Mondays with Matthew (on Tuesday): Sport – let the games begin

Posted by Matthew Lodge

lewis

The United Kingdom has a new champion! Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton was crowned world champion at the end of yesterday’s end of season Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. British newspapers are full of images of a jubilant Hamilton and headlines such as the “Start of something special” and “Best day of my life”. Perhaps the fact that he beat his team-mate and long-term rival, German driver Nico Rosberg, makes the victory seem even sweeter. For the UK, our rivalry with our European friends always adds an extra twist to the competition.

So what if journalists play down the fact that Hamilton and Rosberg both drive for a German team? Painful memories of England’s exit from this summer’s FIFA World Cup, and Germany’s victory, are long forgotten. Glory is in the moment and the victor enjoys the adulation. Who cares if Germany won the World Cup, we have Lewis!

Well, lots of people care, and not just 80 million justifiably proud Germans (congratulations mein Freund), but that was last summer.

Today, I feel Kuwait’s pain. Losing 0-5 to Oman last week appears to have caused a national shock. As a Briton, I’m not unused to sporting disappointment. Don’t misunderstand me, I am no football expert. I enjoy a kick-around with the kids, but that’s it for soccer. However, I learned a few years ago that it’s very difficult for a British Ambassador not to take an interest in sport, and football in particular. This initially posed a problem for me. Apart from my rather limited ball-skills, I had grown up playing rugby, hockey, and athletics. I have always enjoyed watching the World Cup and European Championships, but not much more. Suddenly I needed a “team”. Naturally, I chose Liverpool. I was born there. I also remember Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and Kenny Dalglish. So I have become a Liverpool supporter. At least I’ll never walk alone.

liverpool

Except, here in Kuwait, I keep meeting Arsenal or Chelsea fans. Why is that? Where are all the Liverpool supporters? I did meet a Tottenham supporter the other day. And of course, I know about Kuwaiti links with Nottingham Forest and Ebbsfleet United. I’ve even met some enthusiastic Kuwaitis who fly to the UK to watch the occasional match before heading home again the following day. That’s more dedicated than I’d ever be, but it’s great to know that football is so popular here. It has also been good to learn about other Kuwaiti sporting interests – and successes: the shooting team and other medallists at the Asian Games in South Korea this autumn; the early morning cycling clubs out on the Gulf road every Friday; the numerous youth football clubs playing across the city; and the Triathlon that took place last month. People taking part in these activities may have been disappointed too by last week’s score. But they keep training, enjoy the competition, and play for the fun and thrill of the game.

People always rediscover their love of sport. Anyone and everyone can have a go. It brings people together. What do you think of sport in Kuwait today? Can more be done to help people enjoy the benefits it brings, and the joy it can give?

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge


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Mondays with Matthew: Things that money can’t buy

Posted by Matthew Lodge

poppies

Around this time of year, red poppies (red flowers symbolising Remembrance) are worn with pride. They are also seen by some outside the UK as a particularly British tradition. Alongside red London buses, black taxis, Big Ben, the Tower of London and Fish and Chips, they are associated with Britain.

As a newcomer to Kuwait and the Gulf, I have asked myself what comes to mind when I think of the country which is now my home. I think of sand and the desert, of the searing summer heat, and of men in dishdashas. I think of the invasion by Saddam Hussein and more importantly Kuwait’s liberation, and last but not least, I think of oil. Those old, but still dreadful images of fires burning in the desert filling the sky with black smoke, contrasted against modern images of large, shiny and thirsty cars that drive up and down Kuwait’s Gulf road and cost less to fill with petrol than it does to buy my friends a round of cappuccinos.

These are all quick, lazy and superficial stereotypes, but the fact remains that Kuwait, with vast oil reserves that generate enormous sums of money for the country and its people, will continue for the foreseeable future to conjure up images of sand, deserts, oil and money.

