Monday, March 12, 2012

My Kuwait - Part Two

I have always wanted to go to Failaika Island. Ever since we got marriage, my husband went there twice with his friends. "Promise me that the next time you go there, you will take me with you!" I told him. And that is exactly what happened on Monday, February 27. After preparing our sandwiches, lathering our faces with sunscreen and gathering anything we might need on the island (I suggest wet wipes and water), we put our bicycles in my 4x4 and headed to Marina Crescent to board Bent Al-Khair, one of the catamarans that takes people to Failaka Island. If you want more information regarding this convenient service, click here. The passengers with us were families from all backgrounds i.e. Kuwaiti, Asian, Arab and European.


This is how the island looked like as we approached it. As soon as we were on land, my husband and I hopped on our bicycles and starting our adventure. We first passed by this structure below. I do not know what it is or what it functioned as but it is the first of the many lifeless buildings we saw.


One of the main things that I was eager to see were the Greek ruins. There was a rickety old fence that surrounded the area where the ruins were. A large section of it was knocked down. We literally carried our bicycles over the barbed wire and continued our way to see the ruins which were beautiful but, ironically, were in ruins. Two archeologists were there. One was an American woman while the other was a Kuwaiti man who told us we can take photographs but asked us not to walk inside or along the upper walls of the ruins. Although I was happy for being able to see the ruins I thought, "If these archeologists were not here and if I was a hoodlum with spray paint, I could have easily sprayed the walls and took off." It made me sad to think that the ruins are not being preserved very well and secondly, are not famous nor highly appreciated by locals and residents in Kuwait, generally speaking.


After spending time observing the ruins, we bicycled through the abandoned neighborhoods. I was curious to see the insides of the houses. We stopped at the house below and walked inside.


Since we could not stop every time and take pictures, I basically held my camera with one hand and snapped away while riding on my bicycle. The previous and below photographs are examples of the abandoned houses we saw there. Surprisingly, we noticed that a few houses were occupied. To read about Failaka, click here. One thing that is not mentioned in the article is that after the Iraqi invasion, Failaka's inhabitants were forcibly moved to central Kuwait. I do not know what the main reason was but I think it has something to do with the health risks involved to live there, mostly due to the depleted uranium. I also heard that the government concluded that it was very costly to repair the damage that was done during the Gulf War. To replace their homes in Failaka, the island's inhabitants were given land in Kuwait to build their new homes. It was and still is illegal for people to live in Failaka, but for some reason, quite a few have returned to their homes in the island.


Our next stop was a long ways away. It was quite a ride, mostly because we rode across the desert and since it had rained recently, the sand was muddy and very difficult to bike through. Then again, it was an invigorating workout. We went to see the American tanks and other military vehicles and weapons that were used during the Iraqi invasion. We did not want to spend a lot of time there due to the depleted uranium.


I do not know what this is but from how its built with all the pipes connected to the stalls, it seems like a mobile poison gas...thingi.


Although our ticket included lunch at the Failaka Restaurant, we played it safe by having our homemade sandwiches for lunch. I saw this black duck/bird during our meal. It kept going underwater. I think it was searching for its lunch!



This is the Failaka Hotel. The restaurant area is right beside it on the left. We walked in the hotel and asked to see a room. Unfortunately, all were unavailable. However, the entrance was surprisingly pleasant looking.


The two pictures below is of the restaurant area. There are about four of those small houses. The first one on the far right is Baskin-Robbins. The second one is a cafeteria where we grabbed two cups of tea before we continued our journey. The Failaka Restaurant is rather below average. The food served there was a buffet of various, greasy meals such as Chinese noodles, pasta and an assortment of rice plates. If you plan on heading to Failaka, I suggest you bring your food with you. Otherwise, you will probably set your stomach on an adventure as well.


After we left the restaurant area, we passed by this place. Although we did not go inside and explore it, one of the guards told us it is basically a place that has a few stalls where you can pick up souvenir gifts. I think there are other things there, possibly a museum of some sort and a playground for kids.


I loved how the gas station there has old gas pumps!


We passed by a human-made lake that had ducks and geese. It was quite nice.


The next place we went to was a neighborhood that had chalet-type, bullet-ridden houses. All the houses looked alike from the outside and inside. If you want to feel like you are in a ghost town, I would come here. Although it is not conventionally beautiful, there is a sense of sad beauty all around. I told my husband that it would be a great place for a photo shoot; the sky was clear, the sun was shining and the place was deserted.


Naturally, I was curious to see the inside of the houses. We carefully entered one and took in our surroundings. The two-story house was small but the sunlight lit it up from every direction. Although the rooms were filled with broken furniture and all sorts of trash (nothing smelly), the house had a strange, homey coziness to it, something that gave us a sense of how it felt like living there.

The following pictures and locations are ones I photographed during our ride back to the dock.


The below is Failaka's former the power plant.



I think this is a school.


The below is a mini-market.


The beach and water that day looked amazing. The next time I go to Failaka, I would love to go on an all-day fishing trip.

We finally reached Bent El-Khair, our ride back home.

My husband and I were wondering why there were so many cars waiting to board the ferry. We discovered later that it was due to this.

We boarded the catamaran. I stood on the deck and took this picture. I think we lucked out because the weather that day was perfection.


