I'm just back from Kuwait and Malaysia.
Malaysia was for the 10th Pasir Gudang kite festival- which is fast becoming one of the world's premier kite events- with, this year, the largest ever contingent of overseas participants. Organised and sponsored by the Pasir Gudang Authority and it's parent body the Johore Development Corp., the large dedicated kite field there is now complemented by two permanent pavilions and a kite museum.- to my knowledge, nowhere else in the world can match their commitment and the kite specific facilities that this has and is generating.
Actually the real Pasir Gudang kite festival doesn't start until after all us foreign fliers pack up each night and head back to the now traditional evening poolside party at the Hotel Selesa. Locals, mainly family groups, inundate the field - to the extent that there would be no room to fly even if we did stay on. For this year, an estimate of 100,000 people on the field from 6.30pm on the Saturday evening would not be far out.
Kuwait was different but totally unforgettable for other reasons:
Although there were only 6 overseas fliers there- and no more than 50 or so kiteflying locals, and probably no more than 1000 people at any time, those
of us who were privileged to attend have been spoiled for any other event.
Organised by the Al Farsi family to officially claim the world record with their l000sq m Kuwait Flag kite, the first attempt was completely successful:
Kuwaitis are very proud of their country and their flag- feelings which were especially fueled by memories of the 1990 Iraqi invasion that remain sharp.
We flew on a site in Kuwait City adjacent to Flag Square (equivalent to the US's Washington monument as a focus for their national pride). On the sea and beside the Sheraton Hotel, this is as perfect a kite field as can be imagined for such an attempt- central, appropriate- and with regular steady onshore winds, that I personally would kill for.
The official flight lasted 32 minutes. With a complete video record of this flight and irrefutable witnesses - one of whom, the Kuwaiti Minister for Oil, listed his address as 'The Palace"- if Guinness doesn't accept this record then frankly it's their credibility that will be on the line not ours as makers, the Al Farsi's as applicants, nor that of the kite itself.
Later in the afternoon when the wind strengthened, the kite flew hands off for much longer periods.
On two out of the three 'official' days during which we flew at Flag Square, the wind was good, but on the last day it dropped completely- when we had a great time hanging out with the locals: much camera clicking, lounging about in tents, and sampling of local confectioneries.
Subsequent to this part of the schedule and between a gulf cruise, fabulous eating and entertainment's* laid on for our enjoyment, we commuted 80km or so to the family's extensive beach house complex on the gulf coast for more relaxed kiteflying and kite sailing.
I like Kuwait- especially the wind. Though some days it failed to arrive in
sufficient strength, on most it was as perfect as I've ever experienced for kitesailing and single line flying. For kitesailing, Arabian Gulf sea conditions are ideal- kms of uncrowded beaches with waves big enough to be interesting without being daunting. Surprisingly, the air and water conditions were quite cool- not at all what I expected- next time I'll pack a 5mm wet suit.
Oh, and I did like the cars there- this is the boy racer culture supreme
with Ferrari's and every other sort of performance car thick on the ground. We used Faris Al Farsi's new Porsche Cayenne turbo as a kite anchor.
Oh, and the truffles, should I mention these?
Oh and that reminds me of a story about Faris:
Last August, while Khalid (also from Kuwait) and he were staying with us in Ashburton during the commissioning of the big flag kite, they decided to cook a traditional Kuwaiti meal for us all.
Probably this sudden rush of blood to the head had been driven by their
thinking that this was some sort of local hospitality custom here- Peter
Whitehead, also visiting, had cooked for us the previous night.
Unfortunately, while he undoubtedly had theoretical knowledge of the
process- and consumer experience of the desired result, Faris appeared to be having some difficulties with practical details.
But, resourceful fellow that he is, this proved to be easily solved- with a
little help from technology.
For the entire cooking period, Faris kept his cell phone open and connected to his grandmother (who was in England at the time) for ongoing instructions.
Sure, his cell phone was Kuwait based, and it has been said that some part of our entire town could have dined out on the phone bill, but comprising mainly rice and chicken- with the rice cooked in the stock from the chicken and eaten with the hands- the meal was delicious.
Great cooking- and a masterly touch to have done it all from 15000km away by remote control, thank you Vodaphone and Faris' grandmother.
March 1 '05
* Meg (Albers) and Faris debating woman's rights for eg.