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

9 05, 2018

Tour of the New Jazeera Airways Terminal

2018-05-10T10:33:26+03:00May 9, 2018|20 Comments

Yesterday I got a tour of the new Jazeera Airways terminal and I left impressed. Not only because the terminal is something we desperately need right now, but also because of the thought process behind a lot of the decisions as well as the initiatives Jazeera have taken to try and make the experience as smooth and quick for their passengers. There is a lot of information to cover so what I’m going to do is start off by walking you through the check-in and departures process first, and then take you through the arrivals process.

Terminal Location
If you’re standing facing our current airport, the Jazeera Airways terminal would be located to the left of it. There are two ways of getting to the new terminal, the first way is through our current airport, this is the longer and slower way since you’ll have to deal with our airport traffic. The second and much faster way is to take the exit before arriving to the airport. It’s the same road you take to get to the Jazeera Airways Park & Fly area as well as the same route you take to get to the VIP terminal. This route allows you to bypass all the traffic and mess at the main airport. Check the map above, red is how you get to the current airport, yellow is how you get to the new terminal. Here is the location on [Google Maps]

Parking & Check-in
So this is where things get interesting. Jazeera Airways have their own parking lot right across from their new terminal. The parking lot has a bridge that connects to the main terminal but you can also access the terminal by crossing the street below. The multistory lot can hold 350 cars, but the cost of the parking will be similar to the short-term parking at the current airport which I think is KD6 a day. That’s pricy but, they have two other more affordable options:

– Curbside Check-in: With this option, you pull up into the multistory parking lot and head to the curbside check-in area. There you not only hand your car over to valet, but they’ll also take your luggage if any and check you in all while you’re still in the parking lot. You then get your boarding pass and head straight to passport control in the new terminal allowing you to skip the check-in process inside the terminal. The valet will take your car and park it in the Jazeera Airways Park & Fly lot down the street and you will be charged 2.5KD a day.

– Park & Fly: Another option in case you don’t want to give your car to valet is to park your car yourself in the Park & Fly lot near the new terminal. You can hand over your luggage there and check-in before taking the shuttle bus down to the terminal. Since you would have already checked in this way, you just head straight to passport control. This will also cost you 2.5KD a day.

If you are dropped off at the new terminal or you decide to park your car in the lot across the street and walk into the terminal, then you have different check-in options available for you. The first is self check-in, but when I was there yesterday the machines were still not installed. The other option to check-in is with the regular check-in desks which there will be ten of.

Duty Free & Passport Control
Once you’re done with the check-in process you’ll have to head upstairs for passport control which is pictured below.

You’ll have a duty free section before and after passport control although when I was there yesterday those areas were still empty. There will be food options but not sure if they will be ready by the time the new terminal opens.

Security & Old Airport Access
Although the Jazeera Airways terminal is a new structure, it actually is connected to our current airport and they will continue to use their current gates which are B1, B2 and B3. But, they’re completely refurbishing the gates to match their new terminal and when I was there yesterday they were starting work on it which should be completed by the time the terminal opens. One of the things Jazeera wants to do is NOT have you go through two different security checks before boarding the flight like you do in the current airport. So they’re reworking the design of their gates so that the arrival passengers and departure passengers don’t use the same space (which is what requires the extra security check at our current airport). B1 and B2 use air bridges to board passengers onto the plane while their B3 gate uses buses.

Past their boarding gates you’ll find access to the current main airport. You’ll be able to enter the airport normally but to re-enter the Jazeera Terminal you need to go through a security check again.

Arriving at the New Terminal
When you exit the plane you’ll head to passport control first. Jazeera Airways want your arrival process to be quick so the next step is slightly different from the main airport as well as Sheikh Saad terminal. Once you’re done with passport control you’ll go through a quick security check where you put your carry-on bags in an xray machine before going to pick up your luggage from the conveyor belts. Once you pick up your luggage you do NOT have to go through security. All luggage will be security checked BEFORE coming out on the conveyor belts.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but I was given a behind the scenes tour and basically, once the bags arrive into the Jazeera Airways terminal they will be placed on a conveyor belt and go through a security screening before the bags head out to the passengers. So when you pick up your bag it has already been checked and you just walk out of the airport.

