Sneak Peek: Al Hamra Tower

Post by Mark

One of the best things about blogging is the fact I get invited to check out a lot of cool work in progress projects like Messilah Beach, Missoni Hotel and The Regency Palace. My dad’s an interior designer and as a kid I used to tag along with him on Friday mornings to various construction sites which is why now whenever I get invited to visit one I can never say no. It brings back good childhood memories and that’s why when I was asked if I wanted to tour the Al Hamra Tower I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been a big fan of the tower for a long time to get a tour of it before completion would literally be a once in a life time opportunity since they’re only going to build it once.

First a bit of history and some facts. Al Hamra used to be Kuwait’s and the GCC’s first indoor cinema. It had two large theaters, one played Bollywood movies while the other played Western movies. Al Hamra Tower is being built in the same location where Al Hamra Cinema used to be located. It’s currently the second tallest building in the region with Burj Khalifa being the tallest. It’s the tallest asymmetrical structure in the world (no side is like the other side) and it’s also the second tallest concrete building in the world.

So my tour started off with a video presentation of the tower. It wasn’t really boring since there was a presenter and I was able to interrupt and ask questions. After the presentation I was taken to the mall that’s located at the bottom of the tower. The mall is made up of five floors and each floor will be around the size of a floor at Al Raya mall across the street. The fifth floor will hold the Al Hamra Cinema. Whats special about this cinema is the fact it will be the first non-Cinescape theater in 50 years. Back in 1953 Cinescape got a 50 year exclusivity for cinema’s in Kuwait. That exclusivity expired in 2003. The mall will be a luxurious one and having Hermes there is a good start.

Once we were done walking around the mall we headed to the main tower lobby (pictured above) which is really going to be huge when completed. Although the tower is super tall your average wait time for a lift will be under 30 seconds, the lift also travels at a speed of 10 floors a second. To get to the top floor of the tower we had to take a lift up to a lobby on the 54th floor I think and then swap to another lift and continue up to the very last floor.


[YouTube]

Once we got to the last floor it was filled with scaffolding since they still have a few more glass panels they’re installing at the very top. But the space up there is just astonishing, the ceiling is incredibly high and the view is just overwhelming. I shot the video above to try and show what I was experiencing and seeing but you really need to be there (Trivia: Can you tell when I hit my head on a scaffolding? Luckily I was wearing a hard hat!). Once completed this last floor will sadly be a private invite only chairman’s club and not a restaurant like I had previously heard. This means very few people will actually get to enjoy this beautiful view.

It’s hard not to like Al Hamra Tower, it’s an office tower done right and we don’t have many “done right” projects in Kuwait. I really can’t wait for it to launch which should be September of this year. Below are some pictures I took today.

Update: Forgot to mention that the windows will be cleaned by a team of robots and it will take a month to clean all the windows. Burj Khalifa on the other hand employs 36 window cleaners who take 3 months to clean all the windows. Burj Arab I believe uses 2 people who take a full month to clean their windows.


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First Impression: Nintendo 3DS

Post by Mark

I think I’ve said this before but in case I didn’t here it is… I hate 3D movies. I think 3D is just a gimmick, it doesn’t add anything to a movie and I find it ridiculous that we need to wear glasses to watch a movie. With that said when I heard Nintendo were releasing a 3D portable I thought that was just stupid. Now that I’ve actually spent time with the 3DS I can back that statement up.

Nintendo have managed to get 3D on the DS without the need for 3D glasses. The screen manages to display a 3D image but it only works at a certain distance and at a certain angle. Any position other than the perfect one will result in a blurry image. It’s also very difficult to get a perfect position since it’s a handheld and you’re going to be pressing buttons which moves the DS in your hands and out of the perfect viewing position. I was playing Rayman 3D which is a crappy game but since it has a 3D environment it was a good game to test out the 3D effect. Sadly, even when the 3DS is in the perfect position the 3D effect isn’t really that 3D. Nothing jumps out of the screen and it really wasn’t comfortable playing since I was seeing doubles the whole time. I kept fidgeting with the 3DS to get it into the perfect position and after awhile I realized I spent more time focusing on trying to get the 3DS in a perfect viewing position then I spent focusing on the game. It also messes up your sight, I am seeing double right now as I am typing this post because I was playing with the 3DS before I started typing here.

