Kuwait, looking for sponsors – Km 69,290
Coming from Iran, I disembarked in Kuwait and at once I was surprised, because contrary to the other Muslim countries that I have already visited, it was a clean, organized and modern country. With a long and so nice promenade, the city of Kuwait, the capital of the emirate, has a population bigger than 1,2 million inhabitants, and it is the economic, commercial and cultural center of the country.
It is believed that the first establishments go back to the 700 B.C., and that the Greeks, the Persian and then the Arabs also settled in the place. The city of Kuwait was founded in the XVII century, during the Emirate of Barrak Bin Ghurair, but in the following century the Sabah family was settled, being a member of that family, Sabah Bin Jaber, chose by the community as the first governor from Kuwait. The Sabah I descendants, today are still the current leaders of the emirate.
When I arrived I contacted Arif, an Indian who lives in Kuwait since many years. Arif organized my stay in his company guest-house, where other Indians live. In this way I stayed with them during almost one month, and it was a nice experience. I also ate a lot of spicy food.
Through Arif, I met other members of couchsurfing.com, the website for travellers which I started to use to contact people in each country that I visit. In this way I met Haitham, a Kuwaiti guy who always assisted me and who told me the present situation of the country: “Kuwait is a rich country and the Kuwaiti people have certain advantages that assure and facilitate our future”, he told me.
According they explained to me, the Kuwaitis have the possibility of obtaining a mortgage loan till 250.000 U$S which have to be paid during 15 years and without interest rate. The government also sends qualified students abroad to obtain graduation which are not imparted in the Kuwait University, and to their return they are positioned in private companies or in the government. “To look for a job is not a concern for local people”, they told me.
Kuwait produces more than 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, and it is the seventh bigger world exporter that possesses a tenth of the world reservations of raw oil. For it, it is not strange that in the country, where the strongest currency in the world exists, 7 Euros are enough to fill up the petrol tank, or that the litre of petrol costs the sixth of a milk litre. “But although we are a rich country”, Haitham told me, “we have the problem of the water, because Kuwait is also the country of the world with the smallest availability per capita of drinking water, with scarce aquifer and not even with a lake or a river. But the desalination, the used water recycling and the water import are some of the solutions that we found to face the water resources shortage problem.”
At the end of the World War I, the lands of the Ottoman Empire were distributed by France and England, and Kuwait became a British protectorate. But in 1938 the oil in Kuwait was discovered and after the World War II, the Emir Ahmad Jabi Al-Sabah granted the concession to the Kuwait Oil Co. (integrated by the British BP and the North American Gulf). The oil transformed Kuwait into one of the richest countries in the Arabic Peninsula and in 1953 the country became the biggest oil exporter of the Persian Gulf. In 1961 Kuwait declared its independence and then the oil nationalization was carried out.
During the Iran and Iraq war, (1980 – 1988), Kuwait supported Iraq with big donations and loans, since it considered to Iraq like a first defence line, against the Iranian Islamic revolution. But its alliance with Iraq, at the end of the war caused the invasion of Kuwait and its annexation to Iraq. Saddam Hussein argued that the Kuwaiti territory was in fact an Iraqi province.
As a result in 1991 a coalition of 34 nations directed by United States fought in the Persian Gulf War for the Kuwaiti Emirate restoration. The war had a high impact in Kuwait, not so much in terms of lives, because the combats mainly were in the Iraqi territory, but for the fire of almost all the oil well during the bombings or when retiring the Iraq troops. After the damage, Kuwait could not produce oil until 1992.
After the war a great reconstruction began, and the oil ended to change radically the physiognomy of the country. The Bedouin changed their camels for luxurious automobiles with air conditioning and the population settled in new cities, where the mosques live together with shopping centers that displaced to the old souqs. This way the educational level and the life expectancy increased. The manual work and that one carried out by the oil industry were in charge of immigrant workers who today already double the Kuwaiti population.
According to Haitham, the Kuwaiti population is more than 3 million inhabitants, but only a third is Kuwaiti. The foreign population is mainly coming from Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Philippines. There are also many Europeans and North Americans. For it the labour force in the country that is more than a million of inhabitants, only has a ¼ of Kuwaitis citizen. Maybe for it immigrants use to say that the Kuwaiti people don’t like to work, or that they only work as boss. I also knew that there is a national law that demands to the companies that the 25% of their employees have to be local.
During my stay in Kuwait I visited the Argentina Embassy, and there I was received by Ricardo Insúa and Jorge Casal, the Ambassador and the Consul. And to talk with them was a pleasure. They made me feel like at home and they helped me in the best way. Through them I contacted Ahmed Dick, the owner of Khuff, the Kuwaiti partner of Tenaris, an Argentinean company. Ahmed, who has Kurdish Syrian origin, at once received me in his office; he was very interested in my trip. For it, I shared with him my videos and my experiences about the Turkish Kurdistan and Syria. That day we talked during more than one hour and during my stay I visited him four times. And he didn’t hesitate to sponsor me, because at once he understood the magnitude of what I am doing: “Cycling around the world”.
One of the afternoons that I left the Ahmed office, I went to a barbecue on the beach with friends. But on my way I asked to a man for the place where I was going. But the guy after seeing my bicycle with a lot of flags arose interest and began to ask me a lot of questions. He was completely surprised and he was nice. His name was Salah, a Maradona fanatic Kuwaiti. He knew the Diego’s life as much as a real Argentinean; and I was surprised when he told me that his biggest dream is to meet Maradona. Then he offered me to meet him another day, because he wanted to introduce me to some people to help me to look for sponsors. For it on the next Saturday I met him and without really realizing I carried out a motivation speaking to the employees of his company. Salah had deceived me, because there were none more important than him. Because he was the owner of Future Communication, a telecommunications service company and partner of Nokia in the country. That morning, at the end of the talk, Salah asked to the 40 people present if should his company sponsor me, asking whom were agree to reply with a applause. For it, in that moment, everybody gave me a clap. I could not believe it, I had gotten another sponsor almost without realizing.
When I started the trip around the world by bicycle I didn’t believe that it would take me so much time to carry out. Because in that time I had my Argentinean sponsors which promised to support me. But after few months of my departure, the 2001 Argentinean economic crisis, put me on approval; missing half of the money that I already had from my sponsors and their promise to keep supporting me. For it, during these 7 years of trip I was improvising to keep going ahead, looking for new sponsors or selling my pictures or souvenirs during the European stage. In this way I kept cycling, although sometimes very slowly.
For it, when I planed to visit the Persian Gulf I thought that I could get several sponsors here for supporting at least a couple of years of the trip. And truly, Kuwait, for being the first country of the gulf didn’t disappoint me. Because, through the Argentina Embassy I also met Bassam Khoury the Inspection & Control Service chairman and Mohamed Al Naki from Kuwait Industries; my others two sponsors.
During my stay I also contacted several media, three of the most important newspapers, the Real Family TV channel and the most popular radio. Kuwait really treated me very well. Not only for the sponsorships, but also for the nice people that I met there; as Toni a Lebanese cyclist who lived in Brazil and who at once became a good friend. Even Arif, Haitham and Mustafa. And the Argentineans who work in Wafrah, the south of the country.
Kuwait is a country to the one that I am so grateful and of course that I will not forget it. Thanks to my sponsors, to the Argentina Embassy and to my friends who took care of me.