In less than 3 months, I have already seen how much more there is here, just as I know the UK is about more than Beefeaters and the Union Jack, but stereotypes persist. On average Kuwaiti visitors to the UK last year spent more than any other nationality. Kuwaiti banks, investment funds and finance houses are amongst the richest in the world. The support that Kuwait gives to individual citizens, whether in free healthcare, educational scholarships, free utilities, subsidised services etc is a source of admiration (and some amazement) for those of us arriving from cash-strapped European economies where public debt remains stubbornly high and sustained economic growth frustratingly elusive.

But it’s not all about money, is it? Easy perhaps for me to say, living in an historic Residence and enjoying the privileges of being an Ambassador. However, as an individual, as a father, as a husband, I know very clearly how it is those things that can’t be bought that matter to me the most. The friendship and trust. That understanding which only develops after time spent together. The sense of a common purpose and shared interest. The desire to do the right thing, not always the easy thing. And the hope and belief that there’s something more we can achieve, something better we can build. I have seen all these things amongst the people I have met here. Young Kuwaitis excited to study abroad. Dedicated activists determined to stand up for the rights of those who might otherwise struggle to be heard. Visionary leaders with exciting and ambitious plans. None of these are easy, and certainly none are quick. All take hard work and investment – not simply of money (although that is often necessary and usually helps), but investment of energy, drive and belief. Personal commitment to get things done and make a difference, not just for you but for those around you. The close UK-Kuwait friendship, built on years of shared experience and understanding, means we can talk about the issues and challenges we all face. The business and economic partnerships are more important than ever, but it is our partnership on those things that money can’t buy that will really make the difference. In your opinion, what is the most important thing that money can’t buy?

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge


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Mondays with Matthew: Visitors Welcome (2 of 2)

Posted by Matthew Lodge

visa

Hello again. I knew that my post last week on why we need a visa system would prompt a lot of comments, and I was not disappointed! I have attempted to answer as many of them as I can – please take a look (especially if you posted a comment).. and let me apologise if we have fallen short on occasion. No system is perfect, but we are doing the best we can.

I am glad to say that the vast majority of visas are processed smoothly, efficiently and without incident. We need to make sure that happens all the time. It is obviously more challenging in busier times. But, for example, we are currently processing priority applications in 2 working days (against a target of under 5 days) and ordinary applications in 3-5 working days, rather than 15. On another point one of you has raised – we have updated the VFS website so that it now explains correctly the number of photos needed (thank you Khaled for pointing that out). And yes, the parking arrangements need to be better. We’re working on it…

For this week’s second part on visas (I promise I’ll move onto something more exciting next week), I said I’d offer some tips on how to make the process work as well as possible for you. Our responsibility is to make sure visa applicants are served courteously, quickly and efficiently and that you have all the information you require. Here’s a few pointers about how you can help yourselves (and help us!):

– Always apply as early as you can. Not only does this mean it is cheaper (you don’t need to pay for the priority service), it also allows more time to sort out any difficulties and should reduce any stress. Why not apply for your visa as soon as you have booked your flight?

– Make sure you apply for the right visa. Sounds obvious, but if you’re going for medical treatment, make sure you have a medical visa. If you’re going to study, get a student visa. If you do either of these things on a visit visa you risk getting into difficulties with the immigration authorities – and that will make it harder for you next time you apply or travel.

– Always provide the correct documents (details on the website)

– Fill in the forms yourself – don’t get someone else (like an agency) to do it for you to ensure you’ve input all the correct information

– Please provide a personal e-mail or mobile number so we can contact you if necessary – and we can then provide progress updates on how your application is going.

– If you’re a regular traveller, it may be worth paying extra for a multi-entry 5 or 10 year visa. They are expensive, but worth it in the long run.

Finally, please let us know if we are not doing what we say we will do. That way, I hope we’ll be able to do better in future. Now to more exciting topics, what would you like to talk about next week?

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge


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Mondays with Matthew: Visitors Welcome (1 of 2)

Posted by Matthew Lodge

Hello again. It’s good to be back for a second week of “Mondays with Matthew”. I have enjoyed reading all your comments on my first post – even the more critical ones! I’ll respond to as much as I can, and I’ll always respond honestly.

