50s to 90s Travel

Celebrating 70 Years of Kuwait Airways

Kuwait Airways is currently celebrating their 70 year anniversary, so I decided to share some old photos my mum took back when she was a Kuwait Airways flight attendant.

Back in the early 70s, my mum traveled to Iran via Kuwait Airways from Lebanon. On the way back while transiting at the Kuwait Airport, she saw a Kuwait Airways ad looking for flight attendants. So once she got back to Lebanon, she applied, got the job, and ended up moving to Kuwait a few months later.

Anytime my mum brings up her experience as a Kuwait Airways flight attendant, she always mentions how great it was, and how she got to travel to so many places and meet a lot of people.

Some of the photos I’ve shared here, I previously posted on the blog around 18 years ago, but in low res. I’ve now rescanned all the photos including new ones I hadn’t shared before, and then tried to restore and recover as much of the details and colors as possible without over editing the images.

Just to add a bit more context, the photos here range from 1974 to 1976, with the oldest being the one of my mum in the orange colored uniform. The uniforms in the photos were also designed by Dior, except for the orange one which was designed by Nina Ricci. Finally, the last photos which look like they were taken on a private jet were in fact taken onboard the Emir’s plane (Emir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah) which she served on during the last period of her career.

I’ve uploaded all 16 photos to my Flickr account, to check them out click here.

50s to 90s Kuwait Photography

Photos of the First Flood – Kuwait, 1934

Last week I was given access to the Tarek Rajab Museums’ private photography archive, and over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my favorite finds. But, since it’s raining today I figured I’d share the first batch of photos taken after “The First Flood”.

I posted about the first flood back in September, but the photo I had found then was low resolution. That’s why I was pretty surprised to come across three high resolution photos in the Tarek Rajab Museum’s archive.

In Kuwait, the year 1934 is sometimes called Sanat Al Haddamah (the year of destruction) since torrential rains caused a lot of destruction to the old town of Kuwait.

Within only an hour, Kuwait witnessed unprecedented torrential rains that reached 300mm and caused raging floods and waters that swept away a third of the mud houses in Kuwait.

These three photos show the aftermath of the flood.

50s to 90s Sports

When Muhammad Ali Visited Kuwait – 1972

52 years ago to this day, boxing legend Muhammad Ali visited Kuwait as part of his broader trip to the Gulf region, which included his religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

During his visit to Kuwait, he engaged in various activities including meeting with local leaders, interacting with fans, and spreading messages of peace and unity. He was given a hero’s welcome and everywhere he went he was accompanied by an entourage of famous media personalities and athletes.

Thanks to the archivists Bader Alshaiji, I was able to get a hold of some photos of Muhammad Ali’s visit to share with my readers. A lot of these photos haven’t been seen since they were originally published 50 years ago.

For more photos from Ali’s visit, click here.
Make sure you visit Bader’s Instagram account if you’re interested in more old photos of Kuwait @badshaiji

50s to 90s Interesting

Horrifying Kuwaiti Mythical Creatures

Kuwait has some interesting and scary folklore but most of it is being forgotten. So here are five horrifying creatures you might not know about:

Hemarat Algayla
This terrifying monster also goes by the simpler name Um Homar (Donkey Lady) and tells the story of a half-woman, half-donkey creature who seeks out and devours kids. The monster sleeps most of the day and night but wakes up to hunt at noon when the sun is at the highest point in the sky. Mothers would tell this story to stop kids from going out in the strong sun and get heat exhaustion. The story was a way to scare them to stay inside when it was the hottest time outside.

While Um Homar hunts during the day, Tantal hunts during the night. He was known to shape-shift and if he spotted a child out after dark, he would take the form of whatever the child feared the most and then chased them until the child dropped dead from their heart giving out. It was a way for the parents to keep their children at home after dark.

This monster was described as a Nubian slave who came back to life with giant teeth and a large appetite for children. He goes out hunting during the night near the sea looking for kids who are out alonem and once he finds one, he drowns them and then eats their corpse. Back in 1910 there was a bit of a scare in Kuwait and people became more terrified of this monster because a child had drowned and was never found leading people to believe he was eaten by Al-Seolu.

