Ramadan Timings (2017)

Post by Mark

Below are some important Ramadan timings, if you’d like add anything leave it in the comments below.

Banks: 10AM to 1:30PM (Airport 9:30PM to 12AM)
Government: 9:30AM to 2:30PM (Approx)

Al Shaheed Park: 3PM to 2AM

Cinescape: 8PM onwards
GrandCinemas: 3:30PM onwards

360 Mall: 11AM to 3PM and 8:30PM to 1AM
Avenues Mall: 10AM to 4PM and 8PM to 1AM
Gate Mall: 10AM to 4PM and 8PM to 1AM
Marina Mall: 11AM to 4PM and 8:30PM to 1AM
Salhiya: 10:30AM to 2:30PM and 8:30PM to 12:30AM
Souq Sharq: 10AM to 3:30PM and 8:30PM to 2AM

Carrefour: 10AM to 2AM
Geant: 9AM to 12AM
LuLu: 9AM to 2AM
Saveco: 24 hours
Sultan Center: 24 hours


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Wataniya Airways Flying Soon

Post by Mark

Last time I posted about Wataniya Airways, I mentioned they were supposed to start flying early this year but that didn’t happen. Now my contact at Wataniya Airways has reached out to me to let me know that they might start flying from next month, if not by August at the very latest.

Wataniya Airways have applied to travel to 16 destinations and are just waiting approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The airline will have three different classes this time around; Wataniya Business, Wataniya Premium and Wataniya Seat. Wataniya Premium is their premium economy while Wataniya Seat is their regular economy class. Their first aircraft is ready and there are some videos and pictures of it already floating around on twitter. You can check them out [Here].

Once they start flying again, they’ll be flying out of Sheikh Saad Airport Terminal exactly like they used to. For now, you can follow them on their instagram account which went live last week @wataniyaairways


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Divorce Rate in Kuwait Reaches 60%

Post by Mark

The alarm has been sounded again in Kuwait after figures for 2017 show that around 60 per cent of Kuwaiti marriages have ended in divorce.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice indicate there were 2,001 marriages in January and February, down from 2,425 in the same period last year. The figures also show there were 1,193 cases of divorce in the first two months of 2017, up from 1,180 last year. [Source]

That would put Kuwait with Luxembourg in 6th place on the World’s Most Divorced Nations list:

1- Belgium (71%)
2- Portugal (68%)
3- Hungary (67%)
4- Czech Republic (66%)
5- Spain (61%)
6- Kuwait and Luxembourg (60%)
7- Estonia (58%)
8- Cuba (56%)
9- France (55%)
10- Lithuania (53%)


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PostaPlus MyBox iPhone App

Post by Mark

If you’re a PostaPlus MyBox user then here’s two pieces of good news:

1) They now have an iPhone app that will allow you to track your packages without having to log in every time to the app
2) You can now pay for your packages online (website and app)

The online payment is what I’m the most excited about since they’ve been promising it for a few years now. I hate carrying cash and if I’m not in the office when the delivery guy comes, it always meant someone else had to pay for the package on my behalf. Now at least I can get the payment sorted and just have the delivery guy drop off the package.

If you’re interested in downloading the app, here is the [Link]


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New Airport Groundbreaking Ceremony Underway

Post by Mark

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Kuwait Airport terminal is currently on the way as I type this post out. For those of you who have recently been to the Sheikh Saad terminal, you might have noticed the new road that diverts around the site of the new airport.

If you look at the location with Google Maps you can make out the triangle which will eventually become the new airport (check below for a visual overlap). The new airport is not only happening, but it’s expected to be completed by 2020!


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Kuwait Not Very Touristic

Post by Mark

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2017 by the World Economic Forum is out and Kuwait pretty much comes in last place in the Middle East with the only other country that performed worst being Yemen. Below is Kuwait’s world ranking compared to other Middle Eastern countries:

29 United Arab Emirates
47 Qatar
60 Bahrain
63 Saudi Arabia
66 Oman
75 Jordan
93 Iran
96 Lebanon
100 Kuwait
136 Yemen

Going through the data I found one thing pretty shocking, under the section “Environmental Sustainability”, Kuwait came in before last position world wide in 135th place. We also were at the bottom of the list when it came to “Cultural Resources and Business Travel”, “Natural Resources”, “International Openness” and “Prioritization of Travel & Tourism”.

The highest position we reached in any category was 31st place for “ICT Readiness” (information and communications technology). In that category Kuwait came first world wide in “Mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions /100 pop.” and third world wide for “Mobile-broadband subscriptions /100 pop”.

If you’re interested in read the whole report you can download it from [Here]


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Behind the Scenes of the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre

Post by Mark

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre is currently one of the largest cultural and science projects in the world and once complete will house four museums, Natural History, Science, Islamic and Space.