In the spirit of that approach, I wanted to say a few words about visas – the first thing that comes to mind when you mention that you’re the British Ambassador to Kuwait. Yes it’s not the most exciting subject, but it’s clearly one that generates a lot of frustration and emotion. “Too expensive”, “too slow”, “too complicated”, “unfair”, “unnecessary”, or even “insulting”. These are all comments I have heard when listening to Kuwaitis talk about visas to travel to the UK. Let me tackle this head on. My hope over the next two posts is to explain why we do what we do, and how travellers can make the system work as smoothly for them as possible.

Let me start by saying that the United Kingdom welcomes visitors. We are delighted that so many Kuwaitis enjoy travelling to the UK, visiting London and other cities and we want that to continue. Last year, the visa team here at the Embassy received around 100,000 applications for visas from Kuwait for people wishing to travel to the UK. That number doesn’t include all those who have longer-term visas, who are studying or those visiting the UK for medical treatment. In addition, a study by Visit Britain (the UK’s tourist agency) showed that Kuwaiti visitors did more shopping in the UK than any other nationality last year. The UK’s close relationship with Kuwait and the strong human ties are something very special and I am anxious that we maintain and strengthen them.

So, why do we need a Global visa regime at all?

It’s all about security and control. The UK is open, tolerant and welcoming. It is also a country that continues to be shaped by its past with large immigrant communities, an increasingly diverse society and a genuinely global outlook. Add to this the English language, the National Health Service and other factors, and the UK becomes an enormously attractive destination for migrants from many different countries. And then consider the UK’s high profile internationally, the determination of successive UK Governments to stand up for those elsewhere who face oppression, injustice and violence – and you also see a UK that is viewed as a target for those who want to do us harm, who don’t share our views and don’t like our engagement overseas.

One of the prime responsibilities of any national Government is to keep its country – and its people – safe. In the 21st century, that responsibility has become even harder to fulfil. Controlling who crosses our borders is a fundamental element of this. That is why we need to operate a visa regime. It’s not about making life difficult for honest travellers and welcome visitors. It is about stopping those who would do us harm, discouraging those who want to enter the UK illegally, and controlling those who might want to stay on after they have finished what they came for.

So, if we accept that we – sadly – need a visa regime, how can we make it as smooth as possible? More on that next Monday, but for now I welcome your thoughts and input in the comments section!

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge

london


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PAWS Cruelty Investigation

Posted by John Peaveler

PAWS Cruelty Investigation from john peaveler on Vimeo.

For the past year we have been receiving increasingly alarming reports on the welfare of animals in the Protecting Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelter. In the last two weeks, the reports have reached such urgency and frequency that we felt the time had come for us to take action in the interests of the nearly two hundred animals in that facility. We have thoroughly investigated this matter and are prepared to say, without a single doubt, that PAWS has fundamentally failed to meet the needs of the animals in their care in every possible way. Furthermore, PAWS can no longer be said to exist as an organization. Their shelter is now no more than an animal hoarding operation and an unequivocal case of animal cruelty.

PAWS

The circumstances there are unacceptable. As a government society charged with the welfare of animals in Kuwait, it is our duty to stop this cruelty from happening. The animals in the PAWS shelter deserve better. K’S PATH has offered to take these animals and care for them, but PAWS has refused. The chairperson of PAWS refuses to admit that there is any problem at the shelter, but the time has come for this terrible situation to be made public. We ask you to view the video and decide for yourself.

If you would like to be involved in saving the animals of PAWS from their cruel circumstances, please email info@kspath.org and tell us how you can help. We do not want to overwhelm our phone line.

It will take the entire animal loving community of Kuwait to put an end to the cruelty of PAWS. Thank you for your support.

