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Art Events Mags & Books People

BTS: The Largest Sand Sculpture Festival Ever

Ten years ago, Kuwait held the largest sand sculpture festival in the world, the Remal International Festival (@remalfest). The festival took place at the Kuwait International Fairgrounds and covered an area equivalent to six football fields. Now a decade later, Damon Langlois, the creative director behind the project is releasing a book called “Stories in Sand” that documents his experience.

Damon was a five-time world champion and Guinness World Record holder for the tallest sand castle before getting hired to come to Kuwait and lead the project that would be based around the Arabian Nights. He spent over seven months researching and designing the scenes before bringing together 72 of the world’s best sand artists to reimagine the stories from 1001 Nights.

The sculpture park was constructed out of only sand and water, it was a major artistic feat, and extremely risky. The artists were all reminded of this when the park was destroyed by a devastating three-day storm halfway through the build. At the time, it was the worst storm to hit Kuwait in over 50 years.

I remember reading that “some” sculptures had been damaged, but now I realized how bad it really was. The destruction caused Damon and his team to feel defeated after all the hard work had been washed away. But, they were able to recover and complete the project, and the park eventually opened in January 2014 before closing 4 months later in April.

Damon’s book “Stories in Sand”, is part art and part storybook. The initial print run is set at only 260 books and contains 276 pages filled with behind the scenes and final creation photos and stories. There are limited copies of the book so if you want one you need to act fast. I’m assuming they will get sold out quickly after this post which is why I already ordered my copy. The book doesn’t ship to Kuwait directly so I had to put my Shop&Ship address instead.

If you want to pre-order a copy, here is the link to the Kickstarter.

For my old posts on the Remal Festival, click here.

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
Mags & Books People

Kuwaiti Author Featured on Andy Cohen’s Show

Dalal Khajah is a Kuwaiti author and the Co-Founder of Manservants, a US-based company that allows women to order chivalrous gentlemen for launch events, red carpets, or just for a girls’ night out.

The company started off as a joke that Dalal and her colleague took too far, but then it went viral and took off to become a serious and successful business that now serves Palm Springs, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York. Each ManServant is trained in their signature service, which includes, but is not limited to, pouring drinks, serving compliments and adoration, taking photos, and waiting on the women hand and foot.

ManServant Guide to Modern Chivalry” is a book that was born out of the business. It’s a book that details how men should treat women in the 21st century from doing laundry, carrying shopping bags, cleaning the bathroom, or watching the kids.

The book has just been released and is already garnering media attention, including Dalal being invited onto the show “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” a few days ago. If Andy looks familiar, it’s because he also hosts “The Real Housewives.”

I downloaded the book on my Kindle and it’s fun little book thats not meant to be taken too seriously. It’s also reasonably priced, at just $10.99 for the Kindle version and $20 for the hardcover.

If you want to buy the book or just find out more about Dalal and Manservants, head over to @manservants_co or their website manservants.co

Categories
Kuwait People Videos

Sprinkles & Spice Podcast

Sprinkles & Spice is a locally produced and recorded podcast by two girls, Zainab and Mia. They’ve been doing it now for around 6 months and it’s mostly either just the two of them talking about girly stuff, or they have a guest on to interview.

Their most recently episode with Ali Al Khudhair (above) was fun to watch, but then again Ali is pretty entertaining himself. I think the first time I saw him on TikTok he was selling banak at a roundabout at night, or at least I think it was him, I thought it was pretty funny. Anyway, if you’re looking for a fun and light hearted local podcast to listen to, check the girls out on Instagram @sprinklesandspicepodcast or on YouTube.

Categories
Art People

Kuwaiti Artists Shine at Desert x Alula

Two Kuwaiti female artists, Aseel AlYaqoub and Monira Al Qadiri are taking part in this year’s Desert X AlUla 2024 open-air art exhibition.

