Living out of a hotel for 2 months has meant I have gone out and explored different places and foods. I have some pictures for some of the foods and places I have been. The most amazing thing about my trip food wise is that the Msa7ab sandwich (de-boned chicken)  of my childhood is still to be found from the same place and with the same amazing taste 22 years later!

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This is the place of the famous sandwich full of garlic and amazingly cooked chicken. PURRRRRR.

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And this cocktail is the perfect accompaniment to the said sandwhich. And by the way, this hasn’t changed either – mango, strawberry, and banana!

But this Cocktail from a shop in Salmiya is amazing as you can see :)

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A cool menu that kuwaitifies its offerings. Really cute.

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Tea is served on a metal saj to keep it warm with some hot coals

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Tea with spices, milk and sugar (shakar) cubes. Yum!

In the Middle of the Mubarkieh Souq is an alleyway filled with tables and hungry people enjoying fresh fish, fresh bread and other yummy things.

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Pomegranate Salad

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Freshly grilled fresh fish picked by my dinner mate!

In another part of town in a place that is slightly more upscale we get to see the menu in pictures on an ipad! This is a very common thing to see in Kuwait. Is this happening in other places, digital pictures instead of paper?

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Not the same burger but it’s sister did arrive. This one was called the ninja burger and came with a date sauce.

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This was a fusion of two of my favorite things pumpkin and cheesecake. I have noticed that in Kuwait sweets are not to be taken lightly. So many places making cakes and cupcakes and there is a lot of cheesecake to be had too.

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A breakfast feast, Homus, Ful, falafel, fateh, ash, fresh bread, and so much more. And some of the bread was made with dates mixed into the dough. It wasnt sweet as one would think… it was amazing.

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I did not manage to get a picture of all the amazing food before we devoured it! This was an Indian feast not to be missed.

Kuwait is a place that has a lot of western franchises, but if you look hard enough there are a lot of amazing local places and foods that are worth exploring.

Public Space is plentiful in Kuwait. All along the sea front are walkways that have been paved and beaches with public access. These places are open, easily accessible, relatively clean and safe. These places are mostly family places – just like Kuwait. People using camping gear in the winter to set up their barbecue spots. So on the weekend they are littered with kids on bikes near families with tents and camping chairs sucking on an argileh and fanning a grill.

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Public Beach – all you have to do is walk up to the sea.

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Who said only people enjoy a lazy weekend by the sea?

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Walk way by the sea- near Salmiya

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Near the Scentific Center and the Aquarium

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At Souq Sharq

Some public spaces include a visual attraction such a dhow or art work :)

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The Dhow at the Scientific Center

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Art work in 360 mall

I want to say more, reflect more and share more about this wonderfully restorative trip I’ve had here in Oakland. But with so much to do I think it will have to be this short message (which was of course a FB status lol):

How has this happend? 6 weeks have flown by. I am sad to be going, excited about what is coming, and I am so happy I had this time to start coming back into myself! Thank you to all those that I have met, crossed paths with, had long conversations with, played and partied with, and broke bread with. You made my stay ♥

more later- today is about being here and tomorrow is about getting there – Amman here I come.

 

:D

I spent 24 hours in Damascus a few days ago and in those 24 hours I had great food, went to a hamam, enjoyed some fantastic juice, had a wonderful calligraphy lesson and enjoyed a gallery opening. The most important of the trip was connect with friends of course. Here is the trip in pictures :).

Fresh Juice

The Juice place - Abu Shaker

The Juice place - Abu Shaker

On the street

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Calligraphy Class

Calligraphy Class

Calligraphy Class

Calligraphy Class

Calligraphy Exhibition

Calligraphy Exhibition

Calligraphy Exhibition

Calligraphy Exhibition

Calligraphy Exhibition

Calligraphy Exhibition

tawleh

A game of tawleh before I leave

So I’ve opted to be in Cairo for the holidays. A number of people, especially Caironians asked “Why, you live in Beirut and you choose to come here?” Well, why not? I love Cairo. I love the history, and the neighbourhoods and the vastness of the city. I love how you can keep coming back and have a wildly different experience of this city each time. I love how familiar it is and how negotiable. And most of all, I like having some favorite places and memories to revisit. It is a city I have a fond history with and I like to keep coming back to time and time again.

 

I especially love that every time I have been here it has been to do something different and to meet different people, and so my experiences have been so varied. This city is massive with a lot to offer. I know a number of people complain about it’s traffic, its harassment, its dirtiness, its air quality, among other things. For me, this is part of what I love about here. Its part of navigating through the time and space that is Cairo.

