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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busKW – Making Sense of Public Transportation

Post by Mark

Four guys have taken it upon themselves to try and make sense of the local public transportation system by mapping the bus network in Kuwait. Wilfred Waters, Jake Massoth, David Uzoni and Wael El-Ahmady are aiming to get complete stop positions, schedules and 360 imagery of the entire bus network in Kuwait and they’re pretty much on track.

According to Wil, the schedule data is the most frustrating aspect of the project due to lack of driver discipline. Drivers stop between formal stops so a proper schedule can’t be kept but they’re trying their best to get at least a rough estimate. In regards to imagery they’re halfway done (similar to google street view but for the bus routes) but they’re trying to prioritize the schedule data for now since thats the information people are after the most.

The overall problem they’re trying to solve with this project is unnecessary car trips, privately or in taxis. By collecting all this data, they’re hoping to eventually create a Bus Routing App that would provide people with easy to access and understand bus routes and scheduling information. And I think they’re onto something here.

Looking through their map data (embedded above) I was able to spot a number of bus stops near my apartment building as well as see the whole route the bus would take. Turns out the bus stop next to my apartment could take me all the way to my office in the city, and even though I wouldn’t take the bus (I love driving), I did consider it for a second. I’m sure a lot more people would use the bus if they had route and schedule information on their phones.

Back in the early 90s when I was in Canada, I used to call the bus stop near my apartment building and an automated service would let me know how many minutes till the next bus arrived. That way I didn’t have to wait out in -30°C weather freezing my ass off. Kuwait needs to upgrade the whole bus network and make it more usable, if you could track busses in Canada back in the early 90s, I’m sure Kuwait can manage the same today. Kuwait is hoping the metro project will help solve traffic issues but it might be easier right now to get the bus system sorted out right. How difficult would it be to tell drivers to let people on and off only at formal stops? Or to make sure bus stops are shaded, and to create an app that would help people plot their trips and get accurate scheduling information. I don’t think it would be that hard, easier than building a metro system from the ground up thats for sure.

For more information on the busKW project, check out their website [Here]


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How to Renew Your Driving License in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Yesterday I got my driving license renewed for the first time in like a decade. Previously they’d renew the license for 10 years but now its year by year which is super annoying but whatever, there isn’t anything I can do about it. What I wanted to write about was the required documents you need to renew your license, and the process you have to go through at the traffic department since the information on e.gov.kw is inaccurate. This way if anyone is googling information, they’ll hopefully end up on this page. So lets begin.

Required Documents:
– Civil ID Copy
– Passport Copy (photo page and visa page)
– Work Permit Copy
– Your Company’s Notarized Signatures (e3timad tawkee3)
– Two Personal Photos, Blue Background 6×4
– Your Expired License

Once you have all your documents head to the traffic department near you, I live in Salmiya so I headed to the traffic department in Jabriya. As an expat I can only renew my license in the afternoon starting from 4PM. Get there early. On arrival first thing you need to do is go to the typists who are usually located near the main entrance. Tell them you want to renew your license and hand them all your paperwork. They’ll type out the correct form with your details and then staple all the documents together. They’ll charge KD1 for this process not including making copies of any documents. You could ask them what you have to do next and they’ll point you in that direction.

The next step is to hand your paper over to the license renewal desk (it’s marked) and in my case was located inside the main hall of the traffic department. Make sure you don’t have any fines, if you do they’ll make you go settle them first. If you don’t have any fines they’ll print out a paper for you stating that. The next step is to get your documents signed by the officer in charge. The officer wasn’t at his desk when I went so they told me to go to another officer outside the main hall sitting at the front desk. When I went there I swear there was a queue with around 100 people in it. I couldn’t see the end of the line kind of queue and I’m not exaggerating. While standing there in shock and regretting not bringing my Nintendo Switch with me, I spotted an officer nearby so I went up to him just to make sure this was the line I had to stand in. So I went up to him and in English asked him where I should get this signed. He told me he doesn’t speak English, then I pointed at the document and he said go stand in that line. So I pointed to the line and was like this line?? He then asked me if I had my old license with me, and I showed him, then he asked to see a few other documents which I showed him. He then told me to get a KD1 stamp which I did. He stuck the stamp on my form, took all the documents, went behind the desk and had the officer there sign my document. That was super nice of him and I got to avoid standing in line for an hour. So good luck with this step.

