Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
50s to 90s Art

Gulf War ANSI Art

Found these vintage ANSI art relating to the 1990 Gulf War and thought they were super interesting. I use to love ANSI and ASCII art back in the day and if I remember correctly, my first digital porn image I had was a black and white ASCII drawing sometime back in the 80s which a friend had given to me on a 5.25 floppy. Source

Categories
50s to 90s Automotive

The Old Rolls Royce Taxi was Found in Saudi!

There’s an old story from back in the 70s about a man who wasn’t dressed well walking into the Rolls Royce dealer in Kuwait to check out the cars. The man asked the salesman how much the car cost and the salesman replied that he wouldn’t be able to afford it. The man left the dealership upset but came up with an idea for payback. A few days later he went to the dealership again and purchased the Rolls Royce. He then registered it as a taxi cab and had it painted orange with a white stripe.

The man then put the taxi into service and was regularly picking up passengers and he even used to park it in front of the dealership just to mess with them even more. Eventually the dealership reached out to the man apologizing to him and offered to buy back the car from him and give him a more expensive one in return.

The man accepted and he handed the orange Rolls Royce to the dealership and got a new one in return. The orange Rolls was thought to have been repainted back to its original color and then resold, but, the car was recently found at a scrapyard in Khafji, Saudi Arabia, complete in its original orange paint and still had the original red license plates!

That’s pretty insane! You can check out the video by Bin Zuayd on YouTube embeded above or visit his Instagram account @khalid_eisaa to watch it there.

Categories
50s to 90s Information

The History of the Seif Palace Clock

I’ve been driving by Seif Palace all my life and I never thought about the clock itself and I don’t think many other people have either. A couple of months ago a friend of mine shared a short article from a 1962 issue of a newspaper which spoke about the clock install and it caught my interest so much so that I spent the past two months trying to dig out as much information as possible. I wanted to find pictures of the clock under construction, maybe sketches of the design or photos of the installation. But after two months of trying, I think I’ve hit a wall and I’ve decided to give up. Although I managed to find interesting information, I didn’t have any new visuals to accompany the information which deflated me. Instead of throwing out all the information I’ve managed to gather, I figured I’d still share whatever I found, even though I didn’t have any photos to accompany the research.

The Seif Palace clock was installed in January 1962 after taking 5 months to build. It was engineered by the UK based clockmakers Smith of Derby who have been making clocks since 1856. I got in touch with Smith of Derby to try and see if they had any photos or schematics of the clock, but they couldn’t find anything in their archive, and whoever had worked on the clock had long retired. But they were able to share some interesting information with me which I’m sharing in this post.

The clock that was originally installed in 1962 was a weight driven mechanical clock, with 4 cast iron dials each 8-feet in diameter and weighing a total of 4 tons. The clock was decorated with 23 & 1/2 carat gold leafs and had internal lights for nighttime dial illumination. Originally the clock also had three bells. Two of the bells would be used to chime the quarter hours while the third bell would strike every hour. The bells were also fitted with an automatic night-silencer so not to annoy people during the night. According to Smith of Derby, the bells were most likely supplied by John Taylor Bell Foundry. The person I was in communication with told me he even had a vague memory of a colleague of his telling him that the bells were hung but never rung. I’ve never heard them rung nor did I know the clock was meant to ring so I imagine that story is true. I tried to verify the story and gather more information on the bells but Taylor Bells have yet to respond to my emails.

During the 1990 invasion, the mechanical clock was damaged beyond repair when a missile was put through the dial. Smith of Derby were contracted to rebuild the clock, and in 1995 it was replaced, this time with an electric movement instead of a mechanical one (T400 synchronous movement, accurate to +/- 1 second a month and controlled by an inverter charger to keep the voltage at 230v 50hz). I’m not sure if the bells are still in the clock tower, my assumption is they aren’t. I tried to get access to the Seif Palace clock tower to find out but I wasn’t able to.

The Seif Palace clock isn’t the only clock in Kuwait made by Smith of Derby. I found three other clocks in Kuwait made by them, the clock in Riggae Park, the Al Mulla Group clock outside the airport, and the beautiful clock located inside the Waldorf Astoria.

And thats everything I could dig up on the Seif Palace clock. If you can by any chance get me inside the clock tower, let me know!

Categories
50s to 90s Photography

Phone box on the side of a dirt road

I’m in love with this photo taken by Ian Caldwell of a random phone box on the side of a dirt road somewhere in the north of Kuwait. He took this photo sometime in the last 60s early 70s and if you look carefully you can see a couple of bedouin tents in the background.

Categories
50s to 90s

Paying Tribute Fahad Al Salem Street

The old abandoned buildings on Fahad Al Salem Street near Salhiya are finally getting demolished (everything highlighted in yellow on the map). They’ve been abandoned for years and they were making the downtown area look really gritty so I’m glad things are moving forward.

