New Brands Opening at Assima Mall

Post by Mark

Last month I posted that the UFC Gym would be opening up at Assima Mall, but since then Assima have announced that a few other brands will also be opening there.

The upmarket French department store Galeries Lafayette, the French retail chain Monoprix and the National Geographic store are three new brands that will be opening at Assima. The Assima project is located in Kuwait City across from KIPCO Tower and is expected to be completed in 2019.

For more information on Assima, you can visit their website [Here]

Thanks Zaydoun


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New Location for Picking Up Mail

Post by Mark

Just a quick update, if you’ve ordered something online and shipped it to Kuwait via snail mail (USPS for example), you now need to pick up your package from Al Sadiq and not Kaifan. They’ve changed the pick up location and here it is on [Google Maps]

Thanks Meshari!


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Chef Khaled Al Baker

Post by Mark

Khaled Al Baker, or KB for short is the brand manager and head chef at Meem Cafe. He’s also a good friend of mine and I’ve been wanting to post about him and his transformation of Meem Cafe since I’ve been watching it happen from the very beginning. Just over a year ago, Khaled moved back to Kuwait after studying culinary arts at the Johnson & Wales University in Miami. He started looking for work and decided he wanted to join MMC Catering who had a bunch of popular restaurants including LeNotre, Meem Cafe, Over Jar and Three & Barista. When he applied, one of the tasks they gave him was to pass by Meem Cafe, try their food out and let them know what he thought of it. So he invited me along with a bunch of our other foodie friends (including Hind from PantryBee) and we passed by Meem Cafe and tried out as much food as we could. My overall impression wasn’t that positive with items on the menu that didn’t make sense to be there, and what was there wasn’t that great either. But Khaled was busy taking down notes, he saw a lot of potential and so he went back to MMC with his feedback and they hired him, giving him the task to revamp and upgrade the Meem Cafe menu.

Khaled wasn’t always a chef. He originally studied accounting and finance at the University of Central Florida and then worked 6 years as an accountant in the oil and gas industry. Things started to change right after his cousin opened up the upscale butcher shop Prime Cuts. They started grilling non-stop 5-6 times a week and Khaled would have his home cook put together the sides while he did all the grilling. But his cook kept making the same sides all the time which eventually got boring, so Khaled decided he’d also do the sides himself. He started reading up a lot and experimenting and the more and more he cooked the more and more he was loving it. So he started taking cooking lessons whenever he found any and he cooked for his friends whenever he could before he eventually decided to go back to university to study culinary arts.

Over the past year Khaled has been super busy reorganizing and reinventing the Meem Cafe menu. Because I keep popping over to Meem Cafe to see him whenever I can, the whole thing to me has felt like I’ve been watching a food reality show where the chef goes into a restaurant and just overhauls the menu. The first thing Khaled did was remove all the items that didn’t fit in with the theme of Middle Eastern comfort food. After refocusing the menu under the main theme, he started experimenting with modernizing Arabic classics while also fusing others with different cuisines. He loves cooking and he’s been generally just having fun trying to come up with new dishes like zaatar fries, Lebanese nachos, burrata mana’eesh and braised short ribs hummus. The end result is a lot of good food with a lot of unique flavors. Even his chef coat is infused with Arabic by being designed like a dishdasha while incorporating the shemagh pattern.

While sitting with Khaled and interviewing him for this post I realized where all this passion with Arabic food was stemming from. He thinks that as Arabs we’re losing the food marketing war with items like hummus and pita being considered Israeli and not Arab, while Greek yogurt becoming trendy but not labneh. He thinks that if we don’t start modernizing and refining Arabic cuisine, we’re going to eventually lose it all. I never thought about it in that way but now that I do I’ve started appreciating what his doing a lot more.

If you haven’t been to Meem Cafe for awhile now then I’d recommend you pass by and try it out again. They’ve got four locations, one at the Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center, another in Hamra Tower, another in 360 Mall and the last one in The View in Salmiya. You can also follow Khaled on his instagram account @chefkb


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Looking for Space? Check Out Elevation Al Bida’a

Post by Mark

If you’re looking for space for meetups, a place to hold your book club meetings, workshops or even movie nights, then this post might appeal to you. Elevation Burger in Al Bida’a have a top floor which is available to book for your get togethers. It’s a community space that Elevation Burger provide for free as a way of giving back to the local community. You could even book the space to watch football games, F1 races or any other sports games since Elevation have a BeIN sports receiver you could borrow. Depending on how you arrange the seating the space can hold around 40 people easily.

