The Kuwaiti Violin Maker

Post by Mark

A few years ago I posted about a Kuwaiti violin maker and since its a slow news week, I decided to repost that article. You can check the original post [Here] but I’ve also copy pasted it below. It’s a very interesting story if you haven’t read it before:

Article originally posted on July 24th, 2013

Last night I passed by and met Haitham Al-Ghareeb, a local violin maker. We met at his small cozy workshop in Rawda located right outside his home. When you walk into his dimly lit workshop you’ll see a small diwaniya on the left with around a dozen violins hanging on the wall, while on the right hand side is his workstation where he crafts all his violins. He filled a kettle with water and put it on a small electric stove next to him and we started talking.

Back in 2000, Haitham was a oud player but was interested in getting into violins. He started looking for a good violin to buy in Kuwait but he couldn’t find any. Most of the violins available in the market back then were of poor quality from low end brands. That’s why Haitham decided to make his own violin using documents and instructions he found online.

Haitham hadn’t crafted any musical instruments before, he had dabbled with some minor oud repair but nothing major. This got me even more curious, how can a 25 year old with no previous woodworking skills be able to craft such a delicate instrument as a violin? Well the answer I believe might be in his genes. Haitham’s father, grand father and great grand father were all dhow builders. Woodworking had existed in his family for generations and it was just natural for him to be good at it.

Haitham’s first violin wasn’t flawless, it had mistakes and was made using locally sourced wood but yet the sound it produced to his ears was beautiful. This encouraged him to build a second better violin with imported tonewood (wood cut specifically for musical instruments). He started frequenting forums and participating in online communities where other violin craftsmen from around the world would share their tips and techniques. His violins kept improving with every build and soon he had his own tips and tricks to share with the community. He loved crafting violins so much that he quickly forgot about wanting to play them. He became obsessed in building and perfecting his own creations.

When Haitham first started making violins he was spending 4 hours a day working on them and each violin would take around 2 months to complete. Nowadays he’s too busy with work and family so it takes him around 9 months to complete a single violin. But he’s fine with that. He never started making violins with the intention to turning it into a profitable business. Even his prices have remained the same over the years even though his violins kept getting better and demand for them kept increasing. He just loves making violins and isn’t interested in expanding. It’s a hobby he’s just really good at. He also does a lot of repair work on violins which to many musicians is a lifesaver. Musicians bond with their instruments and having a local violin maker means that a damaged violin no longer needs to be discarded but instead can be repaired. Only two of the violins hanging on the wall were his, the rest were either in for repair or were being sold by other musicians.

Once we were done with the interview, Haitham served us some tea. Throughout the whole interview which lasted around 40 minutes I had watched him make us the tea using two kettles, a can filled with what I assume is tea leaves and a box filled with I don’t know what. He then skillfully poured the tea from the large kettle into three glasses that were sitting amongst a dozen on the table in front of us. The tea was delicious and to me summarized the kind of person that Haitham is, a perfectionist.

If you’d like to contact Haitham for any reason you can do so by emailing him on hghareeb.koc@gmail.com


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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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Qirtasiya – A Stationary Subscription Box

Post by Mark

If you like stationary then you’re going to love this concept. Qirtasiya is a uniquely crafted bimonthly stationery subscription box thats based in Kuwait. You pay the subscription price ahead of time and every two months you’ll get a surprise package delivered to you filled with different stationaries. Only 15 memberships are available every month, their last box was sent out in March and their next one is going to get sent out next month. The cost of the box is KD27 but drops down slightly if you subscribe to multiple boxes.

So if you’re interested in signing up to this subscription service, you can check out their website qirtasiya.net or visit them on instagram @qirtasiya for more information.


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Ahmad Al-Jaber Oil & Gas Exhibition

Post by Mark

I haven’t been to this exhibit yet since I just found out about it a few days ago but going by the video it looks like it might be worth visiting especially if you have kids.

The Ahmad Al-Jaber Oil & Gas Exhibition plays an important role for KOC by telling the history of oil – both in the State of Kuwait and throughout the world. From the formation of oil to its discovery and the thousands of ways that oil products help make our lives better, the exhibition serves to answer any questions the public may have about oil and gas and the important functions they play in our modern lives.