15 artists from around the world were invited to take part in the exhibition under the theme of “In the Presence Of Absence”. The exhibition is taking place in AlUla area in Saudi Arabia and is open to all to visit.

Aseel’s work is the one on top, while Monira’s are the black enlarged meteorites above. For more information and photos of their installations, head over to their instagram account @aseelalyaqoub and @moniraism.

Desert X AlUla 2024 runs from 9 February to 23 March. For more information on the exhibition, visit @artsalula

Photos: Courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla

Categories
People Photography

Moff Gideon at the Kuwait Towers

Giancarlo Esposito, the actor who played Gus on Breaking Bad and Moff Gideon on The Mandalorian was in Kuwait this past weekend for the comic festival. While here he ended up visiting the Kuwait Towers and he took some cool fun shots which he ended up posting on his instagram account. Check them all out here.

Categories
Geek People

The Largest Stamps Collection in Kuwait

When I was a kid growing up in the 80s I got into the hobby of stamp collecting before eventually losing interest and moving on to videos games, music and the internet. Jasem on the other hand started collecting stamps when he was 10 and hasn’t stopped since.

I’ve know Jasem for nearly 20 years and although I knew he was into stamps, I didn’t realize how deep he was into this hobby until just a couple of weeks ago. Turns out he’s the largest stamp collector in Kuwait and one of the largest in the Middle East having over 400,000 stamps, and thats not counting duplicates!

When I first walked into his archive, a room with back to back shelves filled with stamp folders, my jaw dropped. The shelves were organized by country and in alphabetical order but there were also more focused folders revolving around themes like JFK, Oil & Gas, Chess, Flowers and more.

I had him pull out his Kuwait folders so I could go through some of Kuwait’s first stamps. One thing I discovered was that before Kuwait had their own stamps they used to overprint British and Indian stamps. Basically they were standard British and Indian stamps that they would overprint the word KUWAIT on them. Kuwait launched their own stamps in 1959 but used rupees until the Kuwaiti dinar was established as a currency in 1961. Jasem has all four kinds of those stamps, Indian and British overprints as well as the first Kuwait stamps in rupees and the first Kuwait stamps in dinars after. They’re incredibly interesting to see since they’re part of Kuwait’s history.

Thats one thing I love about stamps, a properly organized stamp collection is like a picture history book since every important part of a countries history would have been released as a stamp.

I asked Jasem what he was planning to do with his continuously growing collection but as of now he doesn’t have any plans. At the moment he’s just collecting while also trading and selling stamps he doesn’t need. Eventually I imagine he’s going to display them somehow for the public. When I was in Bahrain last year I passed by the Bahrain Post Museum and they had a small curated collection of rare stamps which were really interesting to go through. Hopefully he ends up setting something up like that, at least for the Kuwait stamps since I’m sure a lot of people who love to see them.

If you want to find out more about Jasem you can check out his website jasemali.com

Categories
People

Kuwaiti Animator Worked on the new Guardians of the Galaxy VOL 3

You’ve probably come across Ahmad Jamal’s (@spaces.in.film) work before, he had a few of his art and videos go viral locally including his Spiderman in Kuwait videos.

Back in March, Ahmad was hired by Sony Pictures Imageworks as a character animator for a VFX movie, specifically for the MARVEL movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, and the holiday special. He moved to Vancouver and became part of the animation crew under the direction of James Gun for both these movies.

As an animator, Ahmad is responsible for the movement and acting of the characters for the shots that he’s working on. He films his own reference videos of how they behave in those shots and then animates them.

It’s a great example of how dreams can come true. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 comes out next summer but the trailer is out now. If you want to see some of Ahmad’s work then definitely also check out his Instagram account @spaces.in.film

Categories
Automotive People

Around the World in the MAN KAT 8×8

I was picking up breakfast from Mcdonald’s next to the Kuwait Towers when I spotted this large military-like truck parked across from Mcdonald’s. I knew it wasn’t military because it had German plates on it and the words tourist printed in large near the front along with a German flag, I snapped a few photos and then later once back home decided to google it.

