Monday, June 30, 2014

Ramadan Etiquette 101

This is from my friend, Bionic Nomad's blog.  Too good not to re-post!

Ramadan Kareem everyone! Now let’s give you a basic crash course on Ramadan Etiquette 101:

1.     Nobody is interested in your daily Fitoor/Sehoor photos: We know how good the food is after a whole day of fasting. Your dates and laban (or whatever you are drinking) aren’t anymore special than mine.
2.  Being devout is cool. Taking selfies of being devout isn’t cool. (Example: selfie in a mosque, selfie on the prayer mat, etc) Nor it is going to score you anymore “devoutness points”.
3.     Posting/sending texts: Fitoor time, prayer time, sehoor time, prayer time..get the hint? That’s called spam, it’s not called reminding someone. That’s uncool. We all can hear the mosques. I am deaf and I know the timings. So don’t be an annoying spammer.
4.     When you’re out driving, keep your eyes on the road; not on that setting sun or the clock. Don’t kill yourself or anyone else on an empty stomach. Keep your cool, drive sanely and wisely. Food isn’t going anywhere and God won’t blast you into a smoking crater if you’re late. (Try sleeping on an empty stomach, unpleasant feeling isn’t it?)

5.     You’re fasting and about 2 billion other Muslims are fasting too. Don’t be a wuss, go to work like it’s any other day. You didn’t get your caffeine/nicotine fix? Suck it up, princess. Think of those people who work outdoors for a living while fasting. Also, who cares if you see a person eating/drinking? If it’s legal to eat/drink in public then you don’t have the right to complain. I repeat:

Suck it up, princess.

Have a blessed Ramadan!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pretty little Kuwaiti Porsche girls

You know how there is a difference sometimes in car drivers?  Some people discriminate on people solely by the automobiles they drive.  Of course, these are sweeping generalizations and not everyone is the same.  I am often judged unfairly because of the type of car I drive (but I don't care - I love my car and that's why I bought it; not to race it or to prove how much muscle the engine has).

This is my perspective; what I see.

I am passing along a compliment to all the Kuwaiti girls who drive Porsches - specifically the 911 model (not Panameras or Cayans).  All (again, a generalization) of the 911 Girls look like little dolls. Like founder Ferry Porsche said, "a small, lighweight sports car that uses energy efficiently." The drivers here are similar. They are upper class, are very well dressed and polished and don't seem to be easily annoyed in traffic. They know the capability of their cars, but just seem happy to be driving them rather than proving their power. And unlike their sisters who drive Mercedes, they seem much more content to just "be".   (I love Mercedes by the way - it is my favorite vehicle, but then ... I've never driven a Porsche so I don't have anything to compare it to.)  The Mercedes girls seem to have been gifted their cars rather than having to earn it.  Maybe the Porsche girls had do to more work to attain a sports car.  It just seems to be a different attitude.

20 years ago, you would rarely see a Kuwaiti woman driving a sports car.  Now, it is normal.  But if you think about it, the women who started driving sports cars were pioneers for others to follow.

Anyhow, back to my point:  You go, pretty little Kuwaiti Porsche girls!

Still seeing affects of November 19 flooding

Some of you driving down towards the chalets (South on either 30 or 40) may have noticed that there is a lot of standing water in some areas.

Desert area across from Dubaiya/Julai'ia, Kuwait

This is the water which is still standing since the November 19, 2013 rain and flooding.  I can't believe that it hasn't dried up yet.  There is a lot of livestock in the area as people are bringing their sheep and camels to graze on the grass (which is usually not there).

Kuwait fascinates me....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Al-Zor Refinery

I was talking to a friend at KNPC last night about the plans to build the Zor refinery (part of the clean fuels project).  It hadn't occurred to me in the past how close the refinery will be to Khiran - and all the amazing waterways and chalets they are building.

The planned refinery will literally be across the road (and in the desert) from the Zor power plant.  If you've spent any time recently on a beach in that area, you know how close it is.

My question is this:  Why develop water ecology and resort townships only to later plunk down a pollution-pouring refinery right next to it?  Why not make it further away where there are less inhabitants?

The sea life in the area is bound to be harmed by this as well.   I think it's sad.  If this was planned (and this has been going on for years here) anywhere else in the world, home owners would be up in arms over it.  It has all been very quiet.

If you want to read up on the project, there is an article LINK here and you can do a Google search.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Kuwait Dog Obedience School Experience

I got Mikey back this weekend from obedience school. 

Peter the dog trainer (GSD_Q8 Kennel in Kabd – 67755959) was amazing.  They are a wonderful group of dog breeders/trainers/friends who have an obvious love for dogs and animals.  They also raise birds;  and have cats on the property that show absolutely zero fear in the face of even the biggest, meanest dogs there for training.  They use one of the fearless cats to socialize the dogs (the cat is never in danger).  I saw it with my own eyes – and Mikey seems completely indifferent to cats now; as well as other big dogs.

I was welcomed by the kennel to go and visit as often as I wanted, so I went there not only to see Mikey, but to receive owner training (train-the-trainer).  I saw a lot of other healthy dogs being trained as well as some absolutely gorgeous German Shepherd puppies that they have for sale.  This, with the added bonus of true Kuwaiti-style hospitality:  Turkish coffee or tea served with interesting and funny conversations, often with other customers and buyers; all centering around the dogs.

I brought my Irish cousin with me on one visit.  Cuz is very perceptive and caught on immediately, “It is easy to see that the trainer likes the dog, but more importantly, your dog loves that trainer.” Admittedly, I was jealous.  For the time Mikey spent at the school, I left him in Peter’s competent hands and I didn’t feel like Mikey was my dog.  (I observed that Peter, a big/tuff looking Slovakian guy, seemed sad to see my boy going home.)

