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Blog Info Interesting

I Love Ai

This morning I noticed a new “Made with Ai” label under my instagram post on @248am and I thought that was really interesting and worth talking about. The image was labeled “Made with Ai” because it was in fact made using the help of Ai. Although a bit too dramatic a label for this specific case, I do think this is a really helpful feature since so much digitally generated content looks real nowadays.

Throughout the years I’ve enhanced photos published on the blog, sometimes it’s minor stuff like increasing saturation, playing with contrast, or removing blemishes. Other times it’s more drastic like removing garbage from photos, or recently with instagram, adding more image to an existing image.

Before Ai, removing things such as garbage required the use of a Photoshop tool called the clone brush. It wasn’t too difficult to do, but depending on the scene, it sometimes required some skill to make it look natural.

But, over a year ago, Adobe introduced a new feature into Photoshop called generative Ai. This changed everything. I could now select all the garbage in a scene for example, and with a click of a button, Photoshop will remove it all. The Ai is so good you wouldn’t even be able to tell the image was manipulated.

With Instagram, I use Ai in a slightly different manner. Most images are shot in landscape, but all my posts are square. So, to get wide images to fit into my square without having to crop into the image, I sometimes add more image. For example, my lions post from today. I was limited with the number of photos available of the lions, so I had to use a screen grab from a video. The video was wide and so I could either crop into the image and lose some of the background, or keep the full image and just add more sky and more grass below. I chose the later. Because the video was only 1080p, cropping into it would reduce the resolution, but even if resolution wasn’t an issue, cropping into the photo would make the final image feel claustrophobic after adding my headline.

So let me take you through the different stages to better illustrate this. First one above is the actual screen grab from the video.

The photo above is after converting it to a square. Can you spot the difference? First thing you’ll notice is the extra sky and grass below the image. Then if you look carefully you’ll also notice a slightly increase in saturation and a visually more interesting sky with a cloud formation.

Finally, here is a side by side image of how my post have looked like without Ai on the left, and the final result with Ai on the right.

Not sure I like this specific photo being labeled as “Made with Ai”, since that’s not true, it wasn’t made with Ai. The main subject matter wasn’t changed, I didn’t for example generate fake lions or manipulate the story the image is telling, so I don’t feel it deserves that label. Maybe an “Enhanced with Ai” label would have been more appropriate here.

I think the “Made with Ai” label is meant to prevent the negative use of Ai, like in fake news, but in this case, Instagram is making it look like my image is fake news and not real when it is. But since Instagram is labeling all images that used some sort of Ai as “Made with Ai”, this label is going to be the new norm I guess.

Categories
50s to 90s Information Interesting

1958 Al-Othman Mosque Restoration Project

We have the habit of demolishing old structures instead of restoring them in Kuwait, so when I found out the old Al-Othman Mosque in Hawalli was being restored, I reached out to the team working on it asking if I could write about it.

The mosque restoration is being spearheaded by Eng. Adnan Al-Othman and sponsored by the Abdullah Abdulatif Al-Othman Charitable Trust. Adnan’s father is the one who built the mosque so he’s very familiar with it.

Al-Othman Mosque was established in 1958 and later opened for public use in 1961. It was one of the first grand mosques to be built in Kuwait, and also the first to have a dome, making it an important landmark.

Since its opening over 60 years ago, many changes were made to the mosque, some permanent, but most were thankfully superficial. The mosque originally had a colorful design that was unique for the time, but over the years it got repainted a monotone beige and white blending it into it’s Hawally surroundings. The interior which was covered with intricate decorations and script were also all covered with white paint erasing a lot of what made the mosque so unique and special.

The restoration team dug up as many photos and videos of the original mosque as they could find, so that they could better understand all the changes that were made over time. They also started the process of removing structures that weren’t there originally, like metal shading over the courtyard and an extension to the mezzanine floor. Additionally, they began stripping the paint from both the interior and exterior of the building, revealing some of the old decorative art and colors (samples above).

The restoration team’s plan is to restore the mosque as close as possible to its original state. They’re deep into the restoration process now, but they don’t have a clear timeline for completion since the work must be slow and careful. Once this project is finished, I hope more people will realize and appreciate the importance of preserving old Kuwait.

Categories
50s to 90s Design Interesting People

Saving the Futuristic Bubble House from Amghara

Last week a video popped up on my feed that I thought was fascinating. A guy called Hamad AlMuzaini (@hamad.muzaini) had spotted a little piece of architecture history at a scrap yard in Amghara, the Maison Bulle (Bubble House) by French modernist architect, Jean-Benjamin Maneval.

