Snapchat is the new black

Posted by Mark

snapchat

Snapchat has really been picking up traction in Kuwait recently and I’m finding it a lot more enjoyable than Instagram. Just like on Instagram, I only follow my friends on Snapchat and I mostly use Snapchat for the stories. For those of you who don’t know how Snapchat works, there are two ways, the first is you send a self destructing video or image to a friend directly and the second is by adding an image or video to your stories wall which then self destruct after 24 hours. It’s actually pretty annoying to get a direct snap (unless nudity is involved) since you get a notification every time but right now 99% of the people I follow only use stories.

Recently I’ve also started following Snapchat celebrities. The first one I followed was Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah (Snapchat: majedalsabah) based on a recommendation. His snapchats are like a reality show of his life and he snaps an average of like a 1,000 seconds a day which is just insane. The second Snapchat celebrity I started following was Bibi Alabdulmohsen (Snapchat: bibii_63). I’m not a big fan of her Instagram but I met her yesterday and found out she was on Snapchat so I started following her. Surprisingly, not only am I finding her really entertaining to watch but she’s also pretty hilarious and really good at Snapchat. She has an advice segment similar to “Dear Abby” where people ask her for her opinion and she replies with very witty and funny comments. Definitely worth following.

Both those Snapchat accounts are in Arabic so for non-Arabic speakers they won’t be very useful. But, if you have any recommendation of interesting local Snapchatters to follow (English or Arabic) let me know in the comments.


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Bayt Abdallah Children’s Hospice

Posted by Mark

Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice provides multi-professional, specialist, paediatric palliative care and support to children with life limiting or life threatening illnesses who are resident in Kuwait, and their families. We aim to improve the quality of life for children and their families from diagnosis and beyond by offering these services, tailored to the individual family’s needs, in the location of their choice, whether at home, in Bayt Abdullah or through our outreach programme in their local hospital.

bayt

A short film offering a behind the scenes glimpse of the Bayt Abdallah Children’s Hospice. [YouTube]


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Become a Mystery Shopper

Posted by Mark

alshaya

Years ago I posted about a friend of mine becoming an Alshaya mystery shopper. Back then as a secret shopper you were required to shop at Alshaya stores every week and write about your experience. You also got two meals at Alshaya restaurant every week worth KD14 which you also needed to write about. Pay wise, back then new shoppers would get KD75 a month while silver level shoppers got KD150 and gold level got KD300.

I’m not sure how much of that has changed but my guess it would probably be similar. In any case the reason I’m bringing this up again is Alshaya are currently looking for new mystery shoppers. I know when I posted about it before a lot of people were interested in signing up so if you’re also interested, follow this [Link]


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Paid Influencers: Yay or Nay?

Posted by Mark

A couple of weeks back I posted a list of prices some local instagrammers charge for paid posts. Many readers felt the prices were absurd while finding the whole processes unethical, but how do brands feel about paid influencers?

Ali Ashkanani, the owner of Elevation Burger (whom also advertise on this blog) posted his view about this on LinkedIn and with his permission I’ve gone ahead and posted it below:

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Paid Influencers: Yay or Nay?

Mark Makhoul, the profound blogger 248am.com, blogged about the card rate of number of influencers in the social media. The post has raised some controversial questions that I summarize in two sides;1) the value to money of the practice, and 2) the ethical side of advertising without declaring it. I personally worked with many of the influencers that Mark has mentioned in his blog. And I like to share my experience on the buy-side of this practice in Kuwait.

In 2012 I met for the first time with a sale’s rep of one of the social media management companies, and the service he was offering was new to me. He had a list of tweeps with high number of followers and a price per tweet. I’m not going to hide my first reaction, I really thought the prices are exaggerated and could not find the rationality of value to money in the pricing. At that time I only asked questions, and didn’t sign up for the services.

I thought that I need to look at the practice more thoroughly. At first, why are they called influencers? And why do they get paid for endorsing something they already like! The simple answer is they have a significant number of followers on social media, which translates into high exposure for what they post. The high number of people came from the fact that people find what they share is interesting. And as their pages becomes more popular, just like any other media, the value of what appears there increases. I believe people working at Ghaliah Tech or influencers can better explain these specifics.

