From Ghana to Kuwait, One Man’s Story

Post by Mark


Last week a reader called Abdulai Shani left the following comment under the post “The rescue of a domestic worker in Kuwait”:

I’m happy I came across this page. To be frank I’m fascinated as to how most Kuwaitis respond positively.

This is my own story and how I got to Kuwait. It all started somewhere in February this year, I met a guy back in my country in Africa, that is Ghana to be specific who told me he have some “connection” as normally termed in Ghana here in Kuwait and that a reputable company needs security guards to employ. I showed interest because he said I will be paid $1000 per month. I was happy and more than willing, so he demanded I pay $1500 for the processing my my visa and tickets which I paid. When I arrived at the airport of Kuwait on the 1st of April it was a different scenario. I was taken to an agency in Jahra and was told I’m going to take care of sheep on the desert. That was a blow I haven’t recovered till now, because I’m trapped in the sense that I quitted my job which is 100 times better than what I’m doing right here in Kuwait. And the wages i was promised never manifested instead I receive 70kd a month. I can’t even call my mom to tell her what I’m going through because I fear I might break her heart. I Fasted 30 Days during the fasting and can tell you it was hell. I Iive in a tent and the weather is extremely hot. I Have been on the desert for five months now. It’s I’m not the only one over here, we are trapped. We work 24hours a day and no day off and this will continue for 2years. We don’t go any where ,we just work even at night because we have to stay awake and look after the sheep. I’m a muslim and what I have been taught is that a man should not be ashamed of his work if it brings you good deeds and avoid you from stealing, so I’m not ashamed of being a shepherd although I’m well educated but the thing is my freedom have shackled. And the funny thing is our employers call themselves Muslims but will not allow us to go to the mosque on Fridays. All they do is they want us to always work,t hey don’t care even if we don’t pray. Hmmm on the day of Judgement Allah will fight for what they are denying us. Maybe someone reading this will say why we don’t run away or protect, but I tell you if we try to run away they will file a false case against us. And another problem is abuse, they beat my co workers although non have tried that on me yet. We just hope one day our two years contracts will be over. So that we can go back peacefully to our various countries.

After reading that I had no idea what to think. It didn’t make sense, the person who left that comment speaks English fairly well, was able to find my blog and was also able to leave a comment. How is this guy a shepherd? At first I thought it might be a prank but I emailed the guy anyway asking for his number so I could contact him and confirm his story. He sent me his number and I proceeded to chat with him via Whatsapp. Again I was very suspicious, how does a shepherd know what Whatsapp is? In the end he sent me his location and I decided I would drive out to meet him. Friday, after brunch with some friends, I drove an hour and a half alone into the middle of the desert so I could meet a stranger called Abdulai. I honestly had no idea what to expect which is why I had passed the location to my friends… just in case.

It was around 1PM when I pulled up outside Abdulai’s tent. I had called him up minutes earlier trying to figure out where his tent was exactly and the first thing he asked me was if I had driven through the valley of dead sheep. I surprisingly knew what he was talking about since just before I called him I had driven on a strip of road with dead sheep on both sides. A horrific scene mind you. As I was getting out of my car Abdulai had a big smile on his face, I walked up to him and we shook hands before we headed inside his tent. Abdulai lives on a farm, no, I can’t call it a farm since it’s really not but not sure what else to call it. It’s just a 4×4 tent (his home) with a small sheep pen outside it and that’s about it. It was very hot and although I was sitting inside his tent in the shade I was sweating profusely. He doesn’t have electricity so there is no air conditioning. Before we started I asked him if I could post his full name and his photo and he said yes. I told him I didn’t want to get him in trouble and if he wanted to stay anonymous or not be in a photo that would be ok. He told me he didn’t care since this was his reality.


