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“I want to visit India again and again…”

Dr Navniit Gandhi Wednesday, February 21, 2024
“I want to visit India again and again…”

She is a Kuwaiti who grew up watching Bollywood movies.

She wanted to visit India; try local cuisines and even drape a saree.

She did all of that and now organizes group tours for Kuwaitis, desirous of a glimpse of India.

She has begun to love pani-puri and has made her Kuwaiti friends try too.

Meet Shoug AlShirazi…

Shoug AlShirazi is a travel blogger, influencer and Head of the Domestic Tourism Committee at the Kuwait Travelers Association. She is also one of the Team that makes up One Way: an official Kuwaiti travel company authorized by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Kuwait and specialized in organizing local and international tours.

With a degree in Management and English Literature, besides being proficient in Interior Designing, Shoug found her ‘calling’ in travel. The maxim: ‘Travel is my Therapy’, suits her perfectly, even as she decided to flap her wings and explore the world from 2018 onwards.

Well, what adds to her distinction is that she has organized two wellness trips for Kuwaitis to India, and many more tours to India are lined-up.

As all of us in Kuwait gear up for the celebrations of the National Day and the Liberation Day in February, indiansinkuwait.com, annually, releases an online supplement: SHUKRAN, Kuwait which very aptly explores the sentiments of gratitude which the Indian community harbors for this land, and commemorates the India-Kuwait ties.

Tourism is one such thread which reflects our deepening Indo-Kuwait ties, and it is to gauge the experiences and potential therein that Dr Navniit Gandhi met Shoug AlShirazi and thus proceeded their conversation:

Navniit: When and how did journeys commence in your life?

Shoug: The seeds of passion for travelling were sown by my Mom who liked travelling herself and she used to think of interesting places for us to visit. There was no google service then, and so, she would take the physical map and show us how we would be going from one to the other city. She used to plan very well and share with us as to how and why she had planned in a particular way.

Navniit: How and when did you discover your own passion for travel?

Shoug: For me, as an independent person, the passion re-surfaced when, while battling with depression, I impulsively decided to visit a place which the world may call the most dangerous place to visit. The year was 2018. When one is depressed, one feels like doing something different. I happened to find while scrolling on my Insta account that there was this group of Kuwaitis going to Colombia. I picked up my bags and joined them. It was my first experience of travel without family or friends. It turned out to be quite an interesting learning experience. There was no danger at all. The place; the people; the food---everything was very good. I enjoyed immensely.

Navniit: Was that the beginning of your journey as a travel blogger?

Shoug: I had my Instagram account on which I used to post my design pics. When I started posting pics from my trip to Colombia, everybody liked them a lot. I got so many likes and curious queries, that I soon realized that this was my heartfelt passion. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, I told myself. I found happiness in going to different places and in meeting people. I want to show people too that what they read in news about places and people is not always true. I even took a group tour of Kuwaitis to Colombia in 2022.

I finally found myself in that one trip. My mother also used to tell that you don’t know what is it that you wish to do and you are hopping from Management to Literature to Designing. But she also said that it is never late to find oneself.

Navniit: And how and when did the compass turn towards India?

Shoug: From a long time, we, in Kuwait, have been watching Bollywood movies. So, even I had a fascination for India and its Bollywood stars. I also wanted to visit once and even wear a saree. In 2023, my friend suggested that ‘let us go to Kerala’, and we embarked on my first trip to India. It was an amazing experience. Everything was so different. The natural beauty was something we had never seen like it before. Kerala was special also because Kuwaitis and Indians had trade links to and from Kerala.

Navniit: Did you try the local delicacies there?

Shoug: The food was simply delicious. We were ordering Biryani everywhere but our guide insisted that we try the fish curry in Kerala and when we did, we loved it so much. In fact, I started eating with my hand!! And then, I also fulfilled my wish of draping a saree, with all the traditional accessories.

Navniit: How do you decide to visit a place? Do people intrigue you more or scenic beauty? History or cuisines?

Shoug: I choose a place sometimes for history, and sometimes if I have heard something fascinating about a place or if I want to see something specific as snow, for example, but then on reaching there, I like to see and enjoy everything. I enjoy meeting the local people and trying the local food. I don’t read the history of place before I travel. When I reach a place, I am keen to listen to the history from a local guide. It is more authentic this way.

Navniit: On the whole, how have been all your experiences in India?