The kennel actually told me that they had a buyer from Saudi Arabia who had offered 1,000KD (Mashallah) for Mikey.  It’s never going to happen and it kind of made me feel “removed” – for lack of a better term – from Mike.  It was a nice compliment, but something that I don’t even want to think about (Where would he go?  Who would he be with?  What would they feed him?  Where would he sleep?  It would be a lifetime of endless torture and worry for me.). The other compliment they gave me was that he is show-quality and would probably place very well if I ever wanted to get him into competition.  Niiiiiiice!  (Not bad for a discount-puppy that his previous owner didn’t think was a pretty dog!  In.Your.Face!)

I took him from Kabd to the groomers at PetZone (no appointments required/taken).   He wasn’t “house ready” and needed a good perfumed bath and manicure/pedicure.   I also had no idea that there was a flea and tick problem in Kuwait!  (In almost 20 years here, I’ve never experienced it, but that’s mostly because Desert Dawg hasn’t frolicked much on a farm.)  Frontline usually works pretty well (had it on him at the school), but these horrible things seem to have had a resistance.  Guess they are a different breed of insects  in Kabd.  The PetZone groomer was very thorough and did a good job (for only 12KD). I was really apprehensious  about how Mike would react to other pets at the groomers.  Previously at IVH, he went berserk and embarrassed me when around other dogs.  But, he did so well this weekend.  He was quiet and calm even around the Rottweilers and other German Shepherds, cats, and little dogs.  With the exception of one time when a chihuahua ran up and started barking at him;  Mikey wanted to play and barked back.  Overall, it was a major obedience improvement.
Only on the day that I took him home did he feel like my dog again.  He hasn’t taken his eyes off me since he got in the car and he is constantly at my heel.  (He’s also sleeping very close to me as if to make sure that I’m there.)  The first day that he was back, he slept quietly on the sofa with his paw covering my hand as if to say, “I don’t believe you’re really here.”  He is fer sure  a mama’s boy. He still runs around like a puppy (he is, at only 8 months although he looks like a big, fierce grown dog).   

I love that Mikey has become a calmer version of himself; although still as cunning, cleaver and mischievous as ever.  He is a different dog.  He no longer chews my shoes and my bras seem to be out of danger (he formerly stole them and then hid them while I was getting ready for work because he knew well that I wouldn’t leave the house without it).  Last night, he got a hold of a paper napkin and proceeded to try to rip it into shreds (he loves eating tissue!).  I grabbed it from him before it was too bad and hid it behind me on the sofa.  A few minutes later, he picked up a toy and threw it at me.  When I went to pick it up, the little devil grabbed the paper napkin again!  I don’t know who is training who.

"Hi.  My name is Mike. Can I get you a drink?"
(Bartending skills!  Awesome!)

Yesterday, I went to see my group of friends who I originally got Mikey from (Mikey lay quietly on the floor during the entire visit).  It was yet further/firmer validation that I made the right choice in keeping Mikey.  The guy that I got Mikey from (PuppyBoy as I called him  in previous posts – for a completely different reason) had Mikey in a cage, in cold windy November,  without any blankets or water when I first saw him. Mikey was only about 6 weeks old.    I offered to take him home and house train him.  Months (and vet bills and vaccinations later), PuppyBoy still wasn’t coming to see him and it was questionable about whether or not he even wanted Mikey back.  So, I put money in his hand and basically told him that Mikey is my dog.  My friends (his uncle) told me yesterday that since then, PuppyBoy has had 2 other dogs; and that both had died “mysteriously”.  Mysteriously translates to no vaccinations (parvo and distemper are really prevalent in Kuwait), or no water in 120 degree heat, or whatever other negligent acts that he has perpetrated on those poor dogs (where, in other parts of the world he would be prosecuted for!).  I am SO THANKFUL that God brought Mikey to me.  I saved him and he has in several ways saved me.

In the 7 months that I have had Mikey, I have made numerous new friends – all because of him.  I’ve been introduced to a world that I never knew existed in Kuwait; the German Shepherd and dog breeder/owner/trainer community in Kuwait (and it is REALLY extensive).  I’ve built relationships with kind-hearted and generous people like Peter and Ahmed and Abdulrahman and GSD_Q8 Kennel, and with their friends like Bader who runs a group of German Shepherd owners and enthusiasts.  I’ve also met other German Shepherd owners like Angel and her fiancĂ© and started what I know will be long-lasting friendships.  ....All because of one really cool, handsome dog. 
God always works in ways which you never could have imagined.  It has all been a fabulous blessing.

For info/photos/videos on GSD_Q8 Kennel: 
Add them on Instagram  @bu_Noooo7 or @k9_peter_q8 

Monday, June 16, 2014

WTF is an ISIS?!

I've had a self-proclaimed DG political blackout going on for a while now. I don't want to get too worried/concerned/educated on political events ANYWHERE because I'm just not into it and I find it disturbing to my chi.

But when my mother called me the other night and said she was worried about me in light of events in Iraq, I was like, 'Woah, Mom!  What are you on about?' (That's actually more Irish than I said to her.)  But it was like that.

So yet another name for terrorism. Sadly, the acronym, Isis, is the Goddess of motherhood, magic, and fertility;  A mythological figure that I admire.  That's just disrespectful.  For a fundamentalist group, you would think they would have thought that through a little better.  Just sayin'

ISIS in Iraq came up just about as fast as Al-Qaeda did in 2001..... All of a sudden, dudes are all over the media.

