I was exhausted even before the two and a half hour flight to Frankfurt and the five and a half hour layover, the only good part of which was that I got to spend a few minutes with my friend Maggie, who lives in Frankfurt. Then it was another five and a half hour flight on to my final destination of the week, Kuwait City. Of course, since nothing ever goes smoothly the first time out, I had a slight bit of trouble actually getting in to the country. The copy of my visa which I had been told to print and bring with me was not what was required. Instead, passport control needed the original, which then had to brought from somewhere else. All of which meant I was sitting behind the passport counters for about an hour, watching various plane loads of people saunter by, many of whom were carrying Kuwaiti flags or wearing outfits festooned in the Kuwaiti colors of red, white, green and black. My major concern, though, was not actually getting into the country.
The reason I wasn’t worried was because there’s evidently a system set up for this sort of eventuality. There are a couple of phones for free local calls (had to figure out how to just type in the local number, but I got it right on the third try) where I was connected to our primary contact. She evidently gave my number to the project manager who was handling our show and was meeting me. His name is Mohamed and he called next, letting me know what was happening, that the proper paperwork was on its way and not to panic. So I didn’t. Instead, I was worried that my bag would mysteriously vanish since the flight had landed so long before. I even asked the helpful people who were waiting with signs for incoming about it. Seems that, too, is also a common occurrence and they just stack the unclaimed luggage around a support pole near the original carousel. Sure enough, when my original visa finally came through, there was my bag, waiting with several others. I grabbed it and headed out to meet Mohamed.
He was waiting for me and put me in a waiting Escalade (or some other such car) to take me to the hotel, where he would meet me. It was from the driver I discovered why people were all carrying flags – it was National Day. And the following day was Liberation Day. Basically, it was a two day party with a water theme. Traffic on the way to the hotel was a bit static and the streets were littered with party remnants… but no bottles. There’s no alcohol allowed in the country. Really interesting concept.
Got to the hotel, got my stuff up to the room and by then. Mohamed had shown up and we decided to grab a bite to eat. The hotel is in a great area, right near the seaside and across the street from the Marina Mall and a mini-mall adjacent called The Marina Crescent. As we got closer and began discussing what kind of food we’d like, I noticed a familiar logo: “That’s Johnny Rockets!” I cried. Sure enough, there was the Southern California based faux 50s diner right in front of me. There was also a Krispy Kreme, TGI Fridays and a Color Me Mine pottery shop. I could just as easily have been in Marina del Rey as a Marina in Kuwait. Needless to say, Burgers and fries were the order of the night (in deference to my attempt at limiting my caloric intake, I forewent the milkshake, yay me!) I even had bacon on my burger, but since it was halal, it was beef bacon, not pork (yeah, I was surprised when I saw “bacon” on the menu but where there’s a will, there’s a way).
Mohamed and I ate, chatted about the westernization of the Middle East and laughed a lot. As we were walking back to the hotel, waiting to cross a major street, a car roared by and I got royally splashed by over-zealous celebrants.
“Welcome to Kuwait!” Laughed Mohamed. “You’re now official!”