Monday, July 28, 2008

A Day in the Big City

Weekends are usually fun for me here in Kuwait. On Friday (remember, my weekend here in this part of the Middle East is Friday & Saturday) I had lunch at the Blue Elephant at the Hilton Hotel in Mangaf (about 40 minutes north of my company's camp in Al-Zour). Excellent food - although a bit pricey with the Friday Buffet costing 17 KD (about 65 USD or 41 Euros).

On Saturday, I managed to get a driver (provided by my company) and we drove to Avenues - the newest and largest mall in Kuwait .... and perhaps soon to become the largest mall in this part of the Middle East! I previously stopped in at the Avenues mall in February but over the past five (5) months, a lot of new stores have opened for business and a lot more shops remain to be opened as the mall is still under construction. There is also a Carrefour supermarket which allows me another opportunity to shop for my weekly food/grocery needs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Long Road to Work

Commuting to work in Wafra Field (PNZ, KUWAIT) involves a rather pleasant (but boring) drive thru the desert. No traffic at all. Just a nice, straight, flat road (no potholes). About 57 kilometers EACH way taking about 40 minutes of drive time. Not much scenery along the way - except for a few camels, sheep or goats. Lately I've been playing an audio book which helps to pass the time (radio offers few enjoyable stations; most play Arabic music - no interest to me!) I leave home at 6:15 am and arrive at work at 7 am. I leave work usualy after 3:30 pm and get home sometime after 4 pm. I find this driving to be much less stressful than my daily commute in Houston which affords much more traffic and road hazards (and offensive drivers).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mark of the "Third World"??

Just a quick aside: a colleague of mine once remarked many years ago that one of the markers of a third-world country can be found along roadsides. It is claimed that so-called "third world" countries cannot reliably construct road curbsides poured as a single strip of concrete. Instead - mainly because of a lack of reliable workers or construction techniques/supervision, etc. - such countries must resort to using individual concrete blocks fitted together. I've seen these block type roadside curbs throughout Indonesia and the Middle East. Although Kuwait is far from being a "third world" country, I suspect the use of this form of curbside construction is caused primarily by the lack of skilled labor in the Arabian Gulf region. Or so I presume. Can anyone comment?

Weekend in Kuwait (July 19 & 20)

Entrance to the City Center Mall in Salmiya, Kuwait; my first stop on Friday morning.

A rather large (Wal*Mart sized) grocery store; this one located in the Salmiya district of Kuwait and part of the City Center mall. This store freatures a very large selection of goods but does NOT sell many of the USA-based products which we American expats have come to expect at the Sultan Center chain of stores. This was my first stop on Friday morning. I prefer to go out on Friday as the traffic is light and the "Kamikazies" (careless drivers, overspeeders, etc.) are off the roadways.

Al-Manshar Mall in Fahaheel, Kuwait - about 40 minutes north of Al-Zour where I am housed. This mall opened about two years ago. Still nice and clean. I briefly shopped here on Saturday.

A shrine of photos at the Radisson SAS Hotel showing evidence of the damage suffered by the hotel following the Iraqi invasion in 1991. The Sheraton Hotel in downtown Kuwait City also has a similar display in their lobby.

The Peacock - an excellent Chinese restaurant. Located in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel, this is where I ate on Friday afternoon following my weekly grocery shopping at the City Center Mall (pictured above).

My next stop (after grocery shopping) on Friday morning was at the Marina Mall (opened in 2002) where I visited my favorite coffee shop - Starbucks. Starbucks has the only really nice decaffeinated coffee.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You Know You're in the Middle East When ....

Just a typical view from my car this morning as I was stopped by a herd of camels crossing the road I was using on my way to work in Wafra Field (PNZ Kuwait).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Here Comes the Sun!!

One problem with summer here in the Middle East (besides the unrelenting heat): the sun rises too darn early in the morning!! In Eastern Kuwait, the sun rises shortly after 4 am at this point in the summer season!! To avoid being awakened by the sunlight streaming into my bedroom, I've had to resort to taping aluminum foil on both my bedroom windows (see picture above). This measure works reasonably well and blocks out about 70 - 80% of the sunlight.

Another problem - safety related - is the effect of the extreme summertime heat on automotive tires. Many many cars & trucks (see picture above) can lose their tires as a result of the heat built up by: (a) the usual friction between the tire and asphalt road surface and (b) the asphalt surface itself is way too hot as it bakes in the midday sun. The result is often: (a) the tires blows out or (b) the tires unravles and completely peels off its metal rim. Either way, the driver may lose control of the vehicle. Every driver needs to check his/her tires regularly for cracks and replace the tires often. The cost of replacing all four tires is well worth the benefits of avoiding accidents!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hello Kuwait

Well, time flies when one is having fun. It seems like almost yesterady that I was here in Kuwait and after four months of being away, I'm here again for more 'fun in the sun'!! It's the peak of the summer season and the daytime temperatures are in the range of 100 - 120 deg F (40 - 50 deg C).

Bye, bye Dubai

Well, after only three short days, I must leave Dubai. On the way to the airport, I marveled at all the construction cranes there are in Dubai. It's as if the crane is the national bird! Another item to note is the amazing diversity of arcitectural designs. Many of the buildings are quite unique in style. And of course there is the world's tallest building (pictured above) that is soon to be completed. Perched way at the TOP of this building is yet another crane! Wouldn't you like to be the crane operator sitting atop the world's tallest building!!!

>>> Dubai's national bird: the construction crane!!

Two unique designs amongst the many newly constructed buildings in Dubai.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Shop 'Till You Drop - A Pleasant Interlude in Dubai

The View from the central garden in "The Residence" section of the Royal Mirage Hotel in Jumeirah Beach section of Dubai.

> Central Garden area at the Royal Mirage Hotel.

Afternoon tea at the Royal Mirage Hotel - Dubai. (Free with my room in "The Residence" section of the hotel.)

What everyone does at least once when he/she is in Dubai .... SHOP!! Dubai is a great shopping town, in much the same fashion as in Singapore.

Have Ticket Will Travel

Well, it's finally here - another overseas trip!! The only drawback is that I lost my Fourth of July Holiday as I spent most of the day Thursday and all day Friday traveling from Houston to Dubai. My Emirates flight (EK212) departed Houston about 40 mins. late and it was 'wheels up' at 7:50 pm local Houston time. We landed in Dubai at precisely 7:15 pm Dubai time (10:15 am Houston time) on Friday, July 4. Since I've never perfected the fine art of sleeping on a plane, I arrived very, very tired after 14 hours and 25 minutes of flying non-stop. I checked in at the wonderful Royal Mirage Hotel here in the Jumeira Beach section of Dubai. So far I can honestly say this is a wonderful property. I will post some pictures later after I've recuperated from my jet lag and have had a chance to walk around the place. As anticipated, it is HOT!! About 35 - 40 deg C! Sadly, this is not my final destination but merely intended to be a short pleasurable and restful respite prior to traveling to my final work location.