The US started seeing some of these factions as a threat and started questioning their financing.  They even pointed a finger towards Kuwait and some of the GCC countries that were funding this cause.  See my post LINK HERE from an article published in March of this year  (ISIS has dropped the "Levant" as no one understood what it meant.)    Kuwait's own Minister of Justice was called out by the US as someone who was financing terrorism; and once again, some people in Kuwait were pissed off at the US for meddling in Kuwait and throwing out what they perceived to be false accusations.  (If their theory applies, the same people upset with "meddling" should have been upset in 1991 as well....)

I personally think that if Kuwait can find links of  Kuwaitis (ESPECIALLY senior government officials like MINISTER) to terrorism of any kind, those people should be put in jail.  Aren't those individuals working AGAINST national security/national unity??

Anyhoo, Kuwait's military today is on a "Level 3" alert - meaning that all the Kuwaiti military guys I know will be on lockdown until God-knows-when.  Damn!  Right before Ramadan too when everybody is pre-partying to the max!

Some conspiracy-theory thoughts for ya:  So why is it that the US northern border camps (like Buehring - formerly Udairi - just a hop, skip and a jump at approximately 30 miles from Iraq) have had large construction projects going on for the past few years?  Hmmm? Why is it that Kuwait has floated several border detection/barrier tenders for the past few years - and ironically, to include a complete upgrade of security to the Kuwaiti side of Udairi range?  Hmmm?  And now with KBOS3 coming up for re-bid in 2015, contractors are itchy to do something in Kuwait to support their lifestyles.  (Those contractors also include Kuwaiti companies who have made plenty o'dosh since 2003 providing support services like accommodations and contracts to the camps.)

Am I personally concerned about Kuwait?  No.

I think that Kuwait has great internal security forces. In early 2000's, there was a terrorist group here who got into a gun fight with Kuwaiti forces - in 2 locations in Kuwait. The police immediately took charge of the situation and the suspects were either shot outright or taken into custody.  Those boys (and now girls) don't play.  Since then, Kuwait has built up internal security forces and have purchased urban warfare type equipment and trained Kuwaitis.  They have a new police college and the infrastructure to take on internal combatants is now in place.  It would not be fun to be in Kuwait should these terrorists ever make it into Kuwait, but I don't think that will ever happen either.

If ISIS escalates operations in Kuwait,  no doubt that the US would step in as we (and potentially would several other foreign militaries like the UK, Canada, and Australian, that have forces on the ground in Kuwait).  Kuwait is still a FOB (forward operating base) to Iraq and there are enough resources still in Kuwait to take on whatever happens on the border (or to assist the Kuwait Army/MOI with their efforts).

That is my take today on ISIS.  Can't we all just get along?

If  you want to read more about ISIS, here are some links:

Kuwait on Level 3 Alert
Terrorism at Our Doors
Growing Concerns in Kuwait About Terrorism in Iraq
How ISIS Rampaged Towards the Capital

Impotence in Kuwait

(I like creating sexy titles like that because it helps gain me better hits/stats.)  This is really about stagnation in Kuwait, but it can be referred to as "impotence" also.

My morning started off by checking my blog comments and by reading the feeds from other blogs.  Crazy in Kuwait (Life in Kuwait) has a post about how the Kuwait Free Trade Zone now looks like a ghost town. You can read my comments on her post (and please check it out because she'g got some really great photos of what the formerly-pretty urban area looks like now).

The Free Trade Zone was going to set an example for the rest of the country to follow and to draw large international companies into Kuwait through friendly services and regulation.  Ha!  See how that has gone!

Reading that post was followed by a feed  from about how the Kuwait airport project has been put on hold indefinitely because international firms are pulling out.  Why?  Because once again, Kuwait has shot itself in the foot, imposing unrealistic conditions for doing business here.  Full story is HERE.  Literally, the companies who would have made money constructing the new Kuwait airport, have decided that Kuwait isn't worth the effort!  (Estimated project value:  1 billion KD!)

Here is the truth of the matter:  KUWAIT DOES NOT WANT BUSINESS HERE.

Plain and simple.  The country would rather flounder flacidly in the past while progress and achievements take place all around it.  I mean, why bother when so many Kuwaitis can make investments in foreign countries where the regulations are so much easier, the ROI is higher, and the risk is lower?  Even Bahrain has off-shores and you can open a business there in several hours.

Kuwait has literally made it so difficult for people to do business here that even Kuwaitis are seeking business elsewhere in the world; and international firms that stand to gain millions (if not billions) in construction projects here - are choosing not to do business here!

At the last company I worked for (sadly, which has now gone out of business; so much lost potential!), they tasked me with trying to partner with (bring in) international companies to work with us on projects here in Kuwait. I could only stare at them blankly.  It was a task that I was destined to fail.  Although always positive, the voice in my head was realistically shouting, "WHO wants to come here to do business?  WHY?"  Since that job, I believe it has only become more difficult for businesses in Kuwait.

Business regulations are changed on a whim.  Heck, the parliament changes regularly, so why not the rules?  Even if you can get your hands on something documented, it will be outdated almost as fast as it is printed.  Not to mention all the negative PR Kuwait has received in the past few years on how "welcoming" authorities are to expats.

I'm an expat.  I love Kuwait.  I've been here a long time.  I've seen a lot of changes.  But, I am also seeing a lot of my long-term-in-Kuwait expat friends (including some that were born here) pack up and leave for something better.  The "something better" used to be Kuwait.  That is no longer the case.  Even the Kuwaitis are now packing up.

It's sad.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Post About Everything

I was debating about writing a post on my online dating experiences lately, but I’ve written about this subject previously (been there, done that) and nothing has really changed.  Still a time-fill for something else to come along. Although, now with the introduction of Instagram; everybody who you meet online wants your account; and then you get theirs; and you start following each other;  and then you can kind of determine what they’re like from their photos and comments.  All the technology stuff makes me tired.  Wouldn't it be possible - just once - to share a meal and get to know each other the real way?  I don't need to see your 500 selfie photos of you working out at the gym.  Seriously.  (I've noticed that you don't have any selfie photos injecting the steroids....)