Post by John Peaveler
Managing Director
Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and Their Habitat (K’S PATH)


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Mondays with Matthew: Hello Kuwait

Posted by Matthew Lodge

embassy

Spend a few minutes at Kuwait airport and you are reminded that people are coming and going every day. Families returning from holiday, business travellers heading off, air crew stopping over. Amongst all these you may occasionally spot the new arrivals, and I don’t mean those visiting for a few days, but those who have arrived to make Kuwait their home. Maybe for a year or two, maybe for longer. At the end of August, amidst the hustle and bustle of the airport, my family and I arrived in Kuwait. For my wife and kids this was the first time they’ve been here, but Kuwait is now home, and will be for the next 4 years.

I want to start a conversation with you so let me start by telling you what my own reactions have been.

Kuwaitis are welcoming, open and friendly. Irrespective of any conservative traditions and social customs, Kuwait feels modern, vibrant and dynamic. As you drive into town from the airport, you also get an immediate sense of Kuwait being quite westernised. Fast food outlets light up the roadsides. Cars are big, the roads are wide. This is a land of comfort, consumerism and confidence. Kuwait is not shy. Kuwait has money, and more importantly Kuwait has oil.

But that initial, essentially superficial, impression is just that – superficial. As British Ambassador, moving into a house that claims to be the oldest continually-occupied residential building in Kuwait, I am reminded every day about the history. Kuwait’s history. Our shared history.

Firstly, the house itself – the notes left for me explain how the British architect was brought from Bushehr and the funding approved by the Government in India. Then there’s this sepia photograph on the wall showing the Residence of the “Political Agent”, constructed in 1935-6, taken in 1951 when the gates opened onto the beach and there was no Gulf Road. More recently, I am also reminded of the wonderful 50/20 celebrations that took place in 2001 – half a century since independence from Great Britain, two decades since the liberation – followed in 2012 by the State Visit of His Highness The Amir.

But it’s about more than official commemorations or grand occasions. For many Kuwaitis London and the UK is their home away from home, many more have studied there, and Kuwait sends more visitors to the UK each year than any other GCC country. So when it comes to my plans and hopes as the new British Ambassador, I remember that there is a huge amount already there between our two countries. Kuwait and Britain are, and will always be, connected – in every sense.

Before coming here, we had heard a lot about the country and the people, and during the last eight weeks we’ve learned a little more. One thing, which I perhaps knew already, is that as an Ambassador you enjoy a very privileged existence. Everyone is always very polite and courteous, but if you really want to understand how people feel (rather than just hear what they think you want to hear) then you have to work hard to get out, meet people and listen.

My goal is to do precisely that. I want to listen to you. I’d like you to tell me what you think I need to hear. So tell me, is the Kuwait I am seeing the same as the one you recognise?
In any case, thank you Kuwait for welcoming me. It’s good to be here

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge


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Quick Ramadan Workout

Posted by Amy Freeman

Post by Amy Freeman

As we approach the middle of Ramadan, energy levels start to drop as energy reserves are getting low. I always say to my clients that training during Ramadan should be a time for maintenance and active recovery. It’s not the time to go for PB’s or peak in a training cycle. I’m also very aware that it can be hard for people to get to the gym as often as they did due to chaotic traffic, family obligations and other commitments.

So this week I wanted to put up a full body weight, circuit style workout you can do at home or at your own convenience. This should be completed one exercise directly after another with as little rest as possible between exercises but with a 2-4min rest between rounds.

Complete 10-15 repetitions of everything and 3-5 rounds:

Push-ups
Squat Jumps
Tricep Push-ups
Forward Stepping Alternating Lunges
Alternating Plyometric Lunges
Burpees
30 to 60 Seconds Abdominal Plank

Remember although we want your heart rate to be high, take it at your own pace, listen to your body and rest as needed.

Ramadan Mubarak,
Happy Training Kuwait

Post by Amy Freeman, a Strength and Conditioning Coach from New Zealand and currently a Personal Trainer at Inspire Pure Fitness in Kuwait.


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Where does motivation come from?