Most importantly, there are no strings attached. You aren’t required to order 100 burgers or anything of the sort, the space is yours to use for free as long as you let them know ahead of time. So if you’re interested in this location, contact the Elevation Burger team on marketing@tabcofood.com


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Now Pay Per 100g with Shop & Ship

Post by Mark

Aramex Shop & Ship just launched a new service called Flex in which you pay for your shipments per 100 grams instead of the standard per 500 grams. Usually if you get a package that weighs 300 grams, Aramex would charge you as if it was 500, if your shipment weighed 600 grams then you would get charged for a kilo. By paying per 100 grams instead of 500, you should be able to save on shipping costs.

It would have been a game changer in the US mailbox forwarding market if it wasn’t for the fact that to be eligible for the new pricing structure, you need to pay Aramex KD35 a year. So whatever savings you would accumulate with the Flex pricing structure, you’d most likely end up losing it all with the Flex yearly fee. Not very practical unless you order a lot of items online. If you’re interested to find out more, click [Here]


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Kuwait is One of the Least Stressful Countries in the World

Post by Mark

Zipjet (an online laundry and dry cleaning service) analyzed a 150 cities, and then put a list together highlighting the most and least stressful ones using various factors such as green spaces, public transport, air pollution, traffic and race equality. Based on those factors, Kuwait City was ranked as the 23rd least stressful city in the world and coming second in the region just behind Abu Dhabi. Here is how Kuwait compared to other countries in the region:

1 – Stuttgart, Germany
19 – Abu Dhabi, UAE
23 – Kuwait City, Kuwait
32 – Dubai, UAE
60 – Doha, Qatar
73 – Manama, Bahrain
75 – Muscat, Oman
92 – Amman, Jordan
97 – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
98 – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
101 – Beirut, Lebanon
140 – Damascus, Syria
145 – Tehran, Iran
146 – Cairo, Egypt
150 – Baghdad. Iraq

For the full rankings and analysis, click [Here]

Thanks Sharan


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Pop-ups and Art at Al Hamra Tower

Post by Mark

Over the past couple of years Al Hamra has been trying to reinvent itself by not focusing on just being a luxury mall, and it’s been working. A lot of new places have opened up and the mall as a whole has become a more interesting place, at least to the thousands of employees who work in the business tower. As part of their transformation, Al Hamra created two pop-up shops in the basement and also set up an art gallery on the ground floor. If you’re a small business or an artist then you might find this post useful.

Pop-up Spaces
Al Hamra have two spaces in the basement available to rent for short term use. One of the spaces is larger than the other and they’re both aimed at small businesses or individuals who require a temporary physical location. Depending on the availability, you could rent the space for just a few days, a few weeks or even longer. You could the space to host an event, setup a shop or even a food related business as long as no cooking is involved.

The Gallery
A couple of months back Al Hamra opened up an art gallery on the ground floor. The space is fairly large and the content is all curated by them. The cool thing about the gallery is that as an artist you could approach Al Hamra and ask them to display your artwork. If your artwork fits in with their requirements, then they would display your work for free, and only take a cut in case your artwork sells. The gallery also contains two rooms which they also rent out to people who want to hold workshops or lectures.

So if any of the above interests you then you should get in touch with the guys at Al Hamra by calling them on 182900 Ext: 6008 or 6009, or emailing them at info@alhamra.com.kw.


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New Jarir Bookstore in Boulevard Now Open

Post by Mark


Jarir Bookstore just opened their new location at the Boulevard project in Salmiya. Their new location is pretty big consisting of two floors and surrounded by floor to ceiling windows which bring in a ton of daylight. The top floor is dedicated just for books along with some seating area for reading, while the bottom floor contains the rest of their items ranging from electronics to arts and craft supplies.

I wasn’t really a fan of their Hawalli location, parking was always problematic and I personally don’t like heading into Hawalli unless I really have to. Boulevard is a much more chill location and the Jarir store is in a standalone building outside the main mall. So you don’t even have to enter the mall if you don’t want to and parking is plentiful.

Their opening hours are from 9AM to 11PM daily except for Fridays when they open from 4PM to 11PM. If you don’t know where Boulevard is, here is Jarir’s location on [Google Maps]. Their phone number is 22610111.


