Tidbits: Kuwait Aviation History

Posted by Mark

kacclub

Last week someone told me that the top floors of the Kuwait Airways Building in Kuwait City used to be a club called Al Hamra back when clubs were legal. So I spent all day yesterday trying to find information on it online but I couldn’t find anything. Instead, the whole research somehow turned into history lesson on Kuwait’s aviation history and I ended u finding a lot of interesting information most of which I hadn’t heard before. I already shared the vintage timetables in a separate post below but I’ll now combine the rest of my random findings here.

Al-Nugra Airport
This was Kuwait’s second airport and it was located in Nuzha.

1947-1948 KOC develops new Al-Nugra (Al-Mayass) airport, located in Nuzha district. Open for daylight operations only. Airlines open offices in Kuwait city to handle ticketing and cargo operations for the Arab expatriate community. Al-Nugra airport steadily developed with new concrete buildings and hangar. [Source]

I couldn’t find any decent photos of the airport but I did find the video below.


[YouTube]

Kuwait Airport 1975
I found the images below on Flickr and they’re dated 1975 but I’m not sure if they’re photos of Al-Nugra Airport or the location of our current airport which started in 1961.

1961 State of Kuwait declares independence. Phase One of new Mugwa Airport begins operation. Airlines serving Mugwa include BOAC, Lufthansa, KLM, United Arab Airlines, Saudi Arab Airlines, Syrian Arab Airlines, Air India, and Lebanese carriers MEA, TMA and LIA. Facilities comprise passenger terminal (Terminal 1), 2,200-metre asphalt runway, parking apron, and control tower equipped to handle operations round-the-clock. [Source]

Photos [Source]

It’s most likely the site of our current airport but the only reason I am having doubts on the location is because in 1979 the current airport was completed but in the aerial photo above I can’t see any signs of the new airport construction taking place.

Trans Arabia Airways
Trans Arabia Airways was a Kuwaiti carrier that started operating in 1959 out of Beirut to Kuwait with an ex-Australian National Airways DC-4. By 1964 the the fleet consisted of three Douglas DC-6Bs and they flying to: Beirut, Bahrain, Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, Doha, Jeddah, as well as Frankfurt, London and Rome. In 1964 they were purchased and absorbed by Kuwait Airways. [Source]

The Kuwait Airport by Kenzo Tange
This isn’t new information since I already posted it years ago but I still think the photos are worth sharing again. Our current airport was originally designed by the legendary Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and was completed in 1979. The airport originally looked completely different and a lot nicer as you can see in the photos below. The British architect and critic Stephen Gardiner wrote in 1985 that it was “the most beautiful airport in the world” because of its “breathtaking simplicity of color and shape.” It is “white sculptured space as cool as an ice-cube, as enormous as a vat intake of pure air, as light as a tent, as canvas hung from cables and sails.”

Photos [Source]


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Vintage Kuwait Airways Timetables

Posted by Mark

kuwaitairwaysfleet

While I was researching for a post I found a page with old Kuwait Airways timetables dating back to 1959. According to that timetable Kuwait Airways was flying to the following destinations back then:

Abadan
Bahrain
Basra
Beirut
Bombay
Cairo
Damascus
Dhahran
Jerusalem
Karachi

I also found the image above of their fleet inside one of the timetables which I thought was very cool. Check out all the timetables [Here]


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A Story About the Twenty Dinars Note

Posted by Mark

20kd

Uwe is a well known photographer in the local advertising scene and he’s lived in Kuwait since 1983. I’ve known him for a few years and awhile back when I posted about the new Kuwaiti currency he emailed me a very interesting story regarding the photo of the Court Complex on the back of the old KD20 bank note which I thought was interesting to share. This is what he told me:

Shortly before the invasion I was contracted to photograph the Court Complex which was to be used as part of the design on the soon to be introduced KD20 bank note. I headed to the Court Complex on a Friday morning with someone from the Central Bank to shoot the building. We parked our Toyota 4-Runner on the side and I got up on top of it with my camera and tripod to take photos. A short while after two police cars with sirens on showed up and told me to get down from the roof of the car. They asked us what we were doing and when we told them they asked for our permission papers. THe person who was with me from the Central Bank had forgotten to bring the permission papers with him so the police took me into the court house and held me there until the person went and fetched the permission slip and came back. It took him 7 hours to bring that paper! From then on whenever I look at the KD20 note I remember that messed up Friday.

