My Parents Have Left The Building

Post by Mark

My mum moved to Kuwait back in 1968 to work as a personal trainer at a local gym (yup, she was an OG PT) before joining Kuwait Airways as a flight attendant. My dad on the other hand moved to Kuwait in 1972 and worked as a self employed interior designer. They eventually met, got married, had kids and continued to live here until last week, when my parents moved out of their apartment and left Kuwait for good.

People always ask me if I have any plans on leaving. The thing is, eventually, all expats have to leave Kuwait.

Even though my parents were living in Kuwait for nearly 50 years, they had as much rights and benefits as someone who just moved to Kuwait last week. They still needed a sponsor, they still needed to renew their papers every year and they couldn’t own any property.

I was thinking how depressing that must be, living and working in a country for nearly 50 years and still have to put up with so much bureaucracy. Not only that, but they moved to Kuwait when it was expat friendly, and then watched it over the years turn into a country that dislikes its expat population (not all of you), thats difficult to take in as well. If you can’t get permanent residency or own property after living all your life in a country that doesn’t want you here in the first place, how can you retire in it?

I’ve already been in Kuwait for 38 years and I call it my home, but the reality is, no matter how long I’ll be here for, Kuwait can sadly never be my home and eventually, I’ll have to leave as well.


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Goodbye Alarm Clock

Post by Mark

Back in 2001 when I first moved back to Kuwait from university and started my first job, the first thing I did with my very first salary ever was buy an alarm clock. It wasn’t just any alarm clock, it was the Nakamichi SoundSpace 3. The alarm clock had a CD player and was composed of three square shaped pieces, two were clocks, one for each side of the bed, while the third piece was the subwoofer. It cost me KD220 back then which was basically half my salary, but I used to love the Nakamichi brand and this was love at first sight. The picture above is the oldest picture I have of the alarm clock and its from 2003.

The alarm clock stayed with me for 16 years, and in that time I went through 4 jobs, 4 different blogs, a marriage, a divorce, 5 cars, 3 apartments and 2 dogs. Last night after watching an episode of the show “Hoarders“, I decided I would finally throw the alarm clock out. Now I regret it of course.

It’s pretty sad and reminded me of the old IKEA lamp commercial. I sometimes ask myself if I was to start all over again, would I be able to leave all my things behind? After throwing out my beloved alarm clock, I think I can. This post is dedicated to you alarm clock, goodbye.


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My Q8 Grand Limo Experience

Post by Mark

A few days ago I posted about the app Q8 Grand Limo which I promoted as an alternative for Uber and Careem. That same night they sent out an SMS with a 248AM coupon code which would offer people 20% off on their trips. It kinda pissed me off since they sent it without contacting me first, nor did they even ask me if it was OK to use my brand. Nobody from Q8 Grand Limo had spoken to me at all so when I got the SMS myself, I was surprised and pissed. So I decided I wasn’t going to write about them ever again.

Then this morning I decided to try them out and had such a great experience I decided that even though I’m pissed off at them, they were so good that it would be a shame not to write about my experience.

I had to pass by the Lotus garage and pick up my car today so I pre-booked a ride for 9:30AM. I ended up waking up earlier than expected so canceled my pre-booking and reordered a cab to come right away. The time estimate given was 15 minutes and I could track the cab on his way over to my house via the app. Once the cab arrived, like with Uber, I got a notification letting me know he was here and I headed down to find a sparkling clean black Chrysler with dark tinted windows and a tan leather interior. The driver even came out to open the door for me and he was dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a black vest and a tie. First impression, it felt very fancy.

The driver had my location already plugged into Google Maps and we headed towards Rai using Google’s recommended fastest route. Once we got to my destination, he asked me how I wanted to pay and I said Knet, so he pulled out the Knet machine and I paid. The trip should have cost KD3 which is a steal for the experience, but I ended up using the coupon code “248AM” which they had spammed people with and I ended up paying just KD2.4. Thats from Salmiya to Al Rai. Very cool. It’s actually kinda of a relief that we finally have a decent cab offering. Next week I have to drop my car off again to ProTech to get window tinting and I’ll definitely be using them again.

So all is forgiven and I’m not that pissed off at them anymore. If you want to take advantage of the promo code, you need to enter 248AM in the promo code space while booking the cab. The expiry date for the code is end of the year but they’ve limited the number of times the code can be used to 1,000. So until the code is used a thousand times (by everyone not just you), then we will be able to get 20% off our rides. Thats a really good deal.

