17 07, 2019

Quickly 3D Print Yourself!

2019-07-17T09:25:30+03:00Jul 17, 2019|3 Comments

Back in September, I posted about a cool new 3D printing service at Best Electronics where you can get a very realistic miniature figurine of yourself (and of you and your friends). That didn’t last long since the very next day Best were forced to close down the service due to religious reasons.

But, Best recently opened up a new store in The Avenues, it’s near Saveco in the basement in a pretty hidden location. But, the good news is they’ve brought back the 3D printing booth and have it set up there. So if you previously wanted to 3D print yourself but missed out, you should probably pass by Best quickly before it gets shut down again.

10 06, 2019

The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr

2019-06-10T16:52:39+03:00Jun 10, 2019|20 Comments

This is going to be a fairly long post but trust me, if you love nostalgic Kuwait related posts you’re going to want to read this because it’s just so random and really interesting.

A couple of weeks ago I was over at the Australian ambassador’s house (Jonathan) who is a music buff and while there he showed me a record which he knew I’d be interested in. The album was called “Jazz, Jazz, Jazz” by a Sudanese band called The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr and inside there was an interview with the band members. Turns out the band used to perform in Kuwait back in the 70s at different venues including the Hilton Hotel, the Sheraton Hotel, and the Marriott Hotel. Check out the clipping below:

And can you tell me about your journey to Kuwait?

We went by ourselves and without visa but with the help of our friend Saif (who was also our singer during that stay). And we went there without instruments or anything. At the airport we arrived and waited for Saif to pick us up. Of course, they asked us at the airport for our visas and who we were, but we replied not to have any. Saif wanted to help us to get in, so he called the son of the Prince who liked our music. Saif and him were friends. Following, the son of the Prince came in person and said “These are my guests, give them visas”. This way, we entered the country and made a contract with the television. We went to the shops to buy instruments and from there straight to the TV. After getting paid by TV we went back to the shops to also pay the instruments. That was our first time in Kuwait. But we went once more. The second time we also had a contract with the Marriot Hotel; to us it looked like a ship. This time we had a visa and stayed for a long time. We had an organ player from Jordan and a guitar player from France.

That KTV performance is actually online and you can check it out below:

So this is where things get even cooler. I get all excited about this and start taking photos of the record album and posting them on my Instagram account. A couple of hours later I get a message from a follower saying:

This is so weird. Saif is a colleague of mine and seeing this and reading it, it just seems like it’s another dimension. We knew that he was a part of some band, we just didn’t know to what extent. Where can I get this record/Cd?

Saif was still in Kuwait?? I quickly shared the message with Jonathan who suggested we invite him to dinner. So I had Saif’s colleague talk to Saif and see if he would be interested to meet. I ended up getting his contact information and Jonathan set up the dinner for us.

Me with Saif

A few days later we got to meet Saif and he was just full of interesting stories. Saif was never meant to come to Kuwait, when he turned 18 he decided to leave Sudan and head to Germany. So he headed to Lebanon first so that he could take the train to Germany. Once he got to Lebanon he met a girl and so decided to stay there for a month, he needed the money anyway and he figured he could earn money performing music while there. He then left Lebanon and headed to Syria and from there he got convinced to head to Kuwait and try and earn money there.

Once in Kuwait he met up with an old friend of his called Adam who used to play football for Qadsia club. Adam hooked Saif up with a job as an English teacher for air traffic controllers and as a side gig, he would perform music on Kuwait TV talk show. One day one of the guys at KTV comes up to him and asks him if he could put a band together because he wanted to record a performance for the station. Saif tells him he could and called up his friends in Sudan whom he used to perform with called The Scorpions. That’s basically how the whole story with that KTV broadcast came to be.