Um Al Sa’af Wa Alleef
This scary old lady is a witch like character that is composed of palm leaves and can fly. She was believed to have frighten badly behaved children who disobeyed their parents. She hides up in the palm trees amongst the branches and when the branches shake because of strong winds or heavy rains, the parents would scare the children telling them she was up there looking for naughty children to kidnap.

Bu Darya
This water demon goes by the name “the Father of the Sea”. He was half-man half-fish who roamed the deep seas. At night Bu Darya will swim to the surface near boats and thrash about in the water while screaming for help. Once a sailor tries to assist what they believed to be a drowning human, Bu Darya would grab the sailor and drag him under water and hold them there until they’re dead. Bu Darya also attacked pearl divers so he could steal their pearls and was known to drag sleeping fishermen off their ships to eat them.

Image on top is of a painting by Nawaf-Alhmeli @nawaf_art

Note: Original less detailed version of this post was published in 2011

50s to 90s

Amricani Cultural Centre Before Renovation

Many of you may not remember this, but the American Cultural Centre, located near the parliament building on Gulf Road, didn’t always look the way it does today.

Back in the 80s and early 90s, the building was in poor condition and looked pretty scary. When I was a kid and we used to drive by the building, I always thought the building was haunted because it gave off such creepy vibes.

The building was originally constructed in the early 1900s as the American Mission Hospital, but today serves as the headquarters of Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (@dai_kuwait). The restoration, completed in 2011, left me with the initial impression that the building had undergone major design changes since it ended up looking so different from what I had always known. But, I later realized that this wasn’t the case and that they in fact had done a proper restoration job, restoring the building to its original design.

These are some photos I found of the building before the renovation, but there are a lot more including photos of the building under construction and the building today on the Archnet website here.

50s to 90s Interesting

Malcolm X’s Diary Entries on Kuwait

A few years ago I posted a postcard sent by Malcolm X while he was in Kuwait in 1964 while on a personal and spiritual journey through the Middle East and West Africa. There isn’t very much information on his visit, and I haven’t been able to find any photos, but I did find his entries on Kuwait from his travel diary:

Thurs. Sept. 24
“Abdullah picked me up in his taxi. I stopped at the airport to check my reservations, was recognized by one of the clerks who immediately introduced me to others, including Mr. Khan, head of the local PAL (Pakistan) office. We had coffee & he told me of the pending Pakistan, Iran bloc that is forming & will later form with the Arabs. My ticket was re- routed thru Bahrain. I toured Aramco again had breakfast there, went into the city (?) to buy papers. Thurs & Fri is a holiday with Aramco. Finally caught the plane, stopped in Bahrain for 1 hr. & then arrived in Kuwait at 6:10 pm & checked into the Phoenicia Hotel. All of the clerks knew who I was (I don’t know how) and treated me very well. All of the Arabs refer to me as ‘Zgieeme Muslim fi America’ [?] After dinner in the hotel’s very exotic restaurant I finally got____Demardash on the phone. He’ll see me tomorrow. I’ve been frantic all evening because I lost my ‘health certificate.’ It was left either at the Sudanese Consulate in Jeddah or at the airport customs by the protocol officer.
“I’m anti-racism whether it’s practiced by capitalist, communist or socialist. China ambassador to Ghana: ‘Don’t be a racist. It’s a struggle between oppressed people of all colors against oppressor of all colors.’ If he was a racist, since the press had projected me in the image of an extreme racist, racism would have the natural & wisest approach from him, but instead He approached the problem objective as a human being.

“When we all learn to think as human beings instead of as capitalists, communists & socialists this will then be a world for all human beings.

“It takes some of the same poison to counteract (same as antidote) poison. Europeanism has been such a strong poison for centuries it now becomes essential to emphasize Africanism to counteract it & Arabism to counteract Zionism, socialism to counteract capitalism etc. Orientalism or Darkism to counter-balance Occidentalism or whitism…thus the present escalating world struggle (cold war).”

