A warm breeze, a golden sunset, shiny buildings and clean roads. And lots of money. This was Kuwait.
Extreme Layover: Kuwait City
It was one of the best routed trips I’d ever managed to piece together. I used a credit card sign up bonus to fly business class from San Francisco to the Maldives, before heading north to experience Sri Lanka, then a wild and insane stop into Bangladesh. The last leg of my trip before heading home was a Kuwait Airways Dhaka to Bahrain flight, with an overnight layover in Kuwait City. These are some of my favorite flights: the ones with long (especially overnight) layovers; giving me enough time to get out and romp around the capital, basically for free, since it’s just a connection. It’s how I’ve been able to see a handful of new countries, quickly and economically. And sure, I know what you’re thinking: a short layover in a country isn’t enough time to really experience it, but I’d fight you on that. I judge my stops on quality, not quantity. So even on the short drop-ins, I make the most of my time, diving right into the local scene; I hit the streets, no pool time or naps. Plus, I’ll head back to the places I loved later, like Morocco, which was just an 11-hour layover on my first visit. I’ve since been back twice.
So yeah, what a great flight plan this was. I’d arrive in Kuwait City at 3:30PM and be out the next day on my way to Bahrain at 8AM, all on the same Dhaka to Bahrain ticket. This fit nicely into my short international escape: a quick 11-day jaunt; much shorter than my usual two to three-week journeys. I needed to make sure my flight routes were efficient and I had succeeded on this trip.
The plane ride to Kuwait was one of the best in-flight experiences I’ve ever had. It was my first time flying Kuwait Airways, and I’d chalk them up as one of the best and definitely one of the most memorable plane rides.
The business class cabin was nearly empty. I enjoyed all the personal space of having the cabin almost all to myself, in addition to having my own little cocoon. The solace in the sky couldn’t have come at a better time: this was near the end of my trip and I was already feeling a little exhausted. Plus, I’d woke at 4:30AM to catch this flight, so I was extra spent. The added comfort in business class went a long way. The true first class cabin–which was totally empty–looked even more spacious and luxurious, with those little “mini suite” cubicles. Note to self: Kuwait Airways doesn’t mess around. This is a great carrier to book business and first seats!
I enjoyed a bit of comedy before takeoff. It looked like something right out of an episode of Impractical Jokers: when I saw the flight attendant march over to the gentleman sitting behind me and order him back to the lavatory to flush the toilet. “Push the button,” she scolded him. “I showed you how to use the toilet, now push the button! Right now!” It was obvious that the man had left us all a treat in the commode and she was not having it. It reminded me exactly of how a mother would berate her five year old for pooping on the kitchen floor. I did my best not to giggle as she stood there making sure this guy flushed the toilet. Later, right before takeoff, the same flight attendant was once again yelling at the man when he refused to end his cell phone call. “Sir, I’ve told you three times already!” Who was this guy, and had he never flown before? And how did he even get in business class? I thought the whole thing was pretty comical. You have to laugh at these things!
I absolutely loved that this plane had front and bottom facing cameras; meaning, through your seat-back screen you were able to view what the pilot was seeing ahead and also the ground below. Add to the fact that I didn’t have a neighbor, I was able to use the two giant screens in front of me to look forward and down. Now that was cool!
The flight attendants were beauties and the food was fantastic. It was a smooth ride and I even managed to catch a few Zs. It’s rare, but sometimes everything just comes together–every aspect and element–to give you the perfect flying experience. This flight was one of those: luxurious seating and amenities, lots of space, great food, smokin’ flight attendants, those cool cameras, smooth air and even a little comedy…altogether made my first flight with Kuwait Airways a perfect 10.
It was a smooth landing and entrance into Kuwait with my eVisa. My cab driver who took me into the city was a fun guy who kept repeating, “8 KD, 8 KD” numerous times during the trip. I think he might have been overcharging me (8 KD was USD $26) and wanted to make sure that I was in agreement with his price. Whatever! I enjoyed the ride in and also my cabbie’s personality, so it was worth the extra price gouge. After all, I probably captured my favorite video of my entire 11-day trip inside this taxi…I’m making this a ring-tone:
Me: Where are we?
Cab driver: How are yooouuuuu???!!!
So Fresh and so Clean
The roads and infrastructure of Kuwait City were clean, neat, and organized. The quiet and the calm of Kuwait even seemed a little eerie. After all, just hours earlier I was in the world’s most insane city: Dhaka, Bangladesh: a metropolis of ten million people and zero working stoplights. Unbridled chaos does not even begin to describe it, so going from Dhaka to a place like Kuwait City, is akin to going directly from Mardi Gras to your local library; a complete black and white contrast; how could it not confuse my senses?
It was a quick (and quiet) check-in at the Residence Inn, just in time for a short a dust-, then rainstorm. It passed in a matter of minutes and soon I was out the door, with a golden afternoon sun shimmering off the tall glass buildings of the city and drying the streets below. This would be a quick stop…just the afternoon and evening.
In Them Streets
First stop: Souk Al-Mubarakiya. This “souk” (market) was a lot more modern and organized than the old and dirty bazaars I’m using to seeing in places like Morocco and other Middle Eastern countries (For the record, I prefer old and dirty souks!) Clean, orderly and of this century–this was more like an outdoor mall than an old market. I enjoyed poking around Al-Mubarakiya, stopping for coffee to try and blend in with the locals. But I did kind of miss the excitement I’m used to at most of the overseas markets. This place was chill. Where was the music, the yelling, the vendors on microphones and wild animals?!
I headed over to Liberation Tower before sunset; I wanted to see it, and hopefully ascend it, for a sunset view of the city and sea.
Originally intended to be named The Kuwait Telecommunications Tower, construction began before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. When the invasion took place, the work, which was almost half-way complete, was put on hold. However, the structure received no damage, and construction resumed after Iraqi forces were expelled on February 27, 1991. Upon completion in 1993, the tower was renamed the Liberation Tower, symbolizing Kuwait’s liberation from Iraq. (source: Wikipedia)
I walked all around this place and it appeared to be closed up tight. Maybe I did it wrong, but I couldn’t find a way in. The gates surrounding it were all closed.
The Pomegranate Juice Machine
You know this was a laid back stop when one of my highlights here was the pomegranate juice machine. I love pomegranates, pomegranate juice, and simply received a lot of pleasure out of this juicer/vending machine/robot thingie. People probably thought I was weird, but I really enjoyed putting my money in thing, watching it make the juice, then drinking the juice. I need to get out more.
I headed back to the souk after visiting the closed tower to see what else I could find. There was indeed more to the Souk Al-Mubarakiya than I saw during my first walk-through, and I soon discovered the kind of scene I love: the fish market. I actually smelled it before I saw it, walking through a doorway into a giant room with white tile and dozens of stands…with thousands of fish! All kinds: big, small and medium…and eels! I enjoyed walking the aisles of the fish market and snapping away as I passed the vendors and their customers making their fishy transactions. This was simple, everyday stuff, but the kind of thing I really enjoy checking out.
It’s What’s For Dinner
I wish I had a more entertaining and eventful story for my stop in Kuwait, but this had to be one of my most mellow country visits in my entire travel history. Of course I wasn’t their long, so I can’t blame Kuwait; but my peers had all warned me beforehand just how chill this place was. And that was perfectly fine with me. It was a great end to a busy week, as I enjoyed a hearty dinner, sitting outside among the locals, savoring my beef and lavash bread. I watched the people come and go, as the call to prayer echoed throughout the city. This is country #124, if you’re following along.
And Now…the REST of the InstaStory!This entry was posted in Extreme Layovers, Middle East