Categories
Design Information Kuwait Photography

Post Processing

I take a few shots during the day and at night I post them on Miskan.com. What you don’t see though is how the pictures looked before right out of the camera. I shoot everything in RAW format which basically means the pictures are stored on my memory card unaltered. The pictures aren’t compressed in any way, no white balance is applied, no sharpening, no nothing. Its pure. When I open up the pictures in Photoshop, I have to set up the Raw options before the picture opens up. Its basically a window where I can control various aspects of the picture from brightness and contrast, to exposure and the white balance. It time consuming since I have to open each image and post process it till it looks good. Each one of my raw files are also over 5MB (on older cameras they are twice the size). The advantage is I get to control the settings, not the camera. Most of my pictures are usually shot under exposed because you can always brighten a picture but you can’t darken an over exposed shot. Shooting in RAW also means I am now more picky with my shots, I don’t want to get home and have 50 pictures I need to open and adjust one by one. I just don’t have the time for it nor the computer processing speed to do it quickly. Below is a shot I just took now in the office to give you an example of the importance of post processing.

before

In this first picture you can clearly see the white’s are grayish, the floor is dull and the whole picture lacks decent contrast.

before
This picture is the first one but it’s been post processed. I increased the brightness, contrast, a bit of saturation, set the white balance to neon and then proceeded to manually set the white balance till it contained a decent amount of magenta.

So in conclusion, don’t expect to get good pictures if you don’t post process. Remember when in university you took photography? Remember how in the dark you spent time experimenting trying to get the right contrast and shadows etc.. this is the same thing. If you don’t do it right don’t expect excellent results.

update: I think from now on whenever there is a cool shot I upload onto Miskan.com I will post the original unprocessed one here just to show the importance of post processing.

Categories
Information Travel

UK Starts Visa-Free Entry Next Month

Starting February, if you have a Kuwaiti passport you no longer require a visa to travel to the UK. Instead of the traditional visit visa, you will require an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) which costs £10 (4KD) and is valid for two years.

The UK ETA application process is straight forward and you should be able to complete the online form in a matter of minutes with the following information:

  • Personal details
  • Passport data
  • Travel information
  • Answers to some basic security questions

The only other requirements are:

  • A valid Kuwaiti passport
  • Credit or debit card to pay the UK ETA fee
  • An email address to receive notifications

Most applications will be processed within 3 days, so you can apply for it right before you trip. This move is part of the UK plan to digitize their border by 2025 and applies to Kuwaitis, GCC citizens and Jordanians.

To stay posted or for more information, follow @ukinkuwait

Categories
50s to 90s Interesting

Malcolm X’s Diary Entries on Kuwait

A few years ago I posted a postcard sent by Malcolm X while he was in Kuwait in 1964 while on a personal and spiritual journey through the Middle East and West Africa. There isn’t very much information on his visit, and I haven’t been able to find any photos, but I did find his entries on Kuwait from his travel diary:

Thurs. Sept. 24
“Abdullah picked me up in his taxi. I stopped at the airport to check my reservations, was recognized by one of the clerks who immediately introduced me to others, including Mr. Khan, head of the local PAL (Pakistan) office. We had coffee & he told me of the pending Pakistan, Iran bloc that is forming & will later form with the Arabs. My ticket was re- routed thru Bahrain. I toured Aramco again had breakfast there, went into the city (?) to buy papers. Thurs & Fri is a holiday with Aramco. Finally caught the plane, stopped in Bahrain for 1 hr. & then arrived in Kuwait at 6:10 pm & checked into the Phoenicia Hotel. All of the clerks knew who I was (I don’t know how) and treated me very well. All of the Arabs refer to me as ‘Zgieeme Muslim fi America’ [?] After dinner in the hotel’s very exotic restaurant I finally got____Demardash on the phone. He’ll see me tomorrow. I’ve been frantic all evening because I lost my ‘health certificate.’ It was left either at the Sudanese Consulate in Jeddah or at the airport customs by the protocol officer.
“I’m anti-racism whether it’s practiced by capitalist, communist or socialist. China ambassador to Ghana: ‘Don’t be a racist. It’s a struggle between oppressed people of all colors against oppressor of all colors.’ If he was a racist, since the press had projected me in the image of an extreme racist, racism would have the natural & wisest approach from him, but instead He approached the problem objective as a human being.

