Nu Hotel – Milan

Posted by Mark

Last weekend I went to Milan and stayed at a trendy little hotel called Nu. It was actually my second choice since I had originally set my eyes on Hotel Straf, but Nu Hotel ended up coming in at half the price which made it the obvious choice.

The hotel is not located in the city center and is not walking distance to Duomo which is actually a good thing. Duomo is in the city center where all the cathedrals, department stores, franchises, luxury brands and ALL the tourist are. Many people actually want to be in Duomo which is fine by me but I would rather shop and stay in places with more locals than tourists. The hotel is located 5 minutes away from the Metro anyway which means a ride to any part of Milan will mostly take just under 20 minutes.

My room was pretty spacious for European standards but what probably helped the room look even more spacious was the super large window that occupied most of one wall. It brought in a lot of soft natural light into the room even on an overcast day. The room had all the regular amenities like free interent, mini bar, a safe and breakfast in bed should you choose. The customer service was fantastic, I was having minor issues with my AC since in typical person from Kuwait style I wanted it on all the time and at the coldest possible temperature and they were extremely helpful with sorting that issue out for me.

There wasn’t much going on around the hotel other than a happening bar across the street. Other than that everything on the street was usually closed by nightfall. If I ever go back to Milan I wouldn’t hesitate staying at Nu Hotel. Here is the link to their [Website]


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It’s not my hospital it’s ours

Posted by Mark

The post below was written by a friend of mine, a Kuwaiti doctor currently living and working/training in Montreal.

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Recently, posts on twitter and many blogs including this one have featured a text message appearing on peoples phones as a random statement that Mental health facilities are available in Kuwait (pictured above). I’m sure that the idea was a good one, unfortunately there was no information on how to get in contact with people who can help (no email, website or hotline to call).

Like many of you I met these efforts made by the ministry with heckling and criticism. In my eyes this was an imported idea that we just couldn’t get right. Granted, it’s not a major disaster but still it’s just one more thing to complain about (the national sport) and it’s not like people here in Montreal don’t have problems with their hospitals. On the contrary, if you read the papers you’d see that some of these places are nearing bankruptcy, and others are being sold off all together with staged layoffs commencing soon.

People complain in Montreal too, they complain a lot, the difference is that despite all the problems and near disasters they face here, there’s always progress being made.

We can now boast that at the Montreal General Hospital (a level 1 trauma centre) we go from the trauma bay to a whole body CT scan and to the ICU or the operating room in less than 30 minutes. You might assume that this is as a results of care considerate government planning. It isn’t, the Montreal General Hospital relies on non government foundations to provide donations on a regular basis to fund research and buy equipment that the government can’t afford. These include MRI machines, CT scanners and surgical equipment that has made the place a true monument to trauma and emergency surgery.

They don’t just wait for people to donate, they set up funds and activities to provide long term assured income annually. This year their campaign included a “dancing with the docs” event where you could sponsor doctors in a dance off and an annual raffle.

Another hospital has come up with similar events such as annual tennis tournaments and fashion and style events as well as an annual gala that honours their doctors as well as many many others (about three per season). They also have franchises open within the hospital which are obligated to donate annually (the frozen yogurt place beats anything I can find at a hospital cafeteria).

That hospital has become the first robotic cancer surgery (surgical oncology) center in the province and one of the most active in Canada. Some of it is because of the money they donate and make for the hospital but a lot of it is because we can rely on these fantastic volunteers to help moving patients, inspect rooms to make sure they’re clean and take care of elderly patients who can’t take care of them selves.

These foundations are practically built on volunteers led by the CEO of the hospital (every hospital has a CEO to handle the business side of things over here). Some of them provide administrative work, others organize activities and others actually involve themselves with patient care activities such as feeding, pet and animal therapy and patient transport as well as acting as translators throughout the hospital I don’t think these hospitals would be the centres of excellence in their fields if it wasn’t for these community led initiatives.

The generic response would be مالت علينا these people are organized and efficient and our guys can’t even run a small emergency room but the fact of the matter is that progress in hospitals in Montreal isn’t just reliant on doctors, nurses or administrators alone, it comes from the community we service.

Think of how much you and I can do to help our hospitals, maybe we can educate diabetics, help inspect rooms or just set up donation pools and funds to build initiatives and not just giant buildings or buy equipment with no further planning involved.