Abdulai Shani is a high school graduate but dropped out of university. He’s just 25 years old and before coming to Kuwait was teaching 7 year olds English and Mathematics at a school in Ghana. Like he stated in his comment on the blog, he was offered the opportunity to work in Kuwait as a security guard with a starting salary of $1,000 which was more than what he was making teaching in Ghana. So he took the chance, paid the agent $1,500 in fees and flew out of Ghana on March 31st of this year to come work in Kuwait. He didn’t have a copy of the contract before he left since his agent told him he would get one on arrival to Kuwait. When he arrived in Kuwait he was greeted by a man who he assumed was his boss. That man took his passport then drove him to a house in Jahra where he was locked up with three other people. He was told his sponsor would be coming to get him in a couple of days and was then asked if he was informed on what he would be doing. He replied saying he did, he would be a security guard. The person told him no, he was going to be a shepherd. Abdulai responded saying he was told he would be a security guard by the agent. The man then asked him if he knew how much he would be getting paid. Abdulai told him $1,000, the man told him he would be getting only KD70. Abdulai didn’t understand and at that time he had just arrived to Kuwait and so he was scared and didn’t know what to do. Three days later his sponsor came in the evening. His sponsor paid the people holding Abdulai and he was released into his custody. He felt like he was a slave being traded.


Since April Abdulai has been working at this sheep pen out in the middle of nowhere. His meals are bread for breakfast, rice for lunch and rice for dinner. He doesn’t have electricity except for a small solar panel that charges his phone and his flashlight. The sponsor gave him a smartphone with a phone line that has internet which is how he is able to get online. He found my blog while researching slavery in Kuwait trying to understand what rights he had and why things are the way they are. According to Abdulai he is getting paid although he ran into an issue recently. His first two salaries he had the sponsor send to Ghana since it wasn’t safe to keep his money in his tent. Then the other 3 salaries he told the sponsor to keep with him. But when he asked for them at the end of last month the sponsor wouldn’t give it to him. After an argument he was told to give back the mobile phone. Abdulai gave him the phone but told him part of the contract says I get a phone so if you’re taking it back then I want to go back to Ghana. So they took him to the agency who gave him two choices.

1) He leaves to Ghana but doesn’t get paid.
2) He stays and he would get paid. He chose to stay.

At this point I wanted to know what he wanted out of all of this so I asked him. He replied telling me he just wanted to get the word out that slavery still exists. He told me back in Ghana he didn’t live in a tent, he lived in a home, a decent one. He told me two months back when the weather was really hot he started to bleed from his nose. So he told his sponsor he wanted to go to the hospital to check and see why he was bleeding. His sponsor told him he wasn’t going to take him to the hospital but instead should just wrap his head with a shemagh. I asked Abdulai if he wanted to go back to Ghana or if he wanted to stay and get a better job. He told me he wanted to stay but get a better job since that’s why he originally came to Kuwait.

On my way back to the car he gave me a tour of the property. Right outside his tent door was a bench, that’s where he sleeps at night since it’s too hot to sleep inside the tent. He then showed me the sheep pen which he attends to all day long, seven days a week. He doesn’t understand what the sheep are for, in the five months he’s been there none were sold or taken or anything. We walked together back to my car and said our goodbyes.


In some ways Abdulai is lucky. He’s educated and speaks English which is how he was able to reach out to me and now I can shed light on him and hopefully with the help of the blog find him a better job. But this also got me thinking, what about all the other people who don’t speak any English and don’t know how to reach out for help? And what if this was the tipping point for change? With local telecoms phasing out regular phones and pushing out smartphones with internet access to all their customers, are more and more people like Abdulai going to come forward and share their story with the world?

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Bake and Educate

Post by Mark


A couple of nights ago I was over at a friends place when I was introduced to Noor AlObaid, the young Kuwaiti behind the nonprofit charity organization Bake and Educate. I was so fascinated with the story that I couldn’t wait to post about it on the blog.