“When we all learn to think as human beings instead of as capitalists, communists & socialists this will then be a world for all human beings.

“It takes some of the same poison to counteract (same as antidote) poison. Europeanism has been such a strong poison for centuries it now becomes essential to emphasize Africanism to counteract it & Arabism to counteract Zionism, socialism to counteract capitalism etc. Orientalism or Darkism to counter-balance Occidentalism or whitism…thus the present escalating world struggle (cold war).”

Fri. Sept 25
“Two brothers from the hotel took me to the main mosque for Jumah prayers where I met Faisal who had been to the States twice. He asked me if knew Malcolm X & was shocked when I told him my name. We discussed the race problem & the Zionists. Back at the hotel I napped, still worried about my health certificate & how much or where it might hold me up. I walked around Kuwait by myself (I had the UAA check my reservations for Tues—okay) and when I returned Hameed Demerdash had phoned, he came by at 8 pm and we talked until 9 pm. He seemed more at ease than when we first met in Cairo. He asked me for the news article in the Jeddah paper (Bilal) to show it to the government officials tomorrow. I went down to a lonely dinner at 9:15.”

Sat. Sept. 26
“I went early (7:30 am) to the American Embassy & explained about my health certificate to a Mr. Waterman. He never asked me any ‘personal’ questions, didn’t even show any sign of recognition. By 8:30 he had called my hotel, advising me to go to the American Mission Hospital near my hotel and a Dr. Pennings there could help me. I went immediately. Dr. Pennings asked me outright if I was Malcolm X. They gave me a couple of shots and told me to call Monday (28th) for the certificate. At 3 pm some local newspapers reporters came to interview me. I spent most of the day in my room writing & napping. The hotel owner (a Palestinian) acted as interpreter. He irked me when he asked why (a Muslim leader) I didn’t know Arabic. I politely (with ice) pointed out that the Arabs had never taken the initiative to set up schools in American to teach Arabic like the Jews and others have. At 8 pm Yusuf______took me to dinner at an exotic basement restaurant. One would not even know of its existence: the entrance was inside of another ordinary looking restaurant. We discussed religion, politics: The Saudis, Nasser, Zionists, Americans, Pakistanis, etc.”

Sunday Sept. 27
“I went past the Sudanese Embassy and the Saudi Embassy seeking more information about my last health certificate. Between 4 & 5 pm I tried to get a call thru to the Sudanese Embassy in Jeddah to no avail. Demerdash finally called & said would see some of the foreign ministry officials tomorrow. That’s a relief because I’ve been very idle ever since arriving in Kuwait and have been beginning to feel I was wasting my time. In fact, had I had my health certificate I’d have been on the next plane out. I started even to look for a movie about 8 pm & bellhop (who likes me & asked for me to pose for some pictures with him) came to see me & said movies were forbidden (Harum) for Muslims. I asked him what the difference between the movies and the TV’s in people’s home. He thought there was a difference, so I went to the TV room instead. There was a Lebanese lady there too who could speak ‘bits’ of English. She was wealthy, a Christian and very shrewdly critical of her fellow Arabs.”

Mon. Sept 28
“Demerdash came at 8:30 am and took me to the foreign ministry. The secretary, Muhammad F. Al-Herbish, had seen me on TV in London & immediately became friendly & helpful. He took me to see ______ and while there two more came in. One was the son-in-law of HE Prince Gabis Al- Sabbah, and the other HE Rashid, their ambassador to the UN. They were cordial, attentive & seemed sympathetic. Since a special cabinet meeting was being held it was impossible to see the ministers but Herbish kept calling until he got the Minister of WAKF [?] on the phone & he agreed to see me after the cabinet meeting. He spoke ‘some’ English, so I conversed mostly thru a young interpreter who had been educated in Calif. I had some cards made, watched TV with the Somali diplomat (ambassador?) and the Lebanese aristocrat. She was frightened when one of the bellhops told her I was a Muslim, because last nite she had ‘talked too much’ about the leaders in the Muslim countries (Ben Bella, etc.) and I had sat & listened, playing dumb.”