The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr Performing at KTV

But that’s not the end of it. Saif used to perform for a Kuwaiti event organizer back then called Hussein Abul. Hussein was the guy who brought the likes of Boney M, Demis Roussos, James Brown and Santa Esmeralda to perform in Kuwait. When James Brown came to Kuwait, Hussein gave Saif the job of driving James Brown around since Saif spoke both English and Arabic. Since Saif spent a lot of time with James Brown, a friend of his told him to ask James Brown if he could perform the track Super Bad at his events. The first two nights James Brown performed he didn’t play Super Bad but it was a really popular song with the locals and so a lot of people were requesting it. So Saif explained that to James Brown who said he didn’t mind. During rehearsal that day, James Brown tells his band that he wanted to play Super Bad but, one of the two bassists in the band didn’t know how to play it. James Brown tried to help him out by humming the rhythm he wanted but the bassist couldn’t get it right. Out of frustration James Brown asked his band if anyone else knew how to play the bass on Super Bad, and Saif who was sitting there watching the whole thing said he knew how to play it. James Brown was like are you sure you know how to play it? Saif and his band used to perform covers all the time and he used to practically play Super Bad every night at hotels. So even though he was under pressure now to perform in front of James Brown, he knew the song inside out. He ended up playing for James Brown who was so impressed that he asked Saif to perform the song with the band over the remaining events in Kuwait.

One interesting fact I found out, Hussein had also supposedly signed a contract with Michael Jackson to come to Kuwait. But before Michael Jackson’s event, he had scheduled the popular band Osibisa to come to Kuwait as well. But Islamists caused an uproar over one of Osibisa’s tracks because it contained an Islamic verse or something like that, and Hussein was banned from organizing events ever again. Hussein supposedly ended up leaving to Brazil where he now lives permanently.

Saif with Pele in Kuwait

Anyway, Saif eventually ended up leaving Kuwait to study but then came back once he was done. He’s been in Kuwait ever since and currently still teaches English at a local aviation school but still performs in Sudan every now and then with his old band. He lost most of his old photos during the 1990 Iraq invasion but I shared two remaining ones in this post, the Pele photo above and the band performing at KTV above that. Jonathan the Australian Ambassador is also gonna try and bring the band together again to perform in Kuwait and once that happens I’ll let you guys know.

For now if you’re interested in buying a copy of the album “Jazz, Jazz, Jazz” it’s available for purchase in different formats on bandcamp.

Update: Jazz, Jazz, Jazz is also available on Spotify. Farrah Galbi Aljadeed is my favorite track followed closely by Forssa Saeeda.

26 05, 2019

Warhol on Kuwait

2019-05-26T20:58:16+03:00May 26, 2019|21 Comments

I found some scans on The Sultan Gallery’s instagram account taken from The Andy Warhol Diaries with not-so-flattering comments from his visit to Kuwait which I thought would be interesting to share.

Andy Warhol came to Kuwait in 1977, invited by the National Council of Arts, Culture, and Letters, and an exhibition of his work was held at the Dhaiat Abdullah Al Salem Gallery on January 18, 1977. Fred Hughes, his manager, accompanied him from the States, along with James Mayor of the Mayor Gallery in London. [Source]

I managed to get his entries typed out to make it easier to read and you can check them below:

Saturday, January 15, 1977 — London — Kuwait
Up at 7:00 for the flight to Kuwait. Tired. Packed, showered. Looked for crabs, still. Sent the hotel bill to the Mayor Gallery (tips at hotel $10). Picked up James Mayor at his place. He’d gotten us second-class seats, I was really mad. but there was one first-class one and I got it. Kuwait Air. The plane had to stop at Frankfurt and lots of people got on there. Read The Users by Joyce Haber, very boring, about a homosexual husband. Joyce was married to Doug Cramer, he’s a producer. There was a sheik on the plane up front with bodyguards in an even further front cabin. Took a pill. Fell asleep.

Woke up when the plane was landing. Arrived 11:00 late at night. Met at the airport by some Arabs. There was a girl Nadja, from the Council for Culture, who’d arranged the show. They made us drink some strange coffee at the airport.

