Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Kuwait Is Over

Posted by on February 14, 2009

My brief stay in Kuwait is almost over. I screwed up and accidentally booked a flight to Cairo at 11:00pm not am, so I’m here for 12 hours more than I had planned.

There isn’t a whole lot to see in Kuwait. It is a small country, it’s mostly desert, and there isn’t a lot in the way of ancient history here. That being said, Kuwait is probably the most livable country in the Gulf. I’d describe Kuwait as an American suburb that was populated by Arabs. You can find almost every chain restaurant you can think of in Kuwait and much of the layout of streets and houses has a similar American feel to it.

Kuwait is also probably the most liberal of the countries in the Gulf. I’ve seen some Arab men and women dressed in western clothing. Much of that has to do with the area I’m staying in, but it does exist. The internet here is censored, but the quality of the connection seems better than anything else I’ve had in the Gulf.

Kuwait is also expensive. 1 Kuwait Dinar is US$3.42. It is about US$5 for a McDonald’s value meal. There are lots of westerners here for business, but it doesn’t have anything like the vibe that Dubai does. Kuwait is building and growing as needed, not trying to create its own demand.

I had the pleasure of exploring around Kuwait City with Bader, a Kuwati blogger, who I met via Twitter. He took me out to for a Kuwati lunch, to see the Kuwait towers and a drive around Kuwait City. I was nice to meet an actual Kuwaiti who knew the region as well as someone who had spent significant time in the US (he went to college in Seattle).

With that, my time in the Persian Gulf is over. I’ll have more to say, but as for now, it is on to Egypt!

UNESCO World Heritage Site #54: Bahla Fort

Posted by on February 14, 2009

World Heritage Site #54: Bahla Fort

World Heritage Site #54: Bahla Fort

From the World Heritage inscription:

The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century. The ruins of the immense fort, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, is a remarkable example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan.

Getting to the Bahla Fort is pretty easy to do. It is a short drive from Nizwa, which is itself an easy 90 minute drive from Muscat. However, the view you get in this photo is about as much of the fort as you are going to see for the time being. They are renovating the fort so you can’t go inside. There are no signs or anything set up around the fort for tourists. If you are in Nizwa it is probably worth taking a look as it is so close, but a much better experience can be found at the Nizwa Fort.

Currencies I Have Known

Posted by on February 13, 2009

I was going through a bag of coins and small bills I’ve collected over the last several months. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the currencies I’ve had to deal with since my trip started. The conversion rates are all listed as the amount of the currency which can be purchased with US$1. The rates are also as of today, not when I was there. Exchange rates have gotten better in Australia and New Zealand, but have gotten worse in Japan.

Countries in italics are places I’ll be in the next few months. Cambodia is listed twice as the US Dollar is the common form of currency, but the Cambodia Riel is used in place of coins.

CurencyCodeConversion Rate
US Dollars
– United States
– Guam
– CNMI
– Marshall Islands
– American Samoa
Palau
– Federated States of Micronesia
– East Timor
– Cambodia*
USD 1.000000
Pacific Francs
– French Polynesia
– New Caledonia
XPF 94.59758
New Zealand Dollar NZD1.91531
Fijian Dollars FJD1.84575
Samoan Tala WST3.12600
Tongan Pa’anga TOP2.07469
Solomon Dollars SBD 7.63359
Vanuatu Vatu VUV120.100
Australian Dollars
– Nauru
– Kiribati
– Australia
AUD1.53372
Philippine Peso PHP47.30832
Taiwanese Dollar TWD 34.06717
Japanese YenJPY90.23698
South Korean Won KRW1,402.52
Hong Kong Dollar HKD7.75201
Macau Pataca MOP 8.14741
Brunei Dollar BND1.52931
Malaysian Ringgit MYR3.61745
Indonesian Rupiah IDR11,919.0
Papua New Guinea Kina PGK2.72808
Singapore DollarSGD1.50995
Thailand Bhat THB35.33876
Cambodia Riel KHR4,204.92
Vietnam Dong VND17,643.9
Laos Kip LAK8,702.74
UAE Dirham AED 3.67394
Oman Rial OMR 0.38619
Qatari Riyal QAR3.64444
Bahrain Dinar BHD 0.37840
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD0.29325
Egypt PoundEGP5.59453
Jordan Dinar JOD0.71244
Israel SheckleILS4.06134
European Euro EUR0.77762
British Pound GBP0.69981
Iceland Kronar ISK114.952
Canadian Dollar CND1.24451

Daily Travel Photo – Dubai, UAE

Posted by on February 12, 2009

Fish in Mall Aquarium, Dubai

Fish in Mall Aquarium, Dubai

This is one of the only daily photos I’ve posted that wasn’t taken with my SLR. This was taken with my pocket point and shoot at the Mall of Dubai.