Update: OK, Q8 Grand Limo called me up now to explain the confusion. The promo code is just meant for me, it will only work with my phone number so you guys won’t be able to use it. I told them they should have called me an explained what it was before sending me the SMS without and that I already posted about it on the blog. So the person I spoke to said they’ll work on an updated promo code for my readers and send it to me when it’s ready to share.


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Hello Lotus!

Post by Mark

Those of you who follow me on instagram and twitter probably already figured out that I sold my beloved Datsun last week because I bought a Lotus Exige instead. It wasn’t a planned purchase, it just happened, I guess something like an impulse buy but on a grander scale. Last Saturday I went with a friend to check out a 1972 Chevy C10 pickup truck which I was planning to buy. On our way back I had to drop my friend off at a garage when I came across a used car lot that had a yellow Lotus Exige displayed for sale, the same one I had reviewed nearly a year ago. So I sent the Lotus brand manager a message about it and he told me if I had an itch to drive the Exige again, they had the roof off on their current vehicle and I could come in the next morning and take the car out for a couple of days. Who would say no to that?

The next morning I headed straight to the Lotus dealership and picked up the Exige. A few minutes after driving off in the car, I had a huge smile on my face I remembered why I loved it so much when I took it out last year to review. So when the brand manager messaged me back the next day to confirm I would be dropping the car off in the evening, I told him I had fallen in love with it and this time I wasn’t bringing it back. After a couple of days of negotiating on the price over whatsapp, I went back to the dealership and paid for the car. I’m still unsure if I got a good deal or not since I don’t consider myself a great negotiator (Tip: Do NOT tell the dealer you love the car), but I’ve got the car now with no regrets so thats all that matters.

When I originally wrote my review of the Exige last year, I described it as a car not meant for 99.9% of the people and I still stand by that. I actually spent most of that review complaining about the car. It’s extremely quirky to put it nicely with a lot of odd and unorthodox things about it. But, with all the issues I had with the car when I reviewed it, something about it really attracted me to it. I’ve reviewed a lot of amazing cars for the blog but nothing connected with me the way the Exige did. I love sitting inside the small cozy cockpit, I love the way it looks on the outside, I even love how awkward it is to get in and out of and I definitely love recording videos of my friends trying to get out of the car. If the Exige was a person, it would be an awkward introvert and I think thats why I love it.

There are only 3 Exige’s in Kuwait at the moment, my midnight blue one, a white one and a yellow one so it’s a pretty rare car and I feel special. But, I’m now curious to see what that means to the cost and availability of parts, supposedly service costs is similar to Lexus which is great, but I didn’t ask about the parts since I didn’t want to freak out and change my mind about buying the car. Speaking of parts, there is a pretty active online community of aftermarket parts and I’ve already got my eye on some carbon fiber body panels and other upgrades, but the first thing I want to modify on the car is the license plates. For some reason Alghanim (the dealer) installed square ones on the car but I think the wider rectangular ones would look so much nicer on it. So if anyone knows what the process is for swapping the square plates for the rectangular ones is, please let me know!


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14 Years Ago Today

Post by Mark

Just a random tidbit, 14 years ago today I posted my first post ever on a blog called Qhate. Before 248AM I had a blog called Miskan, before that I had another one called Moblogging from Kuwait (it was like instagram, but before instagram) and before that I had another blog called Qhate. Qhate was a war blog where me and a few friends were posting about life in Kuwait during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


My first post on February 6th, 2003.

Unlike my old posts here on 248AM, I don’t cringe when I read my old posts on Qhate. It kinda feels like I started off writing pretty well and then took a big dip in quality by the time I started 248AM, only to recover again years later. In around 10 days time its also going to be 248AM’s 12 year anniversary. Crazy.

All my posts from all my previous blogs are still online except for “Moblogging from Kuwait” since it was hosted on textamerica.com which shut down a decade ago. You can still find some stuff from it using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine but not much. I used to take all the photos and post to my blog using the Sony CLIÉ UX40. That was back when smart phones didn’t exist and Sony PDA’s were so ahead of their time.


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Nail Salons for Guys

Post by Mark

This question is for the guys, where do you go get your nails done? The two places I frequent the most are Spaloon and Ten Spa and I’m really not happy with either of them. Spaloon have the most uncomfortable seating I’ve ever experienced anywhere in my life so I hate getting my nails done there, and Ten Spa isn’t what it used to be, it feels like they’re about to close down any day now.

