Complaints Kuwait Personal

Elect me as mayor of Salmiya


I live in Salmiya, Salam Mubarek Street. The “old” Salmiya. I live right on the main shopping street and have been living on this street for most of my life.

Pre 1990 I was living in the building that had A&W, after 1990 I moved to the building across the street from it and thats where I have been living ever since. As you can imagine, I know the street very well. How well?

I remember The New Super Market before it closed down, I remember when Dairy Queen was open here and then shut down and Jashanmal opened instead. I remember buying my Thermos metal lunch box with the Dukes of Hazzard picture on it from there. I remember the night A&W opened with Mister Donuts right next to it. I remember when Majda el Roumi the famous singer came to open a perfume store right across the street from my building. I remember Hungry Bunny, I remember how after they renovated a cookie store opened inside it which had the best chocolate chunk cookies ever. I also remember the sad day when that cookie area inside got closed down.

I remember the high end stores like Channel, Versace and Cartier. It was a high end street and Rolex and Mercedes are still open here today serving as a reminder to what was once a beautiful street. I remember when Kids R Us opened and I remember what was there before it opened and after it closed. I remember the most popular music stores of their time, Soul II Soul, Bells and Swan Lake. I remember buying my original copy of Windows 95 from Computer World, I remember the small video game store on the ground floor of the same building, he had a NeoGeo in the display and I used to watch the Samurai Showdown demo play while I gazed through the glass hoping to own the system one day. I got my first Swatch from Fay stationary, I remember getting my Peter and Jane books from Family Bookshop. Fay shutdown, Family Bookshop is surprisingly still open.

Well my Salmiya isn’t what it used to be. All the upper scale stores shut down and everyones attention moved up to the Sultan Center area. All thats left here are low end stores all selling the same shit. The whole street has turned into a garbage dump. The sidewalk tiles are damaged, the trees look unhealthy, and the worst thing of all, Salmiya is slowly slowly losing its soul.

I was taking a late night walk just a while ago and I noticed the building that housed Swan Lake was going to get demolished. Thats when I realized I need to do something.

Why do old buildings get demolished and not refurbished? Salmiya (and Kuwait even) would look so much nicer if the old buildings were just redone up. Look at what was done with Beirut. They could have demolished everything and sprung up modern glass buildings but instead they decided to keep Beirut’s soul intact. Why can’t that be done here? My Salmiya really has a lot of history, how many other shopping streets in Kuwait can even begin to compare. No other has sidewalks wider then here nor is any other street located in such a good location. No other street has as much history! The Swan Lake building has a style, it can be cleaned up, updated and reopened but instead its going to get demolished and replaced by a cheap ass low end tiny crappy wannabe mall.

I want to be elected as the mayor of Salmiya. I would clean it up, repaint it, re-tile it and revive it. I don’t know who the mayor is now (if there is even such a position here in Kuwait) but I do know that he can’t be a true Salmiya dweller or else he wouldn’t let it die and rot like this. Vote for me, I won’t let everyone down.

News Personal

I Live in Salmiya, Voted the Worst City in the World for Expats

This is pretty random but according to the latest InterNations Expat City Ranking 2020, Salmiya was voted the worst out of 66 cities analyzed and described as “a city of unhappy, overworked, and homesick expats”. I mean we do have major issues in Salmiya but no way is it the worst city in the world for expats. I’ve been to Khaitan before, and I’m in Hawalli regularly, and as bad as both those places are I wouldn’t even consider them the worst in the world either.

Welcome to Salmiya, the Kuwait city so unloved by its expat population

Expats in Salmiya say they are unhappy with the local transportation (61st), with their health and the environment (66th), as well as with climate and leisure (66th).

Nearly three in five said they dislike the local leisure options (vs 15 percent worldwide). In the Getting Settled Index (66th), expats do not feel at home and they describe the local population as unfriendly (48 percent vs 17 percent globally), and they are also unhappy with their social life (56 percent vs 24 percent globally). Source

But Salmiya does have issues, a lot of them, which is why over the past 15 years I’ve been half-jokingly asking to be made the mayor of the city. I’d be to Salmiya what Leslie Knope is to Pawnee! It’s hard to imagine anyone is more passionate about the place than I am.

Make me the mayor and I’ll initiate a mass project making Salmiya more pedestrian and bicycle/scooters-friendly by taking back the sidewalk from all the illegal construction, I’d create bike paths that run across the city and turn sandlots into proper parking lots to reduce the cars on the streets. I’d replace all the bins with ones that have lids and I’ll personally lead on a massive beautification project. I’ll also protect old and landmark buildings from demolition and crackdown on all the buildings that have illegally converted their basement to warehouses depriving the building residents of parking. So go out and vote for me in the next election if you want a better Salmiya!