Tues. Sept 29
“My plane left Kuwait & arrived in Beirut on schedule.

Categories
Sports

Former UFC Champion booked for MMA return in Kuwait

This is a completely random tidbit that popped up on my feed this morning. Renan Barao, the former UFC bantamweight champion is making his return to the fighting scene after leaving the UFC 4 years ago with a fight next month here in Kuwait. Source

Barao will face Peter Ligier in the main event of Fera Championship’s debut card on October 7. I checked the @ferachampionship Instagram account and it’s still empty as of this post with just a mention in the profile that says the event is on October 6 & 7.

If you’re a UFC fan this looks like it might be a pretty interesting event to go to.

Categories
Information

Red Bull Mobile is here and I just signed up

I wasn’t planning to sign up for a new phone line, I was playing around with the Red Bull Mobile app checking out their prices for my post when I decided to just get a new number. Mainly because I wanted to separate my blog number from my personal one, but also because it would give me the opportunity to experience the process for my post.

Red Bull Mobile is Zain and it’s not a secret since it’s plastered in all their communication. It’s also why their prices are pretty similar with Red Bull having a slight edge. Below are the cheapest and most expensive Red Bull Mobile ready plans:

Cheapest:
– 100GB (4G)
– 100 Local Minutes
Price is 6KD a month or 4.2KD a month if you sign up for 6 months

Most Expensive:
– Unlimited GB (5G)
– Unlimited Minutes
– Free Gold Number
Price is 18KD a month or 12.6KD a month if you sign up for 6 months

I went with the unlimited package just so I could pick a gold number that had the digits 248 in it. I don’t really need an unlimited package since I have one with my personal Zain line, so I will be downgrading to the cheapest plan I can get next month.

The process of getting a number was super easy and quick. You just pick a plan in the app and then when you’re ready to check out, the app uses your Mobile ID to authenticate and connect the new number to your Civil ID. You then just pay and choose if you want to install the number as an eSIM, or if you want to have a physical SIM card delivered to you. I chose eSim and a few moments later I got an email with the QR code so I could install the number.

So what are some benefits? If you renew your plan on-time you get double the benefits in the second month, and triple in the third. Your remaining GBs and minutes also rollover to the following month. You get access to special zones at local Red Bull events and access to Red Bull TV. Finally, you also get access to some interesting Red Bull rewards. For example, there is a draw coming up for a trip to Qatar to watch the Formula1 race. So F1 fans like me and sports fans in general will most likely benefit from these rewards.

And that’s pretty much it. If you have any questions about the sign up process or want me to test anything out, let me know in the comments. Here is a link to their website.

Categories
50s to 90s

The Commercial Bank of Kuwait – 1972

A scan of a postcard from 1972 showing the beautiful Commercial Bank of Kuwait building from back then. For more old postcards, click here.

Categories
Promoted

Promoted: Use Careem Kuwait and Get 25% Off

Looking for a convenient and safe ride? Choose Careem and get 25% off with a special offer for my 248AM readers.

Careem was founded in the UAE and is currently active in 80 cities and 10 countries across the world.

In Kuwait, Careem offers convenient, safe, and affordable rides through the ease of its “SuperApp”. The App offers several services such as quick grocery, food delivery, P2P payments, personal delivery services, and more.

Currently, Careem Kuwait offers ride-hailing services in the form of Taxi and Comfort rides.

Comfort rides offer clean, comfortable private cars at an affordable price. What’s great about the app is that you can book your ride in advance if needed, track your ride, or share your ride details (including the map, driver name, car plate, and number) with friends for safety. You can also pay directly through the app with a card or using Apple Pay and avoid having to carry cash with you.

Using Careem’s more affordable Taxi service, you can avoid having to hail a ride on the street or haggle for a rate with the driver. It’s much more convenient and stress-free.

