Watch Fajer Eat

Post by Mark

Not sure if you know this or not, but like watching people play video games is a huge thing, watching people eat is also a pretty huge, at least in Asia. The actual term for it is mukbang which is a combination of the Korean words for eating and broadcasting.

The first time I came across a video of someone eating was back in 2012 when I posted about Emmy who was sent a box filled with sweets and snacks from Kuwait to try. Nowadays though the videos I tend to watch don’t have any talking, they’re usually just of someone sitting in front of their phones and broadcasting themselves eating something. The only sound you’ll hear come from any crunching or slurping that’s taking place. An example is the video above which has 24 million views and is just of a guy eating some crispy fried chicken.

I’ve always found this fascinating so when a friend of mine called Fajer started doing something similar here in Kuwait I got super excited. I’ve known Fajer for years, she’s always been a big foodie and I always love going out to eat with her. Recently she started gaining popularity with her food eating videos. At first, she started posting them on her personal instagram account, but then she got invited by the popular local food account @q8food to do live broadcasts of herself eating there. That’s when she really started blowing up and now even has her own account @fajereats.

I honestly think its a brilliant idea and I’m not only saying that because she’s a friend. With every girl in Kuwait left and right trying to be a fashionista, I love how Fajer is having fun by just being herself in front of the camera, stuffing down a 5 patty burger because she feels like it.

So if you’re into mukbang or curious to check it out, she does a live broadcast a few times a week on @q8food and you can also check out some videos on her own account @fajereats.


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Sunshine School 1980-84

Post by Mark

Back in the 80s the British School of Kuwait used to be called Sunshine School. It started off as a nursery before eventually turning into a middle school. My class I believe was the second class to graduate from the school (Junior 4), but it was also the last class since the 1990 invasion happened and the school ended up closing down. Once the war was over it reopened again as BSK.

This past weekend while in Lebanon I found a bunch of photos, two of which I’m sharing here. The first one on top I believe was taken at Sunshine School when it was still a nursery, based on my age in that picture I’d say around 1980-1981.

The photo above was taken at their second campus. In total, Sunshine School had three campuses, the third one is still around but I think the first two were demolished ages ago.

If you’re in any of the photos by some weird chance let me know. I have another photo I scanned this weekend in which I found three current friends of mine in not knowing they were in my class back then.

Here are the photos above in full res [Picture 1] [Picture 2]


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Chef Khaled Al Baker

Post by Mark

Khaled Al Baker, or KB for short is the brand manager and head chef at Meem Cafe. He’s also a good friend of mine and I’ve been wanting to post about him and his transformation of Meem Cafe since I’ve been watching it happen from the very beginning. Just over a year ago, Khaled moved back to Kuwait after studying culinary arts at the Johnson & Wales University in Miami. He started looking for work and decided he wanted to join MMC Catering who had a bunch of popular restaurants including LeNotre, Meem Cafe, Over Jar and Three & Barista. When he applied, one of the tasks they gave him was to pass by Meem Cafe, try their food out and let them know what he thought of it. So he invited me along with a bunch of our other foodie friends (including Hind from PantryBee) and we passed by Meem Cafe and tried out as much food as we could. My overall impression wasn’t that positive with items on the menu that didn’t make sense to be there, and what was there wasn’t that great either. But Khaled was busy taking down notes, he saw a lot of potential and so he went back to MMC with his feedback and they hired him, giving him the task to revamp and upgrade the Meem Cafe menu.

Khaled wasn’t always a chef. He originally studied accounting and finance at the University of Central Florida and then worked 6 years as an accountant in the oil and gas industry. Things started to change right after his cousin opened up the upscale butcher shop Prime Cuts. They started grilling non-stop 5-6 times a week and Khaled would have his home cook put together the sides while he did all the grilling. But his cook kept making the same sides all the time which eventually got boring, so Khaled decided he’d also do the sides himself. He started reading up a lot and experimenting and the more and more he cooked the more and more he was loving it. So he started taking cooking lessons whenever he found any and he cooked for his friends whenever he could before he eventually decided to go back to university to study culinary arts.

Over the past year Khaled has been super busy reorganizing and reinventing the Meem Cafe menu. Because I keep popping over to Meem Cafe to see him whenever I can, the whole thing to me has felt like I’ve been watching a food reality show where the chef goes into a restaurant and just overhauls the menu. The first thing Khaled did was remove all the items that didn’t fit in with the theme of Middle Eastern comfort food. After refocusing the menu under the main theme, he started experimenting with modernizing Arabic classics while also fusing others with different cuisines. He loves cooking and he’s been generally just having fun trying to come up with new dishes like zaatar fries, Lebanese nachos, burrata mana’eesh and braised short ribs hummus. The end result is a lot of good food with a lot of unique flavors. Even his chef coat is infused with Arabic by being designed like a dishdasha while incorporating the shemagh pattern.