Once you have the documents signed you head over to the driving license renewal desk again and hand them the papers. You’ll now have to sit and wait for your name to be called out. If your license is already expired then they’ll call your name out and tell you to go pay a KD5 fine. This fine will only pop-up at this stage, you can’t get it paid before the process. Once you pay the fine you come back and give your papers again. After a short while they’ll call your name again and send you to a room to get your photo taken. Once you get it taken you’ll have to wait for your license to get printed.

When I was there yesterday they were having technical issues with the license printing machine so I had to wait two hours to get my license printed. The employees actually stayed late after their working hours to make sure everybody got their license printed including the main officer. They were pretty apologetic about the delay. Thankfully there was a Formula 1 race taking place last night, and so I got to watch it live on my phone while I waited which wasn’t too bad.

So there you have it, this is what you need to do to renew your license.


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Al Shaheed Park Phase 2 Now Open

Post by Mark

Al Shaheed Park Phase 2 officially opened yesterday and just in time before the weather got too hot for outdoor activities. The new extension includes a parkour area, a miniature new Kuwait, a miniature old Kuwait, a multipurpose youth complex, tree top climbing obstacles, board and interactive games area, an open air performance center and a skate park. Just like phase 1, phase 2 is open daily from 5AM to 10PM. For more details, check out the Al Shaheed Park on instagram @alshaheedpark

Photo via Green Studios


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Beehive Installation with Just Bee

Post by Mark

Just Bee is a local honey business that provides raw and local Kuwaiti honey. You might have come across them at Qout Market but what a lot of people don’t know is they are promoters of urban beekeeping and that they have a beehive installation service. Just Bee don’t have their own beehive location, all their honey that is sold is produced from beehive hosting. This past season for example, their honey was harvested from 8 different locations that includes people’s homes, chalets and farms (Salmiya, Khaitan, Sharq, Qurtuba, Messila, Abu Al Hasania, Nuwaiseeb and Wafra).

At Just Bee we promote Urban Beekeeping and our vision is to be able to provide our community with honey from every area in Kuwait, to do that we need to team up, and we do that by allowing locals to host beehives for us.

So how does it work?
The first thing they do is come over to your home and do a site consultation. The beekeeper needs to asses the space, check how suitable it is or not for the bees, and recommend needed shelter for the bees to protect them from the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer. They usually ask the host to let them set up a minimum of 6 hives so that it’s worth their time and effort.

All the work is on them, they handle the installation and all the costs involved with the hives. They also supervise the hives by visiting them as much as every two weeks. By the end of the season, they harvest the honey and give you 10% of the honey that has been produced as a barter for the space that you have given them to set up the hives.

The honey is then branded with the name of the Area, making their honey literally come from the homes of the people.

Kuwait produced these beautiful and varying colors of honey! In order from the left: Abdili, Nuwaiseeb, Sharq, Zahra, Egaila & Mishref

How many times do they harvest honey?
There are 2 seasons of harvest during the year:

– June/July where they harvest the Multifloral Honey, usually light in color and crystalizes within a month or so. Varies colorfully from one area to another.

– December where they harvest the better known Sidr Honey from the Ziziphus/Sidr tree that produces the Knarr, Jujube fruit. It is much darker and remains liquid if not, a lot of other floral sources are mixed in when the bees are gathering nectar to produce the honey.

Depending on the season, each beehive can produce between 3KG to 5KG of honey.

I love this idea a lot and if I had a home with a garden I would have definitely hosted some hives. If you on the other hand live in a home or have a chalet or farm and love honey, then get in touch with Just Bee and host a hive. Their instagram account is @justbeekw and their website is justbeekw.co


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@PK_Spark Was Arrested

Post by Mark

@PK_Spark is the 19 year old parkour guy I posted about awhile back, where him and his friends snuck onto the roof of Hamra Tower and started sliding around. Around 10 days ago, he sent me a link to his latest video where he snuck into the new NBK tower thats being constructed across the street from Hamra Tower where he climbed up to the highest crane. I was going to post the video on the blog but then it suddenly disappeared along with all his social media accounts. I thought the video might have gotten him in trouble and turns out that was the case. A few days later, his social media accounts came back online and he posted the following message on his instagram:

I got arrested by the CID ( criminal investigation department) and they throw me in jail, all that was because of my crane climbs and rooftops stuff at least m free right now but the bad news is no more rooftops till I leave this country.

I learned something from this experience ( freedom is expensive ) don’t lose it.

It’s messed up that he got arrested, but it shouldn’t be a surprise since he was basically trespassing onto private property and then sharing video of it. In any case he’s back out now, just no more dangerous rooftops stunts for awhile which is a good thing. If you want to see some of his videos, you can check out his instagram account @pk_spark or his YouTube channel [Here]


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