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Gas stations and Failaka

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Ahmad Al-Sarraf
few days ago, I went to a gas station, to fill petrol in my car and I felt I was in a totally different country. The station was clean, well lit and had clean and healthy facilities, with a supermarket, a few mini fast-food restaurants, touch of welcome and smile on the faces of the staff.

This was not the case before, but we still don’t find the same outlook at the gas stations owned and managed by the government — National Petroleum Corporation.

Unfortunately, we have waited for almost forty years before achieving this dream of services improvement at gas stations after selling them to the private sector. Our dreams have become humble to the extent development of our fuel stations has become one of the dreams.

A few days ago I received an invitation from the global theater director Sulaiman Al-Bassam to visit the Failaka Island. I accepted the invitation immediately and it was a pleasure after I saw in it an opportunity to recall the old memories of this island, which I visited half a century ago.

I was looking for some wonderful time from the scientific, cultural and entertaining point of view. We were accompanied by a world-famous personality in the area of culture, two female Western academicians and two great Kuwaiti friends.

I felt terribly sorry as I was about to set foot on the island. Before the ferry boat docked at a temporary port on the Island, I saw the place damaged and ruined, and after 300 years of its belonging to Kuwait, nothing on the Island resembles a port.

Our host suggested that we drive in a car to see the landmarks on the island. During the tour he told us the distance between the island and Kuwait’s shore is 20 kms and is approximately 12 kms long, 6 kms wide and has an area of 43 square kms; the tallest building is 10 meters and has a coastline of 38 kms, which has not yet been exploited. Some of the monuments we visited showed Failaka was an important trade route –the sea route between the civilizations of Mesopotamia and the scattered civilizations on the Gulf coast.

In ancient times, perhaps because of its location and fresh water and once being a religious center this island was very vital until intolerance took the better of some men who sent their bulldozers to knock down religious and archaeological ruins.

It is said the island was an urban center during the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years BC. It is believed the name is derived from Greek meaning center point. It is also said the excavations made by the Danish explorers on the island in 1958 showed the island’s name was Icarus.

They found this name on an archaeological stone — a message to the temple officials on the island. The writings by some Greek historians say Alexander is the one who named the island Icarus, like the island on the Aegean Sea, which carries almost the same name.

The sad tour of the island’s landmarks brought a smile on my face when I saw the professional theatrical event on the island – a creation of Sulaiman Al-Bassam, part of his project for the establishment of Failaka center for art and knowledge, which aims to restore the spirit of the island and civilization as a point of communication between different civilizations.

During the hours we spent together, I felt the extent of his suffering with regards to services on the island.

…To be continued tomorrow

email: habibi.enta1@gmail.com

By Ahmad Al-Sarraf

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