Escalator Screens

Posted by Mark

Spotted these newly installed escalator screens at Avenues Phase III. So now every time you take the escalator down to your car you could pretend you’re back in London about to take the Underground.


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Haitham Al-Ghareeb, a Kuwaiti violin maker

Posted by Mark

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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Kuwait’s booming Instagram business

Posted by Mark

Popular blogger Kottke as well as The Atlantic Wire both recently featured articles on Kuwait’s booming Instagram business model. The way Instagram businesses have exploded in Kuwait kinda reminds me of the US e-commerce boom back in the 90s. For example I met a person last week who has 3 physical stores for his brand as well as an Instagram account. He’s now closing down two of his stores because his Instagram account is bringing in more business. Check out the two articles on the following links [Kottke] [The Atlantic Wire]


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Kuwait is the most popular country on Instagram

Posted by Mark

According to Kuwaitiful, #kuwait is the most popular country hashtag on Instagram with around 8.2 million photos while #usa has around 7.7 million photos. The population of the United States is around 300 million while Kuwait is around 3 million. Nuff said. Check out Kuwaitiful’s post [Here]


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Best Airports in the Middle East

Posted by Mark

1 – Abu Dhabi International Airport
2 – Dubai International Airport
3 – Bahrain International Airport
4 – Doha International Airport
5 – Muscat International Airport
6 – Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport
7 – Kuwait International Airport
8 – Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport
9 – Riyadh King Khalid International Airport
10 – Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport

I love Qatar Airways but their Doha airport is just depressingly cramped and crowded all the time. I’d even go as far as saying I prefer Kuwaits Airport. For the list of best airports around the world click [Here]

Note: Image above is of the Kuwait Airport when first constructed. More pictures can be seen [Here] For pictures of the new Kuwait Airport that will hopefully be built one day click [Here]


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Kuwait Airways not even a Top 100 airline

Posted by Mark

According to the Skytrax 2013 World Airline Awards, Kuwait Airways is so bad it didn’t even make it into the Top 100 Airlines list. The #1 best airline in the world according to Skytrax is Emirates while the Royal Jordanian Airlines was ranked #100. Below are the Top 10 Airlines in the Middle East for 2013:

1 – Emirates
2 – Qatar Airways
3 – Etihad Airways
4 – Oman Air
5 – Gulf Air
6 – Royal Jordanian Airlines
7 – Saudi Arabia Airlines
8 – Middle East Airlines
9 – Air Arabia
10 – flyDubai

For the list of Top 100 Airlines in the world click [Here]


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First UFO sighting in the Arab world was in Kuwait

Posted by Mark

This is something completely random I just fell upon but found really interesting. It seems there was a series of UFO sightings in Kuwait at the end of 1978 and it was supposedly the first time UFO’s were sighted in our region. Reports of the sightings were published in newspapers and even the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) got involved. Below are some quotes I got from various places but at the end of the post is a link with a lot more details.

Finally, the investigating committee established by the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research held a press conference on January 23, spurred on, they said, by the Arab Times photograph, to which “The committee attaches special importance….” They admitted that they were “groping in the dark,” and said they could neither confirm nor deny the appearance of UFOs over Kuwait. - The Muffon UFO Journal 1979

Some local wags have made light of the first UFO sightings which came near the end of the long and traditionally exuberant holiday celebrations of Eid-al-Adha. However we have learned recently of an event coincident with one of the UFO sightings which has confounded some of our most level-headed Kuwaiti friends, and may have been what persuaded the GOK to make a serious investigation of the matter. A senior Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) official told us the the “UFO” which first appeared over the northern oil fields seemingly did strange things to KOC’s automatic pumping equipment. This equipment is designed to shut itself down when there is some failure which may seriously damage the petroleum gathering and transmission system and it can only berestarted manually. At the time of the “UFO’s” appearance the pumping system automatically shut itself down and when the “UFO” vanished the system started itself up again. This event was not addressed by the KISR committee report - Message sent by the American Embassy in Kuwait City to the State Department in January 1979

I believe. Check out these two links for more [Link 1] [Link 2]


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Alnowair – iThank Campaign

Posted by Mark

Alnowair – iThank Campaign from al_nowair on Vimeo.

You can pick up the Alnowair #ithank post-its for free from select Caribou Coffee or the Alnowair booth at Marina Mall.


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Kuwaiti Business: Sebs Cheer Apparel

Posted by Mark

A few days ago I found out one of my friends (Abdulwahab Alansari) has the strangest/coolest/wtf/successful/creative local business which I thought would be amazing to share as an example of how local businesses don’t have to be all about cupcakes and burgers.

My friend manufactures cheer leading outfits in Kuwait for the UK market.

I thought he was pulling my leg at first but turns out it’s true. Back when he was in university in Liverpool he used to coach their gymnastics and cheerleading team and he was really good at it helping them go from an average team to a team that would come in first place in two out of the three annual competitions. Cheerleading kits in the UK were very over priced and of low quality so he did some research and decided to manufacture his own kits so he could help out his team. Ironically though, his team only placed an order for kits just 8 months back… after supplying over 5,000 kits over a period of 2 years to other universities and private clubs. In fact his small Kuwait based business now supplies 30-50% of UK universities and well over 30 private clubs. His clients include all the universities in Liverpool as well as the big ivy league unis in the UK like Oxford University.

Sebs Cheer Apparel don’t design outfits although they do help teams with elements of their design. Their main focus is manufacturing the outfits with the fabrics ordered from suppliers in LA, China and sometimes Kuwait. The outfits are all manufactured locally and then shipped to the various teams in the UK.

The name “Seb” was Wahabs alter ego and what most people in the “cheer world” knew him as. It’s that recognition that got him his first 10 clients since coaches and athletes he worked with respected him as an athlete and knew he would do a good job of getting efficient kits out. The business started off small with him supplying people he knew but soon word of mouth spread and more and more universities wanted to do business with him.

So there you have it, an interesting and successful small Kuwaiti business that doesn’t involve cupcakes. If you want to find out more about his business you can check out the following links:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram


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Shakshooka Farmers Market

Posted by Mark

Over the weekend while in Lebanon I oddly found out about a farmers market located here in Kuwait called Shakshooka. I hadn’t heard of it before and the fact that someone living in Lebanon knew about it while I didn’t was a bit weird. I was planning to visit the next Shakshooka so I could write about it but turns out Danderma beat me to the punch since she posted a full write up on it on her blog earlier today. So check out her post [Here]

Photo above by @faisalthef


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