Turns out the truck is a MAN KAT 8×8 and is being driven around the world by a German lady called Petra. She started her journey on June 2020 and is currently in Kuwait having come from Iran.

I found a video on YouTube where she gives a tour of her truck and you can check that out below although it’s in German (inside tour starts at 19:30).

If you want to follow Petra on her journey or want to check out photos from her previous trips, her Instagram is @katweltreise

Categories
Information People Sports

First Kuwaiti NFL Player Inducted into the Hall of Fame

Last year I posted about Maher Barakat, the first and only Kuwaiti to ever be drafted it to the NFL as well as being the first football player from his college to go pro. Maher broke college and division records and became really well known in his town back in the 1960s earning him the nickname Bear-Cat.

Last night, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology decided to honor Maher with an induction into their hall of fame. The ceremony was streamed live and Maher’s grandson accepted the induction on his behalf with a heartwarming speech. As of this post, the induction ceremony is available to watch online at the following link (Maher gets inducted at the 51min mark)

If you missed the post on how Maher made it to the NFL, click here.

Categories
Art People

Art for Pinot

Pinot is a digital artist that was living in Kuwait up till 2014 and is incredibly talented in pixel art and animation using vintage computers. He gained worldwide fame through the service Vine which back before Twitter acquired it, used to allow users to share six-second-long looping video clips. Eventually a digital agency in New York found out about him and offered him a job so he packed up and left Kuwait with his family to work and live there. Since then he’s gotten even more popular with nearly 400K followers on Instagram and even ended up on an MKBHD episode where he showed Marques how to paint on an old Mac.

His Childish Gambino video that went viral

Sadly back in June he suffered a stroke and fell into a coma. Since then he’s been gradually progressing ever so slowly and eventually was taken off life support since he started breathing by himself. He also started making hand gestures and moving one of his arms and legs and is still slowly improving.

Art for Pinot is an initiative from the Indonesian NFT community to help him by inviting fellow creators to donate their artwork as a form of support. If you’re an artist reading this you can help by donating an artwork. For more information visit bit.ly/ArtforPino

If you’re not an artist but still want to help, there is a GoFundMe page.

If you’re just curious and want to check out some of Pinot’s work, his Instagram is @pinot and his twitter (which he posts animations in progress) is also @pinot

If you want to stay updated on his progress, his wife is sharing updates on her Instagram @ditut

Categories
People Sports

Young Beast from Kuwait

If you’re into MMA then check this out. Kuwaiti fighter Mohammad Alaqraa just got called a beast by UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. I hadn’t heard of Mohammad up until now, his MMA record is currently made up of just 1 win with 0 losses and he seems to be training out of the popular gym AKA. Based on a video Khabib posted it looks like Mohammad was sparring with Khabib’s cousin and must have impressed Khabib. If you end up missing Khabib’s story, here is a screenshot and you can follow Mohammad on Instagram @mo_alaq

Thanks Azzam

Categories
50s to 90s Kuwait People Sports

How a Kuwaiti got into the NFL

I love interesting stories about Kuwait and this one is particularly fascinating because I was able to get so much information, photos, and newspaper clippings to go along with it. Last week I got an email from someone telling me that their dad back in 1970 became the first and only Kuwaiti to ever be drafted by the NFL. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in telling the story and obviously, I jumped all over it! I really wanted to know how someone from Kuwait in the 60s ended up in the NFL so I met with his two sons and managed to get the full story.

Back in the 60s, their father Maher Barakat graduated from Shuwaikh High School for boys and received a government scholarship to attend the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. When Maher was in Kuwait he used to play soccer with his friends and family and he was known to be a powerful striker who was accurate and usually scored a lot of goals. It was soccer that got him into the NFL, and it was also soccer that ended his NFL career.