The exhibit is located in Ahmadi and here is the location on [Google Maps]. The opening hours are Saturday to Thursday from 9AM to 9PM and Friday from 2PM to 9PM. The exhibit isn’t free, the cost for adults is KD3, KD1 for children under 12 and free for people with disabilities. For more information you could check out the exhibits website [Here]

Thanks jmdv


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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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Must Visit: The Habitat Museum

Post by Mark

Last week I posted that the Habitat Museum at Al Shaheed Park was now open but I only managed to pass by it this past weekend. I left so impressed, that here I am posting about the museum again a week later.

The museum showcases the unique beauty of Kuwait’s plants and animal life by taking visitors on a journey through the local ecosystem. When you first enter the premises you need to pick up your audio guide as well as a round disc that contains a plant seed. This disc can then be used in various parts of the museum to activate screens and interact with the exhibits.

The museum isn’t that big but I loved everything about it. My favorite part though had to be watching different families and people just walk around interacting with the displays. Its pretty obvious that people in Kuwait are hungry for museums which is why I can’t wait until the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Center opens up end of this year.

Another thing I liked was the fact the museum brings up two important issues, illegal hunting near the wildlife reserves as well as how camping can be very disruptive to the environment. Two very important issues which I’m glad they talk about in their exhibits because it will definitely educate the visitors especially the young ones.

The Habitat Museum is located in the same building as the escalators that take you to the parking lot (the far end one) and right across from the restaurant Table Otto.

The opening hours are:
Monday to Friday: 4PM to 9PM
Saturdays: 12PM to 7PM
Sundays: Closed

Entry is free just make sure you have an ID card so you could pick up the audio guide and plant disc. The museum is really worth checking out so pass by.

For more photos of the interior taken by the photographer Niccolò Guasti, click [Here]


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Why Solar Power Won’t Work in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Was watching a video on BBC on How plants can lessen the impact of dust storms in Kuwait when I spotted the scene pictured above. Too bad Kuwait canceled its plans for a nuclear power plant…


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Underground Cafe

Post by Mark

There is an underground pedestrian passageway in the city that connects four different street corners together. The passageway is located across from Pick Yo and I was just telling a friend of mine a few weeks back that they should start opening up cafe’s down there. Now it looks like that’s going to happen since a hoarding was recently put up down there teasing a new concept. I tried to find out more about the place but all I was able to get is that they will have coffee and some communal aspect. I’m curious to see how the place will function in the summer since the underground area doesn’t have functioning AC and I doubt whatever opens there will have interior seating. Maybe with all the recent foot traffic the underground has started getting because of all the coffeeshops, the municipality might have decided to fix that area up.


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The Cultural Center Rainbow Road

Post by Mark

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Center is the second cultural center that is being constructed next to Shaab Park on the Gulf Road. Last night when I drove by I noticed they had their multicolored roof lights on so figured I’d try to sneak in and take some shots. That failed since there was security stationed at every entrance.

I then tried to hop over the wall from the Women’s organization building right next door but as soon as I stepped onto their property, their building security stopped me as well. Need to go back in a full black ninja outfit and try again.

Anyway I still managed to take some shots from the outside which I’ve shared in this post.

After taking the video above I realized the rainbow roof lights look like a real life version of the Rainbow Road from the Mario Kart game. So someone needs to fly a drone over this “track” ASAP pretending they’re racing in Mario Kart and then add the Rainbow Road soundtrack to the video so we can share it on Reddit.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this project, it’s located on the Gulf Road right before Shaab Park. The project consist of six main buildings:

– A Natural History Museum
– A Science Museum
– A Museum of Islamic History
– A Space Museum
– A Fine Arts Center
– A 350 seat Theatre

The cultural center is expected to be completed by the end of this year. For previous posts on this cultural center with renderings and more information, click [Here]


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Kayak4Kuwait Nearly in Oman

Post by Mark

Back in early November I posted about how Kuwaiti athlete Bashar Alhunaidi along with three other kayakers had started their kayak expedition from Kuwait to Oman to raise awareness of the environmental issues facing the Gulf. It’s been nearly two months since they left Kuwait and they’re now nearing their final destination. Bashar and his team are currently in Abu Dhabi and have around 800km left before reaching Oman. They’ve been pretty busy adding videos and pictures to their instagram account including some funny ones when a gerbil managed to steal some of their food. So check out their instagram account @kayak4kuwait


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