My friends and I face the same dilemma once we get into a relationship; Insta-jealousy (Instagram jealousy).  “Why is he adding all those bimbos?”  or “Why are those bimbos commenting on his photos?” or “Who IS that particular bimbo?”  I have to actually stop following online because it gets out of control and at some point, you just have to give up and trust.  If there is no trust, you don’t have a relationship anyways.  If dude is going to cheat, it probably won’t be so obvious anyways, so let it go. 

How did we get to this point?  Sigh.  

The best relationships happen spontaneously.  I’ve heard over and over again, once you give up, he’ll appear. 

Mashallah, someone appeared in my life recently and he wasn’t through the usual means.  God just sent him to me and the day I met him,  I spent 5 hours with him (that felt like 5 minutes) in the water at the beach.  I didn’t even know his  name until several hours into the conversation (and he didn’t run away, blinded by my whiteness!)   I had/have no expectations and that is what is so amazing about it all.  He is just there.  The day I met him was one of the most magical experiences of my life and you know what?  That’s enough.   Sometimes you are given those days as a gift and they stay with you. 

... And enough said before I jinx myself.

And the other man in my life:  Mikey will be back soon from obedience school; hopefully by the end of this week.  Around the same time as my sound-proof apartment door is completed.  I don’t want to give the landlady any ammunition.    (Expat renter woes, unfortunately.)  I know the law and my bases are covered.  I don’t disturb anyone and they shouldn’t disturb me.  I'm the ideal renter:  Single, quiet, pay rent NLT the 28 of the month (before rent is due), pay double when asked for an advance (I'm freakin' Bank of America!), fix my own stuff (plumbing, electric, appliances, etc.).  Don't mess with that just because I have (quiet) dogs. Desert Dawg is actually written INTO my lease agreement, so they have already shown their acceptance to dogs in the apartment.  I just have one more now - purely for protection (mostly from the landlady's too-creepy half-brother!)

Speaking of disturbances.... They have been “painting” the house where I live for the past 3 months.  It was supposed to take 1 month.  They have completed almost the entire house – except where I live. (Thaanks.)  I wasn’t able to take advantage of my terrace/grill for any of the nice weather.  I had to cancel my annual birthday bash.  I have scaffolding and debris and tarps all over my terrace.  It is disgusting.  I have very noisy Egyptian men (Mohammed and Abdullah!) shouting at each other constantly at 7am on Friday and Saturday mornings; which, in turn, wakes up the kids upstairs who can no longer go outside to play for fear of hammers being dropped on their little heads (yeah, one fell down very close to a kid when they first started working).  So they play inside.  At 7 am.  On top of my head.  IF my dogs did ever bark (neither do, thank God), you wouldn’t be able to hear them over Mohammed and Abdullah.  I thought painting was a quiet art?   

So, I get up on the weekends and go to the beach.  Sometimes with friends to Kubbar Island; sometimes with other friends to Khiran (where we just drive around and pick a beach next to a chalet).  In Khiran, the water is clear and the beaches are clean.  Most of the time, you can find a quiet spot with no one around and spend the day in peace. I don't like the inside inlets, however. The water is more shallow and there are lots of oyster/crustacean beds and I hurt my feet.  Some of those things are enormous (not good for eating, however).   Kubbar is another story.  Depending on the time you go, it might be a big party.  The friends I go with don’t park close to other boats so we still have privacy (unless, of course, there are pretty girls around and then they are like sharks when the water has been chummed).  ‘Please!  You’re old enough to be her grandfather!’  Neither party seems to care.

Everybody is into serious activity prior to Ramadan.  I’m still planning to go to the beach every day during Ramadan.  Shorter hours at work - and no one will be around.  Woo hoo!  I can bring Mikey and be content.

And then... vacation in the States!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Would you stop to help a stranger in need (115F heat)?

I rescue animals all the time, but I started to think about why I don't have the same level of compassion for humans  (they're corrupted and often evil).  But, if I saw one by the side of the road in distress, would I help?

This morning, I passed a well-dressed middle-aged (decent-looking) man in a nice car, stuck by the side of the road with the hood open (car broke down) on the Gulf Road.  It was already 42 degrees outside (about what - 115, I think).  He looked damn hot.

I drove by.  And intended to continue to work.  And drove.  And damn.... I felt guilty.

So I went back.

I just asked him if he wanted to sit in my car with the AC on until his help arrived.  He thanked me and said his brother was on his way.  Dude was so thankful and shocked.  I think it took him a minute to register.

I would never do something like this in the US (or many other countries) because it is just not safe.  But, his break down was on the Gulf Road and in a very visible place with lots of traffic.  I never felt like I was in any danger (plus I had my pepper spray right next to me, as always).

It stated me wondering what has happened to Kuwaiti society that no one else would stop to help him or offer the same?  It didn't used to be like this here.  If I saw a dog on the side of the road, I would have stopped in a heartbeat, but I really had to think hard before going back for a human in distress.  (Then I got to wondering if stranger-dude had been dressed differently, or driving a different car - would I have even given him thought.  That's wrong and judgmental and I don't want to be that person.)

If I hadn't seen this video on Facebook yesterday, maybe I wouldn't have stopped at all.  I dunno.  This got me thinking:

So, I did my good deed for the day.  (I hope no one comes along and phucks up my attitude.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Abaya Post

I had been planning for some time to write a post about abayas. I got blog-envy when, at about the same time as I first wanted to write this post, Expat And The City wrote about it on her blog.   Now is yet another opportune time to finally sit down and write,  because I have been encouraged to write after reading some comments about abayas on Facebook. *Photos will come later, promise.