The other way I liked to look at the influencers is simply to compare them with athletes, models, actors, or other conventional celebrities. The rate card for advertising by conventional celebrities are substantially higher than influencers, yet we don’t question their value to money. In fact, big brands, like Coke and Nike, invest heavily in conventional celebrities, and the results are clear from their brand awareness and company’s results.

Social media has helped us all evolve our practices, from connecting with friends to doing business and exploiting new markets. Part of the evolution was the emergence of new class of celebrities, those celebrities who don’t have their photos taken by experts and don’t have their videos edited by a whole production staff. The influencers are casual cool people that we like. Most of the time they shoot their own photos and videos by their smart phones, with no extra or unnecessary efforts to deliver their messages.

In the past, we only recognized celebrities by their profession that allowed them to appear in our lives frequently due to the limited media. And for many of us, we don’t really share much of values or interests with those celebrities, we don’t really know who they really are, but we were stuck with them. Today, our celebrities are our influencers, people who we selectively follow based on our personal interests. And just like brands have always gone after celebrities, other businesses utilized the technological advancement and emergence of new class of celebrities.

The new class of celebrities is a natural and healthy evolution, as this new class is filling significant gaps in the branding and advertising. In the past, only big companies could afford to pay celebrities to bring their brands to public. Today, with the influencers, the new class of celebrities is more affordable for all business scales. Branding is no longer limited to companies with deep pockets, celebrities are available for big and small companies.

At Elevation Burger, I have worked with influencers since the beginning of 2013, specifically at our store openings. We invited @Acsia_AKF, @7amadQalam, and others, who I believe have given us a good brand awareness on social media.

So is their value to money of what they do from business perspective? Probably there is, but is their service priced correctly? Maybe this question requires more digging

On other hand of the controversy comes the ethical question. And I think the answer to this question is straight forward, a paid post is not an endorsement and not having it clear eventually means misleading the followers. I asked many influencers about the ethics of the practice from their perspective and it looked a bit different.

For many influencers they presume that their followers know they are posting paid ads, and this assumption is based on how each has defined themselves on their bio. Also many influencers take pride in what they do and they still consider their paid ads as endorsements as they would only do business with brands with certain values that matches theirs. And there is an increasing number of influencers that are clearly mentioning the related business parties and clearly distinguishing between their posts and paid ads.

I like to observe the evolution of the social media and the businesses that it’s creating. Social media is a total new sphere of networking and relationships, a new market place, and I think it’s interesting to see how it solves it’s problem. Today Mark has raised the awareness of this market on his blog, I have put my comments on LinkedIn, and I’m sure there are many others discussing it on Twitter or Instagram. Eventually the market will shape itself and it will define its standards.

Ali Ashkanani
CEO at TABCo Food


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I Date Kuwait

Posted by Mark

idatekuwait

Last week I posted about a local blog I started reading and found fascinating called Single in the Shires. It must have been inspiring because another blog popped up this week called I Date Kuwait. While Single in the Shires is about the dating adventures of a single British girl living in Kuwait, I Date Kuwait is about the dating adventures of a single Kuwaiti girl. She just has four posts up but I think it’s going to be interesting to see the contrast between a British expat dating in Kuwait and a young Kuwaiti girl. Check it out [Here]


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Hostels in Kuwait

Posted by Mark

hostel

A few days ago someone started a thread on Reddit asking about budget accommodations in Kuwait and specifically about a hostel run by the Kuwait boy scouts. That reminded me about the Salmiya Youth Hostel which I found by accident awhile back and was surprised it existed. Doesn’t seem anyone has any info on the hostels except that there were six of them in Kuwait and they were all closed down by the authorities back in 2011.

If anyone has any information on the history of hostels in Kuwait let me know cuz I’m curious.