Posted by Amy Freeman

motivation

Post by Amy Freeman

Someone asked me the other day, how long have you been exercising? I said, ‘well since I can remember I have loved being active. When I was around 10 years old I started going to classes at the gym sporadically but then at around 13 I started going to the gym regularly (that was in the days when minimum age wasn’t enforced much).

In fact I used to pester my parents so much to go that my dad would get me a gym membership for my birthday or at Xmas. I would come home from school, deliver leaflets around the neighborhood (my after school job) and then beg my mum to drive me over the other side of town to the fitness center.

My client was shocked and asked ‘What made you love it so much at that age?’ This question really made me think… and think… and think.

Finally after much deliberation I found the answer was really simple. ‘Because I wanted to be like my dad’.

He was my idol. He never ever pressured me to exercise or workout but I wanted to be as fit as he was. He had run marathons, he was a really good swimmer and generally just really fit. I remember one day venturing out on my first run aged around 11 (not really knowing what a marathon meant or that it was a specific distance) and I called him straight after and said ‘Dad I just ran a marathon!’. In actual fact I had just run around the 5km block that he helped me map out.

I also recall the school triathlon, I entered when I was maybe 9 and he helped me train for it. I remember looking for him in the crowd as I crossed the finish line and I ran and literally fell into his arms totally exhausted. He made me love sport because there was never anything negative attached to it and never any pressure or expectation and that meant I always felt like I was achieving something great.

To this day there is only positive emotions and memories that come from my sporting and exercise experiences. It’s probably why when there have been challenges in my life it’s the thing I turn to for comfort. I guess that’s why I love my job so much and wju I want to help other people experience that.

I tell this story because all to often people come in and they will openly admit they hate working out, or they hate the gym and after I got asked those questions by my client, I can’t help but think, do they hate the gym because it has negative meaning to them beyond just working out?

For example, some people start gyming because they are depressed and hate how they look so the gym represents those feelings related to low self esteem.

Or for some people the gym represents all the failed attempts to get in shape.

Or the gym and working out represents pain and feeling weak.

Does lasting and true motivation come from something bigger and more profound than just doing it for yourself?

I think it does. The human mind is a complex thing and I think that to believe that we are capable of achieving greatness in fitness goals (or really any life goal for that matter), without the belief of doing it for something greater, without the help of something greater than yourself isn’t enough.

Athletes are refreshing to talk to at times because they think of their body as a machine and a tool for doing a chosen task. When I asked an athlete what gets them excited about their sport the answer was ‘when I visualize the crowd cheering me on and the people and kids I’m inspiring it motivates me to bring my best’.

Or on a smaller scale I know a lady that runs marathons and she said that when she is 10km out from the finish line and in agony she visualizes her children cheering her on and that gives her the push she needs.

What if the gym represented part of what you do to stay healthy, happy and fit for your family or for a sport and you took the vanity out of it? I know it sounds crazy because most people have a goal when they join the gym and it’s usually ‘I wanna lose weight’, ‘it’s my wedding in 3 months’ etc etc. These kind of goals cause you to exert pressure on yourself and rather than being present in each workout and enjoying it, all you want is to get your goal and maybe workout again when you have another goal. So your weight and fitness goes up and down and so does your self esteem.

To illustrate this I have a client that has been one of the most successful weightloss/fatloss candidates I’ve ever trained. When I asked her what makes her so dedicated and determined her answer was refreshingly simple and went something like this:

‘Because I want my kids to know that being heathy is important and they are so impressed when they see how strong I have gotten.’

And you know what, this client always turns up with a smile and a positive attitude every day and has never missed a training session.

Happy Training Kuwait.

Post by Amy Freeman, a Strength and Conditioning Coach from New Zealand and currently a Personal Trainer at Inspire Pure Fitness in Kuwait.

Photo by Edie**


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Toxicity and Results: Why dieting and exercising in Kuwait just isn’t cutting it

Posted by Amy Freeman

plasticbottle

This is something that myself, my clients and I’m sure most people reading this will relate to. You eat well, you exercise at least 3 times per week, sometimes you may even use a trainer, but no matter how hard you train and how clean your diet is, getting those desired results you are working so hard for is so damn hard.

