All Gone Arabia

Posted by Mark

allgonesmall

A few weeks back I briefly mentioned that I was launching a business soon. Well the business is called supersoulxxx and although I won’t go into details on it in this post, I did want to mention an event we’re hosting in Dubai in a few days.

allgoneall

We’re bringing the creator of the All Gone book to the Middle East for the first time along with limited quantities of his book. All Gone is created and published by Michael Dupouy and is a collection of the finest in street culture ranging from sneakers and apparel to skateboard decks, toys and so on. The book in itself is very limited in number, just like the featured items hence the title ‘All Gone’.

So if you are in Dubai on the 11th of March come by pick up a copy and get it signed by Michael Dupouy.


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The National Library Bookshop

Posted by Mark

bookshop

I hadn’t heard of this bookshop until my friend took me to it recently. It’s supposedly one of the oldest bookshops in Kuwait and it’s called “المكتبة الوطنية” which translates to The National Library. They sell Arabic books and comics, mostly new but they also have a bunch of really old stuff.

hardees

While flipping through one of the old comics I found the Hardees advert above. My very first memory of Hardees is that kids meal box, I think I was around 6 years old and I remember getting it from the now demolished Hardees near my house in Salem Mubarek Street.

If you’re interested in checking out this old bookshop it’s located in Souk Mubarkia, here is the location on [Google Maps]


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The story behind Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

Posted by Mark

wizr

Back in October I wrote about Keith Wells, a British journalist who was living in Kuwait back in the 70s. Keith used to work for Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books which I’m lucky enough to own all three. A few days ago Keith got in touch with me and I asked him if he could tell me how it all started. This is what he shared with me:

I originally wrote the stories for the Arab Times which became very popular. Then I met Peter McMahon at a party, and he hadn’t read any of the stories and asked, “Who is this Wizr character?” “I said, he’s the young, trendy Kuwaiti guy with the scarlet Transam with the eagle decal on the bonnet.’ So Peter picked up a sheet of paper,scribbled away for a minute or two, then held it out and asked “Him?” It was perfect. Thereafter we became close friends. I’d write a story, take it to his flat every Friday, and he’d give me the cartoon from the week before’s story. He somehow drew exactly what I’d imagined. The combination became very popular indeed and after a month or two we were approached by Tony Jashanmal, who owned a department store on Fahed Salem St, and Bashir Khatib, who owned the Kuwait Bookshop to publish a book full of the stories. We had a 3 way partnership to print the book at The Arab Times and Launched it at the British Embassy Garden Fete in November 1979, a week or so before I married Suzi. We sold 428 copies in about two hours… amazing.

We carried on for just over a year, then Peter was murdered by Saddam Hussein’s goons, long sad, sad story… but the upshot was that I sort of lost the fun, we put out the second Wizr book with cartoons we hadn’t used in the first one. And the third book with odd scraps and recycled pics. By then it was getting a bit heavy with the Iran Iraq War getting very dangerous and I left the Arab Times and took a very low profile job teaching at the university of Kuwait. After 4 years there I went back to the paper and wrote more stories with an Indian cartoonist called Edgar, but they were never collected in book form. I left Kuwait in June ’87. We emigrated to Oz in Oct 1989, and the following March I had a massive heart attack in a small town in southern Queensland. After recovering, we spent the rest of our working lives doing PhDs in Communication Studies, and setting up Comm Depts in various universities and colleges in Macau, Singapore, Morocco, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

I’ve been a bit of a hermit since retiring in ’07, but am beginning to re-emerge and was very surprised and grateful for the interest in Wizr and Dozi and his pals. Someone told me a few years ago that the fabulous cartoon of Dozi with the two rubber stamps “PERHAPS” and “PERHAPS NOT” is to be found in many offices to this day. Peter would have loved that.

– Keith Wells


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Comedy in Kuwait back in the 50s

Posted by Mark

comedy

The lovers of humor and comic stuff had the chance in Kuwait back in the fifties to enjoy it through the comic magazine “Al-Fukaha” which means humor in English.

“Al-Fukaha” magazine was released in October 1950, the chief editor was Farhan Rashed Alfarhan and the owner was Abdullah Al-Khaled Al-Hatem.

