look like party- or wedding tents. Then there are 50 kilometres with camel- or sheep nomads. I stop every time the gravel or sand offers a few plants, but is it real limited. Only the two lines of Acacia offers much green along the road, and they are artificially watered.

I reach the border just as the sun touches the horizon, and I turn around just before the control. Then it is 160 kilometres back on the shitty sealing in a rather intense traffic. It is fast, and a few morons drive insanely fast and in zigzag. One is close to loos it, as he try to overtake in the hazard lane, which is loose gravel. 
Back at home, I try another restaurant. I get two closed-pizza-like mixed falafel things, with pickles for one dinar. And one of them goes in the frits, despite they are delicious.
 
Day 1: The Souk, harbour and road to Saudi

22. With the thought on, how disappointed I have been with the recent three or four botanical gardens I had tried to visit (gone, closed to further noticed, observed by something else), I check up on Kuwait's this morning - and did I screw up! It is only open on Thursdays mornings! And from the pictures, it look fantastic. I did not see that one coming! I should have visited it yesterday - so much for planning to see the souk before the weekend.

Plan B will be a trip to the island Bubiya and the northern part of Kuwait. I am running out of sights fast! I start with a stop at the giant mall at the harbour: They must have muesli. Then I find a beach on the way out of town. It is low tide, and it is a bit smelly, but here are nice sand and some shells.
Then I negotiate the layers of old and new roads. I find it a bit strange; so many new are being constructed, while the surface on the older ones are neglected badly. I see numerous cars every day, parked along the highways with corrupted wheels. Potholes are a bitch with 120 km/h. I gas the car; 0,085 dinar for a litre.

I try to find plants, but tents are so much easier to come around. They are everywhere, it seems. Weekenders barbequing, nomads with sheep and camels, workers and alike. But the plants are only found a few places, and only a limited number of species.
I reach the
Mula Ridge, a sandstone ridge. It is a popular weekend place, and filled with trash. I try to capture its beauty without too much plastic, but it kind of spoil the feeling of undisturbed nature - a lot! I climb to the top of the ridge, and it is swept clean by the wind. Here are only a few plants in a ravine, but the pebbles are interesting. I even get close to a sand lizard. It must feed on the flies, attracted by the trash.

As I follow the highway onwards to Bubiyan Island, the GPS have some strange information - and lack others. I end up on a six-lane highway, which the GPS don't know. And accordantly to the potholes, it is fare from new! In several places, the sand dunes are blocking the road, and I have to be careful not to get stocked. I find the right road, then the road-layout different from the GPS again. Finally, I make it to one of the two parallel bridges, but here is a military check-point.
At first, there is none. Then, when I move forward a bit, a staff sergeant appears in the sheet. He seems rather upset, and dive into the car after the key. He get my passport (glad I insisted on getting it from the hotel this morning), and talk a lot in Arabic. Then he call his lieutenant, who speak some English. He get the car's papers and my hotel's name. Then he call the captain, who don't condescends to speaking foreign languishes.
I end up with the captain in the passenger seat, on a drive to the commander of the place. As the little, fat staff sergeant start explaining for a third time: "I just rushed pass him", I explain: If I had done so, I would be on the island. If he had been awake, he would have noticed me, as I stopped at the line". That shut him up.
I get the commander convinced about; I'm just a fool, trying to get to the beach. Never the less, he have to contact HQ - and that takes time. I'm served traditional Arabic coffee in a traditional pot, then a glass of sweet tea. Finally, I get my passport and are free to drive. It turns out; the entire island is one big military base.

My next plan is the northern of the country, at the Iraqi border - but not over! I have to drive back pass Kuwait City, and the northern road  look just like the others. Tents, hardly any plants. Here are a few oil wells, some pick-ups selling firewood, charcoal, water and other other stuff the the campers. In many places, the high-power electrical towers form forests.
Near the Iraqi border, several huge farms with green fences are found. Could be nice to know what they farm, but the sun is low, and when I turn at the border, I have 160 kilometres home. Besides from Kuwait City, I have not seen any towns today - only tents.

It have not been the day I had hoped for, but at least I made it to the hotel. On the way in from the car, I buy tea at the convenient shop next door. Only when I get home, I discover he was out of powder in the machine. Not my day for sure! Day 2: No BG, no Bubiyan Island, no plants

23. The plan is simple; stay out of jail and explore some awesome nature. I follow the southern bound costal road, hoping for some beach experiences along with the desert. The first stretch is just through living areas in Kuwait City. Then some petro-chemistry plants blends in, and then take over. New ones are being build all the way.
I reach an area, fenced, but partly open, with sand and plants. It is salt-tolerant plants, and soon after, the entire area turns into a dry salt-swamp.
In one area, near the road, and probably less salty, I find a flowering bush. I got a feeling of, it might be invasive, but it is pretty.  When I want to make photos of the plants, I have to clear the area for a lot of trash. Plastic brought by the wind, building-trash brought by trucks. It is all over the southern half of Kuwait - and pretty much the northern as well. It is truly a depressing sight, in such a wealthy country. 