Fri. Sept 25
“Two brothers from the hotel took me to the main mosque for Jumah prayers where I met Faisal who had been to the States twice. He asked me if knew Malcolm X & was shocked when I told him my name. We discussed the race problem & the Zionists. Back at the hotel I napped, still worried about my health certificate & how much or where it might hold me up. I walked around Kuwait by myself (I had the UAA check my reservations for Tues—okay) and when I returned Hameed Demerdash had phoned, he came by at 8 pm and we talked until 9 pm. He seemed more at ease than when we first met in Cairo. He asked me for the news article in the Jeddah paper (Bilal) to show it to the government officials tomorrow. I went down to a lonely dinner at 9:15.”

Sat. Sept. 26
“I went early (7:30 am) to the American Embassy & explained about my health certificate to a Mr. Waterman. He never asked me any ‘personal’ questions, didn’t even show any sign of recognition. By 8:30 he had called my hotel, advising me to go to the American Mission Hospital near my hotel and a Dr. Pennings there could help me. I went immediately. Dr. Pennings asked me outright if I was Malcolm X. They gave me a couple of shots and told me to call Monday (28th) for the certificate. At 3 pm some local newspapers reporters came to interview me. I spent most of the day in my room writing & napping. The hotel owner (a Palestinian) acted as interpreter. He irked me when he asked why (a Muslim leader) I didn’t know Arabic. I politely (with ice) pointed out that the Arabs had never taken the initiative to set up schools in American to teach Arabic like the Jews and others have. At 8 pm Yusuf______took me to dinner at an exotic basement restaurant. One would not even know of its existence: the entrance was inside of another ordinary looking restaurant. We discussed religion, politics: The Saudis, Nasser, Zionists, Americans, Pakistanis, etc.”

Sunday Sept. 27
“I went past the Sudanese Embassy and the Saudi Embassy seeking more information about my last health certificate. Between 4 & 5 pm I tried to get a call thru to the Sudanese Embassy in Jeddah to no avail. Demerdash finally called & said would see some of the foreign ministry officials tomorrow. That’s a relief because I’ve been very idle ever since arriving in Kuwait and have been beginning to feel I was wasting my time. In fact, had I had my health certificate I’d have been on the next plane out. I started even to look for a movie about 8 pm & bellhop (who likes me & asked for me to pose for some pictures with him) came to see me & said movies were forbidden (Harum) for Muslims. I asked him what the difference between the movies and the TV’s in people’s home. He thought there was a difference, so I went to the TV room instead. There was a Lebanese lady there too who could speak ‘bits’ of English. She was wealthy, a Christian and very shrewdly critical of her fellow Arabs.”

Mon. Sept 28
“Demerdash came at 8:30 am and took me to the foreign ministry. The secretary, Muhammad F. Al-Herbish, had seen me on TV in London & immediately became friendly & helpful. He took me to see ______ and while there two more came in. One was the son-in-law of HE Prince Gabis Al- Sabbah, and the other HE Rashid, their ambassador to the UN. They were cordial, attentive & seemed sympathetic. Since a special cabinet meeting was being held it was impossible to see the ministers but Herbish kept calling until he got the Minister of WAKF [?] on the phone & he agreed to see me after the cabinet meeting. He spoke ‘some’ English, so I conversed mostly thru a young interpreter who had been educated in Calif. I had some cards made, watched TV with the Somali diplomat (ambassador?) and the Lebanese aristocrat. She was frightened when one of the bellhops told her I was a Muslim, because last nite she had ‘talked too much’ about the leaders in the Muslim countries (Ben Bella, etc.) and I had sat & listened, playing dumb.”

Tues. Sept 29
“My plane left Kuwait & arrived in Beirut on schedule.

50s to 90s Interesting Kuwait Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek: Khalifouh Heritage Village

Khalifouh Village opened this past February, but I only found out about it in April and by then the village had already closed down for the season. Now the village is getting ready to open again and I was lucky enough to be given permission to pass by and get a sneak peek.

The village is owned by the popular Kuwaiti actor Khalifa Khalifouh who is known for his roles on a few popular tv shows and plays. Khalifa is very passionate about the Kuwaiti heritage and while working on shows involving old Kuwaiti villages, he didn’t like the way they were being poorly built so he decided he wanted to build a proper village, which he did. Khalifouh Village isn’t the first village he built, he originally built one in Salmi but then decided to knock it down and build another one in Wafra to make it more accessible to people.