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The First Graffiti Park Coming Soon

Posted by Mark

Cozmo Entertainment will be opening Kuwait’s first Graffiti park really soon. The park will be called Cozmo Spraybox and it’s going to be located near Sultan Center Shaab. I passed by recently to check it out (which is how I ended up with a small cameo in the video above) and I really liked the idea. The space isn’t very big but the ideas they have for it is pretty interesting, basically they’re going to rend out space for artists to come graffiti and they’ll provide the spray cans and everything. For now the video above is a bit of a preview, will share more info once I get it. [YouTube]

spraypark


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Impromptu Dance in Japan

Posted by Mark


[YouTube]

Zaina is a Kuwaiti Zumba instructor who was in Japan recently and had a pretty cool experience which I thought would be interesting to share here:

Quick background story: I was in Osaka, Japan with some friends right outside the metro station en route to Kyoto. On the way in I noticed a bunch of different dance crews practicing in their own corners, with their own boom boxes. I sat around and watched for a while until my friend suggested we Zumba!

Despite the major language barrier between us, we managed to find a way and communicated through dance. This is definitely one of the best moments that I’ve encountered on my journey in the Zumba and dance world. OH I also need to mention that this video is the first and only shot. This amazing group of dancers had never heard the song or seen ANY of the choreo prior to what you see!

I loved the whole thing from the story to the video which is why I wanted to share it here. If you’re interested in Zumba you can follow Zaina on instagram @zainzumba or on Facebook [Here]

zaina


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KIPCO Tower Residential Apartments

Posted by Mark

kipco

When the KIPCO Tower was still under construction I had heard that the first few floors were going to be residential apartments. I’d love to live in the city and I’d love living in a skyscraper especially one as stunning as KIPCO Tower. Residential apartments in skyscrapers are common in places like Dubai but not in Kuwait so I was pretty curious about them and how much they’d be going for. After KIPCO Tower opened I never heard about the residential apartments again but whenever I drove by I could see curtains on some of the floors which I figured were occupied apartments. I was a bit jealous honestly since I wanted to live there myself and I kept imagining this large open loft like space with concrete floors and an exposed ceiling. I basically created this whole scenario in my head and every time I drove by I’d be like damn, those must be the nicest and trendiest apartments in Kuwait.

Finally a few days ago I decided I wanted to see these apartments myself so I shot an email out to KIPCO whom quickly replied telling me the residential supervisor is on duty daily until 5PM. So once I finished up a few things I headed straight into the city to check the apartments out.

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The entrance to the residential section of the tower looks and feels luxurious. The entrance is at the far end of the mall and has a nice looking lobby with brown wooden walls and a security desk. Once you enter the lobby you have a seating area on the right hand side and the elevator hallway in the far right corner. On the left you have an street side entrance.

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The residential apartments are located between floors 6 and 16. They have 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments and every floor has either 4 or 6 flats depending on how they’re divided. I wanted to see all three apartment sizes and when they asked me what floor did I prefer I told them the highest available. We headed to the 16th floor first to check out the 2-bedroom apartment.

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The floor hallways are long, quiet and covered in marble. There are multiple doors separating the elevator section from the apartments and the apartments from one another so it’s always going to be super quiet. Once we walked into the first apartment I just headed straight to the window to check out the view. The whole apartment is covered wall to wall with large windows and even without direct sunlight the apartment was filled with soft bright light. This is the life I thought to myself. After I was done staring into the horizon I started walking around and checking the apartment out. First thing that struck me was how small it was. It’s similar in size to apartments you’d find in large cities like London or New York but not the sizes we’re accustomed to in Kuwait. The main reception area had an open kitchen which I loved and a large round pillar which gave the room some personality but the space was a bit small and awkward. I had trouble trying to figure out how I could have a seating area as well as a dinning room in this space. The bedrooms on the other hand were decently sized with built in closets and their own personal bathrooms. Like the rest of the apartment though, they weren’t as big as I was expecting them to be.

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Once I was done we headed to check out the 3-bedroom apartment which as expected was larger but just slightly. The biggest difference other than the extra room was the hallway we walked into which was large and had closets and shelves built into the right hand wall.