So where do you go? I can’t think of better places, maybe I should just open my own nail salon…


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Kuwait’s Bermuda Triangle

Post by Mark

A couple of weekends back I went camping in the desert and nearly got completely lost on the way there. I usually go camping with a friend of mine in this secluded area around an hour plus drive into the desert from Al Salmi. This time around my friend headed into the desert first since I had some errands I needed to get done during the day and then headed into the desert in the afternoon. The whole journey takes around two hours from Salmiya so by the time I got close to camp it was dark and I couldn’t see anything except the road in front of me. I had Google Maps coordinates of our camp site on my phone and was following it without issues until I hit what I think must have been Kuwait’s Bermuda Triangle.

As I got close to our camping spot my phone just started messing up. I’d be driving towards my blue dot on Google Maps and then 15 minutes later the map suddenly rotates and so now the blue dot is behind me. So I’d turn the car around and head the other way, 20 minutes later the map rotates again and now the blue dot is on my right instead of straight ahead. It did this a couple of more times before I realized I was driving around in circles wasting precious fuel in the empty desert and completely lost. I was about to give up and just camp in this random spot in the middle of nowhere until the sun comes up when I remembered I had a little Garmin eTrex 20 in the trunk with my camping gear.

I had bought the Garmin for exactly this situation, to use if I ever get lost when hiking or camping. So I dug it out of my gear, turned it on, entered the coordinates of my campsite and right away the Garmin pointed me to the right direction. I was so off course I had to drive another 30 minutes to get to camp. Moral of the story? If you’re ever heading into the desert don’t rely on your phone for navigation. Instead, invest in a dedicated GPS device since it could save your ass one day.


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Old Kuwait is Digitally Disappearing

Post by Mark

Yesterday I was trying to find an article I had posted about an event that took place in Kuwait back in 1974. A friend of mine works right next to Souk Al Kabeer in Kuwait City and I thought she would be interested to know that during the construction of the building back in 74, it collapsed during the night while the construction workers were asleep and killed I believe around 40 or 50 people (I think?). I couldn’t find the article but the video above is taken from the AP archive shot that morning showing the aftermath.

I was flipping page by page through my 50s to 90s category on the blog trying to find the article and I couldn’t for some reason. But, I did realize something important, a lot of the videos of old Kuwait I had linked to or a lot of links to photo galleries of old Kuwait on other websites or blogs were now dead and no longer available.

familybookshop

It’s rare and difficult enough finding these treasures and so its pretty sad that many of them are no longer available to view. I was pissed off at myself and disappointed that I didn’t think of downloading or saving backups or hosting the images myself. I always considered it bad etiquette to find images on another blog and then host them all myself, I thought the proper thing to do would be to link back to the blog instead and send people there. Now I regret doing that, I shouldn’t trust other people with the responsibility of archiving history.

Thinking out loud I tweeted that I should probably set up a GoFundMe account where all the money collected would be used to purchase old footage and photos of Kuwait from the likes of Huntley Film Archives, Periscope Film, AP Archive, various Flickr accounts and the likes and then store them somewhere in the cloud for everyone to access and where it could remain permanently.

But then we’re back in the same situation, where you’re trusting a person (in this case me) to maintain and keep this archive, but what if something happens to me? Say for example one day while driving down the Gulf Road and my Datsun bursts into flames and I die, that means I won’t be able to continue to pay for hosting and maintaining that archive. Actually thats whats going to happen with my blog as well, probably stay up a month or two after I die, and then it would disappear forever along with the 10,000+ posts and over 200,000 of your comments.

This is why I think there needs to be a non profit organization that is responsible for archiving these important items. And I’m not talking about historically important films and artifacts, I’m talking about general random everyday stuff that people wouldn’t think of archiving from old Hardees ads to some guys family photos from the 60s (they’re wonderful). They don’t sound like very important items to archive but I personally think they are. They’re everyday life from a different era.

There actually might be a local organization that is doing this and I’m just not aware of it but I doubt it. KOC have a great in-house archive department which is extremely organized and one I’ve visited and written about [Here], but they are archiving their own content and not other peoples.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is an organization needs to be established and if anyone ever decides to do it then please invite me to be part of it. For now I’m going to spend this weekend skimming through my old 50s to 90s posts and make sure everything I’ve linked to I’ve also mirrored on my blog so if the source is dead the information is still here.