Sunday, January 16, 1977 — Kuwait
Up at 9:30. Breakfast toast and tea (tip $2. laundry $1). James called. meeting downstairs at 12:00. We were taken to a place that looked like some dump, but then everything here does, and it wasn’t until days later that we realized it had been a chic place. Outside the sun was warm with a lot of cars going by—big Rolls Royce, big American cars. They gave us two cars but we only used one. Went back to the hotel to try to buy A-200 to kill the crabs.

Bought Nick Carter Mysteries ($4). At 4:00 had to meet Nadja and James again. Went to souk for local color. Ladies in black hiding their faces, big marketplace, bazaar. It got very cold. Got an outfit to give to Victor as a gift (hat $4, dress $26). Spent time looking for antiques, but there are none in Kuwait—just a few old pots from a couple of years ago. We were the only foreigners in the marketplace.

Went to Nadja’s gallery. Had some more of the sweet funny coffee they offer you all the time, you go crazy. We didn’t know that if you don’t shake your cup they keep pouring it in.

Bought five more copies of the Kuwait Times ($1). Calligraphy beautiful, no Pop there. Went to different drugstores looking for A-200. To hotel. Ordered dinner before dinner (tip $2). The people we were having dinner with sent a silver Cadillac limousine. Arrived at Qutayba al Ghanim’s, a rich young Peter Brant type. His house was on the gulf, a little out of town. Land there was really expensive. He made it chic by moving there.

Kuwaitis don’t serve hard liquor or beer or anything, it’s against the law, but the rich ones have some hard liquor. Jack Daniel’s or something.

Read Nick Carter. Really good—sex and girls.

Monday, January 17, 1977—Kuwait
Visit to the National Museum, there’s no history to this place, it goes back twenty-five years. There were like eight rooms, one had three coins in the whole room. Think there was one room that Alexander left some pots in. Alexander the Great—three pots and four coins. A room with yesterday’s dresses. More tea and coffee with the director. Just sat there, there was nothing to do. Carred over to see the secretary-general of the Council for Arts for more tea and coffee and ceremony. Dirty handprints on the wall, as if they killed somebody and it was a work of art or something. Guys standing around.

Everybody says the same routine: Where are you staying? How long have you been here? How long will you be here? When are you leaving? When are you coming back?

Carred over to see a rich collector named Fahad al Dabbous. Chubby and cute. He had a lot of paintings around on the wall, some Dalis, one sort of big one, lots of male friends there, most in costume, a couple of wives. They had drinks there, also—only the rich, remember? A big spread on table, nothing compared to Iran’s big spreads. The men looked fat, but usually in costume you couldn’t tell too much. But this one was chubby. He had bought the Marilyn and the Flower prints. He was wearing a girl’s diamond-studded watch with a blue face. The Kuwaiti food was greasy—greasy roast.

Bought crab soap ($6). At 8:00 we were picked up by Mr. Bater, who was the cultural attache from the United States to Kuwait, and taken to see the American Ambassador Morandi who was giving us a dinner. His wife was from Seattle, talked so much it drove us crazy. They were Democrats. Dinner was served at 10:00. Left at 12:00, bored. Used the crab soap, it didn’t work. Fell asleep in the bathtub. In bed couldn’t sleep. Read the Ruth Kligman book again, she was driving Jackson Pollock crazy in the car and that’s when he ran into the pole. Gave it to Fred to read.

Tuesday, January 18, 1977—Kuwait
Up after restless night at 9:00 (tio $1, laundry $2). James Mayor urgently calling—we were always late because it was always so boring we weren’t in a hurry. Visited a Kuwaiti artist atelier. Three artists in each room. This time tea or orange pop. Visited each stall, had to. One guy painted in Picasso-Chagall style. Not one original style. They sit on the floor and paint on rugs and pillows, it looked like hippie streetwares, like the sixties. It was the only nicely designed building in Kuwait because it was a copy of the Ford Foundation. Got a tour of the building. The man said it was very Kuwaitian.