Trying to do this in Kuwait will take an effort on both parts, hospitals have to be willing to accept donations, volunteers and also train them while on the other hand people have to be committed to making their hospital the best they can. Success in this field is never due to one individual and I’m probably as guilty as you are for neglecting my local hospital when it is clearly in need.

Post written by Saud, a Kuwaiti doctor living and working/training in Montreal. Twitter: @saudnz


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Review: Rio, the Brazilian steakhouse

Posted by Mark

Rio is a new Brazilian steakhouse that has been open for around a month and last night I decided to pass by and try it out. Unlike regular restaurants, the way the Rio menu works is slightly different since there is just one fixed price of KD15.5. For that price you get to choose one starter from a list of about eight, you get to choose an unlimited amount of side orders and then it’s all you can eat beef, fish and chicken. It’s similar to a buffet except you never have to get out of your seat.

Rio is located on the ground floor of Jawhara Tower in Kuwait City. It’s the same building that has Ubon and a few other restaurant. But from the restaurants that are currently located there, Rio has to be the biggest, probably double the size of the others. I was actually pretty surprised at how spacious Rio was compared to the other restaurants next door. The interior was also very trendy and nicely lit with large windows on two sides creating a very open and spacious look. You could easily forget the fact that you’re not in Kuwait once you’re inside. Once we sat down the waitress proceeded to explain to us how the menu works and then provided us with two coasters, one side had a red circle the other side a green circle. You put the coasters on the table with the green side up when you want your plate refilled and the red side up when you want to stop.

I was with my brother so we got to order two starters, the Carpaccio and the rocket salad. Between the two dishes I surprisingly favored the rocket salad but that’s probably because the balsamic dressing was so ridiculously good. One thing I found a bit annoying was the fact the starters came out so quickly after we ordered and then before we were completely done with the dishes they wanted to clear the plates so they could bring in the main course. I felt a bit rushed but that’s probably due to the lack of experience since they just opened. We ordered a whole bunch of sides to go with our main course, I ordered healthy sides like mushrooms, broccoli and carrots while my brother ordered potato wedges, onion rings and fried banana. We also had 6 or 8 sauces to choose from and we decided to order all of them so we could try them out.

They serve around 14 different kinds of meats and I would say 12 of them are served on skewers that they bring to your table and slice onto your plate. One after the other a waiter would come with a different skewer for us to try like various kinds of steaks, grilled shrimps, grilled chicken and sausages and even grilled pineapple. As they would fill our plate and walk away another skewer would come which meant we didn’t have enough time to start eating. Then I remembered the colored coasters the waitress told us about so we flipped ours to “red” and the food stopped coming. Since there are so many different kinds of skewers there are bound to be some you won’t favor and in my case I didn’t favor a few but the ones I did end up liking, I liked a lot (the sliced chicken and the chicken sausage being my favorites).

I do have a few gripes about the place and it mostly has to do with the service. The whole experience just felt very rushed. Right as soon as we sat down and the waitress explained to us the concept she wanted to take our order right then on the spot even though we didn’t have time to take a look at the menu. Then as I mentioned, the starters came out very quickly after the order was taken and before the starters were completely finished the plates were being cleared for the main course. Then the way you get bombarded with one grill after the other is also a bit overwhelming. Another issue I had is when we had gone through maybe 8 or 10 grills they started coming back with grills that we had already tried. When I asked the waiter if we were done trying all the grills he said yes. Since we were pretty full we decided to ask for the bill. When the bill arrived a waiter came with chicken sausages which we hadn’t been served before. So we each took one. Then I paid the bill and another skewer came this time with beef sausages, again we hadn’t tried those before. So I asked the waiter why he would tell us we were done trying out all the grills when we hadn’t and I don’t think he understood us. I think it must have been just a language issue but it’s kinda awkward to ask for the bill and pay for it while food is still arriving. I also have an issue with the price. At KD15.5 I would have appreciated if soft drinks were included or at the very least have free refills. If you want dessert that is also an additional cost. I think dessert should be included in the price since when you go to a buffet or order a set menu, generally all the food is included.