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Car-Free Days

Post by Mark

Yesterday parts of Fahad Al Salem street was closed off to cars due to the amount of pedestrians in the city because of Christmas. The cops were only letting in busses and cabs and it was pretty surreal I guess because I’m so used to that street being a chaotic mess.

There has been talk about closing Salem Mubarek Street in Salmiya to cars permanently for years now but nothing has ever come of it. But even if they don’t close it to cars permanently, they really should close it off every now and then and turn it into an outdoor market.

The last time they closed Salem Mubarek Street I think was back in 2005 as part of the national day parade. But imagine how much better it could be today, imagine if Salem Mubarek Street was one giant Qout Market. Actually, imagine if Shakshooka and Qout Market both collaborated and took over the street for a day, I think that would be amazing. We really need car-free days.

Barrak Al-Babtain from the blog re:kuwait has spoken about turning SAM street into pedestrian only a number of times before and even has some pretty good creative proposals. Check out some of his old posts below:

NY High Line
SAM Street
SAM Street Analysis
SAM Street: Winter Only?

And this is a quote by him from back in 2009

I think SAM street is probably one of the best spaces in Kuwait where a real public space can happen. A place where people can go window shopping and listen to live music and buy food from street vendors. The intervention is relatively minor but the potential is incredible. We can ignore it and let it suffocate or we breathe new life into the street and create something that Kuwait doesn’t really have; a lively, free and open public space.

If you make me the mayor of Salmiya I’ll make Barrak the urban planner. #voteformark


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My Favorite Podcasts

Post by Mark

killtony

Since its starting off as a very slow news week, I figured I’d post a list of my favorite podcasts to keep things moving. So here are my favorite podcasts in alphabetical order:

Car Talk
This is a show where two car mechanics get calls from people asking for car advice. A caller for example would call in and tell them my car is making a screeching sound when going down hill what could it be? And the two car mechanics try to figure out what the problem might be and give them advice on it. It’s a fun show if you’re into cars and I enjoy always trying to figure out the car issue myself and I have to say, I’m generally pretty good at it.

Chequered Flag Formula 1
There are only two sports I enjoy watching, Formula 1 and UFC and this single podcast fulfills all my F1 needs. It’s by the BBC and every race tends to have two podcasts per race, a preview of the race and then a review of it. The episodes are short and the hosts are fantastic but sadly, yesterday was the last F1 race of the season (and what an intense race it was) so this podcast is going to be dormant until the next season starts again.

Kill Tony (pictured on top)
By far my favorite podcast of the bunch. Kill Tony is a comedy show run by the comedian Tony Hinchcliffe. In the show, Tony randomly selects a name of an audience member from a hat (the audience members are young striving comedians) and they have to come up and do a stand up set for 60 seconds in front of Tony and his guests. Although many of the stand ups aren’t that funny, the show is ridiculously funny since Tony and his guests (who are popular comedians) roast the stand ups. Super funny stuff, like I laugh out loud while driving funny.

The Joe Rogan Experience
JRE I think was the first podcast I ever started listening to. Joe Rogan is a standup comedian (his new special is great), an actor (remember NewsRadio?), ex host of the Fear Factor, a UFC commentator and an ex Taekwondo champion. Like his life, his show covers various topics and so each episode he invites an interesting guest where they talk about different things. If you’re a UFC fan, Joe also hosts “Fight Companions” where he invites some friends over and they all sit and watch the UFC fights together while podcasting live.

The MMA Beat
The MMA Beat is my favorite MMA show. On the show they discuss all the current MMA related news and give their opinions on them. The show is usually composted of four journalists including my two favorites, Ariel Helwani and Luke Thomas.

The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani
This is probably the most popular MMA show, it comes out once a week and usually features interviews with fighters who are currently in the news or have a fight coming up or just had one.

I also follow a bunch of other podcasts but generally only listen to them if I have nothing else. They are:
Double Jump
It’s Time with Bruce Buffer
Luke Thomas Podcasts
The Church of What’s Happening Now with Joey Diaz
The Fighter & The Kid
UFC Unfiltered with Jim Norton and Matt Serra
You’re Welcome! with Chael Sonnen

What podcasts do you listen to?

I use the Overcast app to listen to my podcasts. Two things I like about it, the first is that it works with my CarPlay head unit, the second is that I can set how many seconds I want the seek back and seek forward buttons to be. So I have it set to go back 15 seconds when I click the rewind button and skip forward 60 seconds when I click the forward button.


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