I was always hoping they’d get refurbished since when you look at old photos of the street the buildings actually looked great when new. But that wasn’t going to happen and keeping the buildings as is wasn’t going to work either.

I’m not sure if that strip is as sentimental to other people as it is to me. After the 1990 invasion there weren’t that many electronic shops open but there were a bunch on that strip that were. I still remember the night my dad took me there to get my very first sound system with a CD player and then later at various points in the 90s I got a second sound system and a couple of Walkmans.

The buildings on that strip have been around since the 60s and were considered really modern back when they were built. So I went through my archives and dug up my favorite photos of the street to celebrate what was at one point in time, a bustling commercial and cultural hub for the country.

Categories
50s to 90s

ASK Yearbooks Online – 1970s to Present Day

The American School of Kuwait have digitized all their yearbooks from the 1970s onwards and published them online. I went through a few of the early copies hoping to get a glimpse of student life in Kuwait back in the early 70s, but sadly they didn’t contain many lifestyle photos. They are still interesting to flip through especially if you were an ASK student so if you want to check them out, here is the link.

Categories
50s to 90s Photography

Kuwait Towers Under Construction

I came across this photo taken by Tor Eigeland of the Kuwait Towers under construction sometime in the 70s. What I found interesting about it is that it’s the only image I’ve ever seen of the towers at night while still under construction.

Categories
50s to 90s

1973 Fashion Shoot Around Kuwait

I love these photos of a fashion shoot that took place around Kuwait back in 1973. The photos were taken by Schiffer Pál, a popular Hungarian director and writer. I’m guessing before he became popular he was also a photographer but I haven’t been able to figure out how he ended up in Kuwait. Some interesting tidbits, the Kuwait Towers were still under construction in the photo above and the pool shots were taken at Gazelle Club.

Due to the square format of the photos I’m assuming they were taken on a medium format film camera which explains why the quality of the scanned photos is amazing.

If you want to check out the full series of photos, click here.

via @tareqkandari

Categories
50s to 90s

Behind the Scenes with Iftah Ya Simsim

For kids who grew up in Kuwait back in the 80s, Iftah Ya Simsim was our Sesame Street and one of our favorite shows. We looked forward to every episode and I think every kid wished they would end up on it one day. Maybe the only other show we wanted to be on more was Mama Anisa, but Iftah Ya Simsim looked like a lot of fun and we all wanted to meet the muppets Nu’man and Malsoon.

The show started filming at the Kuwait Television Studios back in 1978 and then released in 1979 before stopping production in 1989 due to the Gulf War. It never resumed again but the show did continue to live on in the hearts of every 80s kid.

Recently I came into possession of behind the scenes photos from Iftah ya Simsim. Some I had seen before and some not, but even the ones I had seen I hadn’t since in this quality before which is why I wanted to share them.

Malsoon the parrot was played by a Syrian actor called Tawfiq Al Asha, you can see him in one of the photos standing behind Malsoon. Tawfiq sadly passed away in 2018. Nu’man on the other hand was played by Kuwaiti actor Abdullah Hubail, and he’s on Instagram @abdullah_alhubail.

Categories
50s to 90s Mags & Books

Ian Fleming Hunting in Kuwait – 1960

In 1960, Ian Fleming the British writer best known for his James Bond series of spy novels was invited to Kuwait by the Kuwait Oil Company. He was commissioned to write a book on Kuwait which he did and called “State of Excitement: Impressions of Kuwait”. However, the Kuwaiti government disapproved of the final manuscript, which they found condescending, and the book was never published.

There are two known copies of the book, one at the Lilly Library in the Indiana University, and another carbon copy sold at auction in 1997 to a private collector. I was given a photocopy of the book last year after trying to get access to one for nearly 5 years. Even though I never have the time or patience to read a book, I made sure I read this one because I knew how lucky I was to get a copy. As difficult it was getting a copy of the book, it was as difficult trying to find any photos of Fleming’s visit. Like the book, they seemed not to have existed, until now.

The photo on top is of Ian Fleming in Kuwait in 1960 on a hunting trip. I got the photo from the British novelist Louise Burfitt-Dons who recently published a book called “Our Man in Kuwait“, a fiction spy thriller based on true events from 1960.

Chapter 13 in Flemming’s book is called “Hunting the Hubarra” in which he discusses a hunting trip he went on in the Kuwaiti desert. Louise’s father, Ian Byres is the one who arranged that trip and took the picture above. In the photo is Ian Fleming on the left, John Collins on the far right who was the public relations officer at KOC, and I believe the person in the middle is a Kuwaiti called Khalid based on what I read in the chapter. Fleming didn’t enjoy the hunting trip, they weren’t able to catch a hubarra (a kind of bird) and blamed it on overhunting in Kuwait. He found the trip a total waste of his precious time and the chapter ends with him going off on a tangent criticizing Lebanon for over 2 pages.

