The anticipation was palpable as I received my next office assignment – a month-long stay in Kuwait. Finally, the opportunity to explore the Middle East had come knocking on my door. With my office handling all the arrangements, from visas to tickets, my journey to Kuwait was set in motion. A 13-hour flight with Qatar Airways took me to this intriguing destination, and little did I know that my adventure had only just begun.
A Chilly Surprise in the Desert
As I stepped out of the airport, the first thing that struck me was the weather. Contrary to my expectations of scorching desert heat, Kuwait greeted me with a surprising chill in the air. I had packed for a warmer climate and had to make do with the limited suitable clothing I had brought along. It was clear from the puzzled looks I received that wearing a jacket in Kuwait was somewhat unusual.
Discovering a Diverse Community
My reluctance to talk about work aside, I quickly made friends with colleagues from India and Dubai who shared the same assignment. Their assistance proved invaluable during my stay. What surprised me most about Kuwait was its diverse expatriate population. Indians made up a significant portion, and it was explained that many expatriates from South Asian countries, Africa, and the Philippines also called Kuwait home. Curiously, I encountered few fellow Indonesians during my stay.
Culinary Adventures in Kuwait
One of my initial challenges in Kuwait was adjusting to the local cuisine. Most restaurants offered Indian dishes, which, with the guidance of my new friends, I decided to embrace. However, I did discover a Filipino restaurant that matched my taste preferences, reminding me of the flavors of home. My other dining option was a quick trip to the supermarket for a delicious whole roasted chicken for dinner and the next day’s lunch. I must say, I developed a fondness for the tasty and affordable bread and satisfied my vegetable cravings with salads.
Due to the cold weather and work commitments, my opportunities for travel were limited. Nonetheless, I managed to explore Kuwait City occasionally using the regular and affordable bus services. On one of my outings, I visited a cathedral for Mass, where an English service was offered. Interestingly, I learned that weekends in Kuwait fell on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday being a regular working day.
Meeting the Locals by the Beach
During the afternoons, despite the chill in the air, I frequented the beach. It was a unique experience to interact with other people, and on some occasions, I even had the opportunity to meet Kuwaiti locals. The beach also served as a showcase for luxury cars that I had only ever seen in magazines. It turned out that Kuwait’s tax laws made owning such vehicles more accessible, leading to an abundance of expensive automobiles on the streets.
In retrospect, my time in Kuwait was an unexpected adventure. The cold weather, diverse expatriate community, and unique culinary experiences made it a memorable month. Though my work kept me busy and the weather restricted my exploration, I found joy in the simple pleasures Kuwait offered. I left with a desire to return, next time with a plan to venture into the mysterious desert that had eluded me during this journey. Kuwait had revealed itself as a hidden gem in the Middle East, waiting to be explored further.