8 min read

Walking in Kuwait-City with Anwar

Walking in Kuwait-City with Anwar
Photo by Mayer Tawfik / Unsplash

I met Anwar in an online Interintellect salon when the world was experiencing the first lockdowns in 2020. I was living in Switzerland back then, she was living in Kuwait. She joined some of my salons on art gallery curation and storytelling, and I joined her salons on writing.

Anwar is a wonderful listener, a very attentive observer, and a lovely human being. I was very happy when she accepted to answer these questions for The Flâneurs Project.

Hi, Anwar! Please tell us a bit about yourself, where do you live now, where have you lived before, and about any creative projects that you are passionate about.

My name is Anwar. I’m a full-stack developer and a pianist. I’m currently living in Kuwait which is the same country I was born in. I wish I could say I’ve lived in multiple places before, but my life is deeply rooted here. 

My main creative project for this month is achieving excellence in performing my repertoire which includes pieces by Bach, Mozart, Grieg, and Chopin. It’s challenging, yet fun to witness the contrast between the different eras and highlight it!

What is your favourite street / area in Kuwait and why?

I easily get attached to certain places. Me and my husband gave our apartment its own special name - whenever we enter the area, we don’t say we’re almost home, but call it by its name as if it was a whole being.

The area is very quiet and residential-friendly. We have three beautiful parks around us. A beautiful and cosy café that we just discovered. Everything I need is in Kaifan! 

What café or restaurant did you visit the most often in Kuwait?

The Hub Cafe

Without a doubt: The Hub Cafe. If I want an excellent coffee, I’d go elsewhere. If I want comfort and focus, you’d find me at The Hub having tea with a scrumptious cheesecake. They have beautiful outdoor seating which overlooks the street and a seaview, as well as a gorgeous rooftop which feels to me like a very meditative bar (I witnessed all those changes in the cafe over the years, and almost no change there is disappointing).

It’s a place full of good memories and I’ve been going there through the many different phases of my life. I experienced many different things for the first time in that cafe. The two most significant ones are: me waiting nervously for my first music composition class, and my first conversation about getting married to who is now my husband! 

It’s our sanctuary when we need to write, talk, or just have a good time. And I could go on and on with the funny, romantic, or wonderful things that happen there!

Side note: After I wrote this, me and my husband found a very close and cosy restaurant/café (5 minutes away from our apartment) called Bakehaus. It will be our ‘The Hub’ from now on. The atmosphere, baked goods, coffee, food, and everything there feel and smell like heavenly perfection. It’s a wonderful place for a writing or a studying session, a date, or anything else I could think of! I can’t write more about it because the memories there are yet to be created!

Please share a serendipitous moment from a walk in Kuwait. 

I remember walking aimlessly with a close friend of mine in Kuwait City at night. We walked across different streets and areas within the city. It was a lengthy walk, so we got hungry but decided to continue the exploration of both abandoned and crowded places. 

Our curiosity got the best of us and we denied our hunger until I saw a strange dark building that looked like it was under minor construction. I tried to sneak a peek through the glass, but my friend held me back and wanted us to move forward. As I turned my back, a gentleman in a suit came out calling us to invite us in. 

It turns out to be a restaurant that was preparing for their opening next month. He told us that since we were that curious about it, they wouldn’t let us go until they served us food and drinks from the menu they’re working on and give them a review.

That night, both hunger and curiosity were serendipitously satisfied. 
Photo by Jan Dommerholt on Unsplash

Please share a story of a stranger that you met or passed by on the streets and why that moment stayed with you until now.

I was on an early morning walk with my father in AlShaheed park. We decided to take different directions since each wanted to have a significantly different pace of walking. 

As I walked alone, an old lady who was sitting on a bench called me in a way as if she knew me. I trusted her genuine tone and went closer to her. She started shooting casual questions like how am I doing and how things are which got me confused. I truly felt like she knows who I am with her warm grandmother-like tone she was using with me. I wanted to be polite, so I sat next to her to continue the conversation and go with the flow. We had a good conversation for around 20 minutes, I kissed her forehead (it’s a way to show respect towards the elders here), and went on my way. 