And it went a little like this; as commented by another blonde foreign woman in Kuwait stating, "It's so hot outside that I feel like just going out wearing an abaya and my bra and panties."

So like, yo - what is wrong with that?  An abaya is just a house dress or a covering.  If you are a woman (or hey - a man - I'm not judging) and you are, at this very moment, wearing a dress and a bra and panties,  you are doing the same thing. What is the big deal?  The abaya would (under normal circumstances, but not always) be a little less form-fitting, however.

The mystery and fear of the abaya

I don't understand the fear of the abaya.  It really isn't that mysterious and scary.  Its a garment;  a piece of clothing.  It isn't going to bite you if you touch it on display in a shop.  You can ask questions about it and get to know it.  Go on - Tooooouch it.  Woman up!

Sidebar:  I get asked this question every now and then by people considering a move to Kuwait, "Do I need to wear the burka (or chador) in Kuwait?"  We don't call it those things here.  The term in Kuwait is "abaya", and no - you don't HAVE to wear anything (clothing keeps you out of jail, however).  And read on, most abaya styles are not full-body and they don't have those burka-grid looking things (if Kuwaiti abayas had the burqa face holes, these girls here would be blingin their grills for sure... just sayin.).  
Question:  Is it oppression if a woman chooses to wear an abaya?

Is it that women think that they are being made invisible or subservient by wearing abaya?  Ok, I can see if  you are forced to wear one by some religiously-inaccurate circumstance, but if you have the choice, why the F not?  Do youse fear being judged?  Perhapsee that you've  (dun dun dun duuuuun....) gone native?

Yes yes, God forbid we should live in a foreign country and actually integrate into our host society.  Shudder the thought...  (sigh....)  Where did you say I could find a McDonald's?

Times when becoming invisible in an abaya is a good thing

Several years ago, a Kuwaiti girlfriend of mine was left at the alter (not really because they don't have alters here, but that's what happened, Kuwaiti-style).   Ok what happened was, dude got cold feet and told her family that he had some stuff to work out first before marrying her.  She went a little nutsy.  She said she just knew he was using their honeymoon tickets to take another woman.  "We ARE going to the airport when he comes back to check on him!"  I'm like, 'Damn girl!  LOOK at me, do you think he's not going to recognize me?!'  Then I got that all-too-familiar mischievous look.  Oh snap - not the abaya disguise again.....

We wore abayas and niqab (the face veil) and he literally walked right by us.... alone... with a sad look on his face.  They later got married and had 3 kids.  

Abayas are not a bad, scary thing.  Sometimes my girlfriends and I wear them, niqab, and tons of flashy make up, shoes, and nail polish, and throw on some fake eyelashes and go to the mall for recreational purposes.  (See "Ho-baya" reference to follow.)

          (Addendum:  War Abaya or "War-baya")

I didn't even recall this story until Gail left a comment (after the initial post)  and jarred my memory.

I had a Kuwaiti female friend who was in the resistance during the occupation in 90-91.  In case people don't know it, Kuwaitis fought back - including many women because the Iraqi soldiers often would not physically check them.  My friend (and many women like her) wore an abaya and ran guns for the underground fighters (often with her small children with her so the soldiers wouldn't suspect her crossing checkpoints).  She was eventually caught and tortured by Iraqi soldiers (and still has burn scars all over her chest to prove it).  I completely forgot about this part of Kuwaiti abaya history. (Talk about up-armoring your attire.  Nothing like an AK or two as an accessory.)

I also forgot that I have spoken to female US soldiers over the years who are not allowed off-base in their uniforms, so they wore an abaya to cover it up when they had to leave post for errands.  (Thanks for that jump start to a particular synapse,  AG!)

Props to my Sisters

Hey, and due-respect shout-out to all my sistahs who wear abaya/niqab religiously.  I admire you ladies because -especially when you add the niqab - those things are HOT and it takes enormous dedication to wear it properly all the time.  Abayas also have a way of getting stuck in escalator skids.  Not fun.

Abaya Fashion

An abaya has traditionally been to hide a woman's figure (making her appear more modest), but like everything else, has been altered (if you'll excuse the pun) over time.

Abaya fashion (like every other kind of fashion) is often unique to the country where  you live.  I'm talking about Kuwait's in this post.  And - the way that women wear hijab or the shayla is totally different country-to country (but I'm just commenting here on the abaya itself.  The head gear is a totally different story.)

20 years ago, you would only find black abayas in Kuwait that were like long drapes from head-to-foot. They didn't even fully cover your hair (front part of the head was usually out).  Women would wear them so that some hair was showing.   After the Gulf War, in 1991, many women who had moved to Saudi Arabia during the occupation by Iraq came back adopting more conservative gear.  Further, Kuwait's society in general was depressed for several years following the war by the atrocities they had witnessed and loved ones they had lost.  Kuwait was not a happy country at that time and many more people were turning to conservative religion (and attire).

So these days, abayas have become fashion.   Saudi Arabia has banned the embellishment (bedazzling?) of abayas, but just about everywhere else, you can find ornate ones.  Swarovski crystal has made a huge revenues in the GCC in the past few years as women have wanted to (not only stick them on wedding attire) but to up-bling their outer-armor.    The over-the-head style abaya has been replaced by a house-coat type and matching shayla (hijab).  It is fashion and different colors and styles have hit the market in recent years, so black is no longer the only option. (And by-the-by, previously in recent history, only a "bad woman" would wear a red hijab but that thinking changed too.)

I have seen abayas with lace, tassels, crystals, designer logos (BIG ones - across the back of abayas and covering the hijabs), and even feathers.  Some are pleated, rouched, with empire waists, with rosettes, in various sleeve styles, and some even have long trains.  Recent fashions include calf-length non-transparent with see-through fabric from the calf down (peek-a-boo?).  You rarely find transparent abayas unless they are wedding fashion and not real traditional.

