Thursday, November 06, 2014

Camping War Begins

My tent, 2 years ago, Zoor Area

Hate to say "I told you so" but I said it on my FB account - this is gonna git ugly.

The Municipality is taking away a Kuwaiti cultural activity that has gone on for generations and dates back to Bedouin tribes roaming the desert.  The Municipality have made deposits so high that some families can't afford to pay.  Other families are upset because the land size limits them only to the ability to set up camp for one or two families, so that extended families can't camp together (again, breaking a tradition).

People are mad.  I'm one of them.  Many of my friends (including my own group of seasonal camping buddies) have decided that it is all too much.  We are sticking to the farm this year. I want to be in my tent!!!  The Government has found yet another way to create more bureaucracy, paperwork, and tedium.   300KD for land rent, 50KD non-refundable deposit, permits and signage required, land limit of 1,000 meters, limitations on what types of bathrooms and plumbing you can set up.  And, worst of all, some guy deciding where you can to camp.  That translates to wastah and wealthy people being able to rent plots of land and then re-rent at higher prices.

My Tent (background) last winter

Seriously, are they TRYING to push people out of the country?  Where else do you go?  Are people supposed to just set up tents along the Gulf Road to enjoy the weather?  This sucks.  I think you'll notice a lot less camps this year.  PATHETIC

THANK YOU, KUWAIT TIMES FOR FOLLOWING THIS STORY!!!  And corruption?  Oh gee, now there is a shocker....

"Reserved" Signage
Photo:  Kuwait Times

Corruption Over Camping Spots at Kuwait Municipality  (LINK)
Kuwait Times by  Nawara Fattahova
6 November, 2014

KUWAIT: A Municipality employee involved in the allotment of desert spots for camping is selling them for thousands of dinars, according to several  Kuwaitis  who  had  to  pay  the  civil  servant  in  order  to  be granted  those  campsites.  The  muftah  (the  key  person)  allegedly reserved several spots for himself, his family, friends and even his domestic servants when the camping season opened. He then began to sell these reservations to citizens looking to set up their camps in prime locations.
Kuwait’s  camping  season  runs  from  November  till  March  and  is popular with both locals and expatriates. Thousands of camps are set up, mostly in Ahmadi, Farwaniya and Jahra governorates in selected desert areas overseen by the Municipal Council.
Under a new system by the Municipality that aims to organize the camping  season  and  help  protect  the  environment,  campers  must now register for a designated spot and pay a fee of KD 50 plus a KD 300  deposit.   Using  GPS  coordinates   and  an  online  registration system, the Municipality invited would-be campers to apply for a campsite.
But according  to several  campers  that  Kuwait  Times  spoke  with  in various camping areas around Kuwait, at least one Municipality supervisor is withholding the best spots for sale on the desert camp black market. “When I tried to book my location for a camp online on the  website  of  the  Municipality,  I  was  shocked  that  all  the  good strategic  locations  were  gone,”  explained  Yousef.  “I later  found  out
that a supervisor at the Ahmadi branch of the Municipality has booked the places for himself and registered them in the names of his family members and friends. This guy is selling these places for up to KD 2,000,” he told Kuwait Times.
“We thought of preparing a petition, but when we filed a complaint at the Municipality, nobody listened. They said everyone wants the most popular locations, although we have been camping there every year. Furthermore, the locations on their system are wrong, as I applied for a location in Julaia, and the system gave me a location in Mina Abdullah. The new system sucks, and hasn’t brought any benefits at all,” he stated.
Another camper explained that the Municipality’s new system has essentially created the conditions for a black market in popular camping sites by creating  artificial  limitations  and  demand.  “The  new  regulation  changed  the  national  tradition  of  camping  into  a  business  for  many  people.  The Municipality is involved in this, and their staff are reserving good locations for their friends who are selling them for high amounts starting from KD 500 up to KD 2,000,” said Jassem, who also paid extra for his spot. “Social media and various websites are full of ads by people offering to sell a camp with a permit or just the site,” he pointed out.
The locations differ in price. “Officially, the payment is the same for all locations in all governorates, which is a KD 50 fee and a KD 300 deposit that will be returned at the end of the camping season. But practically, people are selling their sites for different prices depending on the demanded areas. Even the KD 350 officially paid to the Municipality is considered a high amount for some people, especially 17- or 18-year-old students, so many of them won’t be camping this year,” Jassem added.
Abu Ahmad, another Kuwaiti camper, confirmed that he paid the Municipality employee for a good camp location. “I was obliged to pay KD 1,100 to get a camp near a location to the one I typically camp at every year for the last 20 years. The Municipality is corrupt, but when I went to file a complaint, they told me that I don’t have any evidence as there is nothing registered in the name of this corrupt employee, who registered the locations in the name of his friends and relatives. So I was not able to accuse him as I can’t officially prove it,” he stated.
He mentioned other what he called the exploitation of the system. “Besides the corruption of this employee and maybe other employees, there is the fact that somebody will get profit or interest from the deposits and fees paid by people. Imagine how many people paid the KD 350, and this money will be in some account for five months. So who will get the profits of this?” wondered Abu Ahmad.
He also complained of the space given by the Municipality. “They gave us only 1,000 square meters, which is only enough to set up camp for one family or two small families. We also have to keep space between the camps and we may not find two adjacent locations for each other, while during previous years, four or five families used to camp together in one location, which is not possible anymore,” he concluded.

