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.

Categories
50s to 90s

Ku-WAITing for News and Voice of Kuwait Newsletters (1990-1991)

Back during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the internet didn’t exist the way it does today and so it wasn’t easy to find out what was happening in Kuwait other than watching the news or talking to someone who was still living in Kuwait at that time. But there were various newsletters at that time and a good way to describe them was blogs before the internet. Two of those newsletters were “Ku-WAITing for News” which was compiled by American wives of Kuwaitis, and “Voice of Kuwait” which was compiled by the Kuwaiti Student’s Union-USA.

These newsletters were compiled by various volunteers, printed, mailed out, and then photocopied and redistributed again over and over.

One of the old school local bloggers Desert Girl who left Kuwait a few years ago and is now living in the States found copies of these newsletters in her sister’s basement and was nice enough to digitize them and share them with me as a PDF file.

There are 106 pages so I haven’t fully gone through it yet but I did skim through the newsletters reading various articles to get a feel for the kind of content they contained. I remember life before the internet and so I can imagine how important these newsletters must have been.

Pre-internet you really were isolated from the rest of the world, I remember having a pen pal in England and it felt like a big deal to me because there was this kid living in another part of the world sharing their life with me. So while going through these newsletters, understand that to many Kuwaitis living in exile in the US at that time, these newsletters were their internet and source of information about the war that didn’t make it to the mainstream news.

Click here to download the PDF, it’s around 10MB.

Click here to read Desert Girl’s post about these newsletters.

Categories
50s to 90s

Salmiya Co-op – 1973

I wish there were more photos but you can at least check these two out in full-resolution on twitter @ArabiaArchive

Categories
50s to 90s

Golden Beach Hotel – Kuwait 1963

Last year I bought a vintage map of Kuwait and although there is no date on it, I think it’s from the early 70s because there is a Hilton ad on it and Hilton opened in 1969. You can view a photo of the map on my twitter and right now I’m trying to scan it so I can make a proper copy available online. The only issue is it’s taking too long to scan one section at a time with my small scanner and then stitch it together in Photoshop.

Anyway, one thing that caught my attention was an ad for Golden Beach Hotel. Not to be confused with the Golden Beach Casino that was located in Salmiya, Golden Beach Hotel was located where the National Assembly building is today. I hadn’t heard of the hotel and couldn’t find any information online so I left it at that. But then yesterday, while trying to dig up information in one of my books on the Spring Continental Hotel that was located in the Dalal Complex in Salmiya (where Video Club used to be), I found a photo and information on the Golden Beach Hotel. So here is the obscure info that nobody requested:

Golden Beach Hotel
Telephone: 39521
Location: Arabian Gulf Street, Kuwait

Rooms: 44
Baths: 44

Single Occupancy Prices
R/Bfst K.D. 5.000
Half K.D. 6.000
Full K.D. 7.000

Double Occupancy
R/Bfst K.D. 9.000
Half K.D. 11.000
Full K.D. 12.000

Breakfast K.D. 0.350 / 0.450
Lunch or Dinner K.D. 0.900

If you want to check out higher-res versions of the images here, they’re also on my twitter account.

Update: So my mum just saw the post and messaged me to tell me she spent a night at the Golden Beach Hotel in December 1972. She was heading to Abadan in Iran from Lebanon to see her aunt and she took the Kuwait Airways flight which transits through Kuwait. When she got to Iran turns out her aunt hadn’t gotten her a visa so they sent her back to Kuwait. Her flight back to Lebanon was the day after so she spent the night at the Golden Beach Hotel.

Once she was back in Lebanon her aunt got her the Iran visa and she headed back again. This time on her way back to Lebanon during her stop over in Kuwait she saw an ad to become a flight attendant for Kuwait Airways and she applied. And that’s how she became a flight attendant. So because of this random post I found out how my mum became a flight attendant.

Categories
50s to 90s

Old Touristic Enterprises Company (TEC) Map of Kuwait

Was going through old versions of the TEC website using web.archive.org and I came across an old map with all the various TEC projects. Sadly most of the places have been closed down:

  1. Kuwait Towers
  2. Waterfront
  3. Bend Algar Club
  4. Green Island
  5. Swimming Pool Complex
  6. Ice Skating Rink
  7. Musical Fountain
  8. Shaab Club
  9. Yacht Club
  10. Al Shaab Slipway
  11. Shaab Garden
  12. Ras Alard Sea Club & Harbor
  13. Showbiz
  14. Plajat
  15. Al Bida Sea Club
  16. Missila Beach
  17. Touristic Garden
  18. Entertainment City
  19. Abdali Shelter
  20. Sabahia Garden
  21. Ugaila Beach
  22. Mangaf Beach
  23. Nuwaiseeb Shelter
  24. Kheiran Resort

You can view the larger version of the map by clicking here.

Categories
50s to 90s Mags & Books

Al-Manara Bookshop

While prepping for my previous post on Pinot, I was going through some old emails and found one where he sent me photos of the old Al-Manara Bookshop that was located in Salmiya next to The Video Club.

