Things to do in Kuwait this weekend

Posted by Mark

This is going to be a busy weekend and a super busy Saturday. The weather is amazing right now which is why the Cinemagics rooftop movies are back on. They’ve upgraded the setup this year with a larger screen and more comfortable seating so I’m looking forward to it. On Saturday there is also the Bark in the Park event in Ahmadi. I’m going to be one of the judges again this year so if you see me come up and say hi. Finally there’s a Fun Fair on Saturday as well which will be taking place at the Discovery Mall gardens. All proceeds from the Fun Fair will be going to Dasman Diabetes Institute. Check out the full list of this weekends events below:

Thursday
Rooftop Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Friday
Pharaoh Bikers Blood Donation Campaign
Toastmasters Debate Championship Semi Finals
Book Club Meeting
Kuwait Human Rights Mapup

Saturday
The Secret Garden Project
Guided Tour: Grand Mosque
Operation Turtles Beach Cleanup 2014
Bark in the Park
Fun Fair
Education UK Exhibition
Rooftop Movie: Doubt

If you’d like to share an event on the blog [Email Me]


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Clowns without Borders

Posted by Mark

clownswithoutborders

The National have an interesting article which I was made aware of this morning on Ali Al Nusf, a Kuwaiti accountant who helped get a troupe of clowns into Syrian refugee camps to entertain children. A pretty cool initiative and he helped make a difference. Check out the article on The National website [Here]

Thanks Mary


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Review: Borderlinx vs MyUS

Posted by Mark

Borderlinx and MyUS are both companies that offer US forwarding mailboxes so you can shop online, mail stuff to your US address and then have them forward it to your home in Kuwait. I’ve been using Aramex Shop&Ship since 2001 for my regular day to day shopping but a few years ago I signed up to Borderlinx since sometimes I needed my shipments to get to Kuwait fast and Shop&Ship is just too slow. Everything was fine and dandy until I realized Borderlinx was taking an 8.5% customs clearance fee on top of the 5% customs fee which I thought was absurd. So, I decided to try an alternative and I signed up to MyUS last month. This review is strictly Borderlinx vs MyUS and doesn’t include Shop&Ship because Shop&Ship is a lot cheaper as well as a lot slower (apples vs oranges).

membership

MyUS has been around since 1997, I first heard about them back in 2001 but ended up going with the much more affordable Shop&Ship instead. The reason I never signed up to MyUS even years later was their expensive shipping prices and fees. MyUS have different membership fees, the standard involves paying just $10 to open an account and no annual fee, but you don’t get the best shipping rates and you can’t consolidate your packages. To get the best deal you would have to sign up to their “premium” package but that costs $20 to setup and either $7 a month or $60 a year in membership fees. Recently though I found out that MyUS had special rates for credit card holders (which I posted here) where they not only waved all the setup fees but also offered additional discounts on shipping. I ended up signing up with my AMEX card which entitled me to free membership for 2 years as well as 30% off all my shipments.

Since I’m heading to SoleDXB next weekend I decided to order a backpack for the trip. I couldn’t risk shipping it with Shop&Ship and have it arrive after my trip so I sent it to MyUS mailbox instead. It was a bit risky since I hadn’t used my MyUS account yet but figured this would be the best way to test them out.

shippingoptions

MyUS allows you to customize a lot of different account options if you want to, for example they deal with a variety of shipping companies but if you have a preference you can say always use DHL or always use FedEx but by default its set on “Least Expensive Option”. You can also setup your account to ship packages as soon as they arrive or hold them until you choose to ship them. For an extra fee you can have them photograph the item for you, ship same day, add fragile stickers, add extra packing, discard shoe boxes and a bunch of more options. The different settings can be a bit overwhelming but you can not bother with them at all if you don’t want to.

Once my package got delivered to MyUS it popped up in my account on the same day. I then logged into my account and told them to ship it for me and this is where things weren’t as pretty as Borderlinx. With Borderlinx before you give the shipping order you’ll know exactly how much the shipping fee would cost as well as the customs fee, with MyUS you won’t know until your package is already shipped. I found that a bit uncomfortable since I’m not used to saying ship without knowing exactly how much it’s going to cost me. In any case a few hours later I got an email saying my package was shipped with FedEx and my credit card was charged. So I logged into my account to check and see how much it cost me. Based on the size of the package and weight, the package cost $93.74 to ship with insurance. With my 30% AMEX discount the price went down to $67.42. I took the package dimensions and weight and plugged them into the Borderlinx shipping cost calculator and ended up with an $85 shipping fee without insurance. Not a bad amount of savings but I was now worried about the customs fee. Borderlinx quoted me $52 for customs while with MyUS I needed to wait until the package arrived to Kuwait to find out. Three days later my package arrived to Kuwait and the total customs fee was around $30, I was relieved.

I saved around $40 by using MyUS over Borderlinx and the package arrived just as fast. MyUS has now officially become my go to mailbox for when I need my packages ASAP. I still find it uncomfortable to have them charge my credit card without knowing how much it’s going to cost me first but I’m just going to have to get used to it I guess. If you’re interested in signing up, make sure you check my previous post on MyUS to know how much you can save using which credit card. [Link]


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Tons of events this month

Posted by Mark

I just spent a couple of hours adding a whole bunch of events to the events page. As of now there are 22 events taking place this month and I still have a bunch more I need to add. It’s probably the most active month of the year, check them all out [Here]


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Kuwait, the fattest country in the world… forever

Posted by Mark

fat

According to the latest Food Security Index, Kuwait is the fattest country in the world coming in first place. This isn’t a shock really since Kuwait has been scoring high on the fat chart for years now but I don’t think it’s fair this time around. Although the 2014 Food Security Index was recently released, the data on world wide obesity is from 2008!