The Bubble House which was conceived in 1963 is considered to be one of the most successful designs for “futuristic plastic houses“. Only 300 of these prefab homes were ever built and so it’s pretty incredible that not only did one end up in Kuwait, but the fact that it survived and is in fairly decent condition is a miracle.

Hamad is an architect and designer who lived and worked in the US for roughly 13 years. Most of his work experience revolved around modular and prefabricated construction, which is why when he spotted the Bubble House roughly two years ago, he immediately recognized that it was a novel system and had immense value. But, Hamad only realized recently what he had spotted when an account he follows posted a similar Bubble House. So Hamad went back to Amghara and called the number of the scrapyard asking if it was for sale. From there he purchased the house and started planning its relocation.

Most of the images online consistently depicted the Bubble House set against nature, making a really beautiful composition of something quite futuristic. So he decided to move the Bubble House out of the scrap yard and onto his family’s farm.

Currently Hamad is focusing his efforts on restoring the structure without permanent and damaging procedures. He wants to restore it as close to the original as possible but without an interior layout, leaving it as an open floor plan. He hopes to one day host events with some community engagement surrounding the Maison Bulle, but for now his focus is to restore it.

How the Bubble House ended up in Kuwait in the first place is still a mystery, but at least it’s in good hands right now.

Categories
Interesting

A Secret Weekend Getaway in Wafra

Similar to the ‘A-Frame‘ Farm which I posted about a couple of years ago, the ‘Countryside Farmhouse’ is another picturesque farm in Wafra that is also available to rent.

The 3,000m2 farmhouse features 4 master bedrooms, a cozy living room, both an indoor and outdoor kitchen, and various outdoor seating areas including a rooftop with a beautiful view. The farm which can host up to 10 guests also has a swimming pool, gardens all around, and a dedicated kid’s play area, so plenty of room for you and your friends.

What initially caught my attention was the beautiful Mediterranean look of the farmhouse which is what I think makes this place feel like a secret getaway. The price to rent the farm is 165 KD per night during the weekdays, and 485 KD if you want to book it for the whole weekend. Not too bad if you split the cost with friends. If you want to check out more photos or to book, head over to their instagram account @countrysidekw

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Interesting Mags & Books

The Story of Takween Bookshop

I just read a nice little article by Bothayna Al-Essa on her story of how she opened Tawkeen Bookshop. It was a pretty entertaining read and she basically explains how things first started, and some of the struggles she had.

If you’re looking for something to read, check it out.

Categories
Interesting

Talabat Now Using ChatGPT for Support

Yesterday I had a Talabat order where the driver hadn’t moved from his spot in nearly 20 minutes. I thought he might have gotten into an accident so I decided to contact Tabalat support to check on the situation, and that’s when I noticed they’re now using ChatGPT to answer regular support questions.

When you click on “Get Help” you now automatically get ChatGPT customer support by default. You can still get a hold of a real employee if you want to chat with a live person, but the default option now is ChatGPT which I thought was interesting.

The thing is, most of the time when I am talking to a real person, I think I’m talking to a bot due to the very odd language they tend to communicate with. They’re super helpful don’t get me wrong, I actually think Talabat’s customer support has improved a lot recently, but the phrases and words they use when being super friendly is really weird. I think I’m going to start saving them all so I could share in a separate post.

Categories
Information Interesting Kuwait

Visiting the Shagaya Renewable Energy Park

The Shagaya Renewable Energy Park is located around an hour and a half drive from the city and it’s HUGE. To give you some perspective, if you drove at 100KM/h, it would take you around 5 minutes to get from one end to the other. Last week I was lucky enough to get permission from KISR to visit the project and get a tour of the different renewable energy resources Kuwait is currently experimenting with.

The Shagaya Park is part of Kuwait’s vision for producing up to 15% of the energy from renewable energy sources by the year 2030. The energy park is a small-scale pilot project where three different renewable energy sources were installed with the objective so to be able to asses medium term costs and performances, and be able to make decisions on which technology to be employed in future plants. The 3 renewable energy sources installed are:

10 MW Wind Farm
10 MW Photovoltaic Plant
50 MW Concentrated Solar Power Plant

The wind farm uses wind to turn turbines to produce the energy. The photovoltaic plant uses solar panels to convert sun light into electricity. Finally, the CSP plant uses mirrors to direct sunlight onto a central tube filled with oil which then heats up water which drives a steam turbine to produce electricity. The advantage of the CSP plant which I discovered on this tour is that it can continue to produce electricity even during the night. That’s because there are two large tanks filled with 33,000 tons of molten salt that store heat during the day, and then continue to produce energy at night.