Noor started Bake and Educate at the age of 14 years old. She grew up with a mixed background, her father is Kuwaiti while her mum is Syrian so she got to see life from both perspectives, the easy privileged life of a Kuwaiti and the struggle of a Shami in Kuwait. Ever since she was a kid her mother used to teach her that because God had given them a good life, they have to give back to people who aren’t as fortunate. So she started giving a few dinars from her allowance to less fortunate children and when she grew older it just became a habit.


Noor went to a private American school and her tuition at one point had reached around KD5,000 a year. On the other hand the tuition fees for some Arabic private schools in Kuwait were only around KD400 to KD500 per student per year and yet several families had difficulty affording that. In 2009, Noor’s mum received a list 21 pages long of students that were financially unable to cover their school fees. The overdue payments ranged anywhere from KD20 up to KD400 so they came up with the idea to create a baking exhibition where all proceeds would be used to cover the student fees. At first it was a difficult concept for people to understand, why would a 14 year old be running a non-profit? Why is it for education? People didn’t realize the significance of a diploma and how without one, many places wouldn’t be willing to employ a non-Kuwaiti.

At first Bake and Education started off as a yearly exhibition and then it became bi-annual until they started doing delivery. By 2012, Bake and Educate had started to gain a reputation after working closely with the Ministry of Youth and EQUAIT. In the 6 years since Noor started Bake and Educate the program has helped cover the tuition of 389 students while also helping refugee camps in Syria.

How does it work?
With each donation or order you will receive an official Bake and Educate receipt. When payment is received, Bake and Educate contact the schools and send the money over either on the same day or the morning after. Once the money is received by the accountant of the school, they deduct the amount from a students overdue payment and provide Bake and Educate with a receipt which they file. Bake and Educate is an officially registered non-profit organization. Some of the schools they work with are AlJamil School, AlRiqqa Elementary School and AlWataniya School, however, they try to work with any school that is willing to accept financial aid for students.

So if you’re interested in what they’re doing, follow them on instagram @bakeandeducate

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Meet Mr Kim

Post by Mark


There is a really old Korean guy called Mr Kim that has a shop in my building and I always found him fascinating. He’s got fairly long white hair, wears white bell bottoms with funky vintage shirts and drives a very well kept classic Chevrolet Caprice. I’ve actually posted about his shop before but never about him since I didn’t really know his story. But, recently he asked me to help him set up an Instagram account and we got to talking and it turns out he’s got such an interesting and random story.

Back in 1981 Mr Kim was the General Secretary of the Boxing Federation in Korea when Sheikh Fahad Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (the founder of the Kuwait Olympic Committee) was visiting Korea. Sheikh Fahad met with Mr Kim and offered him the position head coach of for the Kuwait National Boxing Team. Mr Kim accepted the position and came to Kuwait in 1982 and right away helped the Kuwaiti team win two bronze medals at the Asian Games that same year.


Mr Kim continued to train the Kuwait National Boxing Team before leaving a few years later to train the Kuwaiti police and later the army. Around 88-89 he left boxing behind and partnered up with Carlton Hotel to open a Korean restaurant (which is still there). In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, he was on vacation at the time but his two daughters and son were in Kuwait. His children stayed at the Carlton Hotel at first and later stayed at the home of an employee of the Korean embassy.

In 1991 Mr Kim came back to Kuwait after the invasion and got into a disagreement with the Carlton Hotel and so left the restaurant. In 1992 he opened his current shop which sells mostly hair bands and random little trinkets he brings in from Korea. His children and wife now live in Korea while he lives here alone. He’s 71 years old.