UnSuperMom - You make a very valid point; and one that I was going to include in the post, but forgot to:  Campgrounds.  It makes sense for the ecology of the country and at the same time, the Government (and concessioners)  can make money.

I have proposed this idea to friends in other countries in the Gulf; especially in Oman where seaside property is still very inexpensive (and, BTW, can be purchased by Bidoon people).  With more people in the GCC buying campers (caravans), it is a good business for destination travellers (camp sites, for example, along a route to Oman; in Bahrain, Qatar, UAE) and families can take GCC vacations in their campers with the amenities of "home".

Creating a campsite is a good ROI:  The main price is the land.  You can rent out space to vendors (like movies, little shops, etc) and create electricity connections and waste dump areas.  Charge by the night and space size.

The only problem with this (for me, in Kuwait) is that I like the open space.  I don't want to be with other people. I want to be far away with only the sound of the wind and maybe a few passing camels.  I don't like "urban-style" camping with buggies and noise and parties.  I seek the peace, smell, solitude, and feel that you can only get, unique to Kuwait.

This is ALL I want to see and hear

Worse-come-to-worst this year, I'll take my tent, put it up somewhere remote, and remove after the weekend.  Sad, but if it comes to that, a Desert Girl's gotta do what a Desert Girl's gotta do.


UnSuperMom said...

The problem with the government is they seem to be unable to fix ANY problem from its roots, they just want a quick fix, and at the same time the ability to get money fast from the population.
I have never camped before and I don't see the fun in it. But I know a lot of people that enjoy it, but I also see the trash that is left over after everyone removes their camp grounds and leaves all their bathrooms and trash all over the desert.
What the government should do is create camp grounds, like there are ALL OVER THE WORLD, and work from there. Not set exorbitant fees and all that bullshit.
The only reason they have someone choosing where you will camp is so you can bribe them to give you the spot you want. Highest bidder gets the best plot of land.

Anonymous said...

Considering all the Garbage that's left behind and the sheer damage to the local environment as well as the sheer amount of drugs and alcohol being used, maybe its not such a bad idea.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 11:19 -

Were you talking about a particular area of Kuwait CITY or in general?

Ok, fine people for not cleaning their areas, but don't ruin an entire tradition.

Desert Girl said...

I'm not going to publish stuff about drug abuse in camps because that isn't what this post is about. Drug abuse is RAMPANT all over Kuwait. Don't blame the campers. Blame enforcement. If you are trying to say that by banning camps you will curb the drug problem; it is like saying stop renting apartments and houses, and stop selling cars - because drug abuse can take place anywhere/anytime.

SOME of us don't use drugs. SOME of us clean up their camp sites. SOME of us have respect for other people. You can't punish all of the population because of what other sections of it are doing.

Anonymous said...

As a Kuwaiti I cannot be happier with this new system!! Every year after camping season it frustrates me the amount of trash and pollution people create when they camp. They don't deserve to be allowed to camp, the way they disrespect the land and the beauty of the desert.

It's about time the government took a stance, and made it tough on them, 350KD doesn't even come close to covering the decades of garbage dumped in the desert.

