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A Souq to Remember

The smoky odor of cooked fish permeated my clothes. But it wasn’t the smell of a clean kitchen. It was that of an open-air fire, much oilier and potent from the wood coal used to fuel the stove. It didn’t matter, and it doesn’t now still—since even after a night’s sleep, a shower and a change of clothes I still feel like I smell of the souq I ate in last night. This is because for maybe an hour or so Kuwait for once offered me humanity, or at least a sense of it. My colleague and I sat where the locals sit, tucked away in the dirty old market—dirty only because of wear and the business of the place. The shopkeepers and servers were vigilant in their sweeping, wiping and washing. Grime accumulates. It was authentic. It gave the place character, a welcomed attribute in a city that has all the charm of an airport’s duty free shop. We knew we wanted fish, but that was it. The servers took care of the rest. Waving their hands and nodding excessively: “Yes, yes, I know. I know what you like. I give you. I give you.” And they did. A massive pumpkin seed of a fish splayed open and blackened, bones, head and all. A plate of whole prawns, tangy and cooked just right. Fresh, spicy vegetables, hot pita and sauces we knew didn’t come out of a bottle. We ate with our hands, dipping and stripping and tasting the treats. We sat tight among families and friends all eating the same way. The cooks and servers swung by checking on us. “Good, good!” They’d make jokes. We’d make jokes. Well, we all tried. We all laughed just the same. I forgot I was in Kuwait. I could have been anywhere. And that’s how I will leave this place, on a high note. I depart purposefully a day early to Doha, Qatar—just for the day—then back home. I’ll likely be back here at some point. Until then, I will hold tight my memory of the market. Instead of it reminding me of any other souq I’ve been to, I’ll let the others remind me of Kuwait. It is the only way.

Reader Comments (3)

Glancing at Doha, thoughts on the FIFA decision on Qatar 2022? Does it make any sense at all? Also, any fotos from the souq? Sounds like fast times.

December 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPablo

I think they'll have plenty of time to figure out the logistics. The country is stoked to be hosting, as evidenced yesterday at national day. World Cup will provide a great opportunity for the country, since it will serve as a goal for which they'll have to work to make progress–on many levels. Photos to come...

December 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterSeth Thomas

Hmmm... Of course, I remain considerably more-excited about Brazil '14 than Qatar '22. Regarding the latter, I started putting out feelers last week toward Ahmad Nimeh & his team. Ahmad is the World Cup bidding team's online director. While I didn't know they were bidding until after they won, what remains of their online bid campaign warn't too bad, at all.

December 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPablo

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