During one of his PE classes in college, Maher was given an opportunity to Punt (kick) a weird-shaped ball into a U-shaped goal. He hadn’t played American Football before but apparently, it was very easy for him to kick the ball as he used to when playing soccer. The coach then asked him to do it again and Maher scored the ball again. The coach then moved him to different points around the field and kept asking Maher to try and score from there and Maher would keep kicking the ball through the posts. After completing the assessment, Maher was given an offer by the coach to join the college football team as their starting punter and Maher accepted the offer.

Though his punting style was unconventional (leaning more towards a soccer kick), Maher Barakat became a star at South Dakota. He ended up breaking college and division records, which is most likely how he was spotted by NFL scouts. Maher became really well known in his college town and earned the nickname Bear-Cat.

Maher was officially drafted by the NFL in 1970 and became the first football player from his college as well as the first Kuwaiti to ever be drafted to the pros. Bear-Cat was approached by a number of NFL teams such as the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, and St. Louis Cardinals but ended up choosing to sign with the Broncos.

In the summer after signing his NFL contract, Maher Barakat flew back to Kuwait to see his family and share the good news. Once back in Kuwait he was eager to play soccer with his friends just like he used to in the old days and that’s where the story takes a turn. Unfortunately while playing soccer with his friends, Maher ends up fracturing his toe. Even after healing, he couldn’t kick the same anymore and that was the end of his American Football career.

Maher eventually graduated and moved back to Kuwait where he worked in the Ministry of Electricity until the early 80s when he decided to leave to start his own business. He ended up opening what eventually became the popular video store, Blue Belt (حزام أزرق) and held the rights to WWF (now WWE) for the GCC (that needs a whole separate post). In the 90s he also became the partner in IVC, the video store located next to Fanar Mall.

Maher had kept all the newspaper clippings and photos from his college years and his sons passed them to me to share. There were a lot but I chose to share the ones I thought were the most interesting and informative. I’ve shared some in this post but you can download the PDF with all the articles, photos and letters I scanned by clicking this link Maher-Barakat.pdf

There is very little information about Maher online so I really appreciate that his sons decided to share this with me. According to them their dad doesn’t like talking about himself and so very few people know of his story and accomplishment. Hopefully, after today he’ll get the recognition he deserves.

Categories
People

RIP ☾osmic ☾ircus

Sucks we never got to set up the pool on the roof. @cosmicxcircus

Categories
In Focus People

The Blade Maker

Over the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with the TV series Forged in Fire in which bladesmiths compete on the series to win $10,000 and earn the title of Forged in Fire champion. So when I found out there was a local bladesmith I decided to get in touch with him to find out his story.

Fahad Alsayer goes by the handle @theblademaker on instagram and has been making knives for just over a year. He started making knives for fun before realizing there were people who would be interested in buying his creations. He actually hadn’t thought of selling them until one day while low on cash, he got a phone bill message on his phone. He hadn’t started working at that time and was trying to figure out how to pay his bill when he decided he’d try and sell one of his knives. After managing to sell it, he paid his phone bill and reinvested the remaining amount back into his hobby. Eventually, it became a source of income with local chefs and knife collectors getting in touch with him for one-off creations. He’s even shipped his knives to customers abroad.

I passed by Fahad’s workshop last week, a room in his family home which he converted into his workspace. It’s a pretty cool setup with a knife kiln on one side of the room for heat-treating the metals, and sanders and a sharpening station on the other. Fahad doesn’t forge his metals but instead purchases them in sheets online which he then either shapes manually with a sander, or cuts out using a laser cutter. Due to the cost of the materials as well as the time and skill it takes to create a knife, Fahad’s knives cost KD90 and up, depending on the size of the knife, amount of work it took and kind of metal used. Some of his customers include @chefkb and @foodninja whom he created custom knives for. Fahad isn’t the only knifemaker in Kuwait, according to him there are others albeit a small group but they tend to meet once a week to talk knives and help each other out.

If you’re interested in purchasing a knife or checking out Fahad’s work then make sure you check out his instagram @theblademaker