I must have jinxed myself in my New Years resolution post where I set a goal to be super healthy and reduce my medication. I have had a really tough 6 weeks with my health and it overflows into other areas of the life. I’m tired. So very tired.
As I find my way back to good health, I am so thankful for the encouragement of friends. Jillian suggested that we head out to Egaila beach, here in Kuwait, for an early morning photography exploration walkabout and it was just what the doctor ordered.
Here is a little video clip and a few photos of the morning out. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me, and I encourage you to get out and explore your surroundings too. Sometimes all we need to get us up and on our feet again is a little love and encouragement and I hope this post can be that for you.
House – ‘a building for human habitation, especially one that consists of a ground floor and one or more upper storeys.’
Home – ‘a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.’
I think as an expat this is something we need to process a little more deeply, especially an expat living in a country where you cannot legally own property. You need to be able to make a house a home yet mentally somehow stay detached as you know it will never be yours. And this adds to the confusion when house hunting in a foreign land.
But house hunting here has been an interesting experience. I have always been taken back by the variety of architectural influences one finds in this travellers region. This makes sense given that most of the country, Kuwaitis included, go on vacation to other countries over the summer months, so naturally they would bring back ideas, shapes, colours, lines, materials, art work, etc from these other countries and incorporate them into their Kuwaiti lives and homes. Just take a look at my photos below and you will see immediately what I mean by this. Now please go easy on my very basic surveillance photography skills! Its not my strength, I was not meant to spy on people and secretly photograph their houses. I was way too shy to get out the car and do these buildings justice and what you get now is my very best ‘drive by shooting’. But it’s simply wonderful to be witness to this amount of diversity. It does make house hunting interesting. My heart looks and longs for lots of natural light, bright open living areas with outdoor space for the kids to run and play. A tough ask in a desert land, but I know it’s out there.
It was 11 years ago today that I landed in this desert land. It has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience. It has been the best and the hardest season of my life. I came here at the tender age of 25 years. I left my family, friends and my little dog Gizmo to take on, what I thought at the time to be, a two year adventure in the Middle East. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting here 11 years later writing this post, on a blog that I started with my dear American friend who now lives in Tel Aviv. Wow, what a mouth full. I thought it would be fun to share some of my very first Kuwait memories with you, so here goes:
This was my first apartment –
I will never forget the day that I came home from Ikea (my first experience with Ikea at that) and I started to build my very basic essential furniture. I was very proudly using my pink screwdriver that I had bought earlier from the local supermarket when I reached a point in assembling my wardrobe where I need to “get a friend to hold one side while you bla bla bla the other”. I remember the sense of helplessness that I felt when I fell to the floor in tears thinking “well, that would be great if only I had one!”
It’s tough adulting I tell you!
Those who know me will also know that I’m a little shy in nature. The fact that I jumped from my comfort zone of home and landed in this strange land to begin with is nothing short of a miraculous leap of Faith. But jump I did. I slowly grew braver and through the advertising agency I was working for at the time and a few good flat mates, I started to make some friends, got out and did things I that would ultimately change the very core of my being. I grew up, FAST!
My first trip out to the quad bikes in the desert –
During my time here I lost my mom and more recently my grandfather, and I had to shelve my preconceived ideas of what the ‘right’ career path was for me. I got married, and had three very cool little people. And since then I have been able to reinvent myself, reignite my love for art and art history. I explored my photography interests and became accredited through the NYIP (New York Institute of Photography) in the United States. I’m now also studying Interior Design. I have been Blessed with abundant travel opportunities. When I was working, I got to film TV commercials in Romania, Beirut, Dubai, Barcelona and Kuwait. I got to watch the Grand Prix in Bahrain. I went to Cannes, France for the Cannes Advertising Awards. I went to romantic Paris, and loved travelling the Rome and Florence with my better half. I got diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (Google it – better yet, don’t Google it. Scary). I went vegan. We had our first family holiday to Portugal, Lisbon and Madeira. I learnt a new Language. I found God.
Top 11 things I have learned in these 11 year.
1 – Life is short.
2 – If you can’t find the joy in life, BE the joy in life.
3 – Practise tolerance, the world is made up of so many different cultures and beliefs.
4 – If you’re not happy, make a change. If you stay in your unhappiness you will only bring people down with you.
5 – Tell people you love, that you love them. You never know when will be the last time you speak to them.
6 – If you’re toying with the idea of going from 2 kids to 3, go for 3.
