These were once apartments

These were once apartments

See the first post in this three part series: Failaka Island, Kuwait, a unique experience – the Heritage Village. This is part two.

We could walk anywhere we wanted on the island, so the first day we were there we strolled around in the old town near the Heritage Village. The next day we took a tour on a small bus where we were the only passengers.

Our walk was surreal. Empty streets, where streets were actually left. There are plenty of paved roads, all eerily quiet

Faded Kuwait flag on bombed out building

Faded Kuwait flag on bombed out building

and devoid of traffic. The Iraqis invaded in August, 1990, over 20 years ago. This village has not really changed since it was a battlefield and used for target practice by the invaders. Rows of apartments and houses stand empty. Government buildings and schools left as mere shells. Old irrigation channels for crops no longer grown. Shell casings from small arms to artillery still scattered about, and bullet holes everywhere. In most places, one could not walk around as we did. Someone might fall down and get sued. No matter, this is how to see things. And Kuwait is not a nation that tolerate lawsuits for any trivial thing.

Government building covered with bullet holes

Government building covered with bullet holes

One of the schools is today used by an expat group of paint ball enthusists working in Kuwait City. They come here a couple of times a year and rent the entire Ikaros Hotel for their group. The empty and wide open school is perfect for paint ball. In one government building, there were stairs that led nowhere, the top floor was gone. I tried to pry a hunk of bullet lead out of a concrete wall for a souvenir, but it wouldn’t budge. I didn’t have any tools on me.

That was a very interesting walk on a very hot day. The next day, we paid 1 KD (Kuwaiti dinar, about $3.67) for a small bus tour of parts of the island. This was not your ordinary tour. The driver had places he went to specifically, but he would also go where we asked as long as the little bus could make it.

We rode north along the coast into another village. It was much the same, but the buildings weren’t shot up as much and

Old irrigation conduit, there used to be crop growing here

Old irrigation conduit, there used to be crop growing here

there were a few houses with people living or staying in them. We figured that it could be the full-time workers on the island and perhaps a holiday house or two. But, inhabited homes were the exception. There were very few cars or trucks around.

We headed inland, still on a paved road, but nothing but sand around. Finally, we saw what looked like a very small group of buildings that looked like a Kuwaiti Army base. But it was tiny, just a handful of people and vehicles. Before we got there, we turned left onto a dirt road. All we could see ahead was a tin building. It turned out to be a camel ranch. What a treat, I didn’t expect this.

Machine of war

Machine of war

Lots of camels of all ages, right down to babies, two of which were being hand fed because the mother died giving birth. I know that camels have a bad reputation and can spit some huge goobers, but these animals were incredibly friendly and basically like funny looking horses. The ranchers had just milked one camel and they were putting it into a bottle from the bucket for the orphan babies. They smeled a bit stronger than horses, but it wasn’t a bad smell, assuming you, like me, enjoy the smell of horses. One of them licked my arm as long as I would let it, it was cute. And the camel has the most amazing and soothing eyes.

Moving on, we drove across the island and headed back to the Heritage Village along the coast from the

Cute baby camel

Cute baby camel

south. Along the way we saw littered across the desert the remains of the Iraqi war machines that once occupied and terrorized this place. Tanks, artillery, the tail section of a scud missle, armored perssonel carriers. All rusted out now. The scariest thing I saw was a vehicle (see photo) whose purpose could only have been biological warfare.

We hit a nice big paved road with roundabouts. Along one portion of the shore were rows of beach houses, probably one or two bedroom self-catering vacation rentals. These were all shot up, they would have been a cool place to stay, right on the beach.

Bio-warfare truck?

Bio-warfare truck?

Then we hit the beach that is used by the Heritage Village (some folks come to the island by boat and just pull up on a deserted beach to party), which is not far from the ferry dock and in a village with a few inhabitants and a small store. One thing that amazed me was seeing Kuwaiti women and girls, wearing full black coverings and burkas, have a blast swimming and riding jet skis. They were screaming and laughing like anyone else, you just couldn’t see even their faces. The men’s swimming attire was also very modest.

We also went past the ruins of Alexander the Great’s city, Ikaros. We couldn’t go all the way to it as it was fenced off, but it was an archaeological site rather than a site with spectacular objects and remaining buildings. We saw a lot of things from the excavation at the Kuwait National Museum in Kuwait City. I am happy just to have walked on ground trod by those Macedonian warriors and statesmen.

The next post will be about the food, I promise!


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