I personally think the 3DS’s 3D is going to flop in the same way the Nintendo Virtual Boy did. I can’t imagine anyone playing on the 3DS without getting a headache or double vision. Now I’m looking forward for Sony’s followup to the PSP, hopefully they won’t mess things up as well.

My Nintendo 3DS was a loaner from X-cite Electronics and if you’re interested in one they’re selling them for KD110. They have them in two colors, Aqua which is the one pictured above and regular black. They also have a few games now for sale as well with more coming in at the end of the week.


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First Impression: The iPad 2

Post by Mark

I managed to get a hold of the new iPad 2 today courtesy of X-cite Electronics and I’m glad I did since there were a lot of questions I had which I managed to get answered after spending some time with the iPad 2.

The iPad 2 I got is the 3G version so the first thing I wanted to check is to see if the iPad was locked to AT&T or not. This time around there are two versions of the iPad 2 3G, there is the AT&T version and there is the Verizon version. The one I got was the AT&T version and it runs perfectly fine in Kuwait. I took out my micro sim from my iPhone 4 and placed it inside the iPad 2 and it worked right away and I was able to browse webpages and stream music from my favorite stations without a problem.

Now physically I was expecting there to be a lot more difference between the old and the new iPad but honestly I felt they were pretty similar. Sure the new iPad is 33% slimmer but it doesn’t feel that different to me (I’ve got big hands maybe?). I never felt the old iPad was actually thick so the fact that the new one is slightly slimmer is a bonus but not really worth upgrading from the old iPad. One thing I want to point out is the fact that I found it difficult to connect the iPad 2 to the keyboard dock due to the way the dock connecter at the bottom of the iPad 2 is on a curve. It took me a few tries the first time and I am guessing I would get better at it after a bit of practice.

The smart cover is pretty cool since it’s very minimal and easy to take off and put on. I didn’t like holding the iPad with the cover on but what’s great about the smart cover is you just pull it off to remove it so it’s very practical to put on and take off and when on it doesn’t add to the thickness by much.

Now I left what I think is probably the most important upgrade till the end and no it’s not the camera which I find useless but the new faster A5 processor. The new iPad 2 is a lot faster than the older iPad and games like Sim City and Red Alert for example run a lot smoother on the iPad 2 compared to the original iPad. Even when launching the apps the difference is very obvious as you can since in the video I recorded above (The iPad 2 is on the bottom).

If you still don’t have a tablet and are looking to get one I wouldn’t recommend anything other than the iPad (both original and 2). If you already own an iPad and are wondering if you should get the iPad 2, well personally I don’t think there is enough change to justify the upgrade. For me the only reason I might get an iPad 2 is if they come out with cool games that take advantage of the new faster iPad 2 processor but other than that I don’t think I would get one. Some people might need the camera or want the smart cover but I use my iPad to read magazines and play games and the original iPad will do both those nearly as good as the iPad 2. But a few months from now I will probably eat my words and end up getting the iPad 2 just because I’m an Apple fanboy.

You can check out the iPad 2 yourself since they are on display at the X-cite Avenues and Al-Rai branch. They are also taking orders and will be delivering them in a week or two. Here are the prices:

Ipad2-16GB-WiFi Black/White KD199
Ipad2-32GB-WiFi Black/White KD249
Ipad2-64GB-WiFi Black/White KD289
Ipad2-16GB-WiFi 3G Black/White KD259
Ipad2-32GB-WiFi 3G Black/White KD309
Ipad2-64GB-WiFi 3G Black/White KD349


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First Impression: Fatburger

Post by Mark

Tonight I was invited to a tasting at the soon to open Fatburger. I hadn’t had a Fatburger before and I honestly only heard about it around a year ago after watching the great documentary Hamburger America. In the documentary they spoke about various popular burger places in America and Fatburger was one of them.

I had the double burger tonight and thought it was great. It was juicy and meaty and I loved that. The senior vice president of Fatburger was there and he turned out to be a great guy in an incredibly colorful and flashy Hawaiian shirt. I meet a lot of burger lovers all the time but I’ve never met anyone into burgers more than me until today. The guy is just incredibly passionate about burgers and he’s been having burgers a lot longer than I’ve been alive. He knows it all and he’s seen it all. I mean he used to have Fatburger back in the 50s when they first opened so he was really there from the start.