Construction of the museums was already completed and currently the exhibits are being fitted. As you can imagine, there is a lot of logistics that goes into a project of this magnitude. Here is an excerpt from a recent article on the museum fit-out specialist BECK who are working on this project:

On international projects, there is a greater demand for technology, the use of more demanding and higher materials specifications, higher density of exhibits to floor space, the need for continuous communication on every level and the need for staff to be on location 100 per cent of the time.

This is illustrated at the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salam Cultural Centre where one small area is a live rain forest with soil, irrigation and newly planted trees (combined with specially manufactured scenically created trees and plants), which all back up to a one million litre aquarium with acrylic panels that are 500mm thick to contain the water.

“We have more than 150 multi-media requirements and about 20 films to be shot. Because of the climate there are only really two months that you can film in Kuwait – January and February – to get a good quality image. So, if you have a two-year project you have four months to do all your filming. If you miss that slot you delay the project for a year.” [Source]

If you’re interested in reading more articles similar to that then here are a few you could go through, if you know of any more let me know about them:

BECK – international museum fit-out: breaking the boundaries of what’s possible
International museum fit-out – UK specialists taking on the world
The Hub – from UK blockbusters to mega projects abroad

The cultural centre is slated to open by the end of the year. For renderings and more information on the project, click [Here]


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How to Take Part in an Open Track Day

Post by Mark

Until our local race track opens up end of 2018, our next best option for racing our cars is to take them to an open track day at the Bahrain International Circuit. You don’t need previous experience or a special car to race during open track days, anyone can take part, but the better the car and the better the driver you are, the more enjoyable the experience will be. Hopefully with the information below you’ll find the Bahrain International Circuit a lot more accessible.

What is an open track day?
Around twice a month, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) allows people to come in and race on their Formula 1 track. The day is split between motorbikes and cars, 30 minutes for the cars, then 30 minutes for the bikes and repeat until the day is over. You don’t actually race against other cars during open track day, in fact you’re not even allowed to over take other cars except in designated areas (the long straights) for safety reasons. What most people do is race against the clock. For example using the app Harry’s GPS Laptimer, I was able to monitor my lap and sector timings so I know if I’m doing better or worse after every lap. You can then compare lap times with friends or against other peoples lap times online.

Can you go alone?
Yes you can, but it would obviously be more fun with a friend, even if that friend isn’t racing, they could still ride passenger with you and during the 30 minute breaks you’ll have someone to chill with. I guess if you’re alone you could read a book but you could also be social and meet other people. On this trip for example in my group we were four guys, when we got to the track we found six other guys also from Kuwait who we knew so we all hung out in the pits together during the breaks. So you could find and interact with other drivers from Kuwait or mingle with drivers from other places like Saudi and Bahrain.

If you’re a female reader and are interested in racing your car, I want to point out that there are usually plenty of other girls during track day either racing or just hanging out with friends. So you can interact and hang out with other women if you want to.

Do you need to have a sports car?
Technically you don’t, as long as your car runs properly they’ll let you race it on the track. There was a Grand Cherokee and an old Caprice during the last open track day, but both of them didn’t stay on the track for long. Also keep in mind there is a reason why there are track versions of sports cars. The Porsche Cayman GT4 is not the same as a regular Cayman, one is made for normal street use the other was created with track racing in mind. Track focused cars will usually have better and stiffer suspension, larger brakes, better tires, better cooling, more power and a bunch of other things.

Do you need previous track experience?
No you don’t. Before you go onto the track it is mandatory you take part in a safety briefing where they will take you through all the rules involved. You can also request to have a professional driver get in your car with you to show you the braking points on the track as well as give you tips on when to turn and other track advice.

Transportation
Since you live in Kuwait, the first thing you need to do is get your car to Bahrain. There are a number of ways of doing that, here are three:

Cheapest Way: You drive your car all the way from Kuwait to Bahrain. The journey would take around 4 to 5 hours depending on how busy the borders are.

Second Cheapest Way: This second option is a popular one, you drive your car to the Saudi border, once you cross the border and you’ll find car trailers waiting on the other side. You put your car on a trailer and have them drive to the Bahrain border. Once the trailer arrives at the Bahraini border, you dismount your car and drive into Bahrain. This way you avoid driving on the Saudi road. The trailer cost is KD40 per direction so going and coming would cost you KD80.