The Jazeera Airways VIP Experience
So this is something new Jazeera will be offering, it’s a VIP addon to your ticket which you can purchase separately. This is an add-on for both economy and business class passengers. What the VIP add-on will give you is access to a separate VIP parking located on the side of the airport, a separate VIP check-in area, and access to the VIP lounge. I got a tour of the lounge but didn’t take any pictures because it was still being worked on but it will have different seating areas including a meeting room. Now here is the cool part, you don’t need to be a passenger to access the VIP lounge, you just need to buy a pass. So say you’re in town for a business meeting and the meeting is running long but you have a flight to catch. You and whomever you’re meeting with could continue the meeting at the airport. You could check-in to your flight and then continue the meeting in one of the rooms and when its time to board your flight you could end the meeting and head to the plane. This could also work if your wife and kids are traveling and you want to stay with them until they board their flight, you could get a VIP pass for you and your family and then hang out with them in the lounge until they have to board the plane. No idea how much this addon will cost since they haven’t finalized the price yet.

So thats basically a full walk-through of the new terminal. I don’t think I left anything out but if you have any questions just let me know. The terminal is expected to open and be operational by the end of this month which is in 20 days!

For more pictures or higher resolution ones, click [Here]

Update: The Jazeera Airways terminal is going to be called Terminal 5.

31 01, 2018

Tour of The Avenues – Phase 4

2018-02-03T16:45:15+03:00Jan 31, 2018|30 Comments

Earlier this morning I was able to tour the new phase of Avenues, Phase 4. The Avenues extension is set to open on February 25th and so they invited the media today to walk around, explore and take photos.

Avenues Phase 4 includes expansions of existing districts like Prestige, Grand Avenue, and The Souk. But, they’ve also added new districts that include Arcadia, The Grand Plaza, The Forum, Electra and The Cinema, as well as a five-star and four-star hotel.

Phase 4 is HUGE, and its beautiful. They’ve basically taken the Grand Avenue indoor-but-looks-like-outdoor-look and built on it. It’s bright, airy and the main street is wide with lots of little alleyways that connect the various districts.

From what I saw there won’t be much open by February 25th other than a bunch of Alshaya brands, but it will still be a great space to wander about and explore.

If you want to check out more pictures of Phase 4 then check out my story on instagram. I’ve archived the story and so it should be up for some time. Check it out @mark248am

Update: I was just informed that February 25th is the target date but they’re still unsure if they’ll open by then. Also I uploaded a bunch of photos in hi-res which you can view [Here]

20 12, 2017

ORA is Reopening Next Month

2017-12-21T09:52:35+03:00Dec 20, 2017|6 Comments

ORA used to be one of my favorite sushi places in Kuwait before they closed down their location in Arabella. Now, they’re reopening again and I got a sneak peek of the space earlier today, and I’m in love with it. It actually might have the nicest looking interior of any restaurant in Kuwait, and that’s saying a lot since we’ve got some pretty great looking places here.

The new ORA (or what I like to call ORA 2.0) will be located downtown, on the mezzanine floor of an AGi Architects designed building on Ahmad Al Jaber Street [Map]. As soon as I walked into the new ORA, one of the first things that caught my attention was a golden colored wall lamp and right away I asked if it was by PSLab? (it was). PSLab are lighting consultants based out of Lebanon whom I’ve been obsessed with for years. Like super obsessed, to the point, I recognized the wall lamp as being designed by them even though I had never seen it before. They’re insanely talented and you’ll find their lights all around the world in some of the most beautiful spaces including a bunch of Aesop shops. And the new ORA is no exception, their interior is also stunning.

When it opens, the new ORA will be divided into two main areas, a lunch space, and a dinner space. The dinner area is structured in a way where it could be divided up. It could be either one large room, or two medium-sized rooms or one medium-sized room and two smaller ones. So if you’ve got a private dinner party, you would be able to book a room and not have to interact with the rest of the restaurant. You’ll actually be able to get into your private room through a back door so you don’t even have to walk through the main dining area.