Picked up at 4:30 for the opening of the exhibition in the Arts Council Hall. We had to meet the minister of state there. I think his name was Ahmad Al-Adwani—have that name written down. But maybe that name goes with someone else. I had sent him a copy of the Philosophy book [see Introduction] and he said he’d read it and that it had clever ideas, he was old and cute. There was a red ribbon in front of the door. I had to carry a pair of gold scissors on a red pillow to cut the ribbon. A lot of TV and press there.

Wednesday, January 19, 1977—Kuwait
Went to the exhibition for a tea party and had to drink more tea and then we were invited by the English ambassador to drop by. His daughter was there, she was seventeen and drew cartoons about fags. She was cute and funny. Had her father’s chin, which was no chin. There were a lot of English people there who’d been living and working in Kuwait for years. Left. Big rainstorm.

Picked up by Nadja and had a fight with Fred about not going to Germany. He said I had to go because “you’re a fading star there.” It was the way he said it that got me mad.

Dinner at Nadja’s house. ‘There were sixty people. The best party the whole trip. She had eight or ten brothers and a mother and sisters and all the men dance together, looks like the twist. The food was really good. Then men began dancing with Fred. Someone gave him $40 for dancing so well. Had to stay until everybody left-2:30. James admired somebody’s robe and they gave it to him. Jed admired someone’s nose ring and he got it. I didn’t know about the custom, so I didn’t get anything.

If you’re interested you can check out his full programme from his visit on Bidoun.org.

15 05, 2019

Sneak Peek: Inside the New Al Salam Palace Museum

2019-05-15T12:57:40+03:00May 15, 2019|4 Comments

A couple of days ago I got contacted by Al Salam Palace asking me if I’d be interested in coming in the next day for a tour of the new museum. I’d been trying to figure out how to get early access ever since the museum was inaugurated earlier in the month, so even though I had a lot of work at the office, I couldn’t say no.

Al Salam Palace was built in the late 1950s and was used to accommodate visiting heads of state. During the 1990 invasion, the palace was completely destroyed and stayed abandoned for years until the restoration project started back in 2013 to turn it into a museum. The palace is located right next to JACC and consists of three main museums:

Museum of Kuwait’s History through its Rulers
Museum of Al Salam Palace History
Museum of the Civilizations that inhabited Kuwait

When I first got to the palace I was pretty surprised at how much security there was. After confirming I was on the list to get into the museum, security at the gate had to make a second call to check and see if I was allowed to bring in my camera since they have a very strict no photography policy right now. I was then escorted into the palace by a security guard and handed over to another security guard who waited with me until the palace team met me. Security personnel were also scattered all around the museum and some rooms even had 24-hour guards. I later came to understand it was because of the amount of rare and priceless items exhibited all around.

When I was invited to visit the museum I had the impression I was gonna get a quick walkaround of the premises, but instead, I was actually given a full and very informative guided tour of all three museums with all their exhibits. Unlike other museums in Kuwait, Al Salam Palace will be a strictly guided tour affair once it opens up to the public. The tours would start every 30 minutes and there would be two kinds, a quick version which would take around 30 minutes and just cover the most important subjects, and a longer 90-minute tour covering the whole museum in greater detail. My tour yesterday took 90 minutes and we didn’t even watch all the videos scattered all around the exhibits. It’s a pretty big place with lots of information and a lot to see so I’d imagine they might have tours even longer than 90 minutes once they open.

There is a lot to cover in this post but I’m going to try and condense it so I don’t bore you with too much information. Firstly you’ll notice a limited amount of photos in this post. The reason for this is that the museum doesn’t want to reveal too much right now because they want people to eventually come and see the place for themselves, without any spoilers. I was asked if I could limit the photos I take of the exhibition spaces and I wasn’t allowed to record any videos, I didn’t mind both those requests since I wasn’t planning on taking photos of the actual exhibits, and I was honestly there for myself first, blog second (sorry guys).

The thing is I’ve always been fascinated with the palace and I was even lucky enough to visit it and photograph it before the reconstruction started. One of the things I was curious about was how the museum would be restored and thankfully, they managed to restore the museum to its original state.

