Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Night of the Flight

The sunlight crept through the blinded windows. The house was still fast asleep. Outside the gentle summer window blew, making the leaves of the berry tree sway in a slow rhythm. The birds chirped and somewhere a baby cried.
I woke up from a deep slumber and immediatly sat up rubbing my eyes.

"Yes! The 18th of June, atlast!" I mentally screamed.

This was the day I was waiting for. Actually I was waiting for the night, when we will be at the airport to fly to India.
I jumped out of the bed and ran towards the bathroom, yelling at my sister to wake up as I went by.
It was too late for breakfast so we had a brunch of noodles and leftover pizza from the last night.
The dishes clinked into the basin and a pair of hands hurriedly scrubbed, dried and put them away.

"Kiddos, please make sure you packed everything," Mom called over the roar of the vacuum cleaner.

We checked and rechecked everything. By the evening Dad had taped and roped all the boxes. The bags were all locked. The fridge was emptied. The new black robes (burqa) hung in the closet.
Everyone fidgeted. The flight was at 11:59 pm and we were scheduled to leave the house at sharp 9 pm immediatly after "isha" prayer.
The prayer got over, the mat was folded and put away.

"Come on, ladies,"Dad yelled from the doorway."We will get late if you don't hurry."
"Wait, wait!" cried my sister, as my Dad took one of the bags to load it into the car.

I got the burqa over my head when the telephone rang shrilly.

"Damn it," I cussed, as I ran to the hall to get to the phone, nearly tripping over the burqa in the process.

"Hello?" I nearly yelled into the phone.

", Is this Ruby?" a timid voice squeaked over the other end.

I grinned. It was a friend.

" Yeah it is."

"Hey, I called to wish you a happy and safe journey. Take care..and ooh, you seem to be in a hurry. Bye...see you!" she spoke hurriedly as my mother's angry voice carried over the pandemonium, telling me to put down the phone and get ready.

" Yeah, thanks...Bye ..ciao!" I hastily answered and replaced the phone back on the set.
Finally after about 15 minutes of utter confusion, everyone was ready and everything was in order.
The lights were switched off, the gas turned off and house securely locked.
We stepped out of the gate into the hot summer night.
We got into the car ( one of Dad's friends had offered to drop us off at the airport) and set off.

After what seemed a long ride we arrived at the airport. Goodbyes were said and we trooped inside the cool airport. The air around us was electric with excitement. We passed through the customs and everything.
At the luggage check-in an unexpected disaster(?) nearly took place.
The man in charge told us that our luggage weight exceeded the limit and we might have to pay KD 100 fine.

Dad's face was unreadable.
Mom's eyes widened.
I and sis exchanged nervous glances.
The man did something on the computer.
My sister's fist clenched and unclenched.
I shuffled my feet, silently praying to God to help us.
God heard and answer came that we don't have to pay.
Dad looked relieved. Mom shook her head. Me and sis exchanged gleeful looks and silent high-fives.
The rest of the way to the boarding area we grinned and joked.
It was a bit windy. A strong gust of wind blew and my sister nearly fell from the stairs leading to the plane.
I caught her just in time and started giggling uncontrollably. Mom threw me a disapproving look and sis grinned sheepishly.

(Hey, It's not my fault! I was feeling very gleeful about the whole trip and I guess the wind tickled my funny bone!)
We boarded the plane. Yay! Finally! I scampered over to get the window seat while my sister glared. Hehe!
The Captain spoke. Safety instructions were issued. Seat belts clicked together and we all waited with bated breath.
Boy! I love take-off's. I love the way the plane starts moving slowly on the runway and bit by bit gains speed and finally with a deafening roar , launches into the air.
In a short time we were in the air.
Its a 3 hour flight to Bombay. We watched Om shanti Om. After that I dozed off. When my eyes finally opened the sunlight was pouring in through the shuttle windows. The Captain was announcing that we will be soon landed at the airport. I peered out of the window and saw the water covered areas and the green here and there. My heart lifted with joy.
Hip hip hooray!! We reached!!
I wanted to get up and dance!
We landed and went off to get the luggage.
The crows cawed and cool wind blew.
Aah..! *grins*
What happened next?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Discovering Kuwait's South

Tribal clusters in some areas, urban hadar in others. Apartment buildings along the coastal areas with expensive rent, apartments overlooking the Arabian Gulf equipped with gyms, wi-fi-, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and underground parking lots contrasted with closed areas packed with shabby apartment buildings and old shopping centers.