All the power generated from the park is fed back into Kuwait’s power grid. Since the park has been operational for a few years, they’ve collected enough data to decide on moving forward by expanding the Photovoltaic Plant. Kuwait uses the most amount of energy from 12PM to 4PM in the summer which is also when the Photovoltaic Plant’s generate the most electricity. This is why the government recently launched a tender to build a 1.1GW photovoltaic plant which will be installed at the park.

You can’t access the park without permission from KISR, but if you want to drive to it and check out the wind farm from outside the park, here is the location on Google Maps.

Categories
Interesting

Bulldozers Destroying Things in Jahra

I’m still out of the country on vacation so posting is going to be slow till I’m back. But, I did come across an interesting TikTok account that might be my favorite at the moment.

@jahra.removals is an instagram account I’m guessing run by the Jahra baladiya or someone that works there and it’s basically non stop videos of bulldozers destroying illegal structures constructed there. There is a bit of ASMR involved and what I love is the fact there is no prep work, the bulldozers just destroy things as they are.

@jahra.removals #بلدية_الكويت #بلدية_الجهراء #فريق_الازالات #ازالة_المخالفات #قسم_ازالة_المخالفات #سعد_العبدالله #جنوب_سعد_العبدالله #الجهراء ♬ الصوت الأصلي – jahra.removals

Clearly other people are also entertained by these videos with a few having over half a million views and one video (above) with 1.7million views.

Here is the link.

Categories
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.

Tantal
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.

Al-Seolu
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

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Fun Interesting

Have you heard of Turtle Park?

Turtle Park is a small artificial island on the Gulf Road located right behind Johnny Carino’s. It’s called Turtle Park on Google Maps because it has turtle sculptures scattered on it.

Unlike Duck Park which I posted about a couple of weeks ago and has real ducks, there are no real turtles in Turtle Park. It’s still really cute though.

Categories
Interesting

Meteor Showers in Kuwait Tonight

Don’t miss the Draconid meteor shower tonight.

The shower will be visible just after sunset and throughout the evening hours. Expect to see around 10 meteors streak across the sky per hour which is less than other showers, but the advantage is, they’re going to be moving slowly. The Draconid meteors are know to move slower than other showers so they should be visible for one or two seconds instead of disappearing in a blink of an eye.

You don’t need a telescope or any special equipment to view the shower, but if you want the best viewing conditions then it helps to be as far from artificial light as possible.

Categories
Information Interesting

Restoring the Kuwait Towers Windows

If you’ve ever been to the Kuwait Towers you probably noticed the dirty windows and wondered why they weren’t being cleaned. Well turns out they were being cleaned but the glass itself had discolored and oxidized over the years making them look dirtier than they actually were.

The Kuwait Towers are located right by the sea so they’re exposed to the salty sea air that has corrosive effects on a variety of the materials used in the towers including concrete, metal and glass. Back in June I posted about how the blue discs covering the towers were getting restored, well last week I found out that the glass is now also getting restored.

A company called RITEC was contracted for the restoration which involves a 5 stage process. The first stages relate to the actual restoration of the glass where various chemicals and abrasives are used to remove the oxidation from the glass. Once the oxidation is removed, the glass is polished and revived to its original state making it look brand new. The final stages involve protecting the glass with a nonstick clear shield that not only will prevent the salt from adhering to the glass again, but also dust. In fact, the windows will require 70% less cleaning and will no longer need any soap or chemicals to get cleaned, just water.

This restoration process is currently ongoing as of this post and they’ve already nearly completed restoring the glass at the observation deck and are in process of restoring the glass around the restaurants.

The next time you visit the towers you should see a night and day difference. You’ll finally be able to see out of the windows clearly as well as take nicer shots of the city skyline.

Categories
Interesting

The Gulf Road is Finally Getting a Bicycle Path

The Gulf Road is one of my favorite places in Kuwait but the lack of a bike path is very frustrating. I ride my bicycle on the walkway close to the water but the path isn’t wide enough for both bicycles and people when it’s busy and even when it’s empty the pathway is fairly rough to ride on using a road bike. Because the only other alternative is riding on the road with the cars ,I put up with the issues because I don’t really have another choice.

But looks like we’re finally going to get a dedicated bicycle path.

SSH, the architecture and engineering consultant firm have just taken over the waterfront project. SSH are the same people behind such projects as the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre (JACC) and the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre (ASCC) so I’m very excited about this.

The 9.7-kilometre-long waterfront project will stretch from the Yacht Club in Salmiya all the way to the Kuwait Towers and offer essential amenities for visitors, over 60 commercial and investment opportunities for local businesses, various sports activities, swimming areas, a bicycle path, a jogging path, and a recreational area for children.

The project timeline is 1 year.