As I mentioned at the top of this post, Careem is offering a special offer for 248AM readers.

Use the code C248AM and get 25% off your first 3 rides with Careem in Kuwait.

Categories
Information

Watching Formula 1 in Kuwait (2023 Edition)

I just got back from watching Formula 1 in Bahrain and honestly, I always found it super boring watching the races live. You only watch an F1 race live for the experience, not the actual race since while you’re at the track you’re really only watching a corner or two of the race.

My favorite way to watch Formula 1 is through the official F1 TV app. It’s really the best way to watch F1 since you get to watch all the practice sessions, post-race shows, and of course the qualifications and races. For the races, you get to choose between two different English commentary teams as well as have access to multiple cameras and race data. The subscription costs around $80 for the whole year which isn’t bad if you’re an F1 fan.

Technically, Kuwait isn’t a supported country in the app, but there is a way to get around that.

Firstly, you need to get an F1 TV Pro subscription. You can’t use your credit card to subscribe because it won’t accept Kuwait-based cards so you’re going to need an Apple device and a US Apple Store account. If you have those two then can subscribe to F1 TV from inside the F1 TV app and pay for the subscription using your Apple account.

The second thing you need is a VPN or a SmartDNS service, similar to the ones you use to access streaming services like HBO, Hulu, etc. I prefer using SmartDNS since it’s super easy to set up on the Apple TV. I get mine from smartdnsproxy.com (affiliate link) and it costs me around $5 a month.

Once you have your SmartDNS set up, it’s just a matter of launching the app whenever there is a race and you’re set. Easy.

Categories
Television

How to Watch House of the Dragon in Kuwait

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan then you probably already know that yesterday the first episode of the GOT prequel House of the Dragon was released. I watched the first episode last night and it was amazing and I can’t wait for the rest of the season to play out. If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones that’s fine, you can still watch House of the Dragon since it’s a prequel and so you don’t need to have watched GOT to understand whats going on.

I watched House of the Dragon on HBO Max on my AppleTV using a smart DNS service. I’ve posted about this service before but I’ll explain it again for those of you who missed my previous posts. Smart DNS works like a VPN into making the streaming services think you’re living in the US. But, unlike VPNs, setting up a smart DNS service is easier and it’s not something you need to turn on and off all the time. It also doesn’t slow down your internet connection.

You need two things to start streaming House of the Dragon, a smart DNS, and a HBO Max subscription.

Smart DNS
If you have an Apple TV or a Smart TV, setting up smart DNS is as simple as going into your settings menu and adding some numbers. I use a DNS service from Smart DNS Proxy (affiliate link) and it allows me to stream from any of the services including Showtime, HBO, Huly, Paramount, Dinsney and more. They also provide easy step by step guides on how to set up the DNS service on your Apple TV and other devices. I’ve been using them for a few years and never ran into issues with them. A full year subscription costs my $18. Link

HBO Max Subscription
Subscribing to HBO Max or other US streaming services is also really simple as long as you do it through your Apple device. If you have an iPhone you might also have a US Apple Store account. An easy way to know if you have a US or Kuwait Apple Store account is how you pay for your apps and subscriptions. Is your Kuwaiti credit card connected to your Apple account? Or do you buy Apple cards and recharge your account that way? If it’s the latter then you probably have a US account. In that case, you need to subscribe to the streaming services either through your phone or other iOS devices. That way the subscription will be deducted from your Apple account and you won’t have to use a US credit card to pay.

That’s pretty much it. If you have any questions let me know in the comments.

Categories
Travel

The Financial Guide to Lebanon 2022

I’m back from my trip to Lebanon and while there I realized I should post about the financial situation in Lebanon at the moment. It’s a bit of a mess but if you do it right then it could be a pretty affordable trip. If you’re planning a trip to Lebanon this summer or looking for an affordable place to travel to, this post is for you.

You might have been to Lebanon before and think you don’t need this guide, but a lot of things have changed over the past couple of years because of the financial system collapse, the pandemic, and the massive Beirut explosion. The currency has devalued considerably and the cost of living there has skyrocketed for the residents, but to our advantage, has become cheaper for tourists.