While sitting with Khaled and interviewing him for this post I realized where all this passion with Arabic food was stemming from. He thinks that as Arabs we’re losing the food marketing war with items like hummus and pita being considered Israeli and not Arab, while Greek yogurt becoming trendy but not labneh. He thinks that if we don’t start modernizing and refining Arabic cuisine, we’re going to eventually lose it all. I never thought about it in that way but now that I do I’ve started appreciating what his doing a lot more.

If you haven’t been to Meem Cafe for awhile now then I’d recommend you pass by and try it out again. They’ve got four locations, one at the Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center, another in Hamra Tower, another in 360 Mall and the last one in The View in Salmiya. You can also follow Khaled on his instagram account @chefkb


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Cars & Coffee with the US Ambassador

Post by Mark

A few weeks ago I got contacted by the US Embassy telling me that US ambassador Lawrence Silverman wanted to meet up for coffee. Originally they wanted to know if he could come by my office, but I thought that might be a bit weird since I currently work in a government office and it would be kinda awkward if the US ambassador came to our offices with his entourage just to meet with me. So I asked them if we could meet somewhere else and they were like sure, where?. Now in my head I was thinking, can the US ambassador actually have coffee anywhere? I didn’t know if there were any rules or security protocols that prevented him from doing so, but I wanted to meet somewhere casual, so I figured I’d ask anyway. So I proposed Arabica at Arraya and they agreed. First thing I then did was get in touch with Arabica and see if I could book a table. I didn’t want to get there with the ambassador and then not have anywhere to sit so Arabica ended up hooking us up.

I actually just got back from having coffee there with the ambassador since our meeting was this morning. His arrival was pretty dramatic as expected, first I got a message from the Cultural Attache saying “We’re approaching” and then I saw all the flashing lights of his convoy pull up a few moments later. He then walked over to Arabica with his security detail who ended up hanging out around the area until we were done with our meeting. It was my first time meeting with ambassador Silverman. I had met the previous ambassador when we flew together to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, but ambassador Silverman has only been in Kuwait for a year and so we hadn’t had the chance to meet yet.

The meeting turned out to be pretty enjoyable surprisingly, I was worried we wouldn’t have anything to talk about and end up with awkward moments, but there wasn’t a dull moment throughout the hour we were together. We kinda clicked from the start since we were talking about Oman and I mentioned how me and some friends of mine were planning to send our sport cars there for a road trip, and he mentioned that Audi recently launched their RS3 in Oman. I was like wtf? (in my head) How did he know that? Me and my friends were actually watching an RS3 review video that was shot in Oman when we decided on this trip. Turns out the ambassador had watched the same video and himself is a car guy so the conversation pretty much flowed after that with us talking about cars mostly.

Close to the end of the meeting we brought up the idea of him possibly guest posting on this blog, similar to how the previous British ambassador had his “Mondays with Matthew” posts. He was interested so expect those posts to come soon. I have to say, its occasions like this that make me enjoy what I do so much. It’s unreal.


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The Kuwaiti Violin Maker

Post by Mark

A few years ago I posted about a Kuwaiti violin maker and since its a slow news week, I decided to repost that article. You can check the original post [Here] but I’ve also copy pasted it below. It’s a very interesting story if you haven’t read it before:

Article originally posted on July 24th, 2013

Last night I passed by and met Haitham Al-Ghareeb, a local violin maker. We met at his small cozy workshop in Rawda located right outside his home. When you walk into his dimly lit workshop you’ll see a small diwaniya on the left with around a dozen violins hanging on the wall, while on the right hand side is his workstation where he crafts all his violins. He filled a kettle with water and put it on a small electric stove next to him and we started talking.

Back in 2000, Haitham was a oud player but was interested in getting into violins. He started looking for a good violin to buy in Kuwait but he couldn’t find any. Most of the violins available in the market back then were of poor quality from low end brands. That’s why Haitham decided to make his own violin using documents and instructions he found online.

Haitham hadn’t crafted any musical instruments before, he had dabbled with some minor oud repair but nothing major. This got me even more curious, how can a 25 year old with no previous woodworking skills be able to craft such a delicate instrument as a violin? Well the answer I believe might be in his genes. Haitham’s father, grand father and great grand father were all dhow builders. Woodworking had existed in his family for generations and it was just natural for him to be good at it.

