Save The Kuwait Bookshops

Posted by Mark

kuwaitbookshop1

As a kid growing up in Kuwait in the 80s I used to pass by Muthana Complex in Kuwait City all the time with my family. Back then Muthana Complex was what Avenues is to Kuwait today, it was a beautiful mall and it used to get pretty packed on weekends. We had friends who lived in the apartments in Muthana so we were there pretty often, probably once a week. Whenever we used to be done visiting our friends we would head into the mall and the first shop we would see was The Kuwait Bookshops. We’d always walk in and either me or my sister would always end up leaving with a book or a magazine. But the Kuwait Bookshops was around way before the 80s and way before I was born. Last night I sat down with the owner of the bookshop Bashir Alkhatib and this is the story of The Kuwait Bookshops.

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The History

Bashir moved to Kuwait in 1959 after studying in the US. He started working at the Ministry of Information and grew frustrated really quickly that he couldn’t buy any books in Kuwait. He used to love to read and there wasn’t any place that sold books so he thought to himself, this town needs a bookshop. In 1961 he opened The Kuwait Bookshops in the Thunayan AlGhanim building on Soor Street. It was one of the most advanced buildings in Kuwait at the time and one of the first to have an elevator. According to Bashir, the bedouins used to come in from the desert and stand in line to watch “the horse” that can go up and down. Back then the Thunayan AlGhanim building also housed the KOC offices as well as the British Consulate and they were his best customers. Bashir continued to work at the Ministry while also running the bookshop, he actually had to work at the Ministry overtime so he could afford to pay the expenses of the bookshop.

alghanimbuilding

One of the bookshops customers was a British guy who used to come in regularly to pick up the English paper The Times. One day he came in to pick up the paper but he couldn’t find any so he asked Bashir, why don’t you have The Times? Bashir replied telling him he hadn’t paid the bill so they stopped sending his bookshop the papers. He asked him how come you didn’t pay the bill? Bashir told him that he didn’t have the money so he couldn’t. Turns out the customer was a manager at Gulf Bank and told him to pass by him at the bank. So Bashir went to Gulf Bank and sat with the manager who asked him, whats your dream? Bashir told him his dream was to have a bookshop similar to the ones in England and the US. After around an hour of chatting the manager told him he would give him an overdraft of KD10,000 guaranteed by the manger himself. Bashir took the money and got on the plane and headed to London where he met with various publishers. He managed to strike deals on credit where he would be able to buy books and newspapers and pay them back 90 days later which helped him a lot financially. The Kuwait Bookshops became one of the first to import books and newspapers to the Gulf.

In 1964 he opened his second location in Ahmadi due to popular request since his KOC customers kept asking for a location closer to them. Bashir used to originally get his magazines and papers from England but there was a distribution company that used to get magazines and newspapers from the US so in 1970 he decided to purchase that distribution company. Due to the amount of books, magazines and newspapers they were getting they had to get a warehouse to store all the items since there wasn’t enough space in the Soor and Ahmadi locations to display everything. Then in the mid 80s Muthana Complex started being built down the street from their Soor location so he purchased a shop there. In 1986 Muthana opened and The Kuwait Bookshops was one of the first shops to open there.

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In 1990 the invasion happened and the shop got ransacked by the Iraqi soldiers. After the invasion Bashir went to his publishers one by one and asked them how much he had owed them but the publishers all told him that any debt he owed before the invasion would be wiped clean and they would start fresh from again. In 1992 The Kuwait Bookshops reopened and it’s been there ever since.

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The Present

Due to irreconcilable differences between the partners, The Kuwait Bookshops is currently at risk of getting liquidating. The only way to save the bookshop is to buy out the other partner. If by December 5th the bookshop isn’t saved, then the bookstore along with it’s history will vanish. It’s depressing because The bookshop is a part of Kuwait’s heritage and once it’s gone its gone. There is currently a hashtag being used #savekuwaitbookshops on Instagram and Twitter so if you do pass by the store please hashtag your photos. Maybe with enough awareness someone will come in and help save the shop. If anyone by any chance is interested in possibly buying out the other partner, please [Email Me]

Note: First photo on top taken by Fabio Sabatini. Second photo taken by Nadia Nader.