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Salem Al Mubarak Street is Turning Pedestrian Only

Post by Mark

I can’t believe this is actually happening, they’re finally turning Salem Al Mubarak Street into a pedestrian only street. When I posted about this proposal back in February, I was very adamant that it would never happen and looks like I was wrong, kinda (more on that in a bit). So far they’ve closed down and dug up half of the old Salmiya street. For those of you who aren’t very familiar with this area and the street, Salem Al Mubarak Street starts off at the end of the 4th Ring Road and goes all the way down past Al Fanar Complex and down past AUK and Symphony Mall. “Old Salmiya” which is turning into pedestrian only starts at the end of the 4th Ring Road and ends at Al Salam Mall where LuLu Supermarket is. I’m very passionate about this street because I’ve lived on it (literally) all my life. So I’ve experienced it during its heydays in the 80s, I experienced it during the invasion and after in the 90s, and I’m still experiencing it now on a daily basis since I live on top of one of the shopping complexes on that street. I care about this area a lot so lets start with the good things about all this, and then I’ll mention some negative stuff which are as important.

The Good
– Back in February when I mentioned this project I called it a joke. Mostly because if they were to follow the renderings that were shared with the public (like the one above), it would have meant demolishing the whole street with all the buildings and starting from scratch. So when I spoke to the engineer behind the project yesterday, I asked him about all these modern buildings in the renderings and turns out they were just placed there as inspiration to the current building owners. Phew! That means neither my building nor all the classic two-story buildings (pictured below) on the street will be demolished. For now at least…

– Work is going to be completed pretty soon, they’re aiming to have the street ready by Q1 of next year

– My building is going to be located on a pedestrian only commercial street, how cool is that? I mean its not Carnaby Street or Liverpool ONE, but it’s still cool. Might finally have a reason to buy a Boosted Board.

The Bad
– The street has currently been dug up but no consideration has been made for pedestrians and shop owners. Yesterday I walked down the street to LuLu and in a number of spots I was forced to walk in deep sand which is very difficult to walk in. There are a whole line of shops who just have sand right outside their door because the sidewalks were dug up and no temporary path were put in its place. From what I was told by my buildings landlord, foot traffic has decreased considerably and shop owners in my building have started to feel the effect. Temporary paths should be created to keep the area and shops alive. I’m meeting with the engineer behind the project next week and I’m going to bring this important point up.

– The parking situation in old Salmiya is a mess as it is and now by shutting down the main street which included a lot of parking spots, parking is even a bigger mess. The municipality has already placed signs pointing people to parking locations in the area, but as a resident of the area myself, I found these signs hard to understand, hard to see and they don’t seem to point anywhere. I’m curious to see what parking solutions they’ve come up with to go along with this project.

– Finally, they’ve killed a lot of trees. This is probably the saddest thing about the project. They’ve so far uprooted and killed I would say around 10 large trees, maybe more. These are trees that have been there from the very start of the street (pictured above) and have survived and endured so much. The first question I asked the engineer when he contacted me on Twitter yesterday was if they were removing the trees. He responded saying “Only some .. coz i try hard to keep it but it’s need a lot of work but I kept some coz in my idea that is the land mark of this street”. In my opinion ALL the trees should have stayed and it’s sad to see them being chopped up and bulldozed away. No idea if I can convince him to stop chopping down trees but will see when I pass by their offices next week.

Overall I’m excited my area is finally getting the attention it deserves. But now I’m just hoping the project is done right. Once I pass by the project’s office next and get more details, I’ll post and update.


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Kuwait is Still One of the Worst Countries for Expats

Post by Mark

No surprise here but Kuwait is still one of the worst countries for expats according to the latest Expat Insider survey by Internations. Kuwait came in 64th place out of a total of 65 countries surveyed. On the bright side, at least we’re not in last place like we were last year.

Kuwait has improved by one place, coming 64th out of 65 countries in 2017. In fact, it’s improved by at least one place in all indices, with particular progress in the Working Abroad Index: job security has improved by 15 places, putting Kuwait in the middle of the ranking (32nd). Quality of life still remains a struggle, however, and Kuwait comes last for leisure options and personal happiness.

Surprisingly, Bahrain was voted as the best place in the world for expats. Check out the full result of the survey and rankings [Here]

Thanks Bashar


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