Haitham’s first violin wasn’t flawless, it had mistakes and was made using locally sourced wood but yet the sound it produced to his ears was beautiful. This encouraged him to build a second better violin with imported tonewood (wood cut specifically for musical instruments). He started frequenting forums and participating in online communities where other violin craftsmen from around the world would share their tips and techniques. His violins kept improving with every build and soon he had his own tips and tricks to share with the community. He loved crafting violins so much that he quickly forgot about wanting to play them. He became obsessed in building and perfecting his own creations.

When Haitham first started making violins he was spending 4 hours a day working on them and each violin would take around 2 months to complete. Nowadays he’s too busy with work and family so it takes him around 9 months to complete a single violin. But he’s fine with that. He never started making violins with the intention to turning it into a profitable business. Even his prices have remained the same over the years even though his violins kept getting better and demand for them kept increasing. He just loves making violins and isn’t interested in expanding. It’s a hobby he’s just really good at. He also does a lot of repair work on violins which to many musicians is a lifesaver. Musicians bond with their instruments and having a local violin maker means that a damaged violin no longer needs to be discarded but instead can be repaired. Only two of the violins hanging on the wall were his, the rest were either in for repair or were being sold by other musicians.

Once we were done with the interview, Haitham served us some tea. Throughout the whole interview which lasted around 40 minutes I had watched him make us the tea using two kettles, a can filled with what I assume is tea leaves and a box filled with I don’t know what. He then skillfully poured the tea from the large kettle into three glasses that were sitting amongst a dozen on the table in front of us. The tea was delicious and to me summarized the kind of person that Haitham is, a perfectionist.

If you’d like to contact Haitham for any reason you can do so by emailing him on hghareeb.koc@gmail.com


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Unique Hype Lifestyle Boutique

Post by Mark

Unique Hype is a lifestyle instagram account that sells and trades in deadstock sneakers and streetwear. The account belongs to Mohsen, a Kuwaiti student currently residing in LA who wants to remain anonymous which is why I’m only sharing his first name. I found out about him around a year ago when he first started, back then he had less than 2,000 followers and today its over 20,000. Mohsen is a sneakerhead who is in the business of deadstock sneakers and streetwear, which basically means sold out items that you can no longer find in retail (like Yeezys). I personally source my own sneakers but sometimes I get stuck and thats when I contact Mohsen who usually can source them for me, like I’m currently looking for size US11 SoleBox UltraBOOST and he’s trying to find me a pair.

I asked Mohsen how he started and turns out it was out of necessity. Growing up he was always into sneakers and when he moved to the States to study, he started lining up outside shops whenever there were any big releases. But with big releases and limited quantity, once its your turn and they don’t have your size, you end up picking up any size available. And thats what Mohsen ended up doing, he’d line up for hours and then end up with a pair that weren’t his size, so he set up @uniquehypekw to start selling those pairs. Overtime the more he lined up the more connections he made and the more he bought, sold or traded. He started meeting people in line, like other resellers or kids who just stood in line to make a quick $30 or $40 selling the pairs. So Mohsen started making deals with these kids, instead of standing in line himself, he’d get in touch with these kids, offer to give them their cut if they’d buy the sneakers for him. He also started dealing with the other resellers and every now and then one would call him up whenever they needed to unload on a large batch of items. So one guy would call him up and be like hey, I’ve got 10 pairs of Yeezy 350’s if you want them, and Mohsen would have to agree to buy all 10 at an agreed price. The more he did it, the more popular he became as a seller and the more connections he made.

I personally find all this really fascinating obviously since I’m into sneakers but Mohsen has also saved me a lot of headache. Friends and strangers contact me all the time asking me how they could get a pair Yeezys and instead of me trying to find a pair for them or show them how to go about finding stuff, I just send them over to him. I’m actually waiting on my pair of OG NMD’s which he’ll be delivering to me later tonight. So if you’re ever looking to grab a pair of difficult to find sneakers or even sold out clothing like Supreme, Anti Social Social Club or whatever, try him out. He’s also willing to buy or trade with you in case you’ve got something he wants. [@uniquehypekw]


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Living on the Edge

Post by Mark

Incase you missed it, last week I posted about a bunch of teens who were able to sneak onto the roof of Al Hamra Tower. While checking the instagram account of one of the teens called Abood, I realized that sliding around the roof of Hamra Tower was probably one of the safest things the guy has done.

Abood who’s instagram account is @pk_spark enjoys climbing on top of towers and recklessly sit or stand right on the edge. The photos definitely look cool on instagram, but damn its also so not worth the risk. You can check out his public instagram account @pk_spark for a ton of photos, but he also has a YouTube channel with a bunch of videos (mostly parkour stuff) [Here].