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The Kuwait Heritage Library Bookstore

Posted by Mark

book1

Last week a reader made me aware that there was a small bookshop located inside Al Bahhar Entertainment Village (Youm Al Bahar) called the Kuwait Heritage Library. The bookstore supposedly sold old hard to find books and since I was looking for a copy of The Kuwait Urbanization I decided to head there and search for it.

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Youm Al Bahar is located in Kuwait City across from the House of Parliament. I hadn’t been there for years and don’t think much has changed since my last visit. The bookstore is located inside Youm Al Bahar and it’s pretty tiny with the books mostly being Arabic and only a couple of shelves dedicated to English ones. Most of the books in the shop are about Kuwait but I couldn’t find anything interesting in the English section. But, they did have a couple of glass cabinets with some of the really old books inside. I couldn’t find the book I wanted but I did find the book pictured above which is an original copy of the 1961 Kuwait Commercial Directory. The book was in decent shape for its age but the guy wanted KD150 for it which is around KD100 more than I would want to pay for it. I did manage to snap photos of some ads from inside the book which you can check out below.

There might be other treasures hidden in the shop but you would need to know Arabic and have a bit of time to flip through the shelves. The shop only opens in the evenings and if you don’t know where Youm Al Bahar is, here is the location on [Google Maps]


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The Kuwait Urbanization – Preface

Posted by Mark

thekuwaiturbanization

I just went ahead and typed out the 1,994 word preface of “The Kuwait Urbanization” book so you guys could read it. That’s four pages of size 12 font I just typed out manually so please READ IT. It’s pretty fascinating and shows the amount of passion and love the author had for the work he was doing for Kuwait. If there are any mistakes just ignore them, I haven’t typed this much or so fast since my touch typing class back in university.

————————————

The Kuwait Urbanization
Preface

This book has been in-the-making since I assumed my planning post with the erstwhile Public Works Department, now the Kuwait Ministry of Public works, on June 15, 1960. As the thorny planning path was traversed, it became clearer by the day that the planning of Kuwait, certainly not a routine or every-day occurrence on the Arab urban scene, should be documented not only for its intrinsic value and parables but, also, for the extrinsic value such as study-documentation harbored for future Arab desert planning, for the Arab World at large and for planning-architectural circles in general.

The field was virgin, never having been plowed before. I started to prepare the maps, photographs, sketches, facts and reports that, in my opinion, highlighted and characterized the phenomenal urbanization of Kuwait This work is therefore the result of documenting the buildup of Kuwait, with special reference to my four years as the planning consultant of Kuwait together with my reflections about the pre-1960 era of buildup and relating all this, weever possible, to the general climate of planning in the Arab World as well as to universal planning concepts and contemporary planning developments.

An important reason that induced me to undertake this study is the provision of a record – a documentation – of the many plans, photographs, aerials and schemes which often, no sooner are they realized (or cancelled), would cease to have a trace. Considering the liberal amounts of money Kuwait expended for the preparation of all types of studies and projects, I felt it was a loss not to have a partial record of it and, therefore, strong justification for such a compilation existed, especially as a reference to the Kuwaiti students attending universities abroad and who should, on returning to Kuwait, be able to find background material about their fast-evolved city. In mind, also, were the many new officials assuming responsible posts in Kuwait, as well as those to be appointed in the future, who will need reference material in their work. My difficult experience collecting and preparing the illustrative material in this book, even though I had knowledge of and access to nearly all official, semi-official and private sources, is proof that such a documentation, belated and rather piecemeal is, nevertheless, essential.

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The first time I discussed the planning of Kuwait was in a monograph entitled “Probings, Problems, Planning” dated March, 1961. The 149-page monograph contained fifty articles I had published in English and/or Arabic in various newspapers and magazines in Lebanon treating the subject of Arab city planning and architecture in general. Of the fifty articles, fifteen dealt with Kuwait. Over one thousand copies of the monograph were distributed and those circulated in Kuwait created enough general interest to encourage me to prepare another monograph which consisted of all the Kuwait articles I had written until then. The 102-page monograph, containing thirty articles and entitled “Kuwait the Unique: Abstractions and Blueprints” was, and its explanatory sub-title stated, “A compilation of articles written at random, inspired from scenes and unseens in Kuwait, reproduced here to form a unity and perform a service to comprehensive city and regional planning in Kuwait.”