I’m going to try and keep this as simple as possible so as not to confuse you or scare you off.

Previously, 1 US Dollar equaled 1,500LL. Now it’s around 1 USD = 30,000LL, it varies slightly from day to day but this was the rate as I was typing this post. This rate is what Lebanese call the “market rate” or “black-market rate”. The banking sector in Lebanon on the other hand has a different rate which as I’m writing this post is 1 USD = 25,000LL. The banking sector rate is the conversion rate if you use your credit cards in Lebanon. To make matters more complicated, all the online currency conversion apps are inaccurate because they still use the old 1$ = 1,500LL rate.

So tip #1, don’t use currency apps to convert the currency, use a calculator. A friend who used a currency convertor thought she was quoted 350KD for a haircut when in reality it was just 18KD.

Tip #2, take all the money you want to spend on your trip with you in dollars. If you use your credit card there you are going to technically be paying more and in some cases, you could be paying the a much much higher price (more on that below). The only thing you should use your card for is paying for your airline ticket and hotel, for everything else you should be paying cash in Lebanese Lira. Once you check in to your hotel ask them where the closest money exchange place is. I personally use Western Union / OMT stores or Whish ones and they’re both easy to spot. You should find them scattered around Lebanon but your hotel can point you to one near you. Go there and exchange enough money you need for a day or two. The reason I wouldn’t recommend exchanging more is that the currency has devalued so much, that you’ll be walking around with a huge wad of cash. 300$ exchanged to LL is going to give you ninety 100,000LL notes, the image above is how that looks like. Here is a money exchange shop in Gemeyze.

Tip #3, figure out how you are going to carry the wads of cash around because they won’t fit in your wallet. Most guys carry fanny packs in Lebanon, I just exchange for a day or two and so the wad is small enough to fit into my front pocket.

Tip #4, don’t leave Lebanon with Lebanese Lira. I don’t think anyone outside Lebanon will exchange them back to KD or Dollars, and by the time you come back to Lebanon next time, the money might not be worth anything. So make sure you exchange them back to Dollars at the exchange shops. If you’re leaving on a Sunday and need an exchange shop that opens on Sundays, here is one.

Tip #5, as I mentioned earlier, currency apps are not accurate since they still think 1$ is 1,500LL. Some websites and apps do not display the correct USD prices because they convert them from LL. For example, if you try to book a car with Avis Lebanon, the pay now price is the correct amount, but the pay later price is not. That’s because Avis has to list the LL rate for the pay-on-collection option since you would be paying for it when in Lebanon and the law says they have to list the LL rate. But, the Avis website uses an online currency exchange software that thinks 1,500LL is 1$ and so the pay-on collection price ends up being ridiculously high. You can see what I mean in the screenshot above. I have a friend on this trip who used a food delivery app and paid with his credit card in USD even though we had told him not to use his credit card in Lebanon. The app converted the LL to USD using the wrong rate and he ended up paying $200 for a chicken sandwich. He spoke to customer support and they’re thankfully refunding him the money back.

Tip #6, if you want to know the latest market rate and bank rate for the LL, use the lirarate.org website.

I think that’s all of it. So the gist of it is don’t use currency apps, don’t use your credit card in Lebanon, and bring all the dollars with you to Lebanon and exchange them to LL as you need them.

If you have any questions let me know in the comments.

Categories
Information

Recycle Electronics, Paper and Plastics

Every now and then I get comments under old recycling posts or emails asking me who they can contact to pick up stuff for recycling. It’s usually paper waste or old electronics that they want to recycle because they care about the environment. Well, I finally have an answer to that question now.

Enviroserve is a recycling facility in Kuwait that originally started off focusing on e-waste. I posted about them a few years ago but since that post they’ve grown to offer full recycling services and last year they introduced it to individuals and companies.

Enviroserve now recycles the following:
– Electronics
– Paper and Cardboard
– Plastics

Their pick-up rates are pretty decent. If you want a one-time pick up its 5KD, if you want a weekly pick up it’s 10KD a month, and if you want a monthly pickup it’s 48KD a year.

