Behind the Neon signs of Hawally
When you meander through the streets of Hawally, it is easy to be distracted by the neon signs for shops, cafes, business offices. These signs like facades that obscure what may not please the onlookers. The area is situated just seven km from the Kuwaiti capital and has more than 164,212 inhabitants. Many of which are living in decayed houses and rickety buildings. Shared rooms for 80 KD and no less than 120 KD per apartment. The latter is often shared by more than four persons too.
The trouble is that those buildings are crumbling. Bad electrical connections and the use of gas in poor structured kitchens is dangerous to occupants. People were afraid to tattle about the poor conditions in order not to be expelled from the housing. “It’s a nasty place for living” as one of them spontaneously complained. His friend, Jirjis went against him, saying:”I’ve been living in Kuwait since 1993. There’s a beautiful thing about Kuwait. It’s the grace of stability and guard. I’m comfortable here, despite how pathetic this place may be. Jirjis shares an apartment with three mates, Sulaiman, Hatim and Paulus.
Most of the residents are from Egypt, Pakistan, plus a Syrian family and their children that I wasn’t permitted to speak to them. “We are civilized people and we use smartphones to talk to our families and keep us entertained. Also, we like watching Arab soap operas in our free time” Paulus said. The television is set directly behind the refrigerator in the living room because there wasn’t enough space for it in the kitchen.
The external chaos is not a genuine reflection of what’s happening inside. Those people are organized, respectful of each other’s time as they regularly take turns to clean their flats. One neighbor told me that he has some other job in Al-Azhar Mosque, but he’s been working for ten years in Kuwait.
“Christians adjoin Muslims, everyone respects the other’s beliefs and live in peace. But, we are seriously considering to leave the building in search for another because it’s going to be demolished sooner or later, and we will totally have to leave eventually. We are not poor, we have jobs and homes in our motherlands. However, our weak salaries make finding a decent apartment so difficult, ” said the neighbor.
During the inspection, someone hesitated to take part in the story and asked:”What am I going to get in return? What’s the purpose of making such a story?”. I replied quite frankly:”Probably, you will not gain anything. However, the more attention we draw, the more we encourage decision makers to make the provision of safe, clean housing, obligatory for the future migrant workers to save their dignity in the name of humanity.