Read the rest of this entry »


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The Kuwait Urbanization – First Print Hardcover

Posted by Mark

hardcover

Someone is selling the first edition print of the very rare book “The Kuwait Urbanization” by Saba George Shiber. I’ve seen paperback versions of the book but never see this copy before. The guys asking $1,866 for the book and my birthday is coming up in around 10 days time so if anybody is looking for the perfect gift this would be it! [Link]

If you want to download a PDF version of the book here is the link [PDF 166MB]


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Kuwaiti Author Nominated for the First Book Award

Posted by Mark

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Kuwaiti author Mai Al Nakib has been nominated for the First Book Award at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. Debut novelist and every overseas writer whose words are published in English for the first time are included in the award and the winner is chosen by readers who vote for their favorite author.

Mai Al Nakib was nominated because of her book The Hidden Light of Objects which is a collection of short stories and is available on [Amazon]

If you’ve read the book or just want to vote for her as encouragement, check out the Edinburgh International Book Festival website[Here]

Update: If you’d like to pick up the book locally it’s available for sale bookstores at the following campuses:

American University of Kuwait
American University of the Middle East
American College of the Middle East
Box Hill College Kuwait
Australian College of Kuwait

You can also contact Mr. Shabbir Hussain of Growmore Books if you run into any problems on +965-9786-7475


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Our grandparents had it right

Posted by Amy Freeman

paleobooks

Post by Amy Freeman

I remember in the early 90’s watching my nana and pop switch from butter to margarine, whole to skim milk and where possible, full fat to low fat. The 80’s and 90’s was the start of what would become a processed food epidemic. As Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig were constantly being advertised on TV and in magazines, leading the ‘weight loss’ industry and the ‘microwave meal’ industry, woman were becoming more body conscious and diabetes was on the rise. It became a highly publicized and popular belief that calories in and calories out was all that mattered, low fat was the key and all carbohydrates were equal. Enter the diabetes and obesity epidemic!

The unfortunate thing is that the belief systems that were used for weight loss in the 80’s and 90’s are still held in high regard to this day. Trying to convince people that eating natural butter is BETTER than processed margarine is a daily battle. Trying to convince people that full fat milk or cream is BETTER for your insulin levels than low fat or skimmed milk is hard to land with a lot of people.

The reason ‘Paleo’/Whole Food nutrition (or clean eating as I call it) has been so successful, is that it is taking people back to eating a very similar diet to those that lived in our grandparents era. Home made food, unprocessed junk food, lots of fruit, veggies and meat, this style of eating is identical to how our wirery, fit and non diabetic ancestors lived. Even though I remember my nana’s baking yummy desserts, they didn’t eat it in copious amounts and binge till they burst on a Saturday night. They worked it into their active, busy lifestyles and treated food as fuel and NOT as bribery or reward on a daily basis.

When my nana passed away and we were going through her bookshelf I remember the copious amounts of nutrition books she had collected over the years. Amongst what must have been around 50 of them, there were soup diet books, detox books, vegetarian diet books, liver cleansing books and a number of diabetes books. I remember feeling really impressed and proud that my nana had been so conscientious about being informed of health and wellbeing.

The problem is that behind all these diet books is a person trying to make money. Telling people to eat natural foods with correct portions and live a balanced lifestyle isn’t going to make the authors of these nutrition books any money. Instead, what sells is ‘14 Day Detox’s’,‘Lose 10 Pounds in 5 Days’, ‘Do the Dukan Diet’ or ‘Do the Atkins Diet’. Around the time that these books started becoming popular, curvy models were out and skinny was in and magazines really started to promote size 0 as ideal.

The amount of clients, family members and friends that I have seen fall into the trap of going on one of these unrealistic diets and rebound back from it (me included), is ridiculous. Through this a lot of people have developed unhealthy relationships’ with food from being convinced that low fat/ low carb is the only way to lose weight and then go 4 months without so much as one lick of an ice cream only to then rebound and go the other way and live in a chocolate coma for a month. Both extremes are as bad as each other and each time your body goes through this cycle is going to make it harder the next time you try to lose weight.

Being perfect, eating only grilled chicken and veggies, not socializing in case you slip up, feeling guilt when you have 2 eggs instead of 4 egg whites and doing 2 hours of cardio a day is not maintainable. Unless you are going to compete as a figure athlete and you are close to competition, quiet frankly, its stupid and absolutely unnecessary. I give it around 3-4 months before burnout and 4-6 months before you put all that weight you lost back on and then some.