As I’ve mentioned before his shop is really worth checking out. I’ve actually taken a bunch of friends there and everyone was always surprised at how visually intense the interior is. So pass by him if you can, his shop is located on the mezzanine floor of Anjari Complex in Salmiya [Map]. You can also check out his Instagram account [Here]

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‘Shredded Diesel’ Makes the Daily Mail

Post by Mark


The Daily Mail have published an article on the popular Kuwaiti bodybuilder ‘Shredded Diesel’. I used to come across his photos on instagram often and thought he was just another musclehead, but turns out he’s actually a personal trainer and has worked with the likes of Timbaland, Madonna and Justin Timberlake. One interesting thing in the article is that he encourages taking candy after workouts. It sounds a bit iffy but I’m probably going to research it a bit more after this post and see if that means I can have my favorite chocolate after the gym. Anyway check out the article with loads of photos on the Daily Mail website [Here]

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Dating with Tinder in Kuwait

Post by Mark


A friend recently asked me why I don’t write about the dating app Tinder. At first I wasn’t very sure if the local Tinder users would appreciate this extra attention, but then I thought about it again and realized a post about Tinder could actually boost it locally. So I decided to do some research and the first thing I did was google “tinder kuwait” which landed me on an extremely entertaining local blog called Single in the Shires. The blog is about the dating adventures of a single British girl living in Kuwait and since she was a Tinder user, I decided to contact her and ask her if she’d be willing to write the review instead. She nicely accepted and you can check it out below:

Swipe Right
When Mark asked me to guest blog for him I was delighted. Then I realized that I had to write about my shameful love life for the Kuwait blogosphere to digest. I hold my hands up… I am in my 30s and I’m single (audible gasp). And moving to Kuwait certainly hasn’t helped change matters. How could it? Gone are my days of meeting guys in nightclubs and bars. First date nerves are no longer steadied with a couple of wines. Dinners no longer turn in to dancing. And, for a change, I can remember every single disastrous detail the next day (not always a good idea). Plus, how on earth are you supposed to meet eligible bachelors in Kuwait – and by eligible I mean NOT the ones that follow you through Avenues, try and get your attention whilst driving dangerously or beep their horns as they drive past you when you’re trying to cross the street. Those men are a no no.

So, moving to Kuwait has meant embracing online dating – something I wasn’t a fan of in London. In fact, I’m even less of a fan now but needs must. And without or there wasn’t much chance of even an internet date. Until Tinder popped up.

Tinder is an app that allows you to select your chosen target demographic (in my case: male, 32-38, within 50km) and then view their pictures. Like the look of them? Swipe right. Don’t like the look of them? Swipe left. Yes it’s shallow but it’s more fun than reading dating profiles that have been embellished beyond belief (ie the guy who said he was over 6 foot and was shorter than me on the date – and I’m 5 foot 7). The app pulls the pictures from your Facebook profile and it seems many users in Kuwait fail to review these and make any changes. Why else would there be 100s of profiles featuring men with their brides or profiles pictures that are of their children?!

You see, to some this is a dating site and to others it’s a hook up app. From talking to friends it seems men treat it as a hook up app and girls are a bit more willing to believe they’ll meet someone lovely and ride off in to the sunset to start their ‘happy ever after’. Wake up girls, you are not riding off in to the sunset with the guy that takes a selfie in the gym mirrors with his top off. That guy will always like himself just that little bit more than he likes you.

I could reel off my disastrous encounters thanks to Tinder but have chosen to protect the not-so-innocent. Plus, I don’t want to tempt fate. You see, for all my cynicism I am still hopeful that one day I’ll swipe right and meet a normal, well-adjusted guy that doesn’t want to show me the inside of his pants on Whatsapp after three messages.

So would I recommend Tinder? Well in the absence of an alternative then I suppose I would – as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Remember; online you can be whoever you want to be. Just take it all with a pinch of salt and swipe away. Who knows, you may have better luck than me.


