Sunday, 11 November 2012

the dazzling affair & the unquenchable thirst: Kuwait's Record Breaking Fireworks Display

For the past couple of weeks, K-town has been abuzz with a singular numerical figure.
Four million KWD (Kuwaiti Dinars).
For those of you that lead your lives elsewhere, that's the cost of the fireworks display that was held to mark 50 years of the issuance of the Constitution of the State of Kuwait.

Having witnessed last year's fireworks display in awe, we naturally planned to join the throngs of people heading towards Gulf Road to watch the extravaganza that took place last night, from Green Island all the way to Kuwait Towers. It looked like half the country turned out for the breathtaking show.

Sparkly! So sparkly!

We parked in the expansive lot between the Indian embassy and the Third Ring Road, dropped off the father at Burj Al-Hamam, and then the mother, sister and I walked to Kuwait Towers, attempting to buy water on the way there. I was so incredibly thirsty - we walked the whole length of road from Burj al Hamam to Applebee's and every single restaurant and ice cream cart we came across on the way was out of the precious resource. Restaurants like Abdel Wahab Lebanese Restaurant adamantly stated '"they did not give 'take away water'". I'd read that there would be volunteers handing out water like there always are in walks and marathons, but there weren't any.

Discouraged by the crowds laid out in camp chairs all across the beaches after Applebee's, we decided against going up till Kuwait Towers. We halted there (Applebee's) and found a decent enough standing spot on the sand, looking out onto the dark Arabian Gulf. There were screens set up in the middle of the water with moving show lights and far away into the distance, dotted lights shone from a string of boats lined up in the periphery of the sea, with blinking blue lights indicating the presence of the Kuwait Coast Guard. I envied them all their view, it was bound to be spectacular. The show was scheduled to begin in thirty minutes.

By this time, I was almost deliriously thirsty and didn't feel like I could stand any longer. I kicked myself for my lack of foresight for not getting a couple of bottles from home and thought longingly of the carton of pure unadulterated mineral water in the kitchen. I had never wanted water so desperately.

Which brings me to quote the classic and apt lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner -

Water, water, everywhere
nor any drop to drink.

You have to appreciate the irony.

Then, the show finally commenced after a countdown from 50 down to 1, thankfully taking my mind off my parched throat for the next hour.

It's not a great video, but note the 'squiggly' fireworks! The first time I'd ever seen them.

A couple more short and crisp videos:

This last one exhibits Kuwait Towers in a dazzling display of explosive colour:

After the last of the record breaking fireworks exploded (77,282 in totality) and the glorious colours quite literally went up in smoke, we started walking back. I was reminded of my dry throat. I have now truly come to appreciate this God given gift and the meaning of the word 'scarcity'. I kept trying to mollify myself with words like, it's okay, pretend you're fasting, but it didn't really work since I don't exactly walk 4-8 km when I'm fasting do I? It's not like I'm in the Gobi desert (even if this still is desert country). Kuwait has a production of 3.1 million barrels of oil per day (October 2011) and has one of the highest standards of living in the world. There is a fireworks show on that cost 14 million USD, that also secured an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. And there is absolutely no water to drink on a stretch of 4.4 km of the more popular side of the coastline. Kinda makes you wonder what the point of all that oil is, when with all the money in the world, you can't get water when you want it!

It was a frightening thought - suddenly, pictures from CNN of kids walking for miles to procure water from wells in India and Africa began playing in my mind and I started getting flashes of what the world would be like if we ran out of water. Chaos, anarchy... the post-apocalyptic scenario of my ill-timed visions was little short of horrifying.

We stopped at KFC to try our luck there. A conversation that ensued with the cashier:

Me: A bottle of water please.
Cashier: We don't have water.
The sister: Can we have a glass of tap water?
(The sister drinks it all the time in Europe.)
Cashier: We can't do that, Ma'am.
The sister: Can we have a glass full of ice then?

Yes, we could, but that wasn't enough for me; I needed to feel the liquid gushing down my shrivelled insides and assuaging them. Finally, conceding defeat, I ordered Pepsi, knowing full well the sugar in it would dehydrate me further. Perhaps you can fathom how parched my throat was. The gas-less Pepsi was the most disgusting thing I'd ever consumed in a long time, and it incensed me that it cancelled out the good our walk did for me, but I drank more than half of it anyway. Made up for it by guzzling down a litre of water as soon as I got home.

The mother made a valid point: More and more of this country's residents are being diagnosed with diabetes, and all anyone could find to drink at this phenomenal event was Pepsi.. and other gross aerated drinks.

I now leave you to mull over my post with the pictures I salvaged from the blurry mess of photos taken with my iPhone:

and so, it begins

Second best firework on my list - for the brilliance of colour
(it follows the squigglies)

The sky lights up!

and my personal favourite.. The Illusory Exploding Tree.


  1. Your story of water actually made me feel thirsty while reading it :( but Bravo!! very well written and the narration was fab... also the pics are amazing!

    1. Lol that's not quite the reaction I wanted to evoke :P Thanks! :) I emailed you a link to some aerial shots.

  2. thanks for sharing.


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