KUWAIT: Scenes from Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh. – Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By Ben Garcia

Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh is an intriguing place, with a mix of modern and dilapidated buildings and unmaintained roads. It is largely populated by low-income expats, with Kuwaitis residing in the area’s block 4. Jleeb is notorious for its underground businesses and makeshift markets. There have also been reported cases of illegal gambling, prostitution and bootlegging. Kuwait Times heard from three expat residents about their survival stories.

Alhaz, a Bangladeshi from Comilla, works as tea boy on a salary of only KD 65 per month at the ministries complex in Kuwait City, but adds to his income by selling fresh fish from Souq Mubarakiya. “Since I work near Mubarakiya, I tried buying pots and pans to clothes to anything I could sell to the Bangladeshi community in Jleeb. I realized I could only earn a small amount and it took time, so I tried selling fresh fish, and it was a success,” he said.

“I buy small fish popular with Bangladeshis. I don’t buy large fish – we like to fry it with tomato sauce,” he said. Alhaz buys 5 to 10 kg daily depending on the price of fish. “If expensive, I only buy 5 kilos. If I earn KD 3-5 daily, I am happy,” he said. On arriving home in Jleeb, he places the fish in a bucket with ice and waits under his dilapidated building. “I sit here almost daily for customers. I don’t display the fish outside – it’s very dangerous and attracts police. Before I used to sell at makeshift markets, but some of my colleagues were arrested, so now I wait for customers outside my building,” Alhaz said.

“This is the only way to earn an additional income. Many people are selling vegetables and fruits, so I thought if I sell something different, I can earn better for my family in Bangladesh,” he said. Alhaz has a wife and three-year-old daughter in Comilla. He came to Kuwait in 2016.

Another person Kuwait Times encountered in Jleeb while taking pictures was a Syrian woman named Muneera, who was begging for alms. “Please don’t post any video of me on social media. I am afraid of the police, but this is the only way I can feed my children,” Muneera, wearing a black abaya, pleaded. She claimed to have been married to a Yemeni man and has four children, adding her husband died of an illness a few months ago. “My husband died recently and I need to earn something for my kids to eat and live,” she said.

Mamun, another Bangladeshi, sells packets of cooked chicken biryani near a makeshift market. He said he is 60 years old and is ready to go home, but needs to earn some more money for his family. “I sell cooked food because I want to earn some extra money before I go back to Dhaka. I am 60 already and am planning to leave Kuwait in March this year,” he said. Mamun has been in Kuwait for the last 15 years.