Surprising Kuwait City

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Arabic Design with all of the geometric patterns is truly beautiful. This is from an outdoor space at the Grand Mosque of Kuwait.

It’s 5:15pm Tuesday the 14th, Kuwait Time. Or 8:15am Albuquerque, New Mexico Time. When I started writing at 4 this morning I first referred to Kuwait as AmericaLand because all of our stuff is so prominently on display at the airport: Starbucks, Cinnabon, McDonalds, Hilton and so forth. The one rather startling difference was the friendliness of the officials at passport control. That’s not usual anywhere in the world from what I can tell. Our hotel was a little off-putting initially because we’ve become attached to our mostly character-rich-with-small-inconveniences brand of lodging. This is a rather character-less highrise but I appreciate the basics it offers so efficiently right now.

We leave the hotel at 1am the 15th for the airport (4pm the 14th Albuquerque time). I should be HOME in MY place by 11pm (Abq. Time) on the 15th or 31 hours later. Already I’m tired. Maybe I’m getting a cold so I am swilling Emergen-C.

Kuwait City. What an absolutely pleasant revelation for both Steven and me to find out we like it here. We expected it to feel like Dubai which wasn’t so impressive in our eyes—instead it feels like a real place with quite a few architecturally interesting buildings scattered here and there among enough markets and busy streets and people out and about to give one the sense of an urban space that can offer unique nooks and crannies, foodie-fun and maybe even some interesting cultural activities. In all fairness we did not explore Dubai at all except for the obligatory visit to the two giant malls and the tall(est) tower, none of which we need to revisit. We set out determined to do a little better by Kuwait. And we did.

We started our morning at the Grand Mosque, the 8th largest mosque in the world. I have visited mosques off and on over the years and been especially awed by a very beautiful one in Damascus and of course the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The Kuwait Grand Mosque is, in my eyes, not quite as warm in its magnificence as those two, but it is indeed—grand and gorgeous and splendid—almost too much so. The best thing was the informative tour conducted by an articulate and friendly young woman. She guided us about for almost two hours through the central prayer/gathering space and several adjoining rooms. She was easy to ask questions of and I learned new things which always makes me happy.

While I have little to no respect for religion—any religion—I do respect some of the good people who believe, and when visiting mosques or cathedrals or temples, I strive to put the evil believers of all faiths out of my mind for a little while. Every religion has a set of principles or values or morals that would be very uplifting if unaccompanied by so much death and destruction. But, truth is, we none-believing existentialists also have excellent values and tend not to kill those who differ. But I digress.

After the mosque visit, we walked about a shopping area that was halfway between a souk and strip mall. Pleasant enough. Took a taxi to a large bookstore in a non-descript high-rise kind of mall and I managed to leave with only one book. Then another taxi to Mais Alghanim, a lovely Lebanese restaurant at the seaside. Steven had a kebab plate that he describes as perfectly seasoned chicken, lamb and beef and possibly the best kebabs he has ever had; I had crispy-on-the-outside, rich-and-spicy-on-the-inside falafels. AND best of all, a dessert I’ve only had one time before, years and years ago in Cairo, called Umm Ali, which most recipes call Egyptian bread pudding. Today’s was just bubbling from the oven with sweet hot pudding full of pistachios and sticky pastry. It can also have raisins and other nuts. Anyway the perfect last dessert of the Big Trip—unless Cinnabon is open when we get to the airport.

Back in touch from couch at 13th Street.

Abu Dhabi Airport.

Abu Dhabi Airport.

Checking into our hotel.

Checking into our hotel.

In general the Kuwait City skyline is not so impressive but then interesting buildings pop up all over, seems much more eclectic than Dubai.

In general the Kuwait City skyline is not so impressive but then interesting buildings pop up all over, seems much more eclectic than Dubai.

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Grand Mosque of Kuwait.

Grand Mosque of Kuwait.

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Proper attire is required for tour. When in Rome...

Proper attire is required for tour. When in Rome…

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Steven's last dinner blow-out before heading home to his veggies.

Steven’s last dinner blow-out before heading home to his veggies.

Next stop Hotel, Airport, Dubai, LAX... and for me the additional pleasures of that last flight into Albuquerque.

Next stop Hotel, Airport, Dubai, LAX… and for me the additional pleasures of that last flight into Albuquerque.

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