Just a few interesting details I picked up from him. Since they want the local experience to be exactly like the US experience they’re importing all their ingredients from the US. That includes the beef, fries and even ketchup. The Heinz ketchup that’s regionally produced is different from the US version. The color is bright red while in the US its a dark red but most importantly the regionally produced Heinz is sweeter. Since they prefer the flavor of the US Heinz ketchup they’re importing it directly to Kuwait. Imagine that, they could have gone with the local Heinz but they’re instead getting it imported from the US. To me that shows how much they care. You’re going to have the exact same burger experience as if you walked into a Fatburger in LA.

If you’re interested in trying out their burgers they’re opening next week in Fintas at Spoons. It’s easy to find since its on the main Fintas sea side road opposite Pizza Express. Good stuff.


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First Impression: B+F Open Flame Kitchen

Post by Mark

I got back from dinner awhile ago from the soon to open B+F Open Flame Kitchen and I think I over ate… like big time. Open Flame Kitchen is the new restaurant from the guy who brought us Burger Boutique and Slider Station. It’s his third restaurant in Kuwait and I believe fifth over all (he has b+f in Saudi and Roadside Diner in Oman).

I am not going to review the food since they’re not even open yet but even though they’re still in the testing stage the food I had was great. What did I get to try tonight? Fried calamari, shrimp tempura, fried mozzarella, two types of salad, a sushi dish, a cheese burger, chicken liver, BBQ ribs, rib eye steak, lobster with shrimps and scallops, french fries, and three types of dessert, chocolate pancakes, fried banana with toffee and the chocolate brownie pudding (the sequel to the chocolate pudding from Slider Station). I don’t know any of the actual names of the dishes so I just listed the stuff based on ingredients. I also might have left stuff out since there was really a lot of food. I basically won’t be stepping on the scale anytime this week.

The interior design and ambiance of OFK is just amazing. I passed by right after the gym, my best friend and favorite food buddy Essa from Choowy Goowy and his wife were there waiting for me. The place was packed and there was music playing and it really didn’t feel like I was in Kuwait. Then Nat and another friend joined us and we started meeting other friends who were having dinner there which we hadn’t seen for ages, it just felt like a very social and cool place specially with the good music and dark interior. There really aren’t that many places like that in Kuwait.

B+F Open Flame Kitchen is located in 360 Mall right under The Meat Co. and right in front of Life with Cacao. They’re not open yet, they’re currently in the training stage. In the beginning of July they start the food tasting/sampling with the soft launch happening sometime mid July.


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The iPhone 4 Screen

Post by Mark

I take it back, there IS a big difference. When I first started using the iPhone 4 I didn’t notice much difference in the screen until I put it side by side next to my old iPhone and I loaded up a website. The text on my iPhone 3Gs screen looked blurry and gray compared to the very sharp and black text on the iPhone 4 screen. I was very surprised and just like that my iPhone 3Gs screen started looking out dated.

One downside to this sharp high resolution screen is that it makes icons and apps seem low res. That should go away once everyone starts making their apps iOS4 compatible.

The screen on the iPhone I got doesn’t have the yellow spots that have been talked about in the media recently but even if it did it’s not really a big deal. Both Gizmodo and Endgadet have reported that the yellow spots are just screen adhesive that disappears after a few days.


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First iPhone 4 in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Just had the new iPhone 4 delivered to me to try out by X-Cite. First thing I noticed is how bulky and ugly my “old” iPhone 3Gs looks next to the new iPhone 4. Second thing I noticed is how the new screen doesn’t look too different from the older screen. From the way everyone has been talking about it online I was expecting a much bigger difference but my first impression is they look the same. I will play with the phone all day until I have to give it back to X-Cite and then later in the day post a more detailed impression on it.

If you want to check out the iPhone 4 yourself you can pass by X-Cite at the Avenues this afternoon. They will be taking pre-orders as well starting at 5PM. The price of the 16GB iPhone4 is KD299 while the 32GB is for KD359. These are officially unlocked iPhones. First shipment of iPhones will arrive to Kuwait in 1 to 2 weeks.

Update: I am guessing I currently have one of the first iPhone 4’s in the Middle East (and probably Asia) since I couldn’t find a post by anyone else about this. That’s pretty cool.