Shoug: India is a big country, with so many languages and such a rich history and such a variety in everything—be it food or the natural beauty. Our relationship with India has been long and special. I want to explore more.

After Kerala, I went with the Oberoi group, to Delhi, Chandigarh and Shimla. I loved these places even more. There was so much more than scenic beauty. I enjoyed shopping too, so much so that I had to buy extra bags! Once now, I want to go to Delhi, exclusively for shopping. I have been to Jaipur as well.

I have sent two groups of Kuwaitis to Chandigarh for wellness packages. This month, one group of Kuwaitis will be going to Kerala on 23rd, during the National Day holidays. I am organizing it, though I won’t be going along. The local guide who is also fluent in Arabic will be taking care.

Navniit: Anything, in particular, about India or Indians that touched your heart?

Shoug: What stands out in my memory during trips to India is ‘people’; they are so warm and caring and wonderful. Everybody felt like a family member. There is no word which can exactly describe my feelings for the people of India. Everyone was so friendly and so full of ‘care’.

Navniit: Any untoward or negative experience?

Shoug: None at all…

Navniit: What advisories do you give to the Kuwaitis whom you take to India?

Shoug: I don’t give them any advice. There is nothing to be afraid of or to be cautious about while travelling to India. There are some places in the world where you have to tell the group to be careful of your watches or belongings, but I don’t think there is anything to fear in India.

Many Indian friends tell me that our cities are crowded and Kuwaitis could be overwhelmed seeing the huge crowds, but I tell them that we must experience all of that. That is India. People who wish to travel have that passion in them. They want to explore and experience a place genuinely. Hence, I am not worried.

Navniit: Which are some of your other favorite places which you would visit again and again?

Shoug: I love going to Lebanon. It is one of my most favorite places. From a young age we have been going there. I like the people, the food and the place. There are places which are very beautiful there. I have many friends there as well. I have taken tours there, and given skiing experience to travelers.

I want to go everywhere; explore everything. I usually decide not to repeat a place which I have seen once. But there are three places I will repeat as many times as I can: Lebanon, India and Russia.

Navniit: Well, that is wonderful! Any particular memory of India that you hold dear to you always?

Shoug: There are so many places all around the world which I like when I visit, but I would not like to live there for long or would not want my kids to grow up there. But I would like to live in India with my family too. How Indians treat even strangers, as if they are their own, is remarkable.

One scene I vividly remember while in India, is seeing young girls going to school with their hair tied up in braids. I was so touched by the scene and understood how much the children in India still hold on to traditions. Here too, it was a tradition once, to not let hair be left open, but now nobody follows it.

Whether Indians belong to high or low economic strata, they all keep traditions alive---be it food or clothes or customs. I like this the most about India.

Navniit: How do you foresee the Indo-Kuwait ties going forward?

Shoug: As places, Kuwait and India are very different.

As far as people are concerned, both attach a lot of importance to traditions and to family. Also, we share a passion for food. All Kuwaitis have a fondness for Indian spices and Indian food. Whether due to the impact of Bollywood or the social media, there is a lot of interest being shown by young people for India. Many queries come to me about trips to India.

Navniit: So, which will be your next destination in India?

Shoug: (laughs…): Ahaaa!! There are so many places I want to go to. I want to have the luxury train experiences on the golden triangle circuit and then go to Goa too, and of course, Mumbai and then, how can I not go to Kashmir or see the Tiger sanctuaries…. There is soooooo much yet to explore!!!

Navniit: Shoug, we---at indiansinkuwait.com and the entire Indian community, wish you lots of happy experiences in all your sojourns to India and all the places that you would like to see on the globe. May you travel far and wide…

Thank you for your time and for sharing your experiences!

Dr.
Navniit Gandhi is an academic since 25+ years; a feature writer (300+ articles), and has authored 10 books. Her 10th and most recently authored, published and launched book is titled: NOT MUCH IS AS IT SEEMS Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com
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Express your comment on this article

 
Odattil Padmanabhan
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Hi, good morning, your houseboat shooting dress & photo is very good and look nice Bollywood actress. Congrats & come again and again to India. With best regards. Odattil Padmanabhan, Kuwait.

Aziz Almutawa
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Shoug is one of the most great travel bloggers in the middle east and her covarge in India were really good!

Prasida k maruthy
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Very glad to know about this cute kuwaity she loves India !!!!thank you dear .i love kuwait ❤️

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