MP3's (zShare)
Daryl Hall & John Oates - Kiss On My List
INXS - Need You Tonight
Laura Branigan - Self Control
Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy funny how it sounds so amazingly contemporary...
Genesis - Misunderstanding

at 8:30 AM

10 Comments

  1. Anonymous Danderma posted at 2:48 PM  
    I've always wanted to go to Failaka ever since I was a child. However with the recent ferry incident thing and a haunting story told to me by one of my friends who stayed at the hotel keeps me off it!

    But the island is beautiful! The water, the sun! No wonder its residents miss it terribly! But then again how could they have moved back? What about supplies? and schools? and their jobs? Maybe they have boats and commute on their own on daily basis? I bet it takes them less time to reach their jobs if they did with all the traffic we've been facing recently...

    The empty houses scream of the lives once lived there. Dinners and laughters and gatherings. Too bad it cannot be nursed back to health! The buildings themselves are beautiful! What a waste :(
  2. Blogger jambino posted at 10:53 PM  
    The last time I was there was in 2007. A bunch of us stayed overnight at a hotel with old Kuwaiti houses as rooms (old as in Jibla). I believe it's the only hotel there. We rented a 4X4 and drove all over the place. I had a great time.
  3. Blogger Erzulie posted at 1:35 PM  
    Danderma: I think those people were just unlucky. I think it had to do with the ferry's expired license, which is rather stupid. I don't think you'd have any problems if you go on Bent/Om El Khair or the ferry boat (just check in advance that all's well). Your best bet is getting a private boat and heading then on your own terms. And yes, it is beautiful! Honestly, I don't know how they are living there. I think they might use it as a chalet destination. Maybe some are retired? I really don't know. I would assume that they have boats OR that they use the ferry, but it seems like a holiday destination for them although some houses look very lived in. And yes, it is a waste indeed :(

    jambino: Is it the same hotel as the one in the picture? I never heard of any other hotel...
  4. Anonymous Hurry bury and Curry posted at 9:07 AM  
    Relieved and pleasantly surprised to find someone that lives in Kuwait and is not yet a burger convert. Yeh! glad to note you are a sandwich person.

    On Failaka,your pictures move me to the point of despair and hopelessness. Nearly quarter of a century post the invasion and it still appears very much the ghost town in ruin
    which it was on the eve of the liberation. Very sad!

    I have only been there just the once in 1988 during the Palestinian era, and the place back then was rocking!
  5. Blogger jambino posted at 8:35 PM  
    Erzulie,

    This is the place.

    http://www.failakaheritagevillage.com/
  6. Blogger jambino posted at 8:37 PM  
    Erzulie,

    This is the place.

    http://www.failakaheritagevillage.com/
  7. Blogger Erzulie posted at 12:52 PM  
    hurry bury & curry: I don't think I'm a burger person, just a good food person. A good, hearty and healthy meal is extremely important to me. And I wish I had seen Failaka before the invasion. I've heard many great stories about how it was back then :)

    jambino: Aha! I think that's the bit we didn't see
  8. Blogger Islander GM posted at 7:58 PM  
    I was the General Manager of Failaka Heritage Village and my wife Executive Housekeeper and Stables Manager from May 2004 until my retirement on 31st December 2012.
    I can tell you that throughout my eight year on Failaka Island that the KPTC ferries have NEVER operated correctly.
    I have photographs of both ferries carrying over 300 passengers when the license was for around 40 on one ferry and 80 on the other.
    I can also confirm that the KPTC ferries never adhered to a license, as they did not have one. The life rafts went for many years without certification. The navigation systems on both ferries was also suspect. You may remember that during the massive sandstorm that the large ferry got lost and had to be rescued by the coast guard.
    This had happened previously and although nothing to do with Failaka Heritage Village I arranged for the passengers to have a complimentary meal and to stay in our large banquet hall. We would also whenever and wherever possible (tides permitting) bring one of our catamarans back to Kuwait to assist.
    We have to remember that prior to 1990 Failaka Harbour was accessible 24 hours per day. No dredging has happened for some 22 years which means that all boat are subject to problems when entering outside high tide and around 2 to 3 hours either side.
    For my eight years as General Manager we heard that the re-building would start every year...it never happened, and the most beautiful of Kuwait offshore islands is just left to deteriorate.
  9. Blogger Erzulie posted at 11:58 AM  
    Thank you for your honest comment. I have a few questions:
    1- Aren't the ferries operated by the owner of Marina Mall? Regardless of the answer, I would believe that the ferries should adhere to Kuwait law (theoretically speaking although I know that Marina Mall's bridge over Gulf Road caused a literal change in Kuwait's architecture/building law)
    2- Did you yourself live there? I mentioned that I saw a few houses that are being lived in. Do you know anything about that?

    I am very curious about Failaka Island's goings on. I heard that it was going to be split into canals of some sort and turned into an entertainment island. I know that that project did not fall through and because of the religious tide that is sweeping over the country, I do not think that this decision would be permitted as it would be viewed as a bit sketchy and promoting an "immoral" lifestyle.
  10. Blogger Islander GM posted at 5:50 PM  
    Dear Erzule,

    The catamarans (Bint Al Khair, Umm Al Khair aand Walad Al Khair) operate from Marina Mall and are owned by Masharee Al Khair who are also the owners of Failaka Hertitage Village.
    I was General Manager of Failaka Heritage Village with my wife from its conception on 1st May 2004 until I retired on 31st December 2011.
    People are moving back into houses on Failaka Island but it is illegal.
    In regard to Failaka Island for the eight years I lived on Failaka as GM. every year they are talking about new infrastructure, it has never happened, and in my opinion never will....the most you will ever get on Failaka is a nature reserve.
    Best regards

    Islander GM

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