Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Qatteri Cat Sinks in Sleep

The Qatteri Cat loves to find new places to slumber down. Today he is on the back of one of the loveseats, literally sinking as he sleeps. I am watching to see how far he will sink before he will rouse himself and get out of the crevice.

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Eventually, he will scramble out, and being a cat, he will be embarrassed, but he will pretend like it never happened.

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March 13, 2008 Posted by | Family Issues, Humor, Pets, Relationships | 11 Comments

Kuwait Plumbing/Bathrooms

This is one of those “sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know” kind of posts.

We were sitting around after book club, and the topic turned to oddities in our housing. I mentioned that sometimes, my bathrooms just STINK and I don’t know why. People were quick to explain that when they put plumbing in, they don’t exhaust the sewer gases the same way as in Europe and America, and sometimes the gases back up and make a bad smell.

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I know that my bathroom sometimes smells like someone has just dumped a diaper pail, sometimes I can smell hair dye, and sometimes I can smell men’s perfume! Sometimes it smells like the sea at low tide – none of these smells has anything to do with me, and I have wondered why my bathroom smells that way. We keep candles and perfumes in our bathrooms, so that when the stench is overwhelming, we can burn or spray it away.

The management’s suggestion, when we complained, was to run a lot of water, that made the smell go away. Run a lot of water? In a country like Kuwait where there is no rain this year, and water is precious?

“If only they would air condition the bathrooms!” one friend added and suddenly the light went on in my head! I had always thought it was me! I do my hair and make up in the bathroom, and often I end up sweating and wondering what I did to make me so HOT (not as the like “she’s so HOT!” sense, in the sweat-rolling-down-my-forehead sense.)

When I got home, I checked out all my bathrooms. My friend was absolutely right, there is no air conditioning in the bathrooms. We love our bathrooms, they are about the size of a small bedroom in the US, or a spacious walk-in closet, they have windows, they have beautiful tiling, they are nice!

And no, there is no air conditioning in the bathrooms. I have lived here for two years and never figured that out.

(No, that is not my bathroom in the photo. I love bathrooms, and found that photo HERE at Tessera Tile where they have glass tiles and I am dreaming of doing a bathroom with glass tiles and glass brick.)

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Technical Issue | 12 Comments

Al Mohaleb Restaurant

My friend called me, all excited.

“Kareem took me to the most wonderful restaurant for my birthday last night!” she exclaimed, and I could just hear the delight in her voice. “We just know you and AdventureMan will just love it! It’s Kuwaiti! They only serve fish and related things like appetizers and rice, but the fish is out of this world, and the atmosphere is lovely; gracious and refined. When can the four of us go together?”

We quickly compared calendars and came up with the soonest compatible date. I rarely hear my friend wax enthusiastic about a Kuwaiti restaurant.

The night arrived, and as we picked up our friends, we sat in the garden, which for some unknown reason is flourishing this year in spite of the drought. At her house, you can see stars in the sky, the air is perfumed with growing things, and the night is so sweet, with just a light breeze, that we are almost reluctant to go.

Who would know where this restaurant is? There is no sign at The Palms Hotel, next door to the SAS Radisson, that this restaurant exists. I remember when they had a “Wasabi” sign up for nearly a year, and no Wasabi ever showed up there – but this restaurant exists, and there is no signage. I am a little concerned because the front parking lot is packed, with people waiting to find a spot, but Kareem tells us to drive to the end of the dirt parking lot. There, at the very end of the Palms hotel, next to their highly publicized new Tajine restaurant, is Al Mohaleb, overlooking the sand and sea.

This is what you see at the entrance, the huge Dallah (coffee pot) and in the background, the sign for Al Muhaleb, which, AdventureMan tells me, is the biggest dhow, the one used for trading in days of old, across the seas. Suddenly the light goes on, and I remember my friend taking me to a mall of the same name, and . . . the Mall is shaped like a great, huge ship!

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As you enter, there is a diwaniyya-like area for meeting up or waiting for a table, and then you go up three steps to the restaurant:

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It’s already a little magical. The restaurant is decorated with old fishing equipment, nicely displayed, nicely framed old photos and memorabilia. It has a beam and woven palm leaf ceiling (I am a sucker for those) and a spacious dining room, with an outer area for smokers and shisha. The waiter brings tiny cups, and pours the coffee with cardomon for us, and welcomes us. Another waiter brings Kuwaiti nibbles, simply cut lettuce and vegetables, Kuwaiti pickles and a green mabooch, which I happily recognize because you, my readers, have told me.

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This is not fast food, and it is a good thing, because when you are with good friends, there is always so much to talk about. We don’t just catch up, we have to discuss all the politics, the US election, the Kuwait demonstrations, recent editorials, my friend’s garden, my current projects, our children . . . the evenings are always too short. No matter how much we chat, there is always so much more to discuss.

The kitchen at Al Muhaleb is glassed in. We spot our fish coming out of the oven, and oh, it looks magnificent. As good as it looks, it tastes even better:

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I didn’t even look at the menu, I just ordered what my friends recommended, but they also said you can’t order anything wrong there, it is all good. I had the zubaidi cooked flat; it is served with rice and a green marag (sauce) that was delicious. Because it was so delicious, we all ate too much, and sat looking at all the food we couldn’t finish in dismay. Next time we go, I think we will share one fish to every two people – I hate wasting such exquisitely prepared food.

Kareem has told us many times about the words of Mohammed that a good Moslem should only eat to the point of “enough,” not to the point of “full” but I think we all violated it that evening. We meant to stop, we really did, but it was so delicious we kept nibbling.

Thank God, this is not a fast food restaurant. There is a man playing Al oud live in the background, as we continue to chat, but with less animation as our bellies groan . . .

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We are finished eating, truly finished, but then they bring a plate of beautiful fresh fruit, every piece perfect, and we continue our evening together, refreshed by the fruit, drinking hot tea, relaxing – there is no pressure to leave, they are not hurrying us out of the restaurant.

I’ve been looking for a Kuwaiti restaurant, and I just love it that when they found it, our friends shared their find with me. It’s a great place to take visitors who come to Kuwait. It is expensive – so AdventureMan tells me (I didn’t look at the menu, remember?) and so worth it. The menu is mostly limited to fresh fish and fresh salad/appetizers – hummous, mutable, etc. and everything is prepared with thoughtful care.

If there are any drawbacks, it is that with all the hard surfaces, once the restaurant fills up and the music starts, it is harder to make conversation. Also, the smokers get the best part of the restaurant, out near the beach. Having said that, when it is dark, it hardly matters and you can see the city lights of Kuwait from any part of the restaurant. Service is excellent and the food is memorable for its excellence.

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore | 13 Comments