Well for the last 2.5 years I have been in Kuwait, I have noticed something that, at first, baffled me. The first 6 months I was in Kuwait I gained 6kg. I was exercising more than I ever did back in New Zealand and very cautious with my eating habits but no matter what I did I couldn’t shift this weight (and I’m a midget at 5ft3.5 so 6kg is very noticeable)

Then something strange happened. I went on vacation and came back lighter and leaner. Now, I can assure you right now; I wasn’t on vacation eating celery sticks and lettuce leaves that’s for sure. So what happened?

After becoming Bio Signature Practitioner almost 2 years ago, all these questions started to get answered.

After asking my coach on Bio Signature (who has trained Olympic Athletes and has over 20 years experience). He said to me ‘Where do you live?’ I said ‘Kuwait’. He said ‘KUWAIT! Hmmm, I’ve been asked to go do courses in the Middle East and turned them down because of how toxic it is, that’s your culprit right there’.

He then went on to explain to me that with so much toxicity entering the body, the pathways for nutrients and hormones get blocked by toxicity bonds that attach to fat cells which causes stubborn fat, like cellulite, that is hard to break down.

This also result’s in low Testosterone levels and a healthy amount of Testosterone is important for reducing body fat in both female and male and is absolutely imperative for male health and wellbeing.

After hearing this I started to notice things in Kuwait that backed up his claims:

1- I started to notice how many males in Kuwait have female body types. Such as, bigger hips and legs and smaller upper-bodies. Low Testosterone right there.

2- Low Testosterone in men causes a lower sperm count. Men with a lower sperm count are more likely to father girls. There are a significantly larger proportion of Females in Kuwait than Males. Last I was told the ratio of females to males here is 4:1.

3- Most people drink out of plastic bottles, which have Pseudo Estrogens, which act as female hormones when they enter our body.

4- Almost every Bio Signature I have done on men and woman in Kuwait has shown their first priority (highest reading) as their Hamstring (at the top of the back of the leg). The Estrogen Sight of the body.

healtylifestyle

So how can you rectify this?

1- Include weight training in your gym routine, everyone and anyone needs a healthy amount of Testosterone, even the ladies. Low Testosterone=High Body Fat.

2- Drink your water from glass bottles and drink at least 2L per day. Say ‘NO’ to plastic.

3- Eat your greens. Veges have antioxidant’s that help break the bonds of the toxins so you can break down the fat.

4- Take supplements that help your body detoxify. Below is what I suggest and I’ve also included the link from where you can purchase them if you choose.

The Poliquin Supplements in my opinion are the best in the world hands down, I love them, my clients love them and for me that’s a home run. (No I’m not affiliated with them I just love their products)

1- Zinc PX: Zinc is an essential mineral that helps with all functions of the body. It has been said if you are deficient in Zinc you are deficient in everything. Fatloss, healthy immune system, healthy Testosterone levels and detoxification are all assisted by Zinc.

2- Multi Intense (with Iron for woman): essential for us here in Kuwait as our fresh produce is rarely local so lacks nutrients making it impossible for us to get our daily-required vitamins and minerals. More Antioxidants= less Toxins
Multi Intense (without Iron for men)- Same as the above minus the Iron as men usually cover this in their diet and can cause liver damage with too much.

3- Uber Mag Px: Magnesium is similar to Zinc, as it assists with many functions of the human body including detoxification, better quality sleep, stable mood, muscle recovery and growth, healthy Testosterone levels, cardiovascular health and brain function.

4- Fish Oil EPA-DHA 720: Assists in detoxification, the increase in healthy fats helps with counteracting bad fats from fast food (they cause toxicity), helps with brain function and fat loss.

This is a topic that I’m really passionate about because whether or not you have fitness goals, this will impact you in some way and even if you don’t implement all the changes I have mentioned, even implementing 1 or 2 things means you are one step closer to a more healthy, less toxic body.

