Dates, water towers and gold
I have been living in Kuwait for 547 plus days, and what a whirlwind they have been. But my introduction to Kuwait came many years before when I was five years old. My father returned to London with a gift for me from his work travels. He had been based in Saudi Arabia but had also worked in Kuwait on an oil project. He gave me a camel with soft sandy-coloured hair, a bright red saddle and a leather rein around its neck and a box. This box was made of pale thin wood and had a picture of a man in a long dishdasha holding onto a rein which was around the neck of a camel which in turn was linked by a rein to another camel. The sky was turquoise blue and the sun a bright white orb shining down to the scene below with majestic palm trees standing tall and proud at the edge of the desert scene. I was impressed with the box and couldn’t wait to see what was inside, I tried forcing open the lid but it held on tightly to the base – I had to shake vigorously to get it to release its grip and finally after what seemed an age I managed to pull it off. What was revealed was a layer of dark, sticky dates.
I had never eaten a date. They looked good and smelled sweet so I bravely prized one from its cushioned position and popped it in my mouth. It was divine, sweet and fragrant. That was my first introduction to Kuwait. Now I find myself living here and lucky me – I have five majestic date palms in my garden. As a diplomatic spouse I have been lucky enough to live in many countries and I have always treasured the fruit trees in my gardens, yellow juicy mangoes in the Philippines, tangy Meyer Lemons in Australia to name a few and now my beloved dates.
I have been lucky enough to find other beloved gems in Kuwait, one of our family favourites are the blue and white candy-striped Water Towers; they stand like giant funnels three stretching up to the sky and their shadows cast much needed shade in the Summer months, not only providing water but a great opportunity to play hide and seek.
Souk Mubarakiya, is a firm favourite and I treasure my own time here wandering around the alleys picking up some olive soap, a colourful metal teapot, fresh vegetables – and friendly stall holders giving out free grapes with every purchase, a talkative fish market where the laughter and chatter rings out and you can hear it before you even reach inside. I love eating the fresh baked breads that come in giant soft doughy circles when you order the grilled meats or fish.
A trip to the Al Kout fish market is always special and as I cast my eyes over the catch of the day – I am advised what to buy, will it be the shining silver shoum fish or ayala fish, giant shrimp or the sea bass or if I am feeling flush the famous majestical white hammour.
I relish going to new areas and suburbs – on finding myself lost in Hawalli I stumbled across some of the best falafel shops in town, a framing shop, the gaming area, the light area, the gold area, whatever you want Hawalli has it!
A visit to a friend’s farm out near the Iraqi border showed me another side of Kuwait – the true desert where I could meet the Kuwaiti camel (friendly as it nuzzled my neck and tried to eat the apple I was munching on) and run through the sandy soil chasing the dog and end my day sitting under the night sky lit up by stars whilst eating traditional goat in a pot and warming myself by a fire … perfection.
The community-spirit here in Kuwait is second to none and I really think this is a place to make genuine friends for life. So lucky me, my 547 days here have been busy and fulfilling – of both community-spirit and of course the Kuwaiti hospitality. I am looking forward to Ramadan as a time to reflect and share meals with our new Kuwaiti family and friends and have a chance to share some of the dates from my garden date palm trees and welcome in day 548.
By Krysia Derecki,
Creative Producer, Media Consultant & Producer of At My Kuwaiti Table podcast