There is one other form;  the customized (what some refer to as) "ho-baya"; tailored tight across the butt and chest areas; teetering on the side of modesty, but with the intention of male attention.  There is usually a specific walk that goes along with the ho-baya (but I won't get into that.  See puppy reference below).

On my last trip to Dubai, I brought back three different styles of abayas (for myself) and several for gifts for friends.  One was black semi-transparent black chiffon over a purple color with cut-outs and embroidery; one was a taupe and black combination with lace; and one was a basic black "Islami" style (like a house coat) with colorful flower embroidery along the full sleeves.  I brought a beautiful blue velvet belted abaya with cut-outs in flower designs for my friend; similar abayas for other friends.

Where do you wear it?

Ok so you are wondering if I've "gone native" right?  Why the judgement?  Hmmm?  I love abayas.  I don't care what anyone says.  If I want to wear a tiara and a pink tutu, I'm going to do it because I'm secure in myself.  But in this case, I live in a Middle Eastern country where it isn't about (me) wearing a garment for religious purposes, but for fashion; or as a sign of respect.  I do not wear an abaya for religious beliefs (but again, I admire and respect my sisters out there who do).

You may ask, "Yo, tell us, Desert Girl - where do you wear an abaya?"  and then more likely, "What's under it?"    Here goes (where I wear it:  what's under it):
  • To a party/party:  Mini-skirt!!  I'm not going to wear party gear in my conservative neighborhood without getting stares.  I cover that stuff up (and so do my girlfriends).  
  • To a funeral: Jeans and a T-shirt. In Kuwait (or to any Islamic funeral), it is etiquette to wear an abaya and a sign of respect to the family.  If you showed up without wearing one, you would be ostracized. This is where I would wear a conservative abaya.  
  • To a ministry (to conduct any type of official work): Jeans and a T-shirt or a work outfit if I'm going to work after.  Abayas will only get your stuff done faster.  Seriously.  It's like wearing a black suit to court.
  • To a wedding: A soiree gown/party dress. 
There is a whole lot of Kuwaiti wedding etiquette surrounding an abaya and head covering. (I wasn't going to get into details, but I think I will.)  If  you are invited to a Kuwaiti wedding, it is etiquette to wear an abaya and bring a shayla (loose head covering) with you. Everyone there will and if you are the only foreigner there, it will be respectful to your hosts.  Wear the abaya into the wedding hall; take it off as you walk in (there is usually a little room or alcove provided with a mirror).  Keep the abaya and shayla with you.  Party like it's your birthday.  When they announce that the groom's party is entering the hall, everyone will rush to put on their abayas and cover their hair.  You can just throw the shayla over your head if you want to.  Everybody does the same thing.  When the men go out, you take it off again.  That simple.
  • To lunch at the Kuwaiti family's on Friday (because they live in a conservative Bedouin neighborhood and I respect them) a long skirt and a t-shirt or (depending who is there and I'm trying to impress) a nice dress/elaborate outfit.
  • Ramadan:  fer sure a duraa (long traditional dress meant to impress and be comfortable at the same time - like stretchy pants on Thanksgiving.  Nice duraa's sell like hotcakes right before Ramadan and a lot of young Kuwaiti designers have started making them).
  • Old souqs.  I sometimes wear an abaya to old/traditional areas in Kuwait where I feel that my butt might be stared at.  (It's my "butt-shield," ok?  As Eddie Murphy said, you can tell when your butt is being started at because it gets all hot from the eyes.  Abaya butt-shields eliminate the dangerous rays.)
  • Romantic date night:  (Not say'in.  Leave it alone.)
  • And then, there is the ever present:  I wear my abaya over my pajamas to take the trash out, if workers come to my house, or if I want to go to the store and am too f-ing lazy to put anything on.  BAM.  What's the big deal?  

Sidenote:  Slaperella wore her abaya to the store once with PJs below (she loves her abaya and has several as she's required to travel to Saudi Arabia for her job).  A dude standing outside the shop asked her where she was from. She answered (UK) and he said, "If you are Western, why are you wearing Arab clothes?"  She looked at his T-shirt, asked him where he was from (Egypt) and she said, "If you are Egyptian, why are you wearing Western clothes?"  Got some giggles from passers-by.  WTF.  Noneyour.

Depending on the occasion, I have a LOT of different abayas ranging in price from cheap (5 KD polyester from Souq Salmiya) to expensive (150 KD silk chiffon with crystals from Abu Heil Mall, off Al Quds Metro station in Dubai).  

What do other women wear under their abayas?

I used to work with a woman who wore her pajamas to work every day and never did her hair.  Covered it up nicely with an abaya and a hijab.  In answer to this question, you wear whatever you want to wear under an abaya.  It depends on how you usually dress, where you're going, and what the occasion is - just like anything else.

I've seen some FREAKY stuff come out from under abayas at party/parties (that I wouldn't dare in the boudoir...) and I have seen some OTT elegant stuff come out of others.  It all depends.  An American friend of mine (female) was on an elevator with a (what we foreigners call) a "covered woman" once and they struck up a friendly conversation.  Out of curiosity, American gal asked abaya gal what she normally wore under it.  She said, "edible underwear and heels."  Ok, so she might have been saying it for shock value.  Or it could have been a timing/location thing (around 10 pm on a weekend night going up on an elevator).  Or it could have been a flat-out lie so that she would pass this urban legend on to her (American gal's) equally-naive friends.  One never knows.  Alls I'm saying is that ANYTHING could be under an abaya (and if you are a man under one and the police catch you, it equals jail time, so not funny).

