The last time Kuwait registered on my radar screen was in 1990 when I stood on the I-75 overpass in Kennesaw and watched a U.S. military caravan of soldiers and equipment head off to the Gulf War.
Standing on that overpass, my 30-year-old self couldn’t have imagined in a gazillion years that 26 years later, I would be in Kuwait City on a long, 12-hour layover on the way to Sri Lanka. Life is definitely surreal at times.
Kuwait City is the capital and largest city in Kuwait. It’s nestled right on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor. Ninety percent of Kuwaitis live along the coast. No surprise since most of this country is barren desert. Here by the water, temperatures reached 107 today.
Even the best laid travel plans often go awry and our stop here in Kuwait falls into that category.
The official Kuwait web site says you can easily obtain a visa at the airport to enter the country briefly — to sightsee for a few hours, for example — then return to the airport. Well, the bureaucratic Kuwait Visa Gods at said airport will only give you a visa if you have reservations at a hotel. So, we booked a cheap hotel online and secured the visas after an hour of trying to navigate the process.
John had pre-booked a car and driver. Armed with visas, we exited the terminal looking for an English-speaking Kuwaiti holding up a “Longino” placard only to see our hopes burned to ashes in the desert sun.
No driver showed up — even after a very nice Kuwaiti gentleman called the company for us and was assured a car/driver was on the way. We waited for a while…and I admired the different headgear worn by many (not all) men here. I decided I liked the red-and-white-checkered scarves the best.
A man’s head scarf is called a ghutra. The traditional ghutras are white. I saw plenty of those, but my fav was introduced about 50 years ago, according to The Arab News.
Seeing the men walking around in all white, with a checkered splat of red every now and then, got me wondering why the burkas worn by women are black. Reddit had the best explanations to my mind. In short, it’s all about sweating to stay cool in this dry, oven-hot climate.
With our driver a no-show, we contemplated our options. We could take a taxi to The Grand Mosque, but by the time we got there, the visiting hours for non-Muslims would be over. We could rent a car, but probably not the best course of action in a foriegn country when you haven’t slept. We could hop cabs from one tourist spot to another, but frankly, hauling our backpacks through tourist sites and hailing cabs in 107 temperatures was too daunting even for the intrepid Longinos.
So, we opted to pay a few dinars (1 dinar is about $3.31) and hangout in a nice, air-conditioned lounge where we could nap, enjoy good WiFi, drink plenty of water and look at the only green thing in Kuwait — wall growth.
Kuwait, I hardly knew you, but I’m thinking I didn’t miss much.
Now on to Sri Lanka.