Complaints Kuwait Personal

Friendship Ended with Salmiya, Now Netflix is My Best Friend

A few days ago I posted about how Salem Al Mubarak Street is finally turning into a pedestrian only street. One of the negatives I highlighted was the fact they had chopped down some of the old trees that have been there for nearly 50 years. I was upset about it, but when I asked the engineer behind the project if they were removing the old trees, he responded saying “only some”. So I assumed they had chopped down the trees that they didn’t need and all the ones left were the ones they were keeping. Well last night I noticed they had removed nearly all the remaining trees. Using Google Maps I counted 28 trees that were originally planted on that street and there are now only 3 left. That means 25 trees in total were removed! One of the remaining trees currently has a chainsaw parked under it so it might not even be there anymore by the time this post gets published. I’ve marked all the removed trees with x’s in the above picture and the ones remaining with circles.

How is 3 trees out of 28 considered “only some”? Why are they removing the trees anyway? If they were building an airport runway I could understand but they’re not so why? Some of the trees were fairly large and it would have been pretty cute to have small cafes underneath with seating areas around them. The trees were large enough to provide shade, they didn’t need any watering because they were well rooted and the trees were also homes to a lot of birds.

But you know what? I don’t care anymore.

Last night I got so upset about the whole situation I emotionally booked two trips for the next two weekends. Why am I getting so worked up about all of this? It’s not my country, I don’t own the street nor were the trees mine. Why am I even surprised about all of this? Based on the renderings the engineer shared I should have known no good was going to come out of this. When you demolish historical buildings in your renderings and replace them with fancy shiny malls, it says a lot about the thinking process. Chopping historical trees isn’t only a Kuwait thing either, it happens everywhere. In Lebanon for example a politician cut down part of an ancient cedar forrest so he could setup an outdoor venue for his son’s wedding. I mean like wtf? If shit is gonna happen its gonna happen and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

So starting today I’m hopefully emotionally disconnecting myself from Salmiya. I no longer want to be mayor. If anyone wants to take over the responsibility of giving a fuck, they’ve only started construction work on half of old Salmiya. They haven’t started on the other half yet (pictured above) and based on Google Maps there are approximately 38 trees there. Good luck trying to save them.

Personal Travel

Meeting the Mayor of Rotterdam

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.

Complaints Kuwait Personal

I repeat, put me in charge of Salmiya

Back in January I posted about how they dug up the middle sidewalk in the old Salmiya. They decreased the walking space and created new dirt space around the already planted trees to add more greenery. I was against the idea since first of all they shrunk the sidewalk and second of all I knew it wasn’t going to work. The new Salmiya near Sultan Center and Al Fanar has never had a green middle sidewalk and somehow my old Salmiya was going to? A lot of you were against me and said I was being pessimistic, well the picture above is how it looks like 6 months later… very green indeed. It’s always going to be just sand exactly like how it’s always been sand in the newer Salmiya so I hope everyone now understands why I preferred to have a full proper sidewalk instead of “greenery”.

Check out the picture above. Do you know what that is? I think it was back in the late 80s or very early 90s someone decided to build a public bathroom right in the middle of Salmiya. I think it was functional for a month and then got destroyed by vandals and became so dirty that no one was using it and it just got abandoned. That was like 20 years ago, today it’s nothing. It’s not a bathroom, there are no doors, no toilets, no sinks or anything. Just a place to store red cones or whatever garbage is lying around. Recently as you can see in the picture they dug up the area around it to replace the floor tiles with newer ones but they left this abandoned ugly block of cement right in the middle. Couldn’t they have just demolished it?

Another strange thing happened recently, someone realized how much garbage was filling up the streets of Salmiya and so came up with a brilliant solution. They decided to put bright yellow garbage bins all over Salmiya and at around 10 meters apart. Check the video above I shot today. I drove maybe 200 meters and I counted around 66 bright yellow garbage bins! And that only includes the middle sidewalk and some of the sidewalk on the left but completely ignoring the right sidewalk since it was in the video. It’s the most horrifying scene since all you can see on the street now are the garbage bins. Do we really need that many bins in the middle sidewalk? [YouTube]

I’ll say it again, I love Salmiya and I want to be put in charge of it or at the very least Salem Mubarek Street. I’ll seriously make it the most beautiful place in Kuwait. I’ve been requesting this since back in 2006, so what do I need to do to make this happen? I’ve watched enough episodes of Parks and Recreation to know what it takes. Salmiya is my Pawnee.

Complaints Kuwait Personal

A greener Salmiya? Please no!

The past two weeks they’ve been digging up the street in front of my house in Salmiya (the old shopping street in Salem al Mubarek street). At first I thought they were actually reducing the size of the middle sidewalk to add more parking spots which pissed me off since I walk my dog there every morning. Then yesterday I spoke to one of the workers and he told me that wasn’t the plan, it turns out they’re going to be planting the middle sidewalk like how it is on the Gulf Road.