On a side note, why does the Central Bank of Kuwait website ask you if you want to visit their old website or their new one? Why not just automatically load the new one?


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Old Kuwait Postcards – Part 2

Posted by Mark

carlton-hotel-kuwait

A few months back I posted a collection of old Kuwaiti postcards which I had found by mistake on eBay while searching for something else. This time around I found a larger collection of old Kuwaiti postcards but I was deliberately looking for them.

phoenicia-hotel-kuwait

What I find fascinating about these old postcards is the fact they highlight important locations and buildings of that era, ones that are forgotten about or don’t even exist today. That’s why for this post I’ve highlighted these two specific postcards, one of the Carlton Hotel and the other of the Phoenicia Hotel. According to this old scan from a 1966 magazine, Phoenicia was the a beautiful place where you could experience the most beautiful days of your life. Good times, check out all the postcards below.

To purchase any of these postcards visit this [Link]


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Kuwait International Rally (1988)

Posted by Mark

oldrally

Someone uploaded an old report on the 1988 Kuwait International Rally. It’s 30 minutes long so I would recommend skimming through it unless you really want to watch it all. If you’re into old commercials then fast forward to the two commercial breaks, the first one starts at 13:35 while the second one starts at 22:18. Check out the video below.


[YouTube]


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Escape from Kuwait

Posted by Mark

escapefromkuwait

Escape from Kuwait is an interesting short story about a guy who managed to escape Kuwait through the desert during the 1990 Iraq invasion. Below is an excerpt from the story:

As time wore on it was becoming obvious the Iraqis wouldn’t leave. And, one by one, the families I was providing with sustenance were “discovered” (informants were rampant) and arrested. I also ran out of Dinars. I did what everyone was doing to stay alive: I used to drive up to Basrah (the Iraqi city neighbouring Kuwait) to sell my electronics one by one; first the VCR, then another, then my Boom Box, my mini Hi-Fi, then the big stereo, the small TV etc… The only thing nobody wanted was my Amiga 1000. When these had gone I started disposing of the white goods: the dishwasher, the dryer, the fridge (we had practically doubles of everything). Iraqis were eager to buy since such goods were not widely available in their land, but the money they paid was peanuts. Still, no choice. The situation gradually became desperate, and I realised that I had to leave. I gave to our Philippina maid 3 months’ salaries and told her that she should go to her embassy (Asian and African officials were organising mass evacuations). The poor thing was crying so hard. I exchanged my wife’s car, a Chevrolet Caprice Classic, to a Daihatsu Rocky a Palestinian colleague had. This would normally be a dumb deal, as the Chevy was worth 4 times the Daihatsu. But I needed a 4X4 vehicle to escape through the desert. With most of my last Dinars I bought essential spare parts, two cans of motor oil and a tank of gasoline at the black market. I bid farewell and good luck to the families that remained hidden, and one early dawn in early October I headed a convoy of 6 trucks south to Saudi Arabia. I had gotten a makeshift “map” from a Swedish photographer who used to race in desert rallies a few years back and now pieced together escape convoys (an aside: why wouldn’t he himself leave?… He was in love with an Indian girl who had not left the country yet… ah, the power of love).

The story is not too long (around 3 pages) and interesting all the way through.
Check it out [Here]

Photo above from Kuwait Invasion: The Evidence.


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Old photos of Radisson Blu (SAS)

Posted by Mark

sasopening

I have a friend who recently started working at the Radisson Blu Hotel and he found a bunch of old photo albums so he asked me if I would be interested in flipping through them since he knows I like old photos related to Kuwait. There were maybe 20 large albums with a lot of random stuff but I picked out photos that I thought were the most interesting or at least ones that I could relate to.

The photo on top is of the hotel on opening day. I had chosen other photos from that day for them to scan but I didn’t get them for some reason.