At first, it was printed in Kuwait. Then, they started printing it in the Syrian capital Damascus and the distribution of this comic magazine was in Kuwait.

“Al-Fukaha” that was released in 1950 continued until 7th February 1951 and then stopped. It was released again on July 20th 1954 but stopped one more time on 24th November 1958.

First time I’m hearing of this. [Link]

Thanks Farran


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Censorship of books in Kuwait

Posted by Fajer Ahmed

books

One of my favorite things to do while growing up in Kuwait was going to the Kuwait International Book Fair. I loved walking through the aisles and aisles of mostly Arabic and some English books while having ice-cream. Since this year’s book fair is opening its doors today (Wednesday the 19th), I thought it would be fit to write about books in Kuwait.

Kuwait was the first Gulf country to hold a book fair with the first being held back in 1975. It was a platform for readers, writers, bookstore owners and publishers to connect with each other directly. Whats sad is that although other Gulf countries only recently started holding book fairs, they have already surpassed Kuwait’s book fairs with their activities and list of international writers and affiliates.

Yes people do read here even though the attention span of an average human being is probably 3 minutes thanks to social media but I am still a strong believer that anyone can get into a book if they chose a book based on their interest. With all of that said, censorship is an issue, its my issue, its your issue, its our issue! Working at q8bookstore with publishers, schools and writers has brought up the subject quite a bit, and although there may be some grounds on why censoring certain books is necessary when it comes to children, the books censored in Kuwait have often if not always not made sense in my humble opinion (I am trying to be diplomatic). Historical atlases of Kuwait and books with hocus pocus and three little pigs for example make it to the list of banned books in schools! Some of Orhan Pamuk, Haruki Murakami and motion picture books (which btw get played in the theaters) also are examples that make it to the list of banned books in bookstores!

Don’t we as citizens have freedom of speech? Shouldn’t we be able read and write what we want? The Kuwaiti constitution mentions in article 36 and 37 the freedom of research, right to publish, conduct research and so on (wont bore you here with tough legal words, that lawyers invented). But seriously who decides whats to be censored and how is it done legally? Well a lot of the information is not available to the general public but with dedicated work, Sout Al Kuwait; a non-profit organization that aims to protect personal freedoms and other constitutional rights have published a booklet on censorship in Kuwait. Here are some interesting points:

– For a local book to be sold in Kuwait it has to go through the Ministry of Information, if there is some doubt on the content of the book, it is transferred to a committee. The committee is supposed to meet once a week but according to Sout Alkuwait when they visited them in April of 2010, they had not met for 3 months and had 120 books pending (surprise, surprise)

– In the 2009 International Book Fair, 25% of the banned books were fiction (get ready for the sad part), 11% poetry and 10% scientific journals

– 24 social organization have signed a petition to review censorship in Kuwait, hopefully this time with avail

Although Mark and I will give you the freedom of speech to post as you wish under here (maybe we can have a religious debate, or lets talk about how mark isn’t Kuwaiti?), either way, I would love to hear about your thoughts and stories on censorship in Kuwait.

Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.


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Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

Posted by Mark

lastwizr

Back in the 70s there was a British journalist living in Kuwait by the name of Keith Wells. He used to work for the Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books but sadly there really isn’t a lot of information on them nor Keith online. In fact, there is a blog dedicated to keeping Keith and his Wizr series alive but even the blog doesn’t have much info nor content. The books document life in Kuwait during that period with humor and nicely drawn illustrations.

wizr2

Since The Kuwait Bookshops is closing this might be your only chance to own one of his Wizr books. In 1984 he released “The Last Wizr Book” and The Kuwait Bookshops in Muthana still has copies of it remaining and they’re selling them cheap for KD1.5 (the bookshop is selling everything for 50% off). The book was his last one on the Wizr since the illustrator he had teamed up with for the previous two books had passed away. I tried to find the other two books online and I managed to snag his second book (pictured above) on eBay for KD7.5 and his first book on the series (pictured below) for KD16. It was more than what I wanted to pay, but I somehow felt compelled to save this part of Kuwait’s history. So try to grab his last book from Muthana if you can.

wizr1

If anyone has any interesting information related to Keith or his books let me know.


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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.

kuwaitbookshop4

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.

bookshop1990

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.

kuwaitbookshop2

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.

book2

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.

peacepalace

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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