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Kuwait in a 1000 Words

Post by Mark


“I’ve been in Kuwait for 12 years now. I am here to support my wife, my daughter and my two sons. I used to clean at the Airport. Now I clean here around the Kuwait Towers. I have only been able to go home to Nepal and see my family 3 times in 12 years. I miss their faces very, very much……But I am happy”. – Krishna

Kuwait in a 1000 Words in a new Facebook page by Tim Carr (TJC Films). Tim meets a lot of interesting people because of his work and so he decided he would introduce the people he meets to the rest of the world. As of this post he has introduced 22 people ranging from street cleaners to artists and even Big D. Everyone has a story and this is a great way of showcasing them. Check out the Facebook page [Here]

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Mohammed Taher is Brave Wave

Post by Mark

Mohammed Taher is a Kuwaiti music director, producer, writer and the guy behind the music label Brave Wave. I posted about him last year after the popular gaming blog Joystiq posted about his then upcoming album, World 1-2 which featured 21 video game composers. Recently though he was invited to give a talk at Bit Summit, an indie game festival held annually in Kyoto, Japan. My brother managed to score an interview with him and just posted a feature story on him in the gaming section [Here]

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Kuwaiti in the Arctic

Post by Mark


Nasser Al-Fozaie is a Kuwaiti who is currently living in the Arctic. He emailed me a couple of weeks back and I was curious to why he was there and so he sent me the below to share on the blog:

I’ve always wanted to experience the Arctic. I’m Nasser Al-Fozaie, a twenty-three year-old Kuwaiti, currently conducting sociocultural research and fieldwork on the Greenlandic Inuit society. I dare say life in the Arctic is quite extraordinary and the environment is truly wondrous to behold. The moment I arrived to Nuuk, Greenland, I was greeted by the heavenly whiteness of the city’s mountainous terrain and the rippling waters of Labrador with its gently floating sea ice in all its grace.


I’m currently on my second week and I plan to stay here for the next four months, God willing. I decided to come here because I’ve always been fascinated by Earth’s geographic polar regions and I myself have travelled to many parts of the globe to experience both the physiography and the cultures of the places I visit. I lived in a Fijian village, for example, teaching in a public school and performing environmental initiatives with the locals. I was actually inaugurated into a native Fijian tribe which is way cool. I also went on several solo excursions such as backpacking across New Zealand, trekking the Cornish coast of Southwest England, train-hopping across Eastern Canada and music touring across the United States.

Indeed in order to truly understand something, you will need to put in the effort of exploring and searching for the answers you covet. The esoteric beauty that lies within travel is that it teaches humility and you soon realize how wrong you’ve been living. That said, I don’t necessarily understand why a lot of people are losing confidence in their abilities – they numb themselves through the doleful modus of self-deprecation. They, in perhaps a rather puerile sense, give up on their dreams. They start to imbue a desire for comfort and contentment – average contentment. It’s as if the extraordinary is no longer yearned for or encouraged.

I think many of us in Kuwait are fortunate to be given the opportunity to luxuriate our minds with knowledge and that’s something certainly worth thinking about rather than stressing over which restaurant you’ll dine in today or which car you want to save up for – the Audi or the Jaguar, or whether you should wear Chanel or Valentino tonight. .. and such is the malady of the contemporary indulgent persona. Thus far, I have received exceptional amounts of both academic and moral edification and with God’s help, I will continue to learn and grow.


The Greenlandic Inuit people are quite sophisticated and masters of their trade, having grown from a hunter-gatherer society to a more industrialized community – which has begotten many sociocultural and sociopolitical conflicts, like the pseudo-modernization of the Greenlandic youth and the Danish influences and how it affects the culture, linguistics, politics and economy of this autonomous state. There is so much life out here, one wonders where to begin… so let’s just leave it at this point for now.

If you’re interested you could follow my Arctic adventures on instagram @nasser_alfozaie

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Fatima Al Qadiri makes it into The Guardian

Post by Mark


Fatima Al Qadiri is a multi-talented Kuwaiti artist and musician whom I’ve posted about a number of times before. Her latest project, the underground dance supergroup Future Brown were featured in The Guardian a couple of days back which is pretty cool and then last night they performed in Hackney, London as well. Check out the article as well as one of her tracks [Here]

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Shark of Kuwait now on YouTube

Post by Mark


Shark of Kuwait has setup a YouTube channel and has started uploading all his videos. If you don’t know who Shark of Kuwait check this old post of mine. To check out his YouTube channel click [Here]

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