To find out more or to book a pick up, click here.

Categories
Apple Reviews

iPad Mini 2021 Followup Review

A couple of months back I got a new iPad Mini from Xcite and posted a review about it. I spoke about how it would most likely replace my 12.9″ iPad Pro for traveling because of it’s small form factor, and since that post, I’ve actually done just that. I’ve taken my iPad Mini on three trips so far and here is a quick followup review.

Firstly, as I had predicted, the size of the iPad Mini is perfect for traveling. It’s light so it doesn’t add much weight to my backpack, and it’s small enough to fit on the plane’s dropdown table even when not fully extended. I wish I had a photo but I also managed to fit it right next to my food tray, I just had it angled on a corner so I could eat and watch my shows at the same time. The battery life has also been great, unless you’re on a long-haul 16-hour flight from Dubai to LA, you’re not going to need to charge the iPad Mini for the whole trip.

I did come across a downside though and that’s the storage space. I have the 64GB version which I thought would be more than enough for storing shows and movies for my flights but that’s not the case. Well, I also like to take a lot more shows and movies than there is time to watch because I like to have options. So for a two-hour trip I’d like to have around 20 hours worth of content to watch and I can just choose what I want. I mix it up with different genres as well as durations, so some 20min shows, some longer 50min ones, some comedy, some drama etc. But now I’m traveling to London tomorrow and I don’t have enough space to carry the ratio of content to trip duration (In my case it’s like 10:1 I guess 😅). So far this is the content I have downloaded for my trip:

Amazon Video
The Outlaws – 6 Episodes

Apple TV+
CODA – Movie
Severance – 1 Episode
Slow Horses – 1 Episode
The Afterparty – 4 Episodes

HBO MAX
Julia – 3 Episodes
Raised by Wolves – 4 Episodes

Netflix
Indian Matchmaking – 4 Episodes
Formula 1: Drive to Survive – 3 Episodes
Cobra Kai – 6 Episodes
Space Force – 6 Episodes
The Tinder Swindler – Movie
Kate – Movie
Murderville – 6 Episodes

Paramount+
Star Trek: Picard – 4 Episodes
Mayor of Kingstown – 4 Episodes

Showtime
American Rust – 4 Episodes

Not sure if you think that’s a lot or not but for a 6+ hour trip that’s not enough content for me to pick and choose from. In addition to the above, I have around 21 magazines downloaded and I just tried downloading one more and it’s telling me I don’t have enough space. So unlike what I originally stated in my review, 64GB actually isn’t enough and I’d now recommend the 256GB version instead. Other than that, the iPad Mini is the perfect media companion on flights. Here is a link to my previous review.

Categories
Automotive Sports Television

Watching Formula 1 in Kuwait (2022 Edition)

Every couple of years I post an update on the easiest way to watch Formula 1 and this year has gotten a tad bit easier because there is now an F1 TV app for the Apple TV. F1 TV is the best way to watch Formula 1 since it’s their official streaming app and has a lots of great features and F1 content. The only issue is that it doesn’t work in Kuwait, but there is a way to get around that.

Firstly, you need to get an F1 TV Pro subscription. You can’t use your credit card because it won’t accept Kuwait based cards so you’re going to need an Apple device and have a US Apple Store account. If you have those two then can subscribe to F1 TV from inside the F1 TV app and pay for the subscription using your Apple Store account.

The biggest change over my previous post is the F1 TV app for Apple TV. You don’t even need a VPN if you already use SmartDNS to access streaming services like HBO, Hulu, Disney etc. If you don’t have SmartDNS then you need to get one, I use Smart DNS Proxy (affiliate link) and it’s around $5 a month.

Once you have your SmartDNS set up, it’s just a matter of launching the app whenever there is a race and you’re set. Easy.