Expensive but Easiest Way: You have a trailer come pick up your car from Kuwait, and then drop it off for you in Bahrain. You get to Bahrain by plane. This is what I did and it’s kinda fine if you do it every now and then, but very expensive to do for every open track day since it costs KD120 per direction (so KD240 in total). There are ways to make this a bit more economical like for example instead of staying at a hotel, I ended up staying at my friends place in Bahrain. The money I saved on the hotel offsets the cost of the shipping by half at least. When the weather gets better in the fall, I might end up shipping my car to Bahrain for a track day, and then leave my car parked at my friends place until the next track day. That way I could do two track days but ship my car once. To transport my car I used a Bahraini company called “Phantom Transportation in the GCC”. The guy to get in touch with is called Saleh and his phone number is +973-66622216. He doesn’t speak English. All you need to ship your car to Bahrain is a power of attorney (tawkeel) and nothing else.

Other Costs

Bahrain International Circuit: The cost of a full open track day at the circuit is KD70. A full track day is from 4PM to 11PM with an hour and half break in between. For more details click [Here]

Helmet: You need one or else they won’t let you race. If you don’t have one thats fine, you can rent one from the track.

Fuel: I filled up like 4 times during the open track day. BIC have a gas station but only provide 95 octane fuel for some reason. If you want 98 octane fuel there is a gas station down the street from BIC after Starbucks that sell it. [Map]

Tires and Brake Pads: Depending on the condition and durability of the tires and how hard you drive, you might need a new set after a track day. I definitely did as you can see in the picture above. Same with the brake pads, they’re a consumable and you’ll be consuming a lot if you’re hard on the brakes.

Plane Ticket and Hotel: Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways fly direct to Bahrain, expect to pay around KD70. Hotel prices vary greatly obviously.

I think thats all there is to it. If you’re into cars and love going fast then I highly recommend you try this at least once in your life. In case you have any questions which I didn’t answer above, let me know in the comments.

Update: When I first published this post I stated that expats can’t get a transit visa from Saudi based on what I was told by the visa office I contacted. But, I was just made aware by a friend that they were able to get transit visa multiple times for Saudi. So I’ve edited the post and I will now be contacting this other visa office for more details on how to get a Saudi transit visa.


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Kuwait Scores Terribly in World Press Freedom Index

Post by Mark

Kuwait just scored it’s lowest ranking ever since the World Press Freedom Index was created back in 2002. In the latest index, Kuwait came in 104th place out of 180 countries, a far cry from when Kuwait placed 60th back in 2009. According to Reporters without Borders who put this list together every year, Kuwait scored badly this year because of the new cyber-crime law that took effect in January of last year:

The vaguely-worded provisions of a cyber-crime law that took effect in January 2016 pose a threat to bloggers and online journalists who post any critical content. A new electronic media law adopted the same month forces them to apply to the government for a license. [Source]

Here is Kuwait’s current ranking compared to some of our neighboring countries:

99 – Lebanon
104 – Kuwait
119 – UAE
123 – Qatar
126 – Oman
138 – Jordan
158 – Iraq
161 – Egypt
164 – Bahrain
165 – Iran
168 – Saudi Arabia

For the full list and more information, check out the Reporters without Borders [Website]


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Getting a Power of Attorney in Kuwait (Tawkeel)

Post by Mark

I’m sending my Lotus to Bahrain this coming weekend so I needed to get a Power of Attorney done for the trailer driver. The process turned out to be pretty simple and the experience surprisingly good. Since I originally had trouble figuring out where to go, I wanted to post about it in case somebody googles this question in the future.

Kuwaitis
Originally I was told to get a POA I needed to head to the Liberation Tower [Map]. Once I got there though I found out it was only for Kuwaitis and instead I was directed to the Ministries Complex which is a short drive away. If you’re Kuwaiti, the area to get the POA done is located on the first floor of what they call the Ministry Mall at the Liberation Tower. Just head up the escalator, take a left, then another left and then one more left and head straight through the door ahead that says Ministry of Justice.

Expats
If you’re an expat and need a POA done, you need to head to the Ministries Complex [Map]. If you’re driving there in the middle of summer then be aware, the parking is a good walk away from the complex and there is no shade until you’re inside the Ministries Complex. Once you get to the Ministries Complex there are no signs to let you know which building to enter so just follow the crowd. Once you’re inside you also won’t find that many signs and when you do they’ll only be in Arabic. So ask around or look for the sign above that says Ministry of Justice, once you enter that doorway you’ll find the POA department.

When I got there I took a number and waited, there were around 15 people ahead of me but the POA department also had around 16 stations with employees manning them so the wait wasn’t that long. The employee I dealt with was very helpful and spoke both Arabic and English. The trailer company I’m using is based in Bahrain and they sent me copies of 10 ID cards of the different drivers they might send to Kuwait to pick up my car. I had to get the POA done for all 10 drivers and the government employee didn’t blink an eye, she took all the ID cards and told me it wasn’t an issue and typed all their info out.

The cost of the POA was a KD2 stamp and no running around involved, you just deal with one employee for the whole process. A super smooth experience.

Photo on top by Nawaf Ahmed


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