The village is big with lots of buildings and alleyways connecting them all. The village has the basic necessities that a real village would have like a mosque, a baker, a tea shop, a theater and a main square. When the village officially opens for guests it will have more props and activities happening, but since it was closed when I visited, it was just me and an empty village.

I really wanted to visit the village for two reasons. The first is obviously to post about it, but the second reason was to take one of my classic cars so I could take photos of it with the village as a backdrop. Driving through the village in my old car felt weirdly real, like I had stumbled upon an old, abandoned village in the desert. Because the village is in Wafra where there are no tall buildings, once you’re inside all you see is the village and nothing else from the outside world.

There is no set date for the reopening of the village. They were targeting this month, but the weather hasn’t really cooled that much so it now looks like it will be in December. To stay posted on the opening, follow their account which also has some great photos @khalifouhvillage

Here is their location on Google Maps.

50s to 90s Coffee Corner Kuwait

Nostalgia at the New Backburner Cafe

Backburner the coffeeshop quietly opened a new location last week in the old-school neighborhood of Souq Altujjar (the old traders market) across from the Grand Mosque and Seif Palace.

What’s very interesting about this location is they have a nostalgia room on their second floor. The room has shelves filled with a variety of old items from our childhood, some from the 80s, some much older. They have a Hungry Bunny section, a small Showbiz section, Sakhr (MSX), Ifta7 Ya Simsim and more items all from our past and all on display.

I actually sold them one of my very clean and copies of the 1955 Violet Dickson book “The Wild Flowers of Kuwait and Bahrain”. It’s a very rare book so if you’ve wanted to check it out, this is your chance.

If you want to check it out they open daily from 7AM to 10:30PM, and they’re located next to the Seif Palace roundabout in Block 4 of Souq Altujjar, the same block that has Starbucks. Google Maps

50s to 90s Animals & Wildlife

The First Zoo in the Gulf was in Kuwait

A few years ago I came across the photo above taken by George Rodger in 1952 of the first elephant in Kuwait. Initially, I thought the elephant was for our current zoo, but that couldn’t have been possible since the zoo opened much later, in 1968. Turns out there was another zoo in Kuwait before that called “Salwa Garden”.

Salwa Garden was the first zoo in Kuwait and the first modern zoo in the Arabian Gulf. It was established in Rumaithiya by Sheikh Jaber Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 1954 back when the area lacked basic infrastructure like roads or electricity.

Sheikh Jaber traveled to India and Africa in search of animals, and whenever he got the animals he also brought with them their minders to help ensure that the animals received proper care. He also strived to establish near-normal conditions for the animals. For the Himalayan bear for example, he purchased ice slabs for it from the Al-Ghanim ice factory until it adapted to Kuwait’s climatic conditions. He also made sure that all the animals were well fed and medically cared for.

The garden was called “Salwa” because it was an Arabic term for recreation and entertainment. Admission was free because Sheikh Jaber wanted to share his love for nature with others and it the garden ended up attracting both locals and foreigners.

A decade after establishing the garden, Sheikh Jaber decided to close it due to rapid urbanization and the establishment of the Kuwait Zoo in Al-Omariyah which he ended up donating most of his animals to.

It’s a really interesting story and if you want to read more about it, there is a great paper written by Rua Alshaheen, Yousef Alharoun and Mohammed Alajmi called “A case study of Kuwait’s Salwa Garden” which has a lot of info and where I got most of mine from.

There is also a book called “Salwa Garden” that was published by Mona Al-Sabah which contains information as well as a lot more photos of the garden.

50s to 90s Food

The First Chinese Restaurant in Kuwait?

Whenever I flip through old newspaper there are random things that always catch my attention. Recently while flipping through a 1976 issue of Kuwait Times I came across this ad for what supposedly is (according to the ad), the first Chinese restaurant in Kuwait. Never heard of it and can’t find anything online about it either. I can’t even find the building it was located in.

If anyone has any information about “Golden Nest”, let me know!

Update: I found another ad (above) and this one has a map. So I tried to figure out where the restaurant used to be located and if Al Shuhada Street used to be called Al Hilal Street back in 1976, then I think Golden Nest was located in the same block as where Al Assima Tower and Solo Pizza are located today. I overlapped the map onto Google Maps and if you line up the streets and roundabouts they match. Whoever drew the map though placed Shaab gate on the wrong corner of the intersection though.