Rio is an interesting concept and a great looking place in a good location with a ton of parking spaces all around. It’s also probably the closest thing you’re going to get to an all you can eat steak buffet in Kuwait. As a matter of fact, this is probably the closest thing you’re also going to get to a healthy buffet since the menu is mostly made up of grilled protein. My issues mostly revolve around the service but they should easily be fixable by just slowing things down a notch. If you’re interested in trying Rio here is a [Map] to the location and their phone number is 22260788.

Update: I forgot to add they’re currently in a soft launch stage and so are only open from 7PM to 11PM


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Review: Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12

Posted by Mark

I’ve had my eye on the Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 for some time now and last week I finally decided to splurge and get it. The Beolit 12 is a portable speaker that can operate on battery or electricity. When I first got the Beolit I had buyers remorse but that feeling has since long gone.

Unlike most other portable speaker systems, the Beolit uses AirPlay instead of Bluetooth which can be a good or bad thing depending on your requirements. Setting it up for the first time took around 5 minutes and was a fairly simple process as long as you follow the instructions. A lot of people online have complained about the setup being too complicated but I have no idea why. All you need to do is download the Beolit app from the Apple App Store and then follow the on screen instructions.

The Beolit 12 looks ridiculously cool. It comes in four colors, two being fairly safe grey tones and the other two coming in either blue or yellow. Mine is the yellow model which I think looks the best. The Beolit 12 has a leather handle which makes the whole thing resemble a picnic basket but it also makes the Beolit easy to carry around while giving it a bit of a retro feel. I took the Beolit with me to the beach and also out tagging and in both occasions I thought the Beolit performed really well. On the beach the Beolit was loud sounding like a full fledged sound system. The Beolit pumps out 100w worth of power and at full blast the sound is just too loud for comfort when you’re close to it. A couple of days later I took the Beolit with me to an abandoned parking lot where I did some tagging and the Beolit was super loud again with music most likely being heard by people passing by on the outside. Even though the speaker is fairly small it still manages to pump out a decent amount of bass for its size.

When home, I keep the Beolit in my bedroom connected to electricity, turned on and connected to the wifi network. That way when I want to play music on the Beolit it’s available right away. If you don’t keep your Beolit on with wifi on then it will take around a minute for it to turn on and connect to the wifi network before you can stream music to it. According to B&O battery life is 8 hours unless you’re using AirPlay then its 4 hours. I had the Beolit on the beach for 3 hours playing music at 80% volume and battery was down to around 54% by then. So I guess at lower volumes it could last 8 hours and maybe even more.

I have two gripes about the device. The first night I had the Beolit on the table and when I tried to slide it towards me one of the rubber feet came off. I put it back on and it hasn’t fallen since but I informed the dealer and they told me to let them know if it falls off again. Hopefully it won’t. The second issue is the lack of Bluetooth. Although I love AirPlay at home when I’m out of the house I would rather stream music wirelessly to the Beolit and not have to use a USB cable.

Other than those two issues I really love the Beolit 12. It costs KD250 which is pretty pricy but there really isn’t any other portable unit that delivers the same sound quality while still looking this good.


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Criticism is a Good Thing

Posted by Mark

Yesterday I posted the picture above on my Instagram account of a new tshirt I had ordered online. It took me a month to get the tshirt because it was on backorder and so when a friend of mine pointed out that a local fashion store was selling a locally printed version (i.e. imitation) I got upset for two reasons:

1) If its a good creative idea you support the designer who came up with the idea and you don’t get a local printshop to reprint the design for you

2) The store that was selling the fake tshirts (I won’t mention the brand and any mention of the brand in the comments will be deleted) is actually a very well respected brand and one that I actually liked

So I visited their Instagram account and found the tshirt listed for sale there and in the comments I read the following:

The tshirt was by a local designer and not the official one in NYC so I left the following comment:

To my surprise instead of them apologizing for selling imitation goods they responded with the following comment:

I stayed diplomatic and responded highlighting the fact that they themselves said it was by a local designer and not that they had permission from the official brand to reprint it in Kuwait. I also tagged my friend Fajer the lawyer in the comments so that she was aware of the situation as well. A few moments later they deleted all my comments and blocked me from their account.