After the oil factories, the not so salty plains are occupied by tents. Some might be workers, others are defiantly nomads with camels and sheep. The road is fenced all the way, but I find a few gabs. Not that it helps, here are really few plants, and it seems like I have seen the all by now.

I find the smaller coastal road, but it is lined with estates. Most look like they have seen better days, their front-yard filled with trash. I got this strange feeling: The more trash you have, the richer you are: It is prestige to have a lot of trash? Cantinas in old Spain never swept the floor. It was a thick layer of bones and olive-stones - showing how much good food here have been enjoyed.
Never the less, I fail to find a passage to the beach. I can glimpse it through the lots from time to time, and it does not look that interesting. Lack of tide and surf, swamp-like and no sand.

I end up at the Saudi border, and decide: I will reach the beach! I fight my way back the coastal-near minor road, but it have been altered time and time again. It reach an area with artificial islands - and no access. 30 kilometres, not a toe in the surf! I do get to see a few small salt-lakes - and a lot of trash.

Well, no beach today, but desert at least! I find some way-points, hoping it will be ancient caravan villages. They are not! It is companies, oil-industry or whatever; I can't get even close!
I manages to find a few places I can get a almost clear shot of the sand with plants - and not too much trash. But never mind where I look, the horizon is covered in high-volts masts.
While the surface of the roads are truly dangerous with pot-holes and other scars, new roads are constructed everywhere, it seems. Bridges in the middle of nowhere, round-a-bouts with only two roads. I have a hard time finding a small part of the desert, not being dug up, altered or filled with trash from construction. It seems like the most "original" is the bloody sand dunes on the road: They are left in piece!

The tents are everywhere, but here, it is mainly nomads and their sheep. They live on barren, fine sand, and apparently, all food it brought - and bought. I find a huge area, filled with trucks. Hay, pills and alike. And the empty bags mark where the nomads have had a camp. I think they move around to avoid the shit and trash, not to find food.

I finally find a town: Kabd. Well, it is some large blocks, but here are no centre and no sealing in the streets. Along the main road, sheep sellers sit and wait for costumers, and in one, small streash, a few minor shops are found. I find tea, and head on. I end up at the western road, and head back to Kuwait City.
It is only three, and I try to find a beach. Apparently, there might be one 1,6 kilometres from the hotel! And there is, and it have nice sand and shells to find. One species of small snails have a huge variation: Colours and patterns are so different, and I have to get some samples. Thinking about it; the Danish beach-snails have it too. I truly enjoy this true nature - and the fact; I don't have to drive 160 kilometres through the night, to get home.
Day 3: The South (no beach, lots of trash)

24. I have seen what I came for - in the degree I was able to find it, and I still have one day left. Looking back at the entire visit, I find the souk was the only thing that really worked for me, and at the same time offered some good motives. I head back from the early morning, hoping for yet another interesting day.
I work my way through the maze of alleys and streets rather systematic, but make many tea brakes. I talk with some of the people working here, and even get a chat with a Kuwaiti! Another local ask for a selfiw. Actually, three more young men does, but they could be from anywhere in the world.
An old Iraqi man offer s sweet tea, and we have a long chat on the steps to his tasbih shop. He get an Indian to do some translation, but I get most he say. He offers me a tasbih; never had one of these before!

Here are professional shoppers. Some have a hand-truck with a cardboard box on, others have red coveralls and a shopping cart. They follow the Kuwaiti around the mall, carrying their purchases.
Apparently, there is a basement under a great part of the souk with additional shops - and I can't be bothered. There are quite enough at street level.
At noon, I find the shop with the great falafel burgers, and then I continues. So much perfumes. From famous producers, raw oil and everything in-between. One shop with guns, numerous with all kind of clothing, fabric, spices, nuts, blankets, foreign currents, household, waterpibes, pots, belts, wristwatches - everything!

I go through the butchers street and the fishmongers market again, meeting some familiar faces. Then I realises; if I am going to do the traditional Christmas Beach visit, I have to leave the souk now. Someone have bumped into my car, but I hope I get it sampled good enough: Most is plastic. I get to the beach at sunset, and have it for my self.
Back to work, and prepare for Qatar. Photos of the day; Day 4: Return to the Souk and THE HIGHLIGHTS OF KUWAIT

Kuwait have not been the greatest experience, but the people are real nice. Here are too much trash, too little nature and other stuff to see. One day at the great souk would have been enough. I have driven 1288 kilometres and taken 650 photos. It come with a limited cost, as this is part of a roundtrip:
 

EXPENSES DKK
Flight 1.045 140
Insurance 75 10
Car 1.089 146
Petrol 147 20
Stuff 10 1
Food 425 57
Entre 0 0
Hotels 1.372 184
  4.163 558

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