You can get almost everything you need at the Old Souk in Kuwait City, including cookware, clothes, housewares, health and beauty supplies, electronics, handmade carpets, and perfumes. And more.
When I walk through the meat and vegetable part of the Souk, I just wish I had a kitchen. If I did, I would be loaded down with all manner of wonderful things. In addition to vegetables, meat, dairy, and poultry, they have a fresh fish market, as well, all in the same area of the huge (multiple blocks) Old Souk.
The vegetable area has two long aisles with fresh vegetables down the center and separating the two long aisles. These aisles are at least as long as a football field and across from the vegetables, they are lined with small shops selling less perishable items. These items range from dates to nuts to spices to candy to oil to olives.
Everything is fresh, not a canned good in sight. The only things that could possibly be called processed foods were the various cured olives and dates and nuts roasted and prepared in all sorts of ways. What a concept, why can’t we get this kind of quality and variety at home?
And it was all top quality, often much better looking vegetables than what you will normally see in a typical US grocery store. Yet, Kuwait being a desert country, most of it is imported. But, somehow, it is getting to market here quickly enough to retain its quality.
My buddy, Mark, always gets dates. There will be a separate blog post on Mark’s date vendor of choice, as it is a funny and nice story on its own. I usually get pistachios. Last time we went, I got 10 garlic bulbs to use for my own cooking when we finally get back into Iraq (thinking of having only the option of eating at the mess hall again makes me shudder). I also got some cashews.
What really never ceases to amaze me in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and other places I have been is the incredible variety of certain things. In the United States, if one wants dates, we have exactly one choice unless we live in a huge city. We get a little more variety of olives, but they are all canned (in cans or jars), again, unless you live in a huge city. Here, I can’t count how many choices there are for different dates and olives and even the selection of nut preparation is wider. I found lemon pistachios here, for example, that I wrote about previously, Iranian pistachios.
There are dozens of vendors competing against each other here and, to be successful, they must develop a clientele. Since all the merchandise is good quality and prices are negotiable, I think the major factor is the personal relationships the merchants build up with their regular clients. Mark always goes back to the same date merchant and there is a reason for that.
With each merchant occupying such a small space and in competition with many others (there are at least 20 date vendors, for example), this has to be a key aspect of doing business. Perhaps the Arab tradition of doing business slowly and getting to know one’s customer is why these souks are so crowded. Kuwait also has plenty of fixed price grocery stores and co-ops, as well. The Carrefour here is nice, not much different than the ones in France. But, the personal touch is just not there at a grocery store.
The meat section is an aisle (street) over and the fish section is an aisle over on the opposite side. The fish market is a smaller version of the main Kuwait Fisk Souk I previously wrote about. The varity was good and was different every time I have walked through there. Everything looked quite fresh to me.
The meat market consists of tiled stalls with big wooden doors for each merchant. It was obvious that cleanliness is emphasized at all the fish and meat markets I have seen here and the tiles make it easy to hose down.
Meat is butchered to order, so you see carcasses hanging in various states of completeness. I would go nuts here buying lamb, mutton, and goat. We did see one stall with camel, you could tell by the huge size of the rib cage, leg and tail. Obviously, the entire camel was too big to hang. There were also beef, eggs, and live chickens. There is a dairy section, as well, where you can get milk and cheese. The eggs here that I have had all have the dark yolks I remember getting from my own chickens that were allowed to get sunshine and roam around.
I want to live where I can do all my food shopping at a place like the Meat and Vegetable Souk.