Al-Manara was a fairly popular bookstore but there aren’t any photos of it available online. It’s one of those places you never thought about photographing and eventually it’s gone. The photos were taken on March 28, 2008 with a Nikon Coolpix P1.

via Pinot

Categories
50s to 90s Complaints

Khazal Palace Altered with Concrete

The Khazal Palace (also called Alghanim Palace and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jabir Palace) located in Dasman near the British Embassy is finally being restored after being left to crumble for decades. But, yesterday a photo surfaced showing that concrete columns were planted inside the palace as part of the reconstruction.

What does this mean?

The palace dates to 1916 and was constructed with clay, it was one of the last Persian-style archaeological building in Kuwait. Since the palace was listed as a heritage site in Kuwait, it was protected and had the highest priority for conservation. With conservation projects it is paramount to restore the building back to it’s original state using as much of the original construction material as possible. The Kuwait antiquities law states that it is prohibited to modify, alter or distort immovable monuments. By pouring concrete into the palace it means it no longer is being restored correctly and thus loses its heritage status.

To try and simplify what this all means, imagine demolishing the palace completely and then rebuilding it again using modern day materials, is it still a heritage site? No because it’s now a new building and not an old building that was saved and restored. This is basically what has happened in this case to some degree. The building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list back in 2015, but because the restoration process is being done incorrectly, it will now no longer qualify to be on the list and so will not have any of the protection that comes with that status. Similar story to what happened with the Kuwait National Assembly Building, because they constructed the curved/wavy office building on the side of the main structure, the Kuwait National Assembly Building was disqualified from ever becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Kuwait Towers on the other hand which is currently going through a restoration process (the blue discs are being restored or replaced) is abiding by the strict restoration rules. The process is also being overlooked by the Getty Foundation “Keeping it Modern” grant which the towers received in 2020 (1 of just 77 grants given worldwide):

All of the orbs possess a remarkable shimmering quality thanks to 41,000 enameled metal discs in shades of blue, green, and gray that stud their surfaces in a carefully variegated spiral pattern.

Due to more than five decades of marine climate exposure, however, some of the decorative metal discs have detached and fallen to the ground. Guided by a recent conservation management plan, the project team will conduct a technical study to identify the underlying problem behind the disc detachments and develop conservation protocols for carrying out repairs and maintenance. Because the conservation of modern architecture in Kuwait is an emerging field, the project team will collaborate with international experts and leverage the opportunity to share their research with local Kuwaiti architects, conservators, and engineers.


School trip to the Kuwait Museum – 1970

A couple of years ago I heard rumblings about the fact they were proposing to restore the building with concrete (easier/cheaper) and that many local architects were against it and wanted the restoration to be done properly. Not sure if anything can be done about it now, but at the moment it looks like Kuwait lost another important part of its landscape.

For more information, check out this post on Instagram.

Update: Just got a bit more information. The basement of the palace is the oldest basement in Kuwait, more than 100 years old. Unfortunately, it was removed completely to make way for the concrete intervention. Source

Categories
50s to 90s Interesting Mags & Books

Kuwait back in 1831

Over the weekend I was reading passages from a book by a British journalist who was describing Kuwait after visiting it back in 1831. The book written by Joachim Stocqueler is called “Fifteen Months’ Pilgrimage Through Untrodden Tracts of Khuzistan and Persia, in a Journey from India to England.” It’s two volumes but the passages I was reading were from volume 1. I thought it was interesting and wanted to share two page from one chapter which you can read below:

Koete, or Grane as it is called in the maps, is in extent about a mile long, and a quarter of a mile broad. It consists of houses built of mud and stone, occasionally faced with coarse chunam, and may contain about four thousand inhabitants. The houses being for the most part square in form, with a courtyard in the centre, (having the windows looking into the yard,) present but a very bare and uniform exterior, like, indeed, all the houses in the Persian Gulph. They have flat roofs, composed of the trunk of the date tree. The streets of Koete are wider than those of Muscat or Bushire, with a gutter running down the centre. A wall surrounds the town on the desert face, but it is more for show than protection, as it is not a foot thick. To keep up the farce, however, a trench has been dug around the wall, and two honeycombed pieces of ordnance protect each of the three gates. Beyond the wall, nothing is to be seen but a vast sandy plain, extending to a distance of more than sixty miles. Not a tree, not a shrub affords the eye a momentary relief.

Koete within the walls is equally sterile, it literally yields nothing; and when to this is added the fact of the water being far from sweet, it is difficult to conjecture how such a site could have been chosen for the establishment of four hundred families. I was informed that the Arabs had only been in possession of the place about one hundred and
fifty years, and that previously to that period it was occupied by Englishmen and their forces, who received or conquered it from the Portuguese, in whose hands it enjoyed some notoriety during the plenitude of their importance in India.

It certainly is a commodious harbour for small craft, and may probably have been occupied by the Portuguese, (the English could have had nothing to do with it, ) on account of the command it gives over the mouth of the river of the Arabs, and the power it thus conferred of interrupting the Turkish and Venetian trade with India.

If you want to read more, the full book is available to download in PDF format. Passages above start at page 18. Here is the link.

Also an original copy of volume 1 is available on eBay if you want to buy it. Seller is asking for $3,000 but I was able to negotiate down to $1,350. Here is the link to the book on eBay.

Photo on the very top is unrelated and from 1903. Source