People need to get over themselves, the desert is a flat barren land, there is no such thing as a PRIME location, how fussy can they be?!?!

Maybe this system will start to teach them to respect the land they took for granted and basically shat and ravaged for the sake of a "weekend" of "tradition."

I hope the implement more fines for people who pollute their rented spaces, i.e. don't remove their trash/sewage/etc.

Best news i heard all day. And as A KUWAITI i think it's the smartest move ever.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous Kuwaiti Nov 9 -

You are obviously a Kuwaiti who does not (has never?) camped. If you were, you would understand the beauty of varying areas of your OWN COUNTRY. Julai'ia is different than Mutlaa. Abdali is different than Zor.

CHOICE has always been the way for people here and what is happening now is that people's CHOICE is being taken away.

Do you fish? Let someone tell you that you have to pay 350KD go go out for the fishing season in your boat. And then, only where the Government determines it is ok for you to fish. And the choice is made by some guy in an office.

Who are "they" that you refer to exactly? Your OWN people? As I have heard a bazillion times from KUWAITIS, "All your fingers are not the same." Not all people who camp are the same. Not all campers are drug abusers or litterers. Can anyone (including yourself) make sweeping statements about a singular group of people (in this case, your OWN people)? There are responsible people among Kuwaitis...

OMG. Enough of the Kuwaiti racism against Kuwaitis. Yeh! "Divide and conquer" is really working for this country, isn't it? While you're sitting around bitching in diwaniyas about "this" group of Kuwaitis vs. "that" group of Kuwaitis, the country is decaying.

Oh - and by the way, there is talk now that diwaniyas will soon be regulated....

Anonymous KUWAITI WOMAN NOV 9 said...

Um... I'm not a Guy... I'm a kuwaiti woman, therefore I don't go to diwanias. but I do camp in the desert, and I have every year since i was 8 years old, and I started to hate it after seeing all the crap people leave behind. I don't care if 2 out of the 100 are clean, the 98 others are not respecting the land they have the privilege to use.

And on that note, I think i have more insight about kuwaitis than you would, seeing as I am kuwaiti and have been raised with all kinds of kuwaitis all my life. and believe me the 350KD fine is nothing to most Kuwaiti families, or young men. This system is implanted in every modernized country in the world, including other gulf countries like Qatar, and you don't hear them complaining.

This is the best system, and it will definitely protect the beauty of the desert from the litter and pollution people leave behind. SOME STUPID ENOUGH TO INSTALL PERMANENT BATHROOM STRUCTURES, with ceramic and a fulling functioning toilet. wheres the tradition in that? Tradition means doing your business in the hole. I'm sorry theirs no tradition left in the modern campers.

Have you ever driven through the desert after camping season, maybe next time you should, and maybe then you'd be as angry as i am.

The wasta system behind who gets to camp where isn't fair, i'll give you that, but this system is in everything kuwaitis do, from government, down to the most mundane things. Its just another of the sad realities of kuwait, but if thats all that is wrong about the situation, than I'll take it. protecting the desert is more important, and the privileged system of wasta is always going to be present in kuwait. theres nothing you can do about it.

Desert Girl said...

Kuwaiti Woman -

Don't get your panties in a wad. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and you've stated yours pretty well...

This just happens to be my blog and my opinion. And I've stated it.

And I'm American and a woman and I ocassionally go to mixed diwaniyas. You won't find any gender bias here.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this blog on giving fair ideas on kuwaitti camping culture. The write ups and comments of the author is fair and humanely correct or sane. The problem lies on social camping etiquette to the very core of the kuwaiitis (the parents), if 2 percent is good and 98 percent is bad on utilizing camp grounds this is so alarming. What happen to the parents?. It's incorrect to say that people cannot do anything on wrong doings like "wasta" and giving regulatory power to a certain people to gain money or to corrupt others. While reading all the stuff in this page, I can virtually sense what the author say about the camping tradition of kuwaitis. I now understand why motorhome is not being primary choice of the kuwaittis because of the beautiful tradition way back as travelers/traders(bedoon) life, which i can say middle east is the first people who live on camps in desert land areas, The space on motorhome is so small hahaha imagine 1000 sqm camp ground for family to enjoy is not enough. Anyway cheers to the author.. I love this blog