Usually this would be a good thing. Who wouldn’t want to live on a green street? I usually would be all pro for going green but not in this case. The street is currently just one big garbage bin. It’s completely ignored, no one is taking care of it. The streets are crumbling, most of the buildings are getting ready to be demolished, there is trash everywhere, not enough garbage bins and there is a street fight practically on a daily basis because of this billiard place next to my house. A month or two ago while walking my dog at 8AM I heard a lot of shouting and screaming. When I got closer I noticed two gangs throwing rocks at each other. One group of guys looked like Emo’s, they were standing across the street yelling and throwing rocks at another group of tubby guys standing on the other side of the street screaming back. There was a shop with a broken window because it got hit by a flying brick. This was at 8 in the morning!

I’ve lived in the exact same spot now for over 30 years and I’ve seen it turn from a trendy high end street to the dump it is now. If you check the archives you’ll find a number of posts (Here is one) where I’ve asked to be put in charge of the area so I could bring it back to life (Here is another). Currently I spend my mornings picking up broken bottles and pieces of glass so that my dog doesn’t end up getting cut. No one ever cleans up the garbage and everyone seems more than happen to just throw everything onto the floor. I’m lucky that the care taker of the building next to mine cleans up the alleyway between our two buildings or else it would just be a garbage dump.

So the idea that they’re planting grass in the middle of the sidewalk in what currently is a half deserted shopping street full of garbage just doesn’t make any sense. Whats going to happen is you’ll have all this greenery with white tissue papers and chips bags dangling off them like decorations. Instead of going green, can we go clean instead? Can someone please put me in charge of Salem Mubarek Street?

Kuwait Personal

I am still not the mayor

No more Hardees

Over a year ago I posted “Elect me as mayor of Salmiya” because I was pissed at how the old shopping street in Salmiya was getting torn a part bit by bit and all my childhood memories were disappearing with it. Well since then things haven’t changed, I wasn’t elected as mayor and Salmiya is still losing its history.

The building that has Hardees, Tikka, KFC, Waleed Toys, Alamiah and The Family Bookshop is going to be demolished soon. Already Hardees, Tikka, KFC and Baskin Robbins have vacated the building and I am sure the rest will follow soon. What I heard is that whole block with the land behind it and to its sides plus the old souk in front of Marina Mall (Kaysariyah) will be demolished and turned into one giant super mall, as if we don’t have enough of those already.

I got my first computer, the Sakhr MSX2 from Alamiah, I had my first roast beef sandwich from that Hardees and I bought all my Peter and Jane books from The Family Bookshop. This really sucks.


Car-Free Days

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

Kuwait Personal

They filled the hole!

I was on my way back this morning from walking my dog when I noticed a lot of dust coming out from the empty sand lot near my house. When I got closer I realized the local baladiya were there with two trucks. They were filling up the hole I posted about two days back! One large truck dumped sand in and around the pit while a larger bulldozer proceeded to fill it up until the hole disappeared.

That absolutely made my day. Thanks to everyone who helped out, I am sure the whole neighborhood really appreciates this. I also suddenly feel like I am in a real life scene from the hilarious TV show Parks and Recreation which means I should now try and convince the baladiya to turn the empty lot into a park.

Update: The Governorate of Hawalli responded with the following:

Dear Mark,

The Governorate of Hawalli would like to thank you for your kind efforts in pointing out an issue that has been causing distress to the surrounding residents of the area around the “hole”.

After receiving instructions from the Governor of Hawalli, Governorate officials contacted the appropriate officers at the Municipality of Kuwait – Hawalli Division – and notified them of the issue.

The Governorate has made sure that the issue has been dealt with immediately and accordingly, and followed up with the Municipality to ensure that the issue was resolved appropriately. We would also like to confirm that the hole, that was unfortunately used as a waste disposal site by many, had been thoroughly cleaned and the waste removed before being backfilled.

The Governorate of Hawalli has always tried to be on top top of such issues, and hopes that this would only be just one part of a cumulative effort that symbolizes a greater collective awareness, taking us one further step for a cleaner, and hopefully greener, Kuwait.

It is refreshing to find that such a sense of responsibility and care is still active in our beloved country. On behalf of the entire Governorate team, we would like to thank you all for your support, and the Municipality for their great work and quick response. Please rest assured that the Governorate of Hawalli will always try to tackle such issues in the future head on.

Of course, there are important lessons to learn from this experience. The strength of Kuwait is not found only in its government, but through the dedication of the people of Kuwait as a whole. It is truly found in the compassionate and caring hearts and the dynamic spirit of our citizens, residents and visitors.

Thank you.

I have to say I am EXTREMELY impressed! I am really at a loss for words. I thought no one actually cared about “old” Salmiya but it seems there are some people who do. I did not expect this. I’ve lived on the street for 30 years now and I’ve posted about my frustration before (here and here for example) but now I feel there might be hope. Thank you!