I continued my walk and went around that same bench again after some time. Her daughter, as I assume, approached me and said something along these lines: ‘I saw you sitting next to her, and I just wanted to thank you for your patience and kindness’. Apparently, the woman has been suffering from Alzheimer’s and she probably mistook me for someone else, or for any possible reason. 

When I left I had happy tears filling my eyes, and I was genuinely happy that I took a different direction from my father in walking just so that I could give her hopefully good company. The feeling of being in the right place and right moment, and knowing that I did the right thing, is why it stayed with me.

What is your personal definition of the flâneur / flâneuse?

When walking with curiosity and observation becomes an innate part of the person’s nature and routine, I think that’s a flâneur / flâneuse.

I noticed that people who love walking in general aren’t very timid in reaching or sticking to a destination - it’s bravery and a joyful thing to get lost.

What brings you joy whilst walking?

A book comes to my mind called ‘In Praise of Wasting Time’ by Alan Lightman which I think answers this question even though it’s not specifically about walking. A wasted time in its most positive sense solidifies our creative thoughts and the inner self - the best medium for a good wasted time to me is walking. Lightman mentioned how doing nothing at all can be the best thing. That is why many composers and philosophers had their invisible light bulb on top of their heads during their commute time. 

Kuwait is not a friendly place for walking, so I usually need to park my car somewhere first to start my walk. This lifestyle has made me remember streets and areas in a fast motion due to the driving. Even though it’s a curse, it still made me appreciate the beautiful contrast of observing areas in terms of speed of motion - in a slower walking-speed motion. 

I enjoy walking for the sake of walking. And I welcome whatever that comes with it: a serendipitous moment, an invisible light bulb over my head, a deeper observation of the world, or a good conversation with good company.

Is there any area / street in Kuwait where you feel unsafe?

In a general sense, it’s about the time more than the place. Almost everything in Kuwait shuts down at or near midnight. It always feels a little odd when I travel to other countries and it still feels safe at night!

In a more specific sense, I lived in AlJahra for almost three years and I felt unsafe there for most of the time. The population isn’t as diverse as other cities, and I rarely see women walking alone. Perhaps you’d think that I know the area very well having been there three years, but I know nothing about it because I never felt comfortable exploring it. I’d drive everyday to Kuwait City and start my day.
Photo by Jan Dommerholt on Unsplash - Kuwait Tower

What part of Kuwait would you like to re-enchant and why?

Ah I wish I could boil it down to one or two places, but in the last 10 years many beautiful old buildings that are rich with history and memories have been torn down only for commercial stores to take place which you can repetitively see every three kilometres across the streets.

If you could name a street – what name would you choose for that street?

I cringe a little when I write this down, but it’s ‘Happiness Street’. 

I saw a sign on a street in Bahrain during my commute that said ‘Happiness St.’ or ‘شارع السعادة’ in Arabic. It truly felt like it was a happy street! The sunshine with the clouds, the seaview, and the white buildings harmonised together. The name didn’t feel like it was enforced in a utopian way, but its serenity spoke the name. 

This wouldn’t be my first instinct to name a street, but that’s what came to my mind!

If you could move to another city tomorrow (and have every expense covered, job security, a new home) what city would you choose, if you had to go with your first gut instinct?

Graz, Austria

Graz, Austria! I went there in July this year for about a fortnight. In that fortnight, I got to know a few people there, and remember some people’s shifts at their work because I repeatedly saw them walking across the same café I sit in for my morning coffee everyday. It felt like a warm village - everyone knew each other. 

It’s far away to be considered touristic, which is a bonus. I haven’t seen many commercial stores like in Vienna, another bonus! Every café, every bar, every clothing or antique store looked like a small home business.

Most people there only speak German. I only knew a few words here and there, but I didn’t feel lost at all. I know that I don’t have to put an emotional effort to feel at home, because it felt like home immediately when I landed there. 

If you want me to share a social media page or a website (about you and/or your projects), please share your links below:

Essays: here | Twitter: here

Thank you, Anwar!