The KOC Archive: The Ahmadi Post Office

Posted by Mark

ahmadipostoffice

These are some photos of the Ahmadi post office I got from my last trip to the KOC photography archive. They’re probably dated back to the early 1960s.


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Magwa Hospital – Ahmadi

Posted by Mark

magwa

I’m in contact with one of my readers who has some old photos of Ahmadi and I’ll be posting some every now and then. Kinda like what I was supposed to do with the KOC Archive posts which I realized I’ve completely forgotten about. Anyway this post is about the Ahmadi Hospital and this is what he had to say about it:

magwa2

Ahmadi Hospital is known to many people especially the oil sector. Ahmadi Hospital was in inaugurated in April 1960 by Kuwait Oil Company and was called then “Southwell Hospital” after Kuwait Oil Company Sir Philip Southwell who was KOC president from 1946 to 1959. Sometime during the 80’s it was changed to “Ahmadi Hospital”

Before the hospital was built in Ahmadi town, KOC had a hospital in Magwa area (North Ahmadi Town, separated with Kuwait airport by the 7th ring road). That is where I was born and many others in that period. Attached are some pictures of Magwa Hospital.

I’ve also uploaded the two photos of the hospital staff in high resolution in case you’re interested in seeing them up close. You can view those [Here] and [Here]


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The National Library Bookshop

Posted by Mark

bookshop

I hadn’t heard of this bookshop until my friend took me to it recently. It’s supposedly one of the oldest bookshops in Kuwait and it’s called “المكتبة الوطنية” which translates to The National Library. They sell Arabic books and comics, mostly new but they also have a bunch of really old stuff.

hardees

While flipping through one of the old comics I found the Hardees advert above. My very first memory of Hardees is that kids meal box, I think I was around 6 years old and I remember getting it from the now demolished Hardees near my house in Salem Mubarek Street.

If you’re interested in checking out this old bookshop it’s located in Souk Mubarkia, here is the location on [Google Maps]


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The story behind Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

Posted by Mark

wizr

Back in October I wrote about Keith Wells, a British journalist who was living in Kuwait back in the 70s. Keith used to work for Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books which I’m lucky enough to own all three. A few days ago Keith got in touch with me and I asked him if he could tell me how it all started. This is what he shared with me:

I originally wrote the stories for the Arab Times which became very popular. Then I met Peter McMahon at a party, and he hadn’t read any of the stories and asked, “Who is this Wizr character?” “I said, he’s the young, trendy Kuwaiti guy with the scarlet Transam with the eagle decal on the bonnet.’ So Peter picked up a sheet of paper,scribbled away for a minute or two, then held it out and asked “Him?” It was perfect. Thereafter we became close friends. I’d write a story, take it to his flat every Friday, and he’d give me the cartoon from the week before’s story. He somehow drew exactly what I’d imagined. The combination became very popular indeed and after a month or two we were approached by Tony Jashanmal, who owned a department store on Fahed Salem St, and Bashir Khatib, who owned the Kuwait Bookshop to publish a book full of the stories. We had a 3 way partnership to print the book at The Arab Times and Launched it at the British Embassy Garden Fete in November 1979, a week or so before I married Suzi. We sold 428 copies in about two hours… amazing.

We carried on for just over a year, then Peter was murdered by Saddam Hussein’s goons, long sad, sad story… but the upshot was that I sort of lost the fun, we put out the second Wizr book with cartoons we hadn’t used in the first one. And the third book with odd scraps and recycled pics. By then it was getting a bit heavy with the Iran Iraq War getting very dangerous and I left the Arab Times and took a very low profile job teaching at the university of Kuwait. After 4 years there I went back to the paper and wrote more stories with an Indian cartoonist called Edgar, but they were never collected in book form. I left Kuwait in June ’87. We emigrated to Oz in Oct 1989, and the following March I had a massive heart attack in a small town in southern Queensland. After recovering, we spent the rest of our working lives doing PhDs in Communication Studies, and setting up Comm Depts in various universities and colleges in Macau, Singapore, Morocco, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

I’ve been a bit of a hermit since retiring in ’07, but am beginning to re-emerge and was very surprised and grateful for the interest in Wizr and Dozi and his pals. Someone told me a few years ago that the fabulous cartoon of Dozi with the two rubber stamps “PERHAPS” and “PERHAPS NOT” is to be found in many offices to this day. Peter would have loved that.

– Keith Wells


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The Kuwait Cat’s Meat Crisis

Posted by Mark

catstory

The Qatar Digital Library have published an article about a scandal in Kuwait in the 1930s when one restaurant was accused of using cat meat instead of mutton. It’s an interesting read and it also sounds like an incident that could take place today. Kuwait really hasn’t changed much. [Link]


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Comedy in Kuwait back in the 50s

Posted by Mark

comedy

The lovers of humor and comic stuff had the chance in Kuwait back in the fifties to enjoy it through the comic magazine “Al-Fukaha” which means humor in English.

“Al-Fukaha” magazine was released in October 1950, the chief editor was Farhan Rashed Alfarhan and the owner was Abdullah Al-Khaled Al-Hatem.

At first, it was printed in Kuwait. Then, they started printing it in the Syrian capital Damascus and the distribution of this comic magazine was in Kuwait.

“Al-Fukaha” that was released in 1950 continued until 7th February 1951 and then stopped. It was released again on July 20th 1954 but stopped one more time on 24th November 1958.