7 – The food that you put inside your body REALLY does effect the way you feel.
8 – Listen to your body. It speaks to you.
9 – Love those who are difficult to love, that is when you can really make a difference.
10 – Write letters.
11 – Pray – there will always be an answer. It may not always be the answer you’re looking for, but there will be one nonetheless.
I have no idea where the next 11 years will take me. I may very well still be here and will report back then with another recap.
I have met so many very interesting people here, and from each person I have met, I have taken something, and learned something new about myself in the process. I have also learned to look back at my beloved home country with fresh perspective and new appreciation.
Note: These photo were taken 11yrs ago on a very basic camera.
Having an art brain child, I always wondered how best to nurture her interest and whether I was enough to guide her and help her grow in this field. I was so happy and relieved when I came across Manifesto 13. This is a beautiful art studio, here in Kuwait, that offers long term courses with in depth hands on tutoring of styles and subjects through fine art. It’s more than just an environment where someone gets to practise their hobby. It’s truly an art education for kids (and adults), a safe place where a self expression and critical thinking coming together.
To hear my 7yr old come home and talk about Piet Modrian with the same level of interest that I had when I was 17, is so exciting. I feel so thankful that I found this school for her. Each course runs over a few weeks, usually similar in length to a school term, and at the end, we as parents get invited to an art exhibition where we get to ‘oooooo’ and ‘aaaahhh’ over art created by our precious little pumpkins. And I love it.
If you too have an art brain child and are within the desert walls of Kuwait, then I highly recommend Manifesto 13.
For more information – Tel: (+965) 226-50335 – Mob: (+965) 656-52524 email@example.com
A few years ago I saw Sting in Hyde Park on a glorious summer evening. The skies slowly deepened behind the London skyline and the crowd of thousands danced furiously and sang the well loved classics uncurbed. The stars came out as the opening sound of Desert Rose brought the loud appreciative swell of a thousand voices. It was a magnificent evening.
A few weeks ago I was in the right place and in the right conversation with some dear friends who happened to have heard about the upcoming Sting concert in Kuwait. There was so little advertisement of this, surely it couldn’t really be him, surely the tickets would be outrageously expensive, if we could even get them?
But, like so many experiences in Kuwait, I went in completely unsure of what to expect and I was gobsmacked by the whole evening.
The Opera House is wonderful. Exquisite lines and finishes and details from the moment you approach the magnificent building. I felt as though I wanted to run my hands across the beautiful surfaces but restrained myself. We were ushered into a theatre and sank into luxurious chairs. There were so many empty rows of seats, I almost didn’t quite believe the real Gordon Sumner was going to walk on stage. Part of the fantastic design of the theatre was that despite having the cheapest seats money could buy, we were close enough to see every expression on the mega rock star’s face as he strolled onto stage.
Initially I wasn’t at all sure what to make about the subdued atmosphere. I couldn’t quite believe the rigidity of the stewards armed with laser pointers shaming any cellphones daring to take pictures or anyone trying to stand up and dance.
It seemed at odds with the tumultuous rock music at times.
But the formality of the setting would only allow us to sit and respect the music and the artistry of the experience.
Even still, it was incredible.
What a privilege to have an intimate show. The sound was perfect and Sting’s sublime voice covering the dancing fingers of the phenomenal guitarists was an awesome thing to behold.
There were no masses surrounding us to get lost in and not much on stage to distract from the minimal band. Sting held up beyond expectation under the intense scrutiny. It was just the beauty of his poetry and the artistry of the music under the lights.
Towards the end every one got caught up in the wild joy of the music, and jumped up ignoring the angry red laser dots reprimanding them, for a little while at least. And after that he took us back down, “to go home thoughtfully,” he said, with a last breathtaking ballad.
We walked out smiling at each other in disbelief at the hidden treasure the evening had been.
Ahhhh, my creative soul has been filled again. I have recently felt myself running low on creative juices, but yesterday morning I had the opportunity to visit The Arab organisations Headquarters Building, also known as the Arab Fund Building, in Shuwaik.
Ok, so I agree the name needs a little work, but the building is truly quite remarkable. A piece of art. An administration building created by craftsman, designers, and materials from the likes of Italy, Morocco, Syria, and yes, even South African Yellow Wood can be found within it’s walls.
According to their website,
“The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building, situated outside Kuwait City in Shuwaik, blends modern architectural techniques with traditional artisan crafts. Completed in 1994, it is home to four major Arab organizations: the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company.”