Again, you never know what is under an abaya....(although many times, its nothing more than what appears to be 2 puppies playing under a blanket, if you know what I mean....)

Where do I buy one?
  • Almost all of the old traditional souqs (Mubarakiya, Salmiya, Fahaheel) sell abayas for cheap (5 dinars and up).  They are mostly heavier polyester types, but sometimes you can find something fashionable.
  • Laila Gallerie (cha CHING).  This is where you are going to find the silk type that are going to be more expensive with matching head coverings.  They probably have ornate embroidery and crystals.
  • Sayfi Mall in Farwaniya.  Ok, I have yet to venture there, but everyone I have spoken to (even several Emirati ladies in Dubai) says it is a great place to get nicely designed abayas for a moderate price.
  • Have it made.  Purchase fabric at the commercial blocks downtown and there is everything you'll need to have it embellished or bedazzled (including a Swarovski crystal shop that sells every imaginable size, color and shape of crystal).  In the Jabriya Commercial Center (behind Mubarak Hospital, behind the school) there are rows of Pakistani tailors who do amazing embroidery! (There is also an awesome bakery there.)  They can make you an abaya as can any of the tailors above the fabric shops in the commercial complex downtown.  

If you have more abaya thoughts, bring it on in the comments (or send me a photo).  Please be nice, however.  These are my personal perspectives and do necessarily reflect the opinion of the network.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


I hate this song anyways.  Go, daddy!

German Shepherd Community in Kuwait

Adopting a German Shepherd has been a HUGE learning experience for me.  It probably would have been easier to get information on my dog and health, obedience, boarding, grooming, nutrition, etc. if I was back in the States.  Like everything else, I seem to like a good challenge (aka "drama").

I have always wanted a German Shepherd.  Never thought I would actually own one so fast.  But then, Mikey fell into my lap (almost literally - and then he peed in it....) and that was it; no going back.  God has mysterious ways of benefiting your life that you could never foresee.  Anyhoo, this background info is all in previous posts.

I discovered that there is a HUGE German Shepherd owners/trainers/breeders/competitor community in Kuwait.  Some are even showed  and compete and win in international competitions.  A lot of the dogs in Kuwait are originally from Germany and Slovakia and many don't understand commands in either Arabic or English.  I met one man who trains dogs using Hindi commands so that other people won't be able to command them.  (Dude, I speak English.  That's what my dog is going to be trained in.)

Some of the GS groups in Instagram

There are no online reviews of dog places in Kuwait; no doggy Angie's List.  Instagram has been helpful, but then a lot of their information is in Arabic as that is their largest target audience.  So... I've had to ask a lot of questions.

When I first came to Kuwait, I imported my sports car.  I knew nothing about garages or who the best mechanic was for turbo engines.  So, I started stopping people with the same car and asking questions.  Yes, most of them thought I was trying to hit on them (a few, I actually was).  Overall, I got the best advice from people with the same thing I have.

I have started my quest for information on German Shepherds in a similar manner:  'Who do I go to for....?'  'Who is the best trainer?'  'Where can I buy....?'    And in stopping GS owners (mostly men) yes, they do think that I'm hitting on them (one in particular, I am.  -- OMG he is like my George Clooney of the Kuwait world!  I see him on the internet and then in person and my heart does a pitty-patter).  

I digress (but OMG I have such a mad crush on him.....)

I have received a lot of very helpful information.  However, true to Kuwaiti culture, Kuwaitis (Arabs in general) are historically story-tellers (passing down stories generation to generation) and sometimes, well... things get embellished.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing; a double-edged sword.  If it is a positive story, great!  But unfortunately, human nature generally dictates that the majority of the time, there is a lot of trash talk.  Negative seems so much easier for humans to do.

Everybody talks bad about each other in the GS world here (with the exception of a few with integrity)! And I've heard that some of the breeders even steal dogs from each other!  (If you buy a purebred GS in the Friday Market and do some hunting/research, generally the true dog owner will pay a lot more than you paid for it to get it back; and the dogs are most likely either tatooed or microchipped.)

Yesterday, I was at the beach and there were 2 men together in a group of their friends down the way.  Each had a German Shepherd.  Each walked them down the beach at separate times.  I chat.  It's what I do.  It's what my mother does.  We come from a long line of chatters.  So, I spoke to each of them about their dogs, who their trainers were, who they recommended.  

Dude #1 was a humble kind of guy.  I told him who my dog's trainer is (Peter - LOVE HIM!) and he had nice things to say.  He mentioned another trainer, S,  and I said I wouldn't take my dog to him as I've heard bad things (that he hits the dogs).  He agreed.  We chatted a little. I played with the dog.  They walked on down the beach.

Dude #2 (Dude #1's friend) was less of a humble guy.  He asked ME who my dog's trainer is and then proceeded to trash him.  He went on and on about how he knows nothing about dogs; how it was him (Dude #2) who taught my trainer friends "everything they know" about dogs, blah blah blah... yada yada.  And (get this) that the dog-beater trainer (who his friend had just admitted hits dogs) was the "best in Kuwait".  (Seriously dude?)   I played with the dog.  They walked on down the beach.

Many people here directly trash-talk  my dog from the get-go (including some well-intentioned stupid friends - you know who you are!).  The most common phrase I've heard is, "He's not original German Shepherd." or "He's Egyptian." (not so much lately as Mikey is now around 50 kilos and Egyptian-bred GS's are smaller). When Mikey was a puppy, I got, "His ears aren't up.  He's not original GS." (GS puppy ears are always floppy.  They go up later at around 4-5 months of age.)  Or the completely incorrect, "Look at his tail!  It's so long.  He's not a real German Shepherd."  (A long tail denotes a show-line GS as opposed to a working-line GS.  I have learned that show-lines like Mikey are prettier and learn slower than their cousins who are bred for police/protection/drug detection work.)  And to all of those who have said that Mikey is NOT an "original German Shepherd:  I was just offered 1,000 KD by a breeder to sell him!  (Never going to happen for any price, but it was a compliment, regardless.)  Mikey is a pretty dog who is going to be trained for protection at home.  