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First iPad in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Just got hold of an iPad from X-Cite to review and check out. It just arrived from the States and it’s one of the first iPads in Kuwait. So far my first impression is that the iPad looks even cooler than the pictures, it’s really an incredible device I love it, the screen is amazing, better than the screen of my MacBook which I’m currently typing on. X-Cite just got a small batch of iPads today and they’re on display at their Avenues X-Cite branch so you can go and try them out.

I’m going to play around with my review unit for a bit more and post some more details later today. I’m curious to see if I’ll be able to buy books from the iTunes store.

X-Cite are getting the 16GB iPad with WiFi and the price is KD299. If you want to pre-order an iPad you need to leave a KD50 deposit and you can only book one unit since quantities are limited. It’s first come first served. You can only pre-order the iPad from the Avenues X-Cite branch starting at 7PM today. The earlier you book, the higher the chance you get your iPad in one of their next shipments. As an added bonus, if you mention my blog when booking you will get a free flash drive. If you want to play with an iPad pass by the Avenues X-Cite branch after 7PM today since that’s when they will go on display.


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First Impression: The Noodle House

Post by Mark

I woke up today hungry and after checking a few blogs I found Ansam’s post on The Noodle House. The food looked and sounded good so I decided I would pass by them for lunch.

I got there around 2:30 expecting the place to be packed but surprisingly there was just one table occupied. Thats a good thing since I don’t like places that get too packed. I quickly knew what I wanted to order since I was having everything Ansam had recommended, chicken satay for appetizers, fried honey & sesame chicken for the main course and I ordered plain steamed rice on the side. Nat ordered spinach and vegetables dim sum for her lunch.

The chicken satay arrived and the first thing I notice is how huge the quantity is. I grabbed a stick and dunked it in the accompanying peanut dip and took a bite. It wasn’t that great. It was fine enough to eat right then but I wouldn’t order it again. The chicken was over cooked, it was hard and tough while I could barely taste the flavor of the sauce. Then when the fried honey & sesame chicken arrived I noticed it looked different than the one Ansam had. I actually pulled up her blog on my phone to compare with the picture she took. Her chicken had a nice color and looked soft while mine looked overcooked. I took a bite and again the chicken was very dry and tough.

Before I get to the positives there was one more thing that I didn’t like and that was the way the different types of noodles were presented. Those of you who’ve been to a steak house like Gaucho will know how before you order a steak they bring out all the cuts to show you what is what. Well they brought out a little plate with different types of noodles on it. In theory it sounds like a good idea but their execution was horrible. First the plate was white and so were the noodles which made them invisible. A second reason why you barely see them is because they display only a tiny piece from every type of noodle. Not a little pile of noodles, just a single 2cm long piece. They looked taped to the plate with their names stuck on top and then the whole thing covered in a clear plastic wrap. It looked horrible and not appetizing whatsoever.

Now the positives. Nat enjoyed her dim sum but I wasn’t interested in trying it. The service was really good and it was a beautiful day so the view was nice. It’s too bad I didn’t enjoy my food, maybe it was a bad day or maybe I ordered the wrong things. The next time I think I am going to try their Sweet & Sour Chicken and maybe a prawns dim sum.

Prices
Chicken satay with peanut dipping sauce: KD2.500
Spinach and vegetable dumplings: KD1.600
Wok fried honey and sesame chicken: KD3.250


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First Impression: iRiver Story

Post by Mark

Alghanim Electronics dropped off an iRiver Story eBook reader for me to check out. I’ve been wanting an eBook reader since the Kindle first came out but never got one because of the hassle involved with buying eBooks from Amazon (its US only). When the Barnes & Noble Nook got released I quickly pre-ordered one but when I tried to buy an eBook I ran into the same problems as Amazon so I canceled my order. I am not sure yet where I can get books for the iRiver Story, I just did a quick search and found out the Story is compatible with UK’s Waterstones so will try it out and see if I have any luck with them.

I haven’t had much contact with eBook readers, I think I’ve only interacted with one once at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 duty free. So far the iRiver Story looks pretty, it’s very similar to the Kindle just slightly more stylish. Once I spend some more time with the Story I will post more details. I just need to find a book I actually want to read…

Update: Just realized it’s only compatible with Windows which means connecting it directly to my Mac will only charge the device. To get books onto the iRiver with my Mac I need to upload books onto an SD card and then place the SD card into the iRiver.


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