Making healthy choices, eating whole foods like our grandparents and having a balanced workout routine and doing it consistently for 6-12-18 plus months is going to get you results that you can maintain forever. Yes you will need to be patient, it wont happen overnight and there will be times where you get frustrated but weight loss and well being should be treated as a marathon, not a sprint. It will be worth it when you have reached your goal and can still enjoy your life without feeling deprived of food or guilty every time you have a treat.

Happy Training Kuwait

Post by Amy Freeman, a Strength and Conditioning Coach from New Zealand and currently a Personal Trainer at Inspire Pure Fitness in Kuwait.

Image by akeelsworld


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The Kuwait National Library

Posted by Mark

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Yesterday I had a meeting at the Kuwait National Library and to kill time before the meeting I wandered off into the small English books section and started checking out the books. I was pretty surprised that the majority of the English books were really old but then I found the advertising section and I knew I hit jackpot.

Right away I noticed, these weren’t just any ordinary advertising books, these were vintage advertising books from the 40s and the 50s! These are the books Don Draper would have on his bookshelf on the TV show Mad Men. I found an empty shelf and started collecting the books I liked and lining them up next to each other. In the end these were my favorite books that I found:

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How to Build Modern Furniture (1957)
Five Hundred Years of Printing (1959)
The Watch Repairer’s Manual (1949)
Advertising – a guide for business man and student (1947)
Advertising and Psychology (1954)
The Technique of Advertising (1940)
Successful Television and Radio Advertising (1959)
Advertising (1953)
International Handbook of Advertising (1964)
Colour in Advertising (1956)

I thought they were all very fascinating so once my meeting was done I headed to the main office to sign up for a library card so I could check them out. Thats where I got an even bigger surprise, turns out the library isn’t open yet and is actually opening in two weeks and even once it’s open they won’t allow anyone to check out the books, you can only read them in the library.

I left the library in love with it but at the same time a bit confused.

If they’re not open yet, why are all the English books so old?
Where did they even get these books from?
and WTF?

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But then it hit me, this is the perfect library. Other than the fact that old books are fascinating, by having all these old books, its as if the library has been around for 50 years instead of just opening now. You’re also not going to find these books on the Kindle so thats another reason to visit the library. Smart move. Once the library is open in two weeks I would definitely recommend you pass by. The library is pretty big and I’m not sure if there was another larger English section but even if there wasn’t, the small section is interesting enough to check out.

The library is located right next to the National Museum on the Gulf Road and here it is on [Google Maps]

PS: If anyone from the library is reading this, please PLEASE remove the horrible window sticker on your building and install a proper sign instead.]


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Check out this months Bazaar magazine

Posted by Mark

bazaarmagazine

Last month I was contacted by Bazaar for an in depth interview for their May issue. That issue is out now and if you’ve ever wanted to know more about me or my personal views on the whole blogging thing, check it out either by picking up a copy from one of their many locations (like Starbucks) or read it online [Here]


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Vintage Arabic Comics

Posted by Mark

comics

Q8books found a bunch of vintage Arabic comic books in a pile of donated books and are trying to figure out their value. The conditions of the books range from around a 5/10 to maybe an 8 or 9/10. Does anyone know how to go about finding how much they’re worth? The books are:

Superman 6 (1984 reprint)
Superman 58 (1981)
Superman 63 (1982)
Superman 64 (1983)
Batman 13 (1977)
Batman 15 (1979)
Flash 4 (1973)
Lulu 16 (1980)


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Beautiful Destinations chooses local photographers

Posted by Mark

beautifuldestinations

@BeautifulDestinations is an instagram account in which they post beautiful shots taken by instagrammers from around the world. With over a million followers they’re very popular which is why they just launched a Kickstarter campaign to print a hardcover book of the top 100 liked photos from their account in 2013. From the list of photographers who’s work was chosen, eight photographers are based locally including:

@ajfotoworld
@albanay
@alhashemiphotos
@bu_khaled
@fahadrb
@mashael_39
@s_alroudhan
@salehalrashaid

If you haven’t checked out the accounts above before you should, theres a ton of talent there. Also if you want to support the Kickstarter campaign and help get the book printed, visit the Beautiful Destinations Kickstarter page [Here]


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