Sunday, November 05, 2006

Travelog # 12 - Kuwait

I have visited Kuwait twice so far and each time it was a very brief visit and the pictures here are from my last visit in the summer of 2005.

What stuck me in Kuwait was the amount of immigrant population who seemed to be employed in all areas. In fact, immigrants outnumber the locals 3 to 1. Most of visible immigrants are from Indian sub-continent & Philippines doing all kinds of jobs from janitorial work in the Airport to building roads to driving vehicles to hospitality related work. I came across Indians at two distinct levels, one employed in white collar jobs like Banking and Computer industry, others in the blue collar professions.

The signs of destruction from the Iraqi invasion was evident in many areas, but so is the massive reconstruction effort. The small downtown area was dotted with building cranes and in fact the Sheraton Hotel where we stayed was also going through massive renovation.

One thing that stuck the most from that visit was the uneasy feeling amongst Indian immigrants living there. Even though the country and the city is sparsely populated and all movements strictly monitored, many of the Indian immigrants I spoke to were worried about their families'
security. One guy told me that, his family doesn't venture out even during day time and he always accompanies them when they go out. His worry was on two fronts, one getting mugged or robbed but he was even more worried about the Kuwaiti police / justice system. He was convinced that, immigrants would not be treated fairly by the system there.

Another very observable thing was the movement of military and that is US military. I learnt that US has a staging area for its ongoing military activity in Iraq. Also, US companies have garnered several lucrative reconstruction contracts worth several billion dollars.

This may be a gratitude thing.. but nevertheless beneficial to US citizens. They are exempted from entry / visa fees at the Airport while almost everyone else had to shell out KWD 3 about USD 10.

Kuwaiti Towers
Kuwaiti Towers
Kuwaiti Towers, one of the land marks of this Kuwait and one of the few things that survived the Iraqi occupation.

A model of Souk (mall)
Sand model of the Souk I visited.. (Souk - Mall)

Liberation Tower.. built after US liberated Kuwait and gave it back to the earlier Kuwaiti rulers
Liberation Tower... The work on this tower started before the war but completed after and aptly named as Liberation Tower. Clearly visible from any part of the city

More pictures in flickr