I didn’t get to try any food since tastings haven’t started yet but expect your favorite ORA dishes to make a comeback, along with a bunch of new ones. ORA is expecting to open on January 10th and I’m really looking forward to it. Follow them on instagram @ora.kw

6 12, 2017

Pictures from inside the Natural History Museum

2017-12-06T13:22:47+03:00Dec 6, 2017|10 Comments

A few pictures have been uploaded online by the company fabricating some of the wildlife that will be placed inside the Natural History Museum at the soon to open Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, and they look really really good.

The other day I said you could see what looks like a shark hanging on display while driving by on the Gulf Road, turns out its a primitive whale (a Basilosaurus, pictured above).

The Quetzalcoatlus pictured above even got featured in the November issue of National Geographic! [Link]

To check out some more photos, click [Here]

Thanks lovelykuwait

4 10, 2017

Sneak Peek: The All-New Cocoa Room

2017-10-04T08:47:18+03:00Oct 4, 2017|6 Comments

It’s been over 6 years since Cocoa Room first opened up on the Seef Strip next to Slider Station. Over the years it went through some pretty major changes but in the end settled down to become a breakfast place, and a great one. On Friday mornings for brunch you’ll usually find me at one of two places, either Baker & Spice or Cocoa Room. It’s one of my favorite breakfast spots and from what I got to see yesterday, it looks like things are going to get even better.

First of all, some disappointing news, the Cocoa Room as we know it on the Seef Strip is gone. A couple of weeks back they shut it down and the location now is just Slider Station. So if you wanted to say goodbye with one last breakfast there, you’re too late. Cocoa Room is now going to be reopening in a much larger location at the Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre instead. I got a sneak peek of the interior and its a complete revamp of the old Cocoa Room look. Not only have they created a new interior style but they’ve also given the brand a much needed facelift and its looking much more cleaner now (gone is the grungy and gritty look). The new Cocoa Room will also now be opening all day since their new menu will include lunch and dinner items instead of just breakfast.

I’m pretty excited about the relaunch which will be happening really soon. If everything goes according to plan they’re hoping to have the new Cocoa Room open by October 14th. To stay posted, you can follow Cocoa Room on instagram @cocoaroom

12 09, 2017

Sneak Peek: Madison & Heig

2017-09-12T09:28:10+03:00Sep 12, 2017|8 Comments

There are a couple of new restaurants I’m looking forward to opening this fall, Madison & Heig is one of them. If you drive up and down the Gulf Road often you might have noticed the large under construction hoarding next to Steak & Shake and Assaha in Bneid Al-Qar (in the same building as Elite Fitness).

Madison & Heig is going to be a bistro and bakery, its a locally created concept characterized by an open kitchen. It will have indoor and outdoor seating and the food will focus on homemade ingredients.

The expected opening date for the place as of now is early November and you can follow them on instagram if you want to stay posted @madisonandheig

18 07, 2017

A Peek Inside the Four Seasons Hotel – Kuwait

2017-08-14T11:33:35+03:00Jul 18, 2017|10 Comments

Yesterday I dropped by the soon to open Four Seasons Hotel in Kuwait City for a quick tour. I hadn’t been there since back in September when the place was still mostly under construction so I was pretty excited to see how things turned out. My first impressions of the place is that its simply stunning and very tastefully done. It’s has a very contemporary look yet with some Arabic elements injected into the design. It’s going to be by far the best looking hotel in Kuwait.

Four Seasons will be soft launching in around 2 weeks time with the official opening at the beginning of September. From the five restaurants they have, the following three will open up during the soft launch:

Dai Forni – An Italian restaurant
Elements – A buffet restaurant
Al Sour – The lobby lounge

Sintoho the Pan-Asian restaurant and Al Bandar, the poolside lounge/restaurant will both open in September. The outdoor pool will also open in September while the indoor one will be open during the soft launch. Finally, the Aveda salon (for men and women) will also be opening up as part of the soft launch.

I took a few quick photos during my tour which you can check out below. Since I was also taking photos with my phone for my instagram story, I realized later that there were some shots I forgot to take with my regular camera. So check out the photos below and once you’re done head over to my instagram account @mark248am and check out my story there (from your phone). It should be up till around 3PM.

Four Seasons Kuwait is located in Kuwait City [Google Maps]

Update: As of August 14th the hotel has still not opened