 

I also recognize that I am a voyeur, a visitor, an intruder and I come with my privileges as a tourist, even if I am not doing touristy things. And it is my friends and the people that I see and meet, build relationships with, and talk to that allow me into their lives and their worlds. They do so with authenticity and genuineness  that helps me balance my privilege  and live, even for a few days, a Caironian life away from museums and Khan El Khalili.  And that is the difference that makes me want to spend my New Year’s here.

 

I’ve been traveling continuously since April 2009. My stay in any one place averages between two and three weeks. And in between all that travel I have moved countries. Why am I telling you all this? Because the number of times I get asked what do you do? How can I get your job? Or hear the statement “I want your life” has been in direct contradiction of how I feel about all this travel.

When all this jet setting started I was excited about it. I was going to new places, seeing new things, doing new things. But slowly  the wonder and excitement of anything new has been replaced with the more practical considerations of where to get a new SIM card, how do I get online, where is a good cheap and healthy place to eat, how long is the lay over…etc. Every place became just another hotel room or bed to crash on and with a focus on the task at hand, wondering when I will see my pillow again. It also meant that I could not focus on moving into Beirut, a place I found impregnable and hostile mostly because I wasn’t here to try to make it home (among other reasons I won’t go into now). I was always missing things because I was in the wrong city at the wrong time.

So here is a word of caution to all those that want a life of constant travel. You lose the wonder of new places. You end up going home to clean and do laundry and repack for your next trip with maybe a social event or two. Your social life is mostly online since you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. People are always mad at you for not making the time to see them or for missing their events. You wake up sometimes not knowing where you are or where you are going next! Your wallet is full of the wrong currency and you always have the wrong map or no map.

On the flip side, you get to know the tips and tricks of various airports and how to get to the immigration line ahead of all the crazy lines. You know which airports offer free Wi Fi (because paying for it is against my religion, but paying for the coffee isnt). You have favorite haunts all over the world and can give insider tips to friends about random and not so random places. You learn to say hello and thank you in different languages and brush up on body language since its universal- just make sure you have the right dialect. You get to see people you miss and make new friends who’s path you would never have crossed otherwise.

But to be honest, and even with all those perks, I just want some time at home. I want to finish that paint job, get plugged into the art scene, actually make friends and not acquaintances, finish projects rather than just suggest ideas for others to maybe take on and well, settle into this new city I now call home. So I’m putting my passport away for a few months and I currently have no travel plans, so come visit and lets explore Beirut together and make that list grow from 10 to 20 and more.

I’m coming home! Next weekend I will be heading to Amman. I miss it much. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life here in Beirut and the differences between it and Amman and its like comparing apples to oranges. I came with high hopes and expectations and I quickly stumbled and tripped over myself in my fumblings around this new home of mine. I have learned a lot about myself and even though I knew I am a creature of habit I had not realized how much of my life was habitualized and ritualized; from my weekend “spontaneity” to my structured work days and weekly commitments. I miss it all.

Next weekend, I leave to go to Amman to relish in all that it is; to look out at the beautiful sunset, play scrabble with my scrabble partner, walk through its old windy street, play with the kids of Al Qalaa and meet the ones of Weibdeh, coffee with old friends, stich and bitch, and Tuesdays at Ivy’s and Wednesdays with Toastmasters. I go back to recharge my batteries that have been running on empty for a while now. I go back to get my Ammani fix.

But before I go I want to reflect a bit on my experience in Beirut. In the last few months, I not so quickly or easily learned that I needed to unlearn a lot of things and pick up new ways of relating and new ways of being. It is growing pains all over again, with social awkwardness, misfitting and feeling like the last one picked for the team, only I don’t know where the team is to start with. I feel unproductive, unaccomplished and with too much time on my hands and no interest in filling it, because I was not relating to where I am. Stating the obvious, Amman has been and still is a big part of my life. In the last few months I have over romanticized it, reminisced about it and continued to make it the yard stick that I measure Beirut against. And because I have done that I have set myself up to fail, fail miserably and be miserable while failing. If my life has taught me anything, it is that from my lowest points, my miserable and not so miserable failures, that I learn the most.

So enough about Amman; Amman will take care of itself. Beirut. Beirut is a big reason I am excited about going to Amman. I am excited to leave so that I can come back. I know it is strange, something has shifted and I no longer want to hide away indoors and block the world out. I am excited about this city, its people, and what it has to offer. I know this now because on my way back from the US, I had the same feelings I do when I return to Amman after any trip: the feelings of wanting to return and having arrived home. The next step is to define what that means.

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