Second group of photos I found interesting is the installation of the Kugel. The Kugel is a large 4 ton marble sphere that floats on water and before the hotels recent refurbishment used to located in the lobby. Originally I thought the Kugel had been there ever since the hotel opened but turns out it was installed after the 1990 invasion. The Kugel now is no longer located in the lobby but instead outside near the Viking Club entrance.

The second batch of photos that caught my eye was the damage done to The Peacock Chinese restaurant during the 1990 invasion. I had seen photos of the hotel after the invasion but hadn’t seen photos of Peacock before. If you’ve never been to Peacock, here’s my review.

clock

Finally does anyone remember Clock? I couldn’t find a photo in their archives of the restaurant when it was open just the one above taken after the invasion. I was young when it first opened in the 80s but I think it was the first restaurant to offer drive through in Kuwait. I used to see the Clock sign when going down the Gulf Road near Bid’aa and as a kid I found the concept of drive through fascinating.


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Kuwait in 1975

Posted by Mark

A friend of mine gave me a video his parents shot back when they first arrived to Kuwait in the mid 70s. The video was shot with Super 8 film which was converted years later to VHS format and then recently digitized. The video contains a lot of different footage of Kuwait but edited down to 13 minutes so it’s not very long. Here is a breakdown of what you’ll see in the video, please note there is no sound:

0:00 Kuwait Towers still under construction. There were rumors circulating that the tower spheres were going to be in gold and when they first started adding the blue tiles people were generally disappointed it wasn’t in gold.
2:25 A drive down Fahad al Salem street
3:16 Naif palace, you can see the execution gallows through the open gate at 3:24
3:28 The old National Assembly
3:30 The Arab Planning Institute, currently where the Liberation Tower stands
3:39 Heading towards the Gulf Road
4:15 American Mission Hospital
5:05 The ice cream guy, probably the only thing that hasn’t changed in Kuwait
5:09 Seef Palace
5:14 The Gulf Road near the Dixons House. Nearly all of those old Kuwaiti houses have now been demolished.
5:48 A gas station on the Gulf Road on the beach side. This was demolished after the failed assassination attempt of Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah, who was the emir of Kuwait at the time. The car explosion had taken place near the station.
5:53 The British Embassy, the main entrance was on the Gulf Road.
6:45 The Behbahani Compound where Casper & Gambini, Starbucks and Dar al Funoon are currently located.
6:56 Almagsab Gate
7:05 Old secondary school now part of the Kuwait University campus.
7:14 Shanty towns. This is where non-Kuwaitis were staying while their paperwork to become Kuwaitis were being processed. This specific town was located in the north near where Entertainment City is currently.
8:13 Dhow building yard near the Port of Doha
10:00 A drive through Shamiya
10:34 Back to Fahad al Salem Srteet
10:50 The old KNPC building
11:23 Souk Al-Mubarakiya
12:54 The gold souk

The video above was shot by Jo and Jeff de Lange. They were also nice enough to take me through the video frame by frame and explain what I was seeing so I could share it with you. [YouTube]


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Vintage Wrestling Poster Destroyed

Posted by Mark

wrestlingkuwait

A few years ago I posted about a vintage wrestling poster (photo above) dating back to 1965. The poster was still stuck on a pillar on a soon to be demolished building on Fahad Al Salem street and I was hoping someone would end up saving the poster.

posterdestroyed

Since I was in the area the other day I decided to pass by and see if the poster was saved and sadly it wasn’t as you can see in the photo above. My guess is someone tried to break off the marble slab to rescue the poster but ended up accidentally breaking the slab in half. Sucks.


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The Kuwait Embassy in Japan

Posted by Mark

kenzo

A completely random but interesting fact, I recently found out the beautifully designed Kuwait Embassy in Japan (pictured above) was designed by the same legendary architect behind the original Kuwait Airport, Kenzo Tange. The building was built in 1966, 13 years before the Kuwait Airport.

via @kashkool_kw

Note: If you click the original Kuwait Airport link you can see photos of how the Kuwait Airport originally looked like.

kuwaitairport


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