Dateline: Mahboula, 1992 – And I Liked It!


Mahboula 2009: The ‘Mermaid Project’

For the first time in my life, I am in a diwaniya. And not only visiting, but participating. Thank you, Amer, for opening up your blog for guest contributors, and inviting me to join. I am honored to be here.

Who am I? I’m Global Gal, an American expat living in China. A long time ago I lived in Kuwait in an apartment with ill-fitting windows, pock-marked facade, (presumably from bullets), and, in the right light, Iraqi graffiti under the thinly-coated paint of the interior walls. It was 1992 and I was sixteen. Fresh off the airplane from Texas, the Mahboula (Mad Woman’ in Arabic) area might as well have been the moon. Eventually, it was home and all these years later I still miss it. I even miss that hastily thrown together apartment. I can honestly look back on my two years in Kuwait as some of the happiest and most influential of my life. I have never forgotten my Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti experiences that made me who I am today – a traveler, an expat and an admirer of the little country that could.

When I hear about the current state of Kuwait – multitudes of restaurants, Marina Mall, aquariums, etc. and the current state of Mahboula and Fahaheel, where I lived and spent most of my time, I tend to think like that grumpy old man character from ‘Saturday Night Live’.

(Cue Grumpy Old Man voice): “Back in my day we didn’t have McDonald’s and Burger King right across the road. There was no such thing as McDonald’s. If we wanted fast food, we walked to the shawarma stand or found an adult to drive us all the way to Fahaheel. And in Fahaheel you could have Wendy’s or KFC and that was it. There was no Hungry Bunny. And we liked it.

And we didn’t go down to the beach to play in the sand and water. We weren’t allowed anywhere near the beach. Everyone was afraid of bombs and mines and booby-trapped Pepsi cans. We spent all our time buying pirated cassette tapes in Salmiya or eating at Chi Chi’s. And we liked it.

And we didn’t have Entertainment City or fancy malls or ‘fun’ places. If we wanted ‘fun’ we spotted burned out car wrecks on the side of the expressway or found another adult to drive us down to Kheiran where we could wander around the abandoned tank and play in the video arcade. And we liked it.” (End Grumpy Old Man voice)

And I really did like it! I would love to see how Kuwait has changed! Consider this my introductory post. I will be contributing travel stories and anecdotes of my Kuwait expat experience to the diwaniya in the coming weeks. I hope you don’t mind a little light-hearted fare! It looks like I need to brush up on Kuwaiti politics as well!

Global Gal writes about her life in China, travel experiences and interesting things she sees and reads at On the Fringe.

8 thoughts on “Dateline: Mahboula, 1992 – And I Liked It!

  1. Thanks for your contribution, we are looking forward to more pieces, Global Gal – and welcome to the asylum!

  2. Thanks for the title & photo! I heard about the Mermaid building from intlxpatr. I can’t even imagine what it all must look like now. I’ve only been back with Google Earth!
    And Marzouq, I did have a wonderful experience there, my entire family did. My husband and I are even actively looking for opportunities to move to Kuwait or another Gulf country!

  3. I thought I left a comment here this morning, but I must not have sent it. Global Gal, I think of you every time I pass Union Bridge – isn’t that where you lived?
    I like to drive by The Mermaid at night and see if there is anyone living there yet . . . I think maybe they priced themselves out of the market. There MAY be one occupant, but I think it is largely empty, and I don’t think the car elevators are operational, and with all these sandstorms – I hate to think of what that could mean.
    It’s good to see you guesting here, Global Gal. πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Intlxpatr!
    The Mermaid is a fascinating building. I enjoyed looking through the link on the post with photos of its construction. What a shame that it is nearly empty! The car elevator seemed a bit over the top, but cool regardless.
    I lived in a building very close to Union Bridge. Ours was called Azizan. Union Bridge was where all the Bechtel families lived. You mentioned sandstorms: We didn’t have a lot of sandstorms while I was in Kuwait, at least not very big ones, but when the sand did blow, we had interesting streams of sand blowing horizontally through our ill-fitted windows and the window frame. We actually used to watch them as entertainment.

  5. Don’t go to any other gulf country. Come to Kuwait. We need more positive expats. Reading your post is a breath of fresh air. Yes we have unresolved issues here… but where in the world is a place that’s perfect? More posts on this blog please πŸ™‚

  6. Bu Yousef – Thanks for your comment! As for perfect, I’ve never found that place, but after living in rural China for three years, I think Kuwait would come pretty darn close!
    Incidentally, I recently spoke with a family who lived in our building, also Americans, and they shared the same feeling as me – what a shame it was we all had to leave Kuwait. I don’t know if it was the era, but I think post-liberation Kuwait was a pretty special place.

  7. Today’s ‘Kuwait Times’ article has a disturbing report on Mahboula called “Mahboula residents suffer from municipality’s negligence” here:
    An excerpt:
    “KUWAIT: Living on unpaved dirt roads seems to be the unaffected reality of residents of Mahboula. Despite the fact that the coastal area is booming with residential towers, it lacks the simplest of elements: paved roads. The residents have to maneuver puddles of water accumulated from last week’s rain, slippery mud, piles of bricks and building tools, as well as garbage bags that surround the area.
    Driving on these roads is damaging to the cars,” said Metwali, an Egyptian expat who lives in Mahboula with his family. “The area is filled with garbage and it isn’t taken care of. When we the residents asked about it, we were told that the cleaning company’s contract has expired. This didn’t make sense to us; how come the health and safety of the residents can be dependent on a contract with some cleaning company? Did any officials ever check before the contact ended? This isn’t a simple matter than can
    be neglected this easily.”

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