Categories
Information Travel

Kuwait to Saudi and Bahrain by Car – Everything You Need to Know

I’ve been wanting to drive to Bahrain for years now but never actually did because I needed to get a Saudi visa which was a hassle to get a few years ago. Not anymore though which is why I ended up driving to Bahrain for the first time a couple of days back. I had some work to do in Khobar so I decided I’d try driving there. Firstly, just to point out one thing, if you’re Kuwaiti or a GCC citizen the process is obviously much simpler and has always been easy since you don’t require a visa for Saudi or Bahrain. For expats on the other hand, there are a couple of extra steps that we need to take but with the new tourist-friendly Saudi Arabia, the process is super easy.

Here is everything you need to know in case you want to do the same.

Getting a Saudi Visa
So the first step if you’re an expat is getting a Saudi visa. I’ve got the Canadian passport so the process was very easy for me. I just visited the Saudi eVisa website and applied by uploading my photo and filling out a few details in a form. I applied on Saturday at 9:35PM and got my visa approved and issued by 9:38PM. Yeah, it’s super fast. My visa is valid for 1 year with multiple entry and the cost for it was 534.98 SAR including insurance (around 43KD).

Get Cash!
This is very important, before heading on your trip make sure you get Saudi Riyal. All the fuel stations I stopped at in Saudi did not accept our debit or credit cards. They will only accept cash. A friend told me to take cash with me and this was the best tip I got.

Driving to the Kuwait – Saudi Borders
I left my place (Salmiya) around 7:45AM on Monday and headed to the Saudi border down south (Nuwaisib Port). I filled up fuel at the gas station next to my house on the 4th Ring Road and then drove straight down there which took around 1 hour. My recommendation is to fill up gas one more time before the borders since the first fuel station I found after the borders was an hour drive later.

The Kuwaiti – Saudi Borders
When I arrived at the Kuwait border control it was empty with just a couple of other cars that were also heading to Saudi. You’ll find various booths and you just drive up to the one that’s available. He needed my passport, civil ID and car registration. The car is in my name, if the car isn’t in your name you probably need to get a power of attorney (tawkeel) or something (I’m not sure). In any case, there was no issue going through Kuwait border control, but I did have an extra step I needed to take once I got to the Saudi border control.

When I got to the passport control booths at the Saudi side of the border, the guy asked me for my visa so I gave him a printout of my e-visa. He then told me I needed to turn around and head to a building at the corner of the lot so I did. It was a small building that had 4 passport counters. It was just me and a few truckers so it was empty and the truckers looked like they were waiting for someone. They punched some data on the computer, took my photo, scanned my fingerprints, and then stamped my passport and wrote down a code in my passport. That code (I’m guessing my visa number) is what they then used for the rest of the trip when punching my data at the Saudi side of the border control. So I think I need to do this process whenever I get a new visa, so like once a year.

Once I got my passport stamped, I got back into my car and headed to the first booth again. I gave the guy my passport and he let me through. Customs was next (they just look in your car) and then I had to go through the car insurance booth before leaving the borders. You need to insure your car and I ended up paying 128 SAR (10KD) to do so.

Saudi Borders to Khobar
It was a semi-cloudy/gloomy day when I did the drive and it was very chill with just a few cars on the road. The journey from the Saudi borders to Khobar is around 3 hours and it flew by quickly. The highway was mostly new, there was some construction work taking place so I got to strips where the highway suddenly became one lane but it was mostly ok. I didn’t fill up fuel before the borders and the first bunch of fuel stations I did come across in Saudi were all closed and out of business. Around 1-1:30 hours after the border, I spotted a McDonald’s sign in the distance and that was the first fuel station that I came across that was open. My fuel gauge was at the halfway point by then so I filled the car up and paid in cash since they didn’t take cards. There is a good convenience store there, a 24/7 Mcdonald’s and there are bathrooms. So a good point to stop.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and a couple of hours later arrived at Khobar. There are lots of speed cameras on the way and they look different than ours. They’re beige-colored metal boxes on the left of the highway so keep an eye out for them. I got caught by one on my way to the Kuwait border but it still hasn’t shown up on the system. I heard the tickets are expensive so not looking forward to finding out how much I have to pay.