50s to 90s Music

When James Brown Came to Kuwait in 1978

Back in 1978, James Brown came to Kuwait and performed over 7 days at Al-Andalus Cinema in Hawalli. The event was organized by a person called Hussein Abul who over the years had brought other performers to Kuwait including Boney M, Demis Roussos, and Santa Esmeralda.

I also heard an unconfirmed story that Hussein had also signed a contract with Michael Jackson to come to Kuwait, but due to cultural changes in Kuwait taking place at that time, concerts started to get banned and Hussein ended up moving to Brazil permanently.

The James Brown event on the other hand was a huge success to the point the organizers had to add more performance slots. Saif Abu Baker from the local band The Scorpions used to be managed by Hussein and ended up getting the job of driving James Brown around since Saif spoke both English and Arabic. That opportunity later got Saif to play bass on the track Super Bad with James Brown on stage.

I’ve previously found newspaper clippings of the concert but only in Arabic. But, thanks to @kuwaittimes giving me access to their archive, I managed to find a few ads for the event as well as two articles.

“Had not the Andalus authorities exercised diplomacy on the audience, the cinema hall would have turned into a dance hall when the celebrated musician James Brown made his debut in Kuwait yesterday. – Kuwait Times, Dec 1978”

The ticket prices for the concert ranged from KD2 to KD10 which in todays money would be around 10KD to 50KD which is actually a pretty good deal.

50s to 90s

The First Flood – Kuwait, 1934

Rawan Alsaffar, a Landscape Architect published a paper recently that had an interesting story which I hadn’t come across before, the first flood from back in 1934. The flood caused a lot of physical and political damage which was felt for years to come and although tt’s a bit of a long read, the paper does cover more than just the flood. Here is the link.

50s to 90s

The Commercial Bank of Kuwait – 1972

A scan of a postcard from 1972 showing the beautiful Commercial Bank of Kuwait building from back then. For more old postcards, click here.

50s to 90s

When the Discotheque was Introduced in Kuwait

Last week while flipping through some old Kuwait Times newspapers from 1971 I spotted the article above titled “No. This Is Not In Soho, This is in Kuwait”. The article was about the introduction of the discotheque in Kuwait at a popular hotel back then called Phoenicia. Here is the article typed out if you can’t read it in the image above:

The discotheque, at Phoenicia Hotel, was the scene of a lovely and ac-tion-full night Saturday, when most of the young and several other not-so-young celebrities showed up to enjoy this new form of entertainment to emerge on the Kuwaiti scene, thanks to the efforts made by the organisers of the British Trade Week.

The star attraction of the evening was, of course, the “Miss British Trade Week” Brenda Wheeler. British Ambassador, Mr. Whilton, was also present to lend the evening an official importance.

The Discotheque, in short, is a success in Kuwait, and many people hope it will continue – and also not just in one place.

An interesting side note, the original plans for the Kuwait Towers included a discotheque.

50s to 90s Food

Captain D’s Kuwait – 1980s

This is one of these posts that will mean absolutely nothing to everyone except me. When I was a kid back in the 80s I remember there was a fish and chips place in Salmiya on Baghdad Street that had a wooden interior. That’s all I remember of the place and the fact the name had the word “Captain” in it. I’ve been searching for YEARS trying to figure out what the place was and never could. Until today.

Randomly, while flipping through some old Kuwait Times newspapers from 1984 I came across the ad above for Captain D’s. I was like WTF, right away I noticed the address of the Salmiya (spelled Salmiah) location was Baghdad Street. This was it, I finally found out what the place was called.

Back in the 80s there was a company called “Al-Kazemi Food Company” which had the franchise in Kuwait. I don’t think the company exists anymore today since I couldn’t find any trace of them online but back then they had three franchises: Captain D’s, Popeyes and Pizza Inn.

Interestingly if you notice in the ad above it says that they were opening Captain D’s in Carlton Hotel. Thats the hotel that now has the Korean restaurant KOREA GWAN (previously called Koryokwan).

Anyway, if anyone has any more info or photos please let me know.