First time I’m hearing of this. [Link]

Thanks Farran


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Women of the Resistance

Posted by Mark

This is a Sheila MacVicar ABC News report produced and edited from inside Kuwait City just after the Iraqi forces fled at the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War. The segment was broadcast on World News Tonight March 7, 1991. It features many of the brave women that took on a major role of resisting the occupying Iraqi forces that had taken over the besieged city.

This short report was uploaded a few hours ago on Vimeo and sheds a bit of light on some of the Kuwaiti women resistance during the 1990 Iraqi invasion. [Vimeo]

1990


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The KOC Archive: Kuwait’s Old Police Force

Posted by Mark

police

I’m going to start sharing some of the photos I got from my last trip to the KOC photography archive. This group of photos in this post are of the old Kuwaiti police force, I don’t have a specific date but I’d say the photos were probably taken in the 60s.

Photos courtesy of the KOC Information Team.


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British Troops Defend Kuwait (1961)

Posted by Mark

British Pathé have been uploading their historic archive of news onto YouTube and awhile back they uploaded this short clip related to Kuwait which I had somehow missed. [YouTube]

Thanks Roberto

britshtroops


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Save The Kuwait Bookshops

Posted by Mark

kuwaitbookshop1

As a kid growing up in Kuwait in the 80s I used to pass by Muthana Complex in Kuwait City all the time with my family. Back then Muthana Complex was what Avenues is to Kuwait today, it was a beautiful mall and it used to get pretty packed on weekends. We had friends who lived in the apartments in Muthana so we were there pretty often, probably once a week. Whenever we used to be done visiting our friends we would head into the mall and the first shop we would see was The Kuwait Bookshops. We’d always walk in and either me or my sister would always end up leaving with a book or a magazine. But the Kuwait Bookshops was around way before the 80s and way before I was born. Last night I sat down with the owner of the bookshop Bashir Alkhatib and this is the story of The Kuwait Bookshops.

kuwaitbookshop4

The History

Bashir moved to Kuwait in 1959 after studying in the US. He started working at the Ministry of Information and grew frustrated really quickly that he couldn’t buy any books in Kuwait. He used to love to read and there wasn’t any place that sold books so he thought to himself, this town needs a bookshop. In 1961 he opened The Kuwait Bookshops in the Thunayan AlGhanim building on Soor Street. It was one of the most advanced buildings in Kuwait at the time and one of the first to have an elevator. According to Bashir, the bedouins used to come in from the desert and stand in line to watch “the horse” that can go up and down. Back then the Thunayan AlGhanim building also housed the KOC offices as well as the British Consulate and they were his best customers. Bashir continued to work at the Ministry while also running the bookshop, he actually had to work at the Ministry overtime so he could afford to pay the expenses of the bookshop.

alghanimbuilding

One of the bookshops customers was a British guy who used to come in regularly to pick up the English paper The Times. One day he came in to pick up the paper but he couldn’t find any so he asked Bashir, why don’t you have The Times? Bashir replied telling him he hadn’t paid the bill so they stopped sending his bookshop the papers. He asked him how come you didn’t pay the bill? Bashir told him that he didn’t have the money so he couldn’t. Turns out the customer was a manager at Gulf Bank and told him to pass by him at the bank. So Bashir went to Gulf Bank and sat with the manager who asked him, whats your dream? Bashir told him his dream was to have a bookshop similar to the ones in England and the US. After around an hour of chatting the manager told him he would give him an overdraft of KD10,000 guaranteed by the manger himself. Bashir took the money and got on the plane and headed to London where he met with various publishers. He managed to strike deals on credit where he would be able to buy books and newspapers and pay them back 90 days later which helped him a lot financially. The Kuwait Bookshops became one of the first to import books and newspapers to the Gulf.

In 1964 he opened his second location in Ahmadi due to popular request since his KOC customers kept asking for a location closer to them. Bashir used to originally get his magazines and papers from England but there was a distribution company that used to get magazines and newspapers from the US so in 1970 he decided to purchase that distribution company. Due to the amount of books, magazines and newspapers they were getting they had to get a warehouse to store all the items since there wasn’t enough space in the Soor and Ahmadi locations to display everything. Then in the mid 80s Muthana Complex started being built down the street from their Soor location so he purchased a shop there. In 1986 Muthana opened and The Kuwait Bookshops was one of the first shops to open there.

bookshop1990

In 1990 the invasion happened and the shop got ransacked by the Iraqi soldiers. After the invasion Bashir went to his publishers one by one and asked them how much he had owed them but the publishers all told him that any debt he owed before the invasion would be wiped clean and they would start fresh from again. In 1992 The Kuwait Bookshops reopened and it’s been there ever since.

kuwaitbookshop2

The Present

Due to irreconcilable differences between the partners, The Kuwait Bookshops is currently at risk of getting liquidating. The only way to save the bookshop is to buy out the other partner. If by December 5th the bookshop isn’t saved, then the bookstore along with it’s history will vanish. It’s depressing because The bookshop is a part of Kuwait’s heritage and once it’s gone its gone. There is currently a hashtag being used #savekuwaitbookshops on Instagram and Twitter so if you do pass by the store please hashtag your photos. Maybe with enough awareness someone will come in and help save the shop. If anyone by any chance is interested in possibly buying out the other partner, please [Email Me]

Note: First photo on top taken by Fabio Sabatini. Second photo taken by Nadia Nader.


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