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Followup on MMA Manager, Mishal Abul

Post by Mark

mishal
Mishal Abul on the left with Lorenz Larkin, Audie Attar, & Ramsey Nijem

Back in 2012 I posted about a friend of mine on the blog, Mishal Abul since every now and then I like to highlight a local talent or achievement. Back then I posted about how he was a partner at Paradigm Sports Management, a US based company that manages Football, Baseball and MMA athletes. The most popular fighter they were managing when then was Michael Bisping, and I thought that was a pretty cool achievement, that a guy from Kuwait was part of the team managing Bisping. Bisping wasn’t even that big of a star in 2012 but this year that changed when Bisping caused one of the biggest upsets in the UFC title fight history to become the UFC Middleweight Champion. So the fact that a Kuwaiti is a partner in a company that manages Michael Bisping is already an amazing feat.. but that’s not even their biggest star anymore. Paradigm Sports now manage a ton of other high level fighters including arguably one of the most popular fighters on the planet right now… Conor McGregor.

conor
Conor McGregor winning his second belt at UFC 205

Yup, a Kuwaiti is part of the team that manages Conor which is also how I got into Conor’s afterparty last year after UFC 189 (best wasta ever). It’s crazy! Their whole roaster of fighters is now insane, like no exaggeration here are just some of them:

Artem Lobov
Chris Weidman
Conor McGregor
Gunnar Nelson
Jimi Manuwa
Lorenz Larkin
Michael Bisping
Rick Story
Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson
Tony Ferguson
Uriah Hall

rizin
Mishal Abul with Amir Aliakbari in Rizin

In 4 years they’ve managed to grow so much and these are just their MMA stars, they also manage other athletes but since I don’t follow any other sport (except for Formula1), I’m not really interested in the other athletes. Mishal is also now a partner in Tough Prints who do most of the printing for the UFC Reebok fight kits and he’s also now the point of contact for the Japanese Rizin Fighting Federation who are exploding because of their fight matchups involving the likes of Fedor, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop and Shane Carwin.

Anyway, to most of you the above is going to sound gibberish, but for those of you who’re into MMA I thought you’d appreciate this random info. If you’d like to find out more about Paradigm Sports Management you can check out their website [Here]


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Mohammed Taher, Brave Wave and the Generation Series

Post by Patrick

cd-SFII

I previously interviewed Mohammed Taher, the Kuwaiti creative director and founder of the Brave Wave record label. Since then he’s been busy helping in the releases of various projects like Keiji Yamagishi’s (Ninja Gaiden’s composer) first solo album, Shovel Knight’s soundtrack and an album by duo composers Saori Kobayashi (Panzer Dragoon) and Yumiko Takahashi (Suikoden) under the name of AKANE.

It doesn’t seem like he or Brave Wave take any breaks because they recently started a new label called the Generation Series. Under the Generation Series name they’ll be releasing definitive, remastered soundtracks of classic games. The first game they’re working on is Street Fighter II. The Verge recently interviewed him and sound engineer Marco Guardia about the challenges they faced working on such a huge project.

The project is interesting for various reasons. First of all, convenience. Video game soundtracks are hard to come by and when you do find them they usually cost more than they should because of rarity. The reason I personally think the Generation Series is interesting is the idea of preservation. Other forms of media (like film) have people restoring and preserving them. Preservation is a new concept when it comes to gaming, especially video game music, so I really appreciate Brave Wave taking the initiative.

It’s great to see Kuwait being represented by someone like Mohammed Taher, so be sure to visit Brave Wave’s releases page to support them.


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From Ghana to Kuwait, to Mahboula

Post by Mark

abdulai

Early last month I posted an article about Abdulai Shani, a former teacher back home in Ghana who got an opportunity to come to Kuwait to work as a security guard and earn good money. On arrival it turned out all the promises were empty ones and he was taken instead into the middle of the desert to live in a tent surrounded by a barren landscape to take care of sheep. If you haven’t read that post then check it out [Here]

After posting that article I asked if anybody would be able to help Abdulai get a better job. I received a lot of responses (thank you everybody!) and after filtering through them I ended up connecting Abdulai with a reader named Abdulrahman. Abdulrahman visited Abdulai in the desert and after meeting him decided to contact his sponsor. To quickly summarize things, he managed to convince his sponsor to let Abdulai go, at first the sponsor agreed and then on the day Abdulai was supposed to leave, the sponsor backtracked and asked for money. Abdulrahman ended up paying the sponsor off and once he collected Abdulai’s passport and civil ID, he handed them to Abdulai and then they drove off towards the city and back to civilization.

Abdulai is now living in Mahboula in an apartment he is sharing with a couple of other guys from Ghana. His new sponsor Abdulrahman is a great guy, they called me last weekend from the Avenues where they were out having lunch. Abdulai’s paperwork is currently being finalized and he’ll be starting his new job soon. He’s clearly in a much better place and he’s thankful to everyone.


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