The whole ground level of the museum is basically an exact copy of how the palace originally was before it was destroyed. Everything from the mosaics on the wall to the marble on the floor was restored with the same material previously used. Even the heads of state welcome room and the special room built for Queen Elizabeths II’s visit in 1979 (pictured above) was also recreated. The large and iconic chandelier that hangs in the main hall of the palace was event sent abroad to be fully restored and now looks incredible again.

Al Salam Palace material moodboard on display in one of the exhibits

I was extremely impressed by how detailed they were with the restoration and I wish more older historic buildings in Kuwait were restored in a similar manner.

Moving on to the actual exhibits, like everything else in the palace so much effort was put into the details of the exhibits as well. For example, in one display there were replicas of different spices on display that used to be imported to Kuwait back in the old days, but when you come up to the display you can actually smell the spices because they had a hidden smell machine. Another thing that caught my attention were all the old books on display around the exhibits, books that were written by explorers who came across Kuwait over a hundred years ago. From my personal experience, I know how difficult it is to source these kinds of books and how much of a waiting game you need to play for specific books to enter the market place. But books are just one aspect of the exhibit, there are multiple examples throughout the museum of extremely rare sourced items like Kuwait’s first Baiza coin which only two are known to still exist today, to more current items like Sheikh Jaber’s iconic sunglasses. I asked the museum manager how they were able to source all the items because many must have been stolen during the invasion. Turns out a lot of effort was made to find and retrieve stolen items while others were stored in boxes and forgotten about or were donated by families who had them in their private collection.

There are a number of video presentations throughout the exhibit where they recreated historical moments from Kuwait’s history, and they all looked like expensive productions with proper sets, actors, wardrobe and special effects. I even got to watch a trailer of a short film they produced on the 1990 invasion and it looked like such an incredible film. One scene gave me goosebumps, there are these iconic photos of a British Airways plane completely destroyed on the runway of Kuwait’s Airport and they had that exact scene in the trailer but it was as if the original scene was shot with video with smoke billowing out of the plane wreckage. In another scene we were onboard an American tank, first-person perspective heading towards a burning oil field, the fact the room we were in had a super wide 180-degree screen helped engross me into the film even more. I can’t wait to watch the whole thing.

After going through the main museums we headed downstairs into the basement which housed the museum’s digital library. The space looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie and once open would give visitors access to everything in the museum from the books on display to all the films and more. Everything would also be available online to access but with some restrictions like only parts of the book would be accessible instead of the whole book.

I was really curious about the museum before visiting it, I had heard it was going to be about Kuwait and wasn’t sure if there was enough interesting content to display or even new content that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. But I ended up leaving extremely impressed, it was obvious the people behind the project really cared about the restoration of the palace and really put a lot of time into all the exhibits. The museum is currently starting the training program for all the guides while also finalizing some details in the different exhibits. The museum is not open at the moment, but the aim is to have it ready for the public sometime in October of this year. For now you can follow the museum on instagram @aspm.kw

6 05, 2019

AlSalam Palace Museum

2019-05-06T08:52:45+03:00May 6, 2019|0 Comments

Al Salam Palace was built in the 1960s to accommodate visiting heads of state. During the 1990 invasion, the palace was completely destroyed and stayed abandoned for years until the restoration project started back in 2013. The palace is located right next to JACC and the plan was to transform the palace into a museum. I was lucky enough to visit the palace just before they closed it down for restoration back in 2014.

The museum is dedicated to the history of Kuwait told through its 15 rulers.

The restoration of the palace has now been finished and last week Al Salam Palace was officially inaugurated. The museum isn’t open to the public just yet, that’s supposed to happen in October of this year which is still a long way away. But in the meantime, the museum did publish the interesting video above which shows the process behind the restoration as well as the end result. If you want to stay posted on this project you can follow the museum on instagram @aspm.kw

7 01, 2019

Revisting Bait Al-Othman Museum

2019-01-07T12:53:58+03:00Jan 7, 2019|7 Comments

The Bait Al-Othman Museum originally opened back in 2013 and I passed by it a few months after opening to check it out and post about it on the blog. But last week I went back to the museum again and to my surprise, it turned out they had expanded the museum considerably since my last visit 5 years ago.