I obviously can’t make copies of the book or upload it online, but I have shared the contents page above you can get an idea of what the book contains.

Categories
50s to 90s Food

The Pizza Italia Story 1980 – 2006

Anyone who grew up in Kuwait during the 80s will fondly remember Pizza Italia. The owner of Pizza Italia was Mahmoud Alghanim who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. He was a pioneer in the local restaurant industry creating multiple food brands back before it was even a thing. Recently, a person called John Dade got in touch with me and shared with me the story of how Pizza Italia came to be.

John originally moved to the Middle East in the 70s working for Heublein who were the owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken back then. He was in charge of developing Kentucky Fried Chicken internationally and eventually came to Kuwait in 1977 working for Kuwait Food Company (Americana).

Kuwait Food Company initially started off with the brand Wimpy in 1970 which at that time was one of the first if not the first international fast food chains to enter the Middle East. In 1973 they brought KFC which is how John ended up in the region. John later helped Kuwait Food Company acquire the brands Hardees and Pizza Hut before his contract ended and he decided to move back to the States.

Before leaving back to the US, John got introduced to Mahmoud Alghanim through a mutual friend. Mahmoud was looking for help in developing a fast food concept similar to Mcdonald’s but with Arabic food and a mutual friend recommended he meet with John who he eventually hired.

John started work on the Arabic fast food concept but a year later it was still not done. John started to feel bad since he was getting his full salary but the company wasn’t generating any money at that point. So John approached Mahmoud with an idea, he wanted to open a pizza place for him since it would be easy and quick to set up and it would help them generate income while they continued work on the Arabic fast food concept. Mahmoud liked the idea and gave John a budget of $100,000 and a location in Bayan next to the coop which they opened up in 1980. Together they came up with a cool concept, a fixed price for the pizza no matter what toppings you had on it. They called it Pizza Italia.

Back then food delivery wasn’t a thing. Instead, parents would send their children with the driver to pick up the pizza from the store. Having a fixed price turned out to be incredibly convenient to the parents because no matter what toppings the kids chose, the price of the pizza was still the same.

With the success of the pizza, they realized they also needed ice cream to go along with it. So John and Mahmoud went to the US and did a road trip looking for an ice cream brand to bring to Kuwait. They eventually decided on Häagen-Dazs and brought the franchise to Kuwait. Keep in mind Häagen-Dazs had just opened their first store in 1976 and so were still very new and small back then. The novel introduction of banana splits was also very popular. It was almost impossible to keep up with requests on Friday after the noon prayer. Mahmoud and John were way ahead of their time.

Pizza Italia did so well that the Pizza Hut franchise in Kuwait ended up closing down (they were later brought back by Al Homaizi Group). John stayed on with Mahmoud till 1984 before leaving Kuwait for Saudi Arabia.

Pizza Italia continued operating until the mid-2000s before eventually closing down. I remember back in 2005 they were selling their large-sized pizza with all the toppings (the Godfather) for only KD1.500 and it was really good.

Like Hungry Bunny and Showbiz, Pizza Italia is a brand many will never forget.

Categories
50s to 90s

Do you remember this billiards place in Salmiya?

There used to be a pool hall in Salmiya behind Hungry Bunny called Shark or Sharx, not really sure. I can’t seem to find any information about it online or that it even existed. But a reader sent me the snippet above from a Russian news channel that had filmed a short report in the place and you can watch it above.

If you remember anything about it let me know.

Thanks Janna

Update: Turns out it wasn’t behind Hungry Bunny but instead next to Zahra Complex. Here is a photo of the building that was in taken from msmooretravels.com

Update2: Here is a photo of the entrance but taken after it had shut down

Categories
50s to 90s

Kuwait Yellow Pages Directory – 1976

I’m not really sure how I initially found out about this specific yellow pages directory from the American Women’s League of Kuwait, but it was on my watch list for some time and one eventually popped up for sale a few weeks ago. I tend to find out about random books and then add them to my watch list and wait patiently, usually, years before a copy eventually/hopefully pops up somewhere online and I get a notification. When this book popped up on eBay and knowing how difficult it is to find because it really isn’t a book you’d generally save, I quickly purchased it without even trying to negotiate on the price. I like directories because they usually help me connect various things together.

For example, on the Salmiya map on one of the pages it showed a “Camping Area” which confused me, how did Salmiya have a camping area? Then a follower on Instagram helped me figure out where that area was (Google Maps) and I realized that was the location of the Salmiya Youth Hostel which was supposedly run by the Kuwait Boy Scouts.

Then under the grocery store section, it listed various supermarkets, many I actually need to research especially New Supermarket because I remember the Salmiya location from the early 80s. But one of the supermarkets listed was Khalaf, which last year I happened to find photos of their Salmiya location.

Since I felt this was worth sharing, I took photos of the most significant pages and turned them into a 44MB PDF. You can download it here.