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MAHBOULA - The melting pot of Kuwait

By Chidi Emmanuel

Foreigners often choose to live in areas with other expats or in close proximity to international schools, healthcare facilities and other amenities that cater to their needs. For many expats in Kuwait, Mahboula has become their new home. Some call it the “Chicago of Kuwait”, while others see it as “Little Africa” or “Dubai of Kuwait”.

“I feel at home here. This is like Chicago. I have been living here for the past 12 years. Unlike other parts of Kuwait, Mahboula is exclusive and unique,” Hudson Smith, an American expat, told Kuwait Times as he was strolling with his colleagues near a fitness center in block 1. “It is better here, unlike where we used to stay before in Salmiya. Mahboula is closer to our workplace, and the flats here are cozier and bigger. “This is a Chicago extension,” Smith’s friend Oliver Williams concurred.

In Mahboula, expat communities often arrange events and social gatherings to help individuals and families build connections and make new friends. “We have many African communities here. We organize meetings and football competitions here. Even Africans living elsewhere will have one or two things to do here in Mahboula. There are African restaurants, salons, sporting activities and even a Friday Market here. We live like families, and we feel at home,” Mairam Kojo, a Ghanaian hairstylist, told Kuwait Times.

“Living in a residential area with other foreigners can provide a strong sense of community and support for those adjusting to a new culture. Here, in Mahboula, Africans find comfort and familiarity in sharing their experiences, overcoming language barriers and navigating cultural differences with others who are in a similar situation. This sense of belonging can help individuals and families feel more at ease in their new environment. Mahboula for us is like a ‘Little Africa’, just like you have a ‘Little Manila’ in Salmiya,” explained Isaac Adjo, a teacher.

Shared experiences

Mahboula is a district on the Arabian Gulf, 36 km south of Kuwait City. It is located in Ahmadi governorate between Fintas and Abu Halifa. In the mid-2000s, Mahboula was essentially uninhabited, with only a few old buildings. During the COVID pandemic, Mahboula, along with Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, was locked down for an extended period, which led to a mass exodus of residents, but has since recovered and shed its pariah tag.

Reginald Aku explored the social benefits of living in Mahboula. “Living among members of your community has a lot of advantages. Expats can lean on each other for advice and support. We shared experiences dealing with bureaucratic challenges to celebrating our cultural festivals. Additionally, expat communities often organize events and social gatherings to facilitate connections and foster friendships among residents. These opportunities for social interaction can be invaluable in helping expats build a new network of friends and acquaintances,” Aku, a Nigerian engineer, said.

“The issues of language barriers and cultural differences can be a challenge when living in other parts of Kuwait. However, most people in explained speak English, and there are many international communities in the area,” Aku added.

“Living among expats in a residential area offers both benefits and challenges for individuals and families navigating life in a foreign country. While a sense of community, shared experiences and social opportunities can be invaluable, expats must be mindful of the potential limitations on cultural immersion and integration. By striking a balance between comfort and exploration, expats can make the most of their experience abroad and create lasting connections with both expats and locals in their new home,” Caroline Abdoulaye, a Cameroonian expat, advised.

“Unlike other areas in Kuwait, Mahboula is a relatively modern area with a number of international schools catering to students in the area. There is a mix of apartments and villas, many of which are equipped with modern amenities like swimming pools and gyms. The area is also home to several shopping malls, restaurants and cafes, which cater to the needs of the population, so it shouldn’t take you long to feel at home,” Indian expat Anand Kumar told Kuwait Times. “Mahboula is like the Dubai of Kuwait. There are open areas where we can do some sporting activities. I play cricket on Fridays. It has that Dubai-like nature — more foreigners and fewer locals,” Kumar’s friend Das pointed out.

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