I decided to contact the original designer just to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake and turns out I hadn’t. According to the designer who created the orignal tshirt she never gave anybody permission to sell or reprint her tshirts. In fact the local store was sent the following email to cease sale of the tshirts:

VIOLATION OF TRADEMARK – Remove Immediately
We have been notified that you are in violation of our trademark ‘Ain’t Laurent Without Yves’. Please immediately cease sale of all materials with our trademark logo on it; Should you continue to sell these items we will pursue severe legal damages for profits lost.

We never gave you, or any other vendor permission to sell our product with our slogan on it. Your claims on twitter are false and are damaging our brand.

The reason I am pointing this situation out is to discuss how criticism is handled in the region. Even when I was right I got attacked and a lot of other people do too. We should be able to have freedom of speech and criticism actually helps companies (and people) to know how they can improve. People in the region need to calm down and start accepting criticism.

If you’re interested in the tshirt above you can purchase it directly from the original designer at whataboutyves.com


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Earthquake?

Posted by Mark

Did anyone feel the earthquake a few moments ago? (around 3pm)

Update: Confirmed, an earthquake hit Southern Iran awhile ago with a magnitude of 6.2 [Source]


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Two things to do in Prague

Posted by Mark

There are two things I did in Prague that I would highly recommend to everyone going there.

Hit the slopes

If you have the time and you’re there in winter then I’d highly recommend you hit the slopes. The cheapest option I found was around 75 Euros per person including travel to the resort from the city and including rental gear and slope passes. But, the resort was tiny and mostly made up of fake snow. I ended up going to Špindlerův Mlýn which cost considerably more but that’s due to the the location being around 2 hours away from the city. The resort was huge and there was lots of soft powder snow since it was snowing when I was there. I went midweek so the slopes were mostly empty which meant I never had to wait in line for the ski lifts or bother navigating hoards of skiers on the way down. The slopes are not all connected together but there was a free shuttle bus service to navigate from one slope to another. The whole experience cost me around KD90 but that included snowboard gear rental, a half day pass to the slopes and a personal driver for half a day as well.

While there I would highly recommend you rent a snowmobile as well. They rent for a minimum of 1 hour and you go off alone with just a black and white map that makes absolutely no sense. I think it was around KD20 for the hour, I don’t remember but I took the snowmobile and headed all the way up to a peak. It was snowing and foggy along the way and I froze my ass off but the trip was really beautiful and scenic.

Visit the psychiatric hospital

Ok I know this sounds weird and it is but it’s really worth the experience. I went and had lunch at the Psychiatrická léčebna Bohnice cafeteria. I had read on a forum online that the staff that work there are recovering patients and that the visitors are families visiting their loved ones at the hospital. Anyway the hospital grounds is huge, like a massive university campus. The buildings all looked like they had been built in the early 1900’s with beautiful but crumbling architecture and looks of interesting looking floor tiles. The cafeteria had a style that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning but don’t expect the food to be anything exquisit. Actually don’t expect to really eat there, maybe just a slice of cake and a RC Cola since the menu really didn’t have much food just microwaved sausages and croissant.

Still it was a different experience and one that doesn’t cost much to try. The trip from the city to the hospital by cab was KD7 and I think I paid like 800 fils for my lunch and desert.


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A Doctor’s Rant

Posted by Mark

Below is a kinda long but interesting write up by a friend of mine currently working in the medical field. It’s related to the “Kuwait to segregate medical care” post from last week:

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Its not a sprint, its a marathon

We need help. Everyone can agree that healthcare in Kuwait should be paramount. We need to have a healthcare system we can be proud of and confident in. I need to feel proud of where I work and the job I do. The recent lobby towards segregated healthcare for none emergent cases is just one more example of a quick fix for many failed and saddening endeavours that we as a profession are at least partly responsible for.

From the outset I doubt that anyone working currently in Kuwaiti healthcare is evil or bad or totally and completely corrupt. In fact, I think many of us started our careers inspired and full of promise but were met by challenges that we cannot possibly overcome. At a healthcare system level, we need to refine our goals and find our way towards something more efficient and dare I say it welcoming to people.

How many people reading this have a family doctor?

I doubt many of you do. This may be because you are perfectly healthy but it’s probably because you show up at the emergency room if you need anything because you have no confidence in your local poly clinic or mustawsif. The fact of the matter is that I wouldn’t either.