I have no idea why this turned out as well as it did. The background wasn’t black when I took it. I think the flash caused that effect and the glare in the eyes of the smaller fish. Because of the high ISO, this is a photo which doesn’t look better in a larger version.

Kuwaiting Is The Hardest Part

Posted by on February 12, 2009

I arrived in Kuwait last night only to find that the dust storm which had descended over Bahrain was even worse in Kuwait. I looked out of the window of the plane and it was a wall of beige.

All of the countries in the Gulf which I’ve visited so far have had very easy and common sense policies for tourist visas. Getting into Kuwait made no sense. Like several countries I’ve visited, you need to get a visa on arrival in Kuwait. The other countries which require that have been PNG, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos. I can understand if a country makes you apply for a visa, but when you are getting one at the airport, it is just needless paperwork. If they want to charge an entry fee, then they can just charge an entry fee. Filling out a form with the exact same information that is on your passport and requiring a photocopy of the passport is sort of redundant. Just scan the passport like every other country and you can get all the information you want instantly. Then just stamp the passport as if it were a visa.

The dust storm as seen in Bahrain. It was worse in Kuwait.

The dust storm as seen in Bahrain. It was worse in Kuwait.

Once I got that taken care of, I was surprised to see my hotel had a shuttle, so I didn’t have to pay for a cab. Nice to see something was going right. I was talking to the hotel employee who was from Morocco and he had raised his hands in the air while gesturing while a Kuwaiti man was walking past him from behind. He accidentally hit him in the face. It wasn’t very hard and it was totally an accident. I know I’ve had that happen to me and I’ve done it to other people. It happens. The Kuwaiti guy starts to go nuts and punches the Moroccan guy in the throat and walks off.

Now the Moroccan guy wasn’t really hurt either. He goes off to find the police, but the Kuwaiti guy disappeared. When he gets back to the car, he seems pissed, which is not surprising. The reason he’s pissed off, however is because he felt as if the guy who punched him thought he was an Indian.

That was my first hour in Kuwait.

Other than that I have little to say. It was dark by the time I left the airport and there is still heavy dust in the air which really reduces visibility. Everything here seems very nice, but I can’t see much at this point. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out and see some of the sights in Kuwait City without having to look through a wall of dust.

Daily Travel Photo – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Posted by on February 11, 2009

Orpahn Girl in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This photo was taken at an orphanage I visited in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The girl in the photo was the youngest of the children at the orphanage. She must have been about 3 or 4 years old. While the rest of the kids were wearing shirts and pants, this little girl was wearing a dress like she was going to a ball. I have no idea why. She was walking up the steps to her room, stopped and put her hand on her hip and looked away. This photo wasn’t posed.

I’m also trying a new size so I can include portrait orientated photos to my daily photo line-up. I usually only do horizontal/landscape orientated photos because they just work better online.

Last Day in Bahrain

Posted by on February 10, 2009

Today I had an interview with Nina Lauri from the Bahrain Tribune. We went to Fort Bahrain, a World Heritage Site and talked for two hours. I learned more about Bahrain in those two hours than I did during the several days I’ve been here. It is good to have a local explain things to you that you can’t see in only a few days.

Among the many things I learned about was the religious divide in the country (Sunni vs Shia), and saw some anti-government graffiti on the way out from the fort and some photos of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. (he is the head Shia official in Iraq)

Tonight is my last night in Bahrain. Tomorrow I’m off to Kuwait for two days and then Egypt. The flights from Kuwait to Cairo are very cheap, so the stay over in Kuwait City with hotel is almost the same a flight from Bahrain.

There isn’t a ton in Kuwait I’m that interested in seeing. I’ll do a day tour of Kuwait city or something similar and unless something exciting comes up, my primary focus for the next few weeks is obviously Egypt. The great pyramids and the ancient Egyptian ruins on the Nile are near the top of things to see in the entire world. I also plan on going diving in the Red Sea, which is something I haven’t done since last September in Phuket, Thailand.

I am crossing my fingers that bandwidth in Cairo will be better than in the Gulf states. I realize I have no reason to believe it will be so, but a guy can hope.