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

8 04, 2019

Ahmadi Drive-in Theater Demolished

2019-04-08T11:46:53+03:00Apr 8, 2019|14 Comments

According to the blog Life in Kuwait, the Ahmadi drive-in theater got demolished last week. I guess this isn’t a surprise since it hadn’t been used in decades, but it’s always sad to see another part of Kuwait’s past go.

Next up I hear the ice skating rink is going to get demolished. I’ve been trying to confirm and get more details from TEC but whoever is running their instagram account doesn’t respond to comments or DM’s. So don’t take my word for it.

Anyway, here are some photos of the Ahmadi drive-in:
Ahmadi drive-in when it was being constructed
Ahmadi drive-in from a few years ago

27 03, 2019

Visiting The Kuwait National Library

2019-03-28T07:58:31+03:00Mar 27, 2019|23 Comments

Around 4 years ago I passed by The Kuwait National Library. The library wasn’t officially open then but I had a meeting with the team there and before my meeting started, I wandered around a bit and explored what I thought were all the English books they had in this very small section near the meeting room. I wasn’t that impressed.

Since then I’ve been meaning to drop by again but never did, partially because I wasn’t impressed the first time but also because their opening hours are terrible, 9AM to 1PM during weekdays.. basically when everyone is at work. But, I did manage to finally drop by the library this morning and I’ve changed my mind, I now love the place.

The national library is spread out over three floors not including the ground floor. I’m sure the way the books were divided kinda made sense, but I was just wandering around exploring and randomly looking for English books. So this is the thing I didn’t realize the first time I was there, there isn’t just one section where all the English books are located. Instead, the library is divided into different areas like Encyclopedias or books about Kuwait etc.., and in each of these areas you’ll find an English books corner.

There were a handful of people in the library when I was there (because everyone has a day job obviously), so I was able to just walk around the different floors and sections, randomly exploring without disturbing anyone. I’m not sure I managed to see all the areas but even if I did, I really do have to go back and spend a lot more time there.

My favorite sections were probably the books on Kuwait section as well as the newspaper archives section. If you check my instagram story I shared some videos of that section. The newspaper archive section had these massive books of different Kuwaiti newspapers from the 60s, 70s, 80s etc.. and you just flip through them, every page of the book is a page from a newspaper. They’re so good and there were so many of them so I really want to go back and flip through more of those books.

There was also this very cool section with shelves that opened and moved with a touch of a button, there was a section where employees were busy digitizing books using these super cool laser scanners (pictured above), and there was even a rare books section.

I really love old books, especially ones related to Kuwait so I really did enjoy just sitting on the floor and flipping through random books. You can’t take the books out of the library, but that’s really not an issue for me and if anything, I prefer it since the books will always be there to check.

Their opening hours are terrible and that really is my biggest issue with the place. I really want you all to pass by and check the library out, but I also know that the majority of you have jobs and aren’t going to want to take a day off just to explore a library. But if you can, then they’re open from Sunday to Thursday, 9AM to 1PM. The library is located right next to the Sadu House and the National Museum [Google Maps]. Everyone can access the library, and it’s free. You just need to give them your Civil ID card at the door.

If you follow me on instagram (@mark248am) then check out my story today, I’ll also have it as a highlight for a few days in case you read this post late.

The National Library of Kuwait’s website is nlk.gov.kw

13 03, 2019

The Scientific Center Expansion has Begun

2019-03-13T12:42:42+03:00Mar 13, 2019|9 Comments

A few years ago I posted about the Scientific Center expansion plans and one of the most controversial aspects of it was the fact the plans included a new dolphinarium. As you know, holding dolphins in captivity is pretty cruel and a friend of mine even posted an appeal in hopes of stopping it.

Recently construction started next to Scientific Center and I was curious to know if the dolphinarium was still being built. So I got in touch with my contact at the Scientific Center who not only reassured me that they are not going ahead with the dolphinarium, but he also shared with me some new information on the expansion as well as the visuals I’ve shared in this post.

The Scientific Center have now started construction work on the new expansion, with the first phase focused on marine works and land reclamation. This includes renovation of the Dhow Harbor area and the relocation of the seawater intake pipe which provides clean seawater to the tanks within the aquarium. The construction you see now on the side of the Scientific Center (pictured above) is for the marine works which is estimated to take around 9 months. This will be followed by the groundbreaking, structural foundation of the expansion, the construction of the superstructure, MEP, the finishing and new exhibits installations, and then finally the renovation of the existing building attractions and exhibits.

The design and programming of the expansion building was developed as a priority, in partnership with the center’s Board and consultation from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS). The expansion commits the center to playing a leading role on a national level to transform the country and help develop a knowledge-driven economy. Because of this commitment, the programming and exhibits within the expansion aim to increase the quality of STEM teaching from the center, as well as the importance of environmental protection, through engaging learning experiences.

The expansion will introduce new concepts to the region, as well as inspiring exhibits, through both new additions and the renovation of current ones. The public can expect to see reinvigorated ecosystems in the Mijbil Almutawa Aquarium, modern commodities and services, a brand new children’s science museum, as well as numerous new halls and labs enabling visitors, schools, universities and more to engage with the center in developing their own innovations to better Kuwait.

Here are some other facts you might find interesting:

– The renovation of the aquarium is being done in partnership with the creative
design and consultancy firm ROTO, who you can learn about [Here]

– The overall expansion is estimated to come at an approximate value of KD 36 million, with a timeline of projected completion by 2022

– Many people aren’t aware that the Scientific Center is a non-profit

– The center is aiming to introduce class-specific programs, labs, and workshops for educators to use for their own curriculum

– The footprint of the center is doubling

So to summarize, there will be no dolphinarium and the Scientific Center will be increasing their exhibits and attractions and refurbishing the current building. All of that is expected to be completed in around 3-4 years.

10 02, 2019

The ASCC Museums – 1 Year Later

2019-02-10T16:11:10+03:00Feb 10, 2019|11 Comments

The Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Centre (ASCC) opened nearly a year ago and since then I’ve visited it nearly a dozen times. It’s right down the street from my place and so it’s really convenient for me to drop by whenever I want. One of the things I was concerned about when the museums first opened up was how it would hold up to the abuse.

Well I’ve got good news, all six museums are still pretty much intact. I passed by on Thursday and went through all the exhibits and I could count the number of exhibits that were out-of-order on my hand. Not only that but since my last visit a few months ago, new cafes have opened up and a couple of new exhibits were added.

Best part about the museum is that there rarely is anyone ever there. For example I passed by Thursday evening and there were barely any people which is great if you don’t like crowds.

If you haven’t been to the museums yet then I’d highly recommend you do so, it’s just a cool place to walk around and chill with loads of outdoor spaces to explore as well as the actual museums themselves. For more information click [Here]