We need to re-create the family doctors as the go to guy or girl for all things non emergency and as the primary referring physician (small bruises, vaccines, high blood pressure, diabetes control, breast and colon cancer screening). This will mean two big changes. The first is that one doctor or centre will have all your medical history and that from now on you won’t show up to the emergency room unless it is an actual emergency, otherwise the emergency department will refuse to see you (this is the norm in the US, Canada and the UK NHS, it is becoming the norm in many south east asian countries gradually as well). More importantly we need to equip our poly clinics and family doctors with information and facilities such as x-ray facilities, ultrasound and turn a rundown office into an actual treatment facility. We also need to mandate a minimum amount of courses to be taken by these doctors so that they remain up to date in their fields (this should be true for all doctors in general come to think of it)

Provided you’ve got a referral or are trying to see a specialist, how many of you see them on time?

The way things are now, if you live in Mishref, you go to specialists in Mubarak, if you live near Adan then you are sent there. This means that the areas with the highest population end up with the longest waiting times. We need a structured dynamic referral system. I’m sure that there is some sort of solution I’m just not sure what it is. Perhaps if there was a regular update of which areas had the shortest waiting time were made available to family practitioners on a daily basis (via email). It may mean that patients will get their appointments earlier.

The problem is that I doubt that a person living in Jahra would be happy coming to Amiri for his echocardiogram even if it meant he or she would get it quicker. Having referrals to different hospital for different things would mean that you need to have all the patients data accessible across different hospitals in a sort of a cloud. Lets face it people, I’m more likely to see a giant flying saucer deliver free red velvet cupcakes at 360 than I am to see the ministry of health manage a cloud based patient filing system.

Having exhausted all efforts to get an early appointment you decided to go private, how many of you see a physician in his private practice after trying to get an early appointment in his government funded one?

Many of us have a conflict of interest when we are employed in private and public healthcare. I know colleagues who completely neglect their public healthcare patients and I know others who have no interest in private healthcare. Regardless, clear guidelines have to be set so that a physician working in the private healthcare field does not neglect his or her public healthcare practice. A bill requiring all doctors working in private healthcare to have 50% of their practice as public or pro bono might be the best solution but it’ll also mean that you would be the most hated minister of health in the history of Kuwait. (Maybe if we start with 30%, doctors are less likely to revolt)

Read the rest of this entry »


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Meeting the Mayor of Rotterdam

Posted by Mark

Over the holidays one of the cities I traveled to was Rotterdam and while there I was lucky enough to meet the mayor of the city Ahmed Aboutaleb. Before I left Kuwait my friend in Rotterdam told me he managed set up a meeting for me with the mayor and that we would have 30 minutes of his time followed by a private tour of City Hall. I was pretty thrilled, I hadn’t been to Rotterdam before and getting to meet the mayor on my first visit was really exciting.

We got to City Hall early because obviously we didn’t want to be late for the mayor. Once there we were given a very friendly welcome by the mayor himself and his staff who all met us outside at the entrance of his office. Once inside the mayors office we were led to the seating area where I was told to sit opposite the mayor. On the table in front of us was a little stand with three flags, a Dutch flag, the flag of Rotterdam and the Kuwaiti flag since that’s where I was coming from. Their hospitality and professionalism made me feel like I was someone very important.

We started talking about the weather first since that’s always a good ice breaker and then the conversation shifted towards the city and finally to the way the mayor runs the city. One thing I loved is the fact he checks his emails personally. Everyday he receives on average around 50 or 60 emails from Rotterdam citizens regarding various topics and he reads them all himself. Then depending on what the email is about he assigns various members of his team to follow up and sort the issues out. Rotterdam is the second largest city in Netherlands but the way he runs things hands on you would think he’s running a small town like Pawnee. I loved that.

After my 30 minutes were up I was given a parting gift by the mayor and then had a photo taken with him. I was then given a tour of City Hall before I ended up leaving for lunch. It was such a great and inspiring meeting that it made me more determined to want to be the Mayor of Salmiya one day.


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The Netherlands

Posted by Mark

I’m in Holland for the next few days so if you’re interested in following me on my trip I’ll be posting photos on my Instagram account @mark248am. No idea what I’ll be doing here since I’m kinda winging it but I know I’ll be meeting the mayor of Rotterdam today and having lunch at Parkheuvel which has 2 Michelin stars (it will be my first Michelin experience). Other than that nothing is really planned.


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