Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Souq in the City

I fell in love Saturday. Now don't jump to conclusions! I fell in love with the old Souq in Kuwait City. The Souq was not exactly what I had imagined it to be, but it still was quite the adventure! There were no wooden carts or stalls with hot food, spices or raw materials, you know like the kind of market in Disney's 'Aladdin' movie. However, I knew it wouldn't be exactly like that. It was more like small shops in a few clustered buildings that were all somehow connected. While I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, I did find other treasures and will DEFINITELY be going back. Early in the morning, the Polish lady, the Irish chef and I departed for the Souq with great anticipation! Our taxi let us out on the main street of the city centre. We kept asking the taxi cab driver if we were at the Souq and he kept saying 'yes,' but we were all baffled as to WHERE exactly it was. We were told to go down a tiny side street which would lead to the entrance to the Souq. It was easy enough to find and it was all outdoors! YES!!! I loathe the intensity of the air conditioning used in malls/the university/restaurants here. In fact, I have rarely used air conditioning since moving here (yes, you read that correctly). I know it's hot, but if you're drinking cool water and keeping yourself out of direct sunlight, you'll be fine. People here think I'm nuts because I sit in the sun during my breaks at work to thaw out, but it's waaaay tooooo cold inside the university! When I go outside, I make sure I'm covered or in the shade, but I love sun! My students are always surprised because they think that being from Canada means that I can't handle the heat and that instead I embrace the freezing cold temperatures. No-no! I have my airplane blanket in my office and use it on a daily basis...Yes, that means I usually have blue fluff on me somewhere, but my nails have been turning black lately, so I'm willing to suffer some fluff-age.

Back to the Souq (I think today is a going-off-on-tangents day! Sorry!). We walked up to almost every store front out of sheer curiosity, but then people began yelling at us to eat the food they were selling (dates and nuts in bulk, loose spices and tea, as well as dried bread, fresh fruit and veggies), it was scary actually. One man kept feeding us in the hopes we would buy something and, of course, we did! Everything was sooo yummy!!! We ate fresh dates, ohhhhhh! Our first purchase was dates that were semi-dried and not overly sweet. Oh, they instantly melt in your mouth. Lord, help me! Let me tell you, I COULD stay here just because of those dates! I can't believe how soft and palatable they are! In Canada dates are sooo sweet, but these ones are heavenly, honestly! Once the store clerks saw us buy something they wouldn't stop calling us over to their stalls. The Irish chef got suckered into buying assorted nuts in bulk and I got a great deal on scarves (since I'm always freezing at work I thought they'd be worth it!). While I was finding ways to stay warm, the Polish lady bought olives...Ohhh, yes. They had those, too! All the sampling was killing me (I hadn't had breakfast), so I asked if we could stop for food.

After passing the fresh fruit and vegetable counters, we made it to the..."food court"?!? Sort of. We were ushered to a table while our waiter scoured the restaurant for a menu in English, hahahaha! No luck finding a menu in English. Really though, what did we expect? We only saw two expat couples at the Souq and we were clearly not a common site. Our waiter brought the Irish chef into the kitchen so that he could choose the fish we wanted for lunch. True story. We were being welcomed! We had Iranian style chewy bread and a salad consisting of sprockets (which I didn't know were spicy until I came here), with onions and lemon. Then our waiter brought out a huge plate of basmati rice with a red sauce that consisted of tomatoes, onions and okra (it was AMAZING!). Last to come out was our fish...Oh. My. Goodness. Come here fishy, fishy, fishy...And that was the end of that! We devoured it all and then sipped hot chai. As we were leaving, our waiter grabbed my hand and told me that the Polish lady looks like Cinderella (the only blonde he knows?), and that I was four times beautiful. Yep, that's exactly how to get us to come back :)  He was so sweet though; he was actually blushing when he was trying to communicate with us (no one at the Souq who we encountered really spoke any English). I wanted to take pictures, but after doing research I found out that it's a no-no to photograph places like the Souq and locals aren't usually too happy with foreigners taking pictures of them. Sorry, readers!

After lunch we were off to see if I could find gold or silver (jewellery). My search was in vain and all I ended up finding were gorgeous saris and beautiful rugs! Oh, well. We decided to call it quits after only two hours because the Polish lady and I need to hit a grocery store to buy some household items. The Irish chef, in no mood for shopping at the Avenues Mall with us, sent us on our way in the first taxi that would stop for us (not as easy as you'd think in the city centre). At the mall we picked up groceries (yes, I do that a lot, but I don't actually buy a lot of food), and I grabbed some very healthy food, so if I gorge myself, at least I'll be eating healthy food! I had a terrible headache, so the Polish lady suggested coffee. Yes, please! I hadn't had my coffee yet and I needed a break from shopping (it really is too much for me these days). After the coffee we shopped...A lot. Our taxi loaded with food and goodies, we headed home, exhausted.

After unloading the groceries, the Polish lady received a text reminding us that we had to be at the double birthday party for around 7-ish. So we decompressed, dressed and headed over to the bakery to get a cake (you're sooo Canadian/North American, Mik!). We settled on a chocolate "Snickers" cake (the one food I'm not a fan of), and hailed a taxi. We arrived in Fintas at the Irish chef and Serbian prof's apartment to pick them up on our way to the party. They have a gorgeous view of the water (the beach is literally right across the street from them). We all walked to the birthday girl's apartment and passed a beautiful Thai restaurant, Sabaidee: http://www.bazaar-magazine.com/baz/bazaar/index.php?show=eIndex&show_filter=view&action=article&art_id=ART00000001324.
Um, yeah, guess where I'm going on Thursday night for dinner? Yup! It's a beautiful restaurant and looked more like something I'd see on Avenue Road (in Toronto. Hello, Spuntini!) than hidden away in the suburbs of Kuwait. I'm very excited to try it out. I digress...Again. About eight of my colleagues and I gathered at the Serbian lady's flat for pizza, snacks, cake and...Non-alcoholic beverages. Yay. I passed, obviously. I mean, I barely drink alcohol in Canada, so not being able to drink isn't really a big deal to me (although I most definitely miss the occasional glass of red wine).

 Look at ALL that birthday cake! 

Eeeeewwww! Is that APPLE-flavoured, non-alcoholic beer?!?

We called it a night after lots of laughter and fun! After I got home I was thinking about what a great night I had, and about my colleagues who are from all over the world (Serbia, Poland, Ireland, Hungary, Lebanon, Georgia, Greece, Egypt, etc...), who somehow all managed to meet in Kuwait, and it made me stop for a second because it really is incredible. I get to have this once-in-a-lifetime work experience, and I'm sharing it with amazing people from all over the globe! Even though I come from Canada where people from all over the world encounter each other on a daily basis, I don't take for granted how blessed I am to interact with and know people from all different nationalities! I'm thankful that Kuwait has a lot of expats!!!

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