Since we are stuck in Kuwait City waiting on Iraqi visas to get back into Iraq, we have been exploring Kuwait City. Yesterday, we set out to find the National Museum and ended up at the big Fish Souq (souk means market) on the Arabian Gulf in downtown Kuwait City.
How we ended up here is another story. We had looked at a map and knew, in general, where the museum was in relation to Arabian Gulf Street and a dhow harbor. The taxi driver didn’t seem to understand where the museum was. As we tried to explain where we wanted to go, it appears he got something in his head about the area of town we wanted to go to. He said, “Only Arabs go there, don’t you want to go to a big mall like The Avenues” (no, we didn’t, biggest mall I’ve ever been in and I hate malls). We said no. I was thinking, “where Arabs go” is where I want to go, when I travel, I like to do wat the locals to as much as possible. Then, he tried to tell us we should go to Fahaheel, this appears to be a place where Americans tend to go. Maybe next time, but not today. I normally go as far from places Americans go as possible unless it is a really big attraction. He resigned himself to taking us where he was sure we didn’t want to go.
We knew the museum wasn’t open yet, so we just wanted to be dropped off somewhere near the coast so we could do some sightseeing until it opened. But, he dropped us off in front of a Mosque and said there was a market next to it. Not as nice as the malls, of course, he tells us, but since we insisted, here we are. We got out just as the call to prayer was sounding. There was a large area in front of the Mosque with covered tables and a small playground for kids. We headed across the plaza and noticed a closed off street that had a tall roof structure build to shield the street and all the shops. It turns out, we were about to enter one of the many gates or entrances to the Old Souq.
As soon as we hit the covered tables near the entrance and smelled the food from all the wonderful kebab, schwarma and tikka restaurants, I knew we were in the right place to be. No Americans in sight and we ran into many people who didn’t speak English. Everyone was nice and we were just part of the crowd. Men in the Arab dress and women bareheaded to scarved to complete burkas. Teens in jeans and businessmen in suits. This is one of the places the locals shop for food and other necessities.
Since this post is about the Fisk Souq, I guess I better move on. We wandered around the Old Souq, they have a nice fresh fish market there, too, as well as a great supply of fresh vegetables that all looked of very nice quality. All being sold by multiple small vendors competing against each other. There were at least six shops selling dates (we tasted some dates, excellent and there are many different kinds, not like the one kind you get in the US), and as many selling olives. Others had nuts and spices. Everything you needed to cook a stellar meal was available. There was a meat section, too, and I was drooling over the lamb carcesses hanging everywhere. You could also get just a goat head if you wanted to.
We left the food area and wandered around the groupings of stores selling the same things, like textiles, tailors, perfume, blankets, clothes, watches, etc. Now we were looking for the meseum, which was around here somewhere. We stopped at a small restaurant and sat outside. That was my best meal here so far, but that will be the topic of another post. We walked and walked in the direction of where we thought the museum was, even asking some Kuwaiti National Guard soldiers. They told us and it turns out we had walked quite a ways in the wrong direction. We decided to forget the museum for that evening as it was getting too close to closing time to make the trip worthwhile. Just past the National Guard buildings, we saw a dhow harbor. It was dark by now, but enough light to see that the dhows had just come in and were unloading people. The fish had already been unloaded at the Fish Souq docks that we could see across the small harbor. So, we decided to check it out.
We walked past the loading dock and caught the smell, not a good odor at all. Inside, it was clean and smelled of fresh fish. I am not an expert on saltwater fish, so I don’t know what most of the fish were. We recognized mackeral, tuna, flounder, squid, all sizes of shrimp, sardines, crab, and guessed at a few others. Everything looked wonderful. I don’t know how many of the fish came from the Kuwaiti fishing boat fleets. Some certainly did. Others were flown in fresh. Some things may have been previously frozen, but I didn’t see any evidence of that. One of the few signs in English said, “Egypt talipia flown in fresh daily.” It certainly all looked top quality to me, no clouded fish eyes, for example.
Finally, the Fish Souq also included a grocery section to the side that was similar to the grocery section of the Old Souq. Lots of veggies, dates, nuts and spices, oils, etc. They had live chickens, as well. You picked out your chicken and it was butchered on-the-spot for you, wrapped and delivered into your hands. I have only seen that once in the US, at the Italian Market in Philadelphia. Any American foodie will love the Fish Souq. Unless you live in one of a very few large cities in the US, it is almost impossible to get really fresh fish or even a variety of frozen fish. Really a shame that we are so behind the rest of the world when it comes to fresh foods.
I wanted to buy one of everything but, alas, no where to cook things for us. One day, I will live in a place that allows me to do my food shooping this way.