Haitham Al-Ghareeb, a Kuwaiti violin maker

Post by Mark

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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MMA Manager – Mishal Abul

Post by Mark

Cheick Kongo, Cyrille Diabate, Greg Babene, Mishal Abul

Every now and then I like to highlight Kuwaiti talent and achievements and I believe that Mishal Abul fits the bill. He is a partner at Paradigm Sports Management, a US based company that manages Football, Baseball and MMA athletes. I met Mishal through my blog sometime back and since I’m a huge UFC fan I was shocked to find out he was managing UFC stars like Michael Bisping and Chris Lytle among others.

Mishal was always into combat sports, he wrestled in high school back in the US as well as college. He got into MMA in 1998 because of the UFC and because of his trainer John “The Machine” Lober who was a pioneer of the MMA scene with a background in Jeet Kun Do, Grappling and BJJ. Mishal is probably the first Kuwaiti to train in MMA.

Jake Shields, Mishal Abul, Tareq Azim

I asked him about MMA in the region and if the UFC is considering bring The Ultimate Fighter to the Middle East like how they did TUF Brazil and the upcoming TUF India. This is what he had to say:

MMA is still way too young for the entire Middle East to recognize it, understand it and accept it. Fighting from a professional position is already here with Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai now they need to learn MMA, the best form of martial arts. There are already some locals or in the region who have trained and are becoming teachers.

Sending TUF to the Middle East is in the plans but not right now that’s because the mentality of the population within the Middle East is not the same as elsewhere with a history of combat sports which usually belongs to other large countries where it would boom immediately like Brazil, Russia and parts of Asia. But, I do believe the Middle East as a whole has some huge potential of breeding the best MMA competitors in the world. Parts of the Middle East strongly train in Karate, some other parts in wrestling or even Judo. Countries like Iran who are naturally strong could develop some amazing wrestlers which is the best base to begin with to enter MMA.

As a UFC fan I think it’s very cool to have a Kuwaiti managing UFC fighters. If you want to find out more about Paradigm Sports Management you can visit their website [Here]

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