And I suppose big fancy meetings do take place there with really important people but…
…according to me,
“It’s an exquisite collection of art, antiques, and ideas – collected and bartered for – for the viewing pleasure of anyone willing to appreciate it.”
And appreciate it we did.
Our tour started with a sense of contrast. We were 3 housewives, with quite an artistic flare (think ‘almost cool’ Gypsies) combined with 3 middle aged men in black suits who probably held important titles and regularly used terms like; “not withstanding” and “including, but not limited to”.
Anyway, it was a treat for us all.
This building took 2 years to design and only 3.5 years to build. The attention to detail is unrivalled. It’s so very beautiful.
An absolute treasure of a find for a photographer like me, who has a passion for history and culture.
May these images from today inspire you as much capturing them did me. In this world filled with contrasts, details, and distractions, sometimes to find the most beautiful side of something, all we need to do is look up.
Side Note: Please make the effort to visit the website, it is filled with many interesting behind the scenes imagery and extra details of each piece of art within the building itself. To book your tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lets just say, if my husband came home from a business trip abroad and found me on the floor with broken pieces of glass and plastering all over the wall, I think he would have had me committed. Thankfully this was not in the case of the lovely Lady Lidia.
For what started out as a small mirror mosaic project to cover her daughters writings on the wall, turned into her greatest life long work, her pride and joy, The Mirror House of Kuwait. We were greeted by this tiny, Italian woman, with years of life knowledge and life experience under her belt. Yet somehow she maintained her zest and passion for life and she couldn’t wait to share it with us.
We started with a lesson on mosaics and the story of her beginning, but we were quickly whisked away and literally taken on a once in a lifetime journey through what can only really be explained as living surrealism.
She met a young Kuwaiti man in the UK and he stole her heart. She then moved to Kuwait in the 50s, settled down, got married, had a family, lived life, survived wars, survived parenting, and found comfort in creating.
Her story is a cherished love story. Her husband, Khalifa Qattan, was a very well known and respected pioneer in the Arab art world. Yet, he very rarely called her Lidia, he preferred to call her lady, even up until his last days on this earth. Swoon! She brags that when she arrived in Kuwait, most of the houses were still built of clay. Yes, she has seen Kuwait change over the years there is no doubt of this. I asked her what the biggest change she witnessed was, expecting to hear the standard, “oh we used to be able to drink and now we can’t” or, “we could wear short skirts back then and no one bothered us about it” but no, to my surprise, she said the greatest change came from within the family unit.
The family unit has changed.
When she first moved to Kuwait she testifies how most children were being raised by their parents, both moms and dads were raising their kids. She shares that in today’s times children are being raised by nannies. It’s quantity over quality of children that has become important. There is a whole generation of children being raised by nannies and no longer by their parents. And you see it filter over into the Western culture within Kuwait too. All too often it’s the nannies with the kids at birthday parties or afternoon activities, very often alongside the parents, even then parents take more and more of a back seat.
Anyway, getting back to the tour. What a ride. She took us into every room where different themes are represented, from the earth to outer space. Her birds were my personal favourites. On the top floor we even got to appreciate her husbands works. a dedicated gallery to his finest pieces. I loved this part. He was a visual communicator for sure. The statements he made with his art were honest, bold and unapologetic. He loved being Kuwaiti and was so proud of that, but he was despising what the nation was becoming, the changes that the country was going through and he used his art as his voice. It still speaks volumes today. I definitely learnt a lot about the history of Kuwait on this tour, It was interesting for sure.
In the rooms next to his gallery are works of her own. It was fascinating to see these two worlds showcased on one floor. Two very different minds with similar view points being expressed in two very different ways. It was remarkable.
My favourite piece belonging to Lady Lidia was the piece with the two keys. These represent the keys to a woman’s heart (men, pay attention).
1 – Respect
2 – Generosity (not as in things or money, but rather time and affection). If you get these two things right her heart will be forever yours.
Her art therapy rooms are quite something, too. Darkness, with colour of lights and lights of colour.
Admittedly, I spent an hour on my bed in the afternoon with a warm cup of tea processing the experience. Trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. I was most certainly over stimulated for the better part of the afternoon. And wonderfully so. I will never forget this morning at The House of Mirrors. For anyone living in Kuwait, you need to move this to the top of your ‘to do before you leave’ list. This experience has the backing of both Trip Adviser and Lonely Planet.