I personally believe a lot has changed since then and as a nation we are no longer as obese as we once used to be. But, news sites have already started referring to this chart and Kuwait is back in the news again as the fattest country in the world.


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The KOC Archive: Kuwait’s Old Police Force

Posted by Mark

police

I’m going to start sharing some of the photos I got from my last trip to the KOC photography archive. This group of photos in this post are of the old Kuwaiti police force, I don’t have a specific date but I’d say the photos were probably taken in the 60s.

Photos courtesy of the KOC Information Team.


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Al Salam Palace Renovation

Posted by Mark

salampalace1

Back in April I was lucky enough to get access to photograph the inside of Al Salam Palace (or Qasr Al Salam). There were rumors that Al Salam Palace was going to get demolished and I wanted to see the place before it was gone. Turns out those rumors were just rumors and instead Al Salam Palace was going to be restored and turned into a museum. I was shown renderings of the museum back then but I wasn’t allowed to share them online until now. A member of the skyscrapercity forum yesterday posted renderings of Al Salam Palace which means they’re out now and I can share them here. So if you’re interested to see how Al Salam Palace is going to look like once renovated click [Here]

Also if you want to check out the photos I took of Al Salam Palace before the renovation work began click [Here]


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Mondays with Matthew: Visitors Welcome (1 of 2)

Posted by Matthew Lodge

Hello again. It’s good to be back for a second week of “Mondays with Matthew”. I have enjoyed reading all your comments on my first post – even the more critical ones! I’ll respond to as much as I can, and I’ll always respond honestly.

In the spirit of that approach, I wanted to say a few words about visas – the first thing that comes to mind when you mention that you’re the British Ambassador to Kuwait. Yes it’s not the most exciting subject, but it’s clearly one that generates a lot of frustration and emotion. “Too expensive”, “too slow”, “too complicated”, “unfair”, “unnecessary”, or even “insulting”. These are all comments I have heard when listening to Kuwaitis talk about visas to travel to the UK. Let me tackle this head on. My hope over the next two posts is to explain why we do what we do, and how travellers can make the system work as smoothly for them as possible.

Let me start by saying that the United Kingdom welcomes visitors. We are delighted that so many Kuwaitis enjoy travelling to the UK, visiting London and other cities and we want that to continue. Last year, the visa team here at the Embassy received around 100,000 applications for visas from Kuwait for people wishing to travel to the UK. That number doesn’t include all those who have longer-term visas, who are studying or those visiting the UK for medical treatment. In addition, a study by Visit Britain (the UK’s tourist agency) showed that Kuwaiti visitors did more shopping in the UK than any other nationality last year. The UK’s close relationship with Kuwait and the strong human ties are something very special and I am anxious that we maintain and strengthen them.

So, why do we need a Global visa regime at all?

It’s all about security and control. The UK is open, tolerant and welcoming. It is also a country that continues to be shaped by its past with large immigrant communities, an increasingly diverse society and a genuinely global outlook. Add to this the English language, the National Health Service and other factors, and the UK becomes an enormously attractive destination for migrants from many different countries. And then consider the UK’s high profile internationally, the determination of successive UK Governments to stand up for those elsewhere who face oppression, injustice and violence – and you also see a UK that is viewed as a target for those who want to do us harm, who don’t share our views and don’t like our engagement overseas.

One of the prime responsibilities of any national Government is to keep its country – and its people – safe. In the 21st century, that responsibility has become even harder to fulfil. Controlling who crosses our borders is a fundamental element of this. That is why we need to operate a visa regime. It’s not about making life difficult for honest travellers and welcome visitors. It is about stopping those who would do us harm, discouraging those who want to enter the UK illegally, and controlling those who might want to stay on after they have finished what they came for.

So, if we accept that we – sadly – need a visa regime, how can we make it as smooth as possible? More on that next Monday, but for now I welcome your thoughts and input in the comments section!

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge

london


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Petition to stop the Kuwait Towers refurbishment

Posted by Mark

kuwaittowers

The Kuwait Towers are on UNESCO’s tentative list to become a World Heritage site. It’s only the first step but if it does get approved, then the Kuwait Towers will become the first modernist building in the entire Gulf region to be designated a World Heritage Site. I’ve written in more depth about this [Here]

petition

One of the requirements for a building to become a World Heritage Site is for the building to be restored to it’s original state. This is where the issue is with the Kuwait Towers right now, there are currently plans to refurbish the building which would mean it would no longer be able to become a World Heritage Site.

I’m not sure why they’re still going ahead with a refurbishment plan with an opportunity like this at the door, in any case if you would like to voice your opinion on this there is currently a petition calling to stop the refurbishing and to restore the Kuwait Towers to it’s former glory. You can view and sign the petition [Here]


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Become a Mystery Shopper

Posted by Mark

alshaya

Years ago I posted about a friend of mine becoming an Alshaya mystery shopper. Back then as a secret shopper you were required to shop at Alshaya stores every week and write about your experience. You also got two meals at Alshaya restaurant every week worth KD14 which you also needed to write about. Pay wise, back then new shoppers would get KD75 a month while silver level shoppers got KD150 and gold level got KD300.

I’m not sure how much of that has changed but my guess it would probably be similar. In any case the reason I’m bringing this up again is Alshaya are currently looking for new mystery shoppers. I know when I posted about it before a lot of people were interested in signing up so if you’re also interested, follow this [Link]


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