Despite its small size, Kuwait is unique in the way that its population is scattered around its areas. Take Al-Ahmadi, for example, Kuwait's southern governorate. Al-Ahmadi, which is spread over more than 5,000 kilometers south of Kuwait City, is home for Kuwait's most active oil wells. It also houses the head offices of many of Kuwait's petroleum companies, as well as the suburbs of Khairan, Dhuba'iya, and Bnaider and the coastal chalets areas close to Wafra, which is famous for its farms. {Al-Ahmadi}

Ahmadi residents are mainly tribal Kuwaitis, especially from Al-Ajmi tribe. The governorate is perhaps Kuwait's most conservative area as the majority of the expats and nationals who live there are very conservative. It also houses many Shiite Muslims and many Christians, who practice their traditions very freely, but who are outnumbered by Sunni Muslims. In terms of nationality, the governorate's residents are a mixture of Kuwaitis, Western and Asian expatriates, Arabs and GCC citizens, especially Saudis.

The residential areas that fall under Al-Ahmadi governorate are: Ahmadi, Fahaheel, Sabahiya, Hadiya, Riqqa, Ogaila, Umm Al-Hayman, Mahboula, Fintas, Mangaf, Jaber Al-Ali, and Dahar, in addition to the recently completed Fahad Al-Ahmad area, which lies between Riqqa and Sabahiya on Road 40.

Fahaheel, a small town that's the closest thing to a city the governorate, was - and still is - the biggest mall area in the governorate. Best known for its fish market, which has now been replaced by Al-Kout mall that overlooks the Arabian Gulf, Fahaheel bustles with many shopping centers, big malls, restaurants and small shops that sell low-priced merchandise.
{Al Kout,Fahaheel}

The other coastal residential areas in the governorate - Mahboula, Fintas and Mangaf - also lie on the Fahaheel Highway but lack attractions; they have a handful of beach resorts and a hotel, but they mainly consist of apartment buildings and a few restaurants, with no markets or shopping centers except for co-ops which only provide the consumer with food items and household necessities.

Coastal areas are a big attraction for western expatriates and some Kuwaiti families. Due to the great distance between these areas and Kuwait City and the country's major attractions, the rent rate for coastal areas is lower there than in the areas close to the City.


Ahmadi governorate is most famous for the Ahmadi residential area, which is a town built on a slope and is most famous for its greenery and architecture. The area was built in the 1940's by British expatriates who came to Kuwait with their families when oil was first discovered in Kuwait. The town was divided into streets, avenues, and many roundabouts, more than any of Kuwait's other residential areas

Salwa Al-Bloushi, a 57-year old Kuwaiti who was born, raised, and still lives in Ahmadi talked to the Kuwait Times about the development she has witnessed in the area from her childhood until today. She explained that the British who ran the oil companies gave houses to the local employees, but the latter were still segregated from the British. "They lived in the Northern parts of Ahmadi, which is now still resided by the employees of the Kuwait Oil Company. We lived near the souk in an area that was called colloquially the 'Arab Village'.

She explains that the crescent-shaped souk historically offered far more facilities than it does now. "There was a butcher, a small abattoir that sold chicken, a store that sold fresh fish, a big supermarket that brought fresh fruits every morning, a baker, an Indian restaurant, a tailor, a readymade clothes store, a jeweler. You never needed to leave Ahmadi; whatever you wanted, all you had to do was just cross the street and you'd find all that your heart desired," she said.

" At night, the souk was guarded by officers who stayed vigilant until sunrise. She added that there were officers who rode horses, and were centered especially in the north where the British oil company employees lived. Two recreation centers, complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, swings, hockey fields, and a golf course, were built in northern Ahmadi, as well as two churches, one Husseiniya [a Shiite mosque] and many Sunni mosques. The houses had the transformation from Ahmadi's beautiful old styleto the current one began as the British expatriates began to leave Kuwait; the new residents did not know how to look after the place well.

They [the British oil company employees] built something out of this slope that is really beautiful and looked like it was in a Mediterranean country, not in the Gulf. From the window of my house now, I can see the main street where the entrance to Ahmadi is. My husband and I planted this garden, on Kuwaiti soil with fruits and vegetables that you wouldn't think can grow in Kuwait. We grew strawberries, watermelons, oranges, carrots, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and a lot more than that in our garden. The waythe houses are organized, the way they soil is used for greenery makes this place the most beautiful in all of Kuwait for me, certainly the most beautiful. "