I left informed and inspired.
If you have a House of Mirrors experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you.
Special note: One thing that makes this experience even more unique is that you become a part of the visual experience. With the mosaics being mirrors, your reflections are integrated. Thus making everyone’s experience unique to them.
As I drove into the neighbourhood, the site of the house took my breath away. I parked the car and made my way inside. This house, this moment in time, has been restored ever so slightly to make it safe for visitors to walk around. And walk around I did.
Al-Qurain Martyrs House is a museum dedicated to those brave Kuwaiti souls who gave their lives for their country. During the invasion of 1991 a group of Kuwaiti men formed a resistance group that fought against Saddam’s army. This house, in an ordinary Kuwaiti neighbourhood, became the hide out and headquarters for the 31 member group known as the Al Messilah (Kuwait Force). At the time of this particular attack on February 24, 1991, their were 19 members present and sadly 12 lost their lives while 7 managed to survive.
After the liberation of Kuwait a few days later, H.H. Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, ordered that the site be transformed into a historical museum which will commemorate the sacrifice and heroism of these Kuwaitis. It has become a symbol of national pride. It stands tall as a reminder to future Kuwaiti generations of how their forefathers fought against their Iraqi invaders, and the price that they, and many coalition soldiers, had to pay for them to maintain their country.
What struck me first was the sheer damage that had been done over the 10 hour battle. But what came next is actually what stayed with me. There is a strange unexpected peace within these walls. You see the destruction yet you hear the birds chirping. You imagine the chaos, yet you feel the stillness of the air.
I looked closer at the inside of the house. The tiles in the kitchen were probably thoughtfully and carefully chosen.
The ceiling fan in a bedroom resembles a wilted flower.
For me, the detail that still lives within the walls, carries the voices of family gatherings, children laughing, the memories of lives lived, and now the sorrow of lives lost as well.
The cars outside still parked as they were on that fearful morning.
If you find the opportunity to explore this fiercely patriotic country, or perhaps you already live here and you have family and friends visiting, then this is a trip that is an absolute must. It was an hour well spent, we were able to walk around freely and if anything, the locals in the area appreciated the fact that we were interested in their history and a place that was clearly very important to them. I got the sense that they respected us for paying our respects. One gentleman took the time to come talk to me in broken English and explain the history, even happily leaving me with English translated booklets with further information. Yes, this trip is a must. It will move you.
Sepia – a reddish-brown color, named after the rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefishSepia (1,2,). Sepia tones are most commonly associated with photography. In film photography chemicals are applied to a black and white print producing the warmer hues of sepia for a visual effect or for archival purposes. Now in the days of Instagram and digital post processing the same effect can be added as a filter to achieve the look of aging photographs.(2)
My sepia is the colour the world turns when the sand from the desert rolls in. For those of us living in Kuwait, these sandstorms create a surreal 3-dimensional sepia toned world.
For newcomers to the region, these sandstorms are intriguing, but for us who have been here a while, they are hazardous, and simply awful. The sand gets in everywhere. It seems to linger behind for days. They are common for this time of year as seasons change and the full force of summer approaches. To learn more about these sandstorms click [here].
When I lived in South Africa, I was blessed daily with waves of colour rolling in from every direction; everyday, all day long, no matter the weather or season. Growing up with that visual abundance, I definitely became accustom to it. It was only when I moved to the desert 10 years ago, when my colour range reduced that I truly realised how blessed I had been all along.
We really do live in a beautiful colourful world. Every colour adds such dynamism to life and the world around us, pause for a moment wherever you are and look around, see the colours around you as if feasting on them for the first time. For us here in this sepia season, the dust will settle, and the blue sky will make her appearance again, but until then stay safe, stay indoors. That said if anyone is brave enough to venture out to take photographs, please remember to use your UV filter on your lens, you don’t want these little particles anywhere near the inside of your camera. Share your photos in the comments section below, especially from yesterday’s sandstorm, we would love to see them!
Until the dust clears for us in Kuwait, lets fill our timelines with the colour blue and stay inspired. #itsablueworld
I will leave you with a few images of what inspires me these days; African skies and Kuwait textures!
1 – Wikipedia contributors. “Cuttlefish.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 May. 2017. Web. 25 May. 2017.
2 – Wikipedia contributors. “Sepia (genus).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 May. 2017.
3 – Wikipedia contributors. “Photographic print toning.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 May. 2017.