(L to R) 1 month old, 3 months old, 4.5 months old, 6 months old

Look at that tail!!! Amazing, right?

Now, at 7 months old
Training in Kuwait starts at obedience and goes all the way up to K-9 police/protection training.  Obedience training should start for a German Shepherd at around 7-9 months (because they are still just puppies who want to play).  Serious training starts at around 14 months of age and that's when he'll start protection training.  (He's actually pretty protective of me right now which is instinctual and I like it - he just needs to learn when to stop.)

I was referred to my trainer from an internet group on Instagram (group_gsd_kw).  I researched their group first; they hold weekly gatherings for dogs and their owners, they educate the public on dogs at events, and are a great group of people.  

I interviewed trainers before I chose Peter (from Slovakia).  I went to their kennels several times.  I reviewed  videos to see how the dogs reacted to trainers  and how trainers reacted to the dogs.  There was no doubt in my mind then - or now - that I made the right choice.  I felt comfortable with Peter; he had a good, positive energy surrounding him.  Mikey is now totally in love with him (and I am sure I would be able to sense if anything was wrong in their relationship on any of my visits to see him at the kennels).  Ahmed S is Peter's training partner.  Ahmed is Kuwaiti and translates for Peter, as Peter speaks almost all Slovakian.  Ahmed never has trashed another trainer or group in Kuwait.  However, he did show me a dog that another trainer had worked with (and ruined by beating her).  That was evidence enough for me.  Dogs don't lie (not the 4-legged type anyways).

Mikey loves his trainer, Peter!  Bromance

I have a friend with a kennel in Kuwait who is with another trainer who I have heard mixed things about.  I am being more cautious about saying anything negative about anyone these days because if something is not evidenced as first-hand, you may not have accurate information and that can be damaging.

In 2010, I reported on a story and this particular trainer, N,  was involved.  The owner left her dog with him and the dog later disappeared.  It was an incredibly sad story and many people got involved to try to help find her family pet.   LINK HERE and LINK HERE.  I have been told since that the information provided in the owners story was inaccurate; the official procedures would not have allowed it to happen.  (But since the owner wasn't there at the time of the "raid" she could not have known either.)  My gut feeling was that her dog was used as a bait dog for fighting; it is better just to think that your dog has gone missing than to think about that atrocity.  

I have met N several times (he didn't remember me) and I didn't feel good about his energy on any of the meetings.  He seems to know good dog training (and didn't trash talk competitor trainers), but I wasn't comfortable with him.  [Sidenote:  He also touted himself as a psychic and later, when discreetly away from the group, asked me for 30 KD to "fix" the bad magic on me.  Innnnteresting.  I wonder how much the follow-up bad-magic-fixing cost me (I'm a believer, but I believe that true "healers" don't take money for their gift).]

You have to be VERY careful about who you leave your dog with.   There is a very large underground dog fighting community in Kuwait and you never know unless you start digging for information (and it should be from Kuwaitis). Understandably, even the animal shelters are reluctant to provide information on trainers; especially if it is heresay. 

Anyhoo, positive, positive, positive....

There are good people out there. There are people with integrity and ethics.  I've found a few and I'm happy to make referrals.  Likewise, if any of you out there have been to trainers/kennels/boarding facilities and would like to pass along the information, please let me know and I'll post it. .... Unless it is to trash people and then I'll just heed/appreciate your warning, but won't post it.

NEWBIE ALERT: AWARE Center To Host Ramadan Do’s and Don’ts” Diwaniya and Dinner Buffet

I sincerely appreciate what both AWARE Center and TIES are doing for the expat community.  Both organizations serve to promote cultural and religious awareness (in a non-pushy and friendly manner) of Kuwait to expats living in the community.  Both centers offers are particularly beneficial to newcomers to Kuwait.  And both centers are here to help - not to push religion on you or make you feel uncomfortable.  It is all about understanding and genuine hospitality (which, in my humble opinion, is the true nature of the Kuwaiti people).  Plus, you make expat friends who are also attending and going through the same newbie-to-Kuwait stuff that you are.  Good times.  Good support.

Seriously you guys, while you're here - get to know the culture.  If you can, try Ramadan food (especially if you are invited to someone's home).  It is a great time of the year to get to know people.   I'm not just saying that because I've "gone native" or anything, but it is the truth.  Receiving an invite to Ftour (break fast) at someone's home is like getting an invitation to someone's home for Thanksgiving.  GO!  Nobody is going to ask you to pray or convert to Islam (just like we wouldn't push someone to convert on T-day!).  Free food and  you'll learn something!  

(Reyadh Al-Bannaw I am thinking of you right now, having your first Thanksgiving with me and my family; sitting there with that big, stupid grin on your face, not knowing what to do or what to say.  You lived, right? ha ha!)

AWARE Center Dinner Invitation

How should I greet Muslims on the occasion of Ramadan? How should I reply if they greet me? Should my public behavior change in Ramadan? When and where can I eat during daylight hours? How should I handle food gifts from neighbors or colleagues? What should I expect if I accept an invitation to break the fast? What will happen on the roads? When is the best time to shop? Will my paperwork get done? And how should I look at non-productivity and excessiveness?   (DG comment:  Forget the last 2 sentences of this paragraph.  No matter what they tell you - it aint gonna happen. Take a vacation.... just sayin...)

This lecture will be held at the AWARE Center on June 10 at 7pm and will be  followed by a dinner buffet. Advance registration is required at