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The main reception area was maybe slightly bigger but not by that much. One thing is for sure though the finishing of the apartments was great and they had some nifty features. For example all apartments have a digital keypad so you don’t need to use keys to enter. The apartments also have digital light switches, built in kitchen electronics and other small things like closet railings with LED lights. The apartments and the building as a whole definitely give off a luxurious vibe.

kipco7

The last apartment we checked out was the 1-bedroom and I thought that sized worked the best. It was the perfect bachelor pad. The main reception and kitchen area was as big as the other apartments but when you’re just one person living alone, the size works. The apartment cozy and I could easily see myself moving into the space even though it meant I’d have to give away 80% of my belongings so I could fit into this space.

By now I had started guessing how much the apartments were worth. I figured the 1-bedroom would be around KD1,200 a month with the 3-bedroom close to KD2,000. Turns out I wasn’t even close. The 1-bedroom apartment starts at KD650 and goes up to KD750. The 2-bedroom goes for KD1,000 to KD1,160 while the 3-bedroom is between KD1,300 and KD1,500. I’m not going to comment on the 2 and 3-bedroom apartments but at KD650 I think the 1-bedroom is a really good price. A couple of years back when I was looking for an apartment I had put a KD500 budget to find a decent 1-bedroom flat and I couldn’t find anything close to this. Actually other than this KIPCO 1-bedroom flat I don’t think there are any other luxury 1-bedroom flats available in Kuwait or at least not that I know of.

That being said I do have some issues with the whole concept. Generally apartments in the skyscrapers are located on the highest floors not the lowest. With office towers right across the street you don’t really have much privacy all day long. With the lowest floors you don’t have much privacy from the street as well which explains why most occupied apartments on the lowest floors keep their blinds shut. They also don’t have any apartments with a sea view even though the building has a sea view. All their apartments are facing the city which is a shame since I know many would prefer the sea. These issues aside, unless Hamra Tower opens up residential apartments, KIPCO Tower is probably the best option available right now for those wanting to live in a skyscraper.

Update: For those of you contacting me, I don’t have their phone number but you could email them on sales@ufm.com.kw


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The Kuwaiti Resistance

Posted by Mark

resistence

On the occasion of the Kuwait Invasion I thought I would share a very informative article on the Kuwaiti Resistance. The article was published by the Middle East Quarterly back in 1995 but is actually taken from a book called “Days of Fear“. It’s very interesting to read although it’s a bit long. I actually had to send it to my Kindle so I could read it since I don’t generally read articles this long in a web browser.

The article contains intricate details on the resistance and lots of accounts of their heroic actions, many which I hadn’t heard of before. Here’s a snippet just to give you an idea of the kind of stories that the article contains:

On some occasions, Kuwaitis had no choice but to take severely wounded Resistance fighters to the hospitals, sometimes only steps ahead of the Iraqis. In one incident, a youth shot in the head was admitted as a traffic accident victim. The Iraqis knew that someone had been wounded and would end up in a hospital, so they searched the operating rooms just as he was about to undergo surgery. The patient was obviously in a bad way but the Kuwaiti doctor could not risk telling the cause of his wound. The patient’s x-rays would clearly show the bullet in his head, so the Kuwaiti doctors played a trick: One of them left the room, ostensibly to get the images that were just then being developed, but actually x-rayed his own head and showed the film to the Iraqi, who was satisfied by this ruse and left the hospital staff to get on with its work.

And here is another:

About ten days before the land war, in late February 1991, another gaffe outside Kuwait may have undone much of their good work. The Resistance informed the government-in-exile that it had sabotaged the Iraqi mining of the oilfields, and that most of the wells apart from the Wafra field and a few others were safe. An official apparentlyfoolishly broadcast news of this accomplishment. The Iraqis may have heard the broadcast or may have simply decided on their own that they had to test the circuits for real. In any case, they tried to blow up a number of wells at Rawdatain, in the north of Kuwait, as a test. They failed to explode. The Iraqis then checked the charges and discovered the sabotage. Over the next few days, Iraqi army engineers frantically reset the detonators, and then blew the wells. Overall, the operation was still a victory for the Resistance, for while about 720 wells were destroyed, the Iraqis did not have time to reset and blow the other 300.

As I said the article is pretty long but it’s thorough. Check it out [Here]

Photo: Bob Pearson/AFP/Getty Images


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