I’m having a difficult time trying to decide how much information I should share about the place. When I visited the museum last week I went expecting to see the stuff I had seen the last time I was there, basically various rooms covering important aspects of Kuwait and its history. But once I started exploring some of the new sections which I hadn’t seen before, I realized Bait Al-Othman is by far one of the most bizarre and entertaining museums in Kuwait. I had such a good time that I want to go back again with more friends.

Some of the new areas of Bait Al-Othman felt like they had been taken from the now closed old Science Museum in Kuwait City. The museum has such a random combination of content including a small haunted house, loads and loads of stuffed animals and even a hostel. I really want to share more details but I think it would be a lot more fun to just go there without knowing too much about the place.

So if you haven’t been to Bait Al-Othman before or at least not recently, you should definitely pass by the place. The museum is located in Hawalli [Google Maps] with loads of parking space available. Their opening hours are from 9AM to 1PM and 4PM to 9:30PM everyday except on Fridays they don’t open in the mornings.

Pro Tip: You need around 3 hours or more to see everything, and make sure you visit all the rooms. There are some areas which look closed off but they lead to other areas. So explore it all.

4 11, 2018

Antera Gaming Truck

2018-11-04T11:50:25+03:00Nov 4, 2018|4 Comments

The other day I was on the 4th Ring Road when I got stuck in traffic behind a huge trailer with Antera written on the back and PlayStation logos on the side. So I decided to check them out on Instagram and turns out they’re a gaming truck.

Inside the trailer are reclining chairs and large 65″ flatscreen TVs. They have PS4’s with the most recent games as well as online play capability. They also offer non-gaming activities like watching movies or live sporting events with beIN.

According to Antera the truck can hold 10 adults or 12 children and they provide snacks and beverages. The cost of the service is KD60 on weekdays and KD75 on weekends (2 hours minimum). I think it’s a cool idea and could be a lot of fun to park outside a kids birthday party. If you want to find out more you can check them out on instagram @antera.tech

25 09, 2018

The Kuwaitis of Failaka Island

2018-09-25T12:04:44+03:00Sep 25, 2018|26 Comments

Before the 1990 Gulf War, Kuwaitis used to live on Failaka Island. But, during the war, the island got destroyed and then was never rebuilt again forcing the “Failakans” to move and live on the mainland. Now 25 years later, Doti Watkins, a local resident is working on a project to preserve the stories of the Failakans. She’s trying to track down anyone who used to live on Failaka to interview them about their lives on the island, as well as hopefully share with her photos, documents or artifacts.

I think this is a really interesting so if you know anyone who used to live on Failaka, please get in touch with her (her details are below). Here is some more info on this project:

The Kuwaitis of Failaka Island
An Oral History Project

Failaka Island is a unique place in the Arabian Gulf in general, and Kuwait specifically. It is located 20KM from Kuwait City and is well known for its rich and diverse archeological sites. What is being overlooked is that the Kuwaiti settlement of Failaka is also an important archeological site and there is an urgent need to preserve the geography, culture, and history of the Kuwaiti’s who once lived there. They are the most recent people to settle on the island, with a history that is estimated to be 300 years

The Kuwait Failakans are of special interest because they were neither urban nor nomadic. Their landscape and resources were different from the Kuwait mainland. They had different soil and water sources for agriculture compared to mainland Kuwait. They lived in relative isolation and relied on marine travel for connectivity to the rest of their society. Additionally, their sense of place included the remnants of all the other settlements before them.

It has been more than 25 years since the Kuwait Failakans were removed from their homes. This means the surviving population is aging and it will only become more difficult with time to acquire firsthand information and preserve an understanding of what it meant to be a Kuwaiti Failakan.

The purpose of this project is to collect the oral histories of Kuwait Failakans and use GIS (Geographic Information Science/Systems) to develop a GIS database “library” which will store and preserve their histories, traditions, folklore, photos and other documentation as available.

Doti Watkins