A Century of Kuwaiti Creativity

Post by Mark


Selections, the bi-monthly cultural magazine posted a short article on Kuwait’s Modern Art Museum. One bit of information that caught my attention was the fact the building used to be an important school before, a fact I wasn’t aware of:

Interestingly, the museum is housed in one of Kuwait’s few pre-World War Two era buildings, an imposing former school that educated some of the country’s most prominent figures, including the current Emir Sheikh Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Today, the unique building is managed by the National Committee of Culture, Arts and Literature, which is responsible for maintaining the collection and permanent displays on site.

You can check out the full article on the Selections website [Here]

Thanks cognitoas

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Kuwait is One of the Fastest Growing Travel Destinations

Post by Mark

According to a recent article in The Telegraph, Kuwait is one of the top 20 fastest growing travel destinations in the world. The article doesn’t mention why or how that came to be, and I also couldn’t find their original source of data, so I don’t really have more more information other than the ranking. Kuwait was also the only Arab country to appear on the list which you can check out below:

The top 20 fastest growing travel destinations
1- Sierra Leone +310%
2- Nepal +39.7%
3- Iceland +39%
4- South Korea +30.3%
5- Moldova +28.6%
6- Chile +26%
7- Vietnam +24.6%
8- Japan +21.8%
9- Liechtenstein +21.7%
10- Kiribati +21.6%
11- Kuwait +20.7%
12- Madagascar +20%
13- Cyprus +19.8%
14- Georgia +19%
15- Turks & Caicos +17.5%
16- Cook Islands +17.1%
17- Slovakia +16.9%
18- Kenya +16.8%
19- Tanzania +15.6%
20- Indonesia +15.5%

For the full article click [Here]

Thanks Hind!

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Eidiya ATMs at Avenues

Post by Mark

The Central Bank has placed eight ATM machines around Avenues to dispense money for Eidiya’s. The ATM machines can dispense KD1 and KD5 notes in addition to the usual KD10 and KD20 notes. Four of the machines are located in Grand Avenue (pictured above) while the other four are located in the 2nd Avenue near H&M.

Distributing money (eidiya) to children during Eid is a popular tradition not just in Kuwait but throughout the Gulf.

Thanks LadyB!

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Gatwa W Gahwa, the First Cat Cafe in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Gatwa W Gahwa is a cat cafe thats soft launching this coming Saturday. They’re located in the basement of Galleria 2000 in Salmiya and they have around 10 cats which you can hang out and play with. The idea of a cat cafe isn’t new, I got to experience one around 5 years ago when I was in Japan, but this will be the first cat cafe in Kuwait and only the second in the region.

The price for spending time and playing with the cats is KD3.5 for half an hour or KD5 for an hour. They will be offering discounts for those who wish to stay longer and even a monthly membership for those who want to come in everyday. You’ll also be able to book the whole place for book readings or even cat yoga. I was there earlier today and the cats are super cute and really playful. I was pretty surprised at how beautiful some of the cats were, for some reason when I heard they were rescued cats I was expecting to find a cafe fill with street cats but instead all the cats I interacted with were so cute and fluffy.

They’re soft opening from this Saturday and their timings during Ramadan will be 12PM to 4PM and then 8PM to 12AM. After Ramadan their working hours will be 11AM to 10PM. They’ll also have an online reservation system up and running this weekend. For more information check out their instagram account @catcafeq8

PS: Remember Abdulai? He now works at the Cat Cafe!

Update: Their website and reservation system is now online [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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Vote for Al Sawaber Complex

Post by Mark

The World Monuments Fund has launched a new campaign on social media to bring attention to meaningful modern buildings around the world, why they matter, and the threats they face. One of the buildings they’ve selected is Al Sawaber Complex in Kuwait City.

An enormous futuristic-looking apartment complex, Al Sawaber was designed in 1981 by Arthur Erickson with the idea of providing a community for Kuwaiti families of modest means. To accomplish this, the layout provides easy horizontal circulation between the apartment blocks, and the placement of the buildings creates intimate spaces sheltered from the rest of the city. In recent years a lack of maintenance, arson in some of the units, escalating land values in the surrounding area, and gentrification have rendered Al Sawaber vulnerable to demolition.

It isn’t very clear what will happen with the buildings that gets the most votes other than they would move over to the second phase of the campaign which will be announced in the fall of this year.

So check out the list of buildings and vote for Al Sawaber Complex by clicking [Here]

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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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