Post by Amy Freeman, a Strength and Conditioning Coach from New Zealand and currently a Personal Trainer at Inspire Pure Fitness in Kuwait.


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Biodiversity: Not Just a Myth

Posted by John Peaveler

This story begins with an honest truth: A summer survey of Kuwait’s public access desert would reveal a landscape comprised primarily of farm animals, garbage, and earth (sand, dirt, and dust). A careful eye would notice some plants, but very few, very small, and nearly dead. I’m talking about those areas outside of the city, where urban civilization ends and nature begins. The obvious reason for the lack of plant life is that we live in a desert. We get very little precipitation. Plants need water. Sand is the natural substrate of the desert. These factors combined equal a quasi-moonscape, right? If you’ve made these conclusions, you are, I’m happy to say, mistaken, and it is my goal in writing this to amaze you with the beauty of Kuwait and encourage everyone to do better for the sake of our natural heritage.

The images of giant drifting sand dunes and storms that swallow up entire houses that so many of us associate with the word desert simply do not represent Kuwait. Our ecosystem is harsh: it’s hot, it’s dry, it’s wind-swept, it’s dusty, but most importantly, it is positively teeming with life. Actually, it SHOULD be positively teeming with life, but for the most part, it isn’t. It would be teeming with life if nature were allowed to take its course. Instead, we see the results of decades of under regulated grazing, off-road driving, and winter camping. It seems grim, I know. I’m here to tell you there is hope. More than that: there is life out there, just waiting for a safe place to live.

Enter the Abdaliya Nature Project.

The Abdaliya Nature Project was conceived in late 2010 by Kuwait Oil Company employees with a particular interest in seeing the restoration of Kuwait’s desert. These employees, acknowledging their role to utilize petroleum resources while protecting Kuwait’s natural environment, took the initiative to preserve an area of desert approximately 1.5 million square meters in size. Prior to reutilization as a nature project, this area was in the public domain and was being used for winter camping. Winter camping in Kuwait, while originally nothing more than a traditional way to enjoy the cool winter months has become so invasive and destructive that the desert ecosystem cannot compete with the concrete, garbage, tires, and other pollution dumped annually upon the spring abandonment of the campsites.

The project began with months of clearing garbage and debris left behind by more than a decade of camping. The most common forms of waste removed included water tanks, concrete blocks, concrete septic tanks, car tires, food and beverage containers, and materials used for shade. With a clean slate to work with, the next steps included constructing access roads and water pipelines followed by the planting of nearly 40,000 seedlings and saplings. Why not simply let the plants return on their own? The answer is diversity. While the “if you build it they will come” model is less costly and much more simple, the result is an imbalance of species. Much like a farmer’s field left empty and consumed by weeds, bare desert in Kuwait will result in a few species taking over the entire ecosystem, thus absorbing nutrients and precipitation and excluding other plants. From the very beginning Abdaliya was planted with a diverse group of native species.

Replanting commenced in early 2011. In less than a year, the Abdaliya Nature Project transformed a barren and utterly destroyed wasteland patch of desert into a unique and incredibly beneficial oasis of flora and fauna. During this period, K’S PATH has proudly been working with KOC on this project doing clean up, wildlife monitoring, anti-poaching, feral dog management, and more. Even in this relatively short period, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of birds, lizards, snakes, rodents, and insects in the project, none of whom were introduced. Our goal for the next two years is to introduce fox and hedgehogs to the area as we continue to strive toward a natural, balanced, and well-managed ecosystem. KOC is also planning to build an education center at the site so that we can begin to spread this message of diversity and protection for Kuwait’s future. The fact is that it will take all of us working together to protect Kuwait’s natural heritage for future generations.

If you participate in winter camping or drive off-road, please consider the implication of your actions. Properly dispose of your waste, remove everything you bring into the desert, and stick to established driving tracks.

For more pictures click [Here]

Post by John Peaveler
Managing Director
Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and Their Habitat (K’S PATH)


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