Khobar to Bahrain
I really didn’t have any solid plans just to be clear. I wasn’t sure if after I was done in Khobar I would drive back to Kuwait the same day, or if I’d sleep in Khobar for the night or go to Bahrain. I just got a small bag with a change of clothes with me and figured I’d wing it. Once I was done with my work in Khobar, and after exploring it for a bit I realized I didn’t want to spend the night there. So I decided I’d make my way to Bahrain. I didn’t have a visa since I usually get one on arrival, so wasn’t sure if the process would be the same or not if I drove into Bahrain. It was.

The Saudi – Bahrain Borders
This was a very interesting and impressive experience. So you probably know that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are connected together by a bridge. It’s similar to our Sheikh Jaber Causway except much shorter. There is a toll booth at the start of the bridge which I paid 25 SAR (2 KD) to get on. Once you get on the bridge you drive for a short distance, maybe like 5 or 10 minutes before arriving to a small island that houses the Saudi and Bahrain border control as well as some tourist attractions. The border control here were super professional and it was very very efficient. Lots of lanes, booths and experienced employees. They get a lot of traffic going through here and they’re set up to process it very quickly.

I got my visa with no issues, didn’t have to leave my car or anything. The cost of the visa was 5BHD (4KD) and I paid for it by card. After that I needed to once again insure my car before crossing into Bahrain, the cost of that was 26BHD (21KD) 2.6BHD (2.1KD). This border experience was super easy and really impressive.

And that was it, the process of going from Khobar to Bahrain took around 20-30 minutes and that included the journey on the bridge and the whole border control experience.

The Drive Back – Bahrain to Kuwait
The next morning I left my hotel at around 7AM for the trip back to Kuwait. There were no issues along the way, it’s the same process as above just backward and I ended up at my office in the City by 12PM. I think Google sent me on a different road back to Kuwait but not really sure. There were also plenty of fuel stations on the way back but I always try and fill up before my fuel tank reaches the half way point.

The only thing worth pointing out happened once I got back to the Kuwait border control. When I got to the passport control booth the guy told me I needed to go to the passport control building instead. So I parked my car and went into the building but when I gave my passport to the guy and he punched my civil ID into the system he’s like why were you sent to me? I just shrugged my shoulder and told him no idea, he stamped my passport and gave it back to me and I was done. I don’t think they get a lot of expats through the Kuwait Saudi border so depending on the employee you get at the time you pass, your experience will vary. I then had to go through customs and the guy went through my car, looking through all my bags, asking me what the cat food I had in a container was, looked in my car compartments, etc.. I think he was either looking for alcohol or drugs or both. The cars ahead of me didn’t go through the same search, maybe I just looked dodgy.

But that was it, I then crossed the borders and was back in Kuwait.

The whole process was super simple and I’m definitely going to drive to Saudi and Bahrain more often. I love driving and this was a pretty chill ride. If you can travel in an SUV that would be optimal but a regular sedan will do just fine as well. One thing I’m not sure of is if women can enter Saudi easily or if guys and girls can be in the same car and not be related or married etc. I’m assuming it’s fine now that Saudi is super chill, but maybe if someone can confirm this in the comments. Also if you have any questions about the trip, let me know!

Correction: I originally stated the car insurance to enter Bahrain was 26BHD when in fact it was 2.6BHD.

Update: Added a snippet in the post regarding the speed cameras in Saudi

Categories
Apple Reviews

Review: Apple’s New 14-inch MacBook Pro

Back in 2020, I purchased the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I’d never been a fan of large laptops and so not sure what got into me but decided I’d buy the largest one Apple sold and I regretted the minute I got it. I mentioned in my original review that a month into using the laptop I had gotten slightly more comfortable with it but it really didn’t progress much further than that. It definitely wasn’t a laptop to take on trips with, and I’m not even talking plane trips, I hated taking my laptop to the office or into the next room just because of how big and bulky it was.

I don’t tend to change laptops a lot, my average cycle is around once every 4 years so this is the quickest change I’ve done, 2 years after purchasing the 16-inch MacBook Pro I went ahead and purchased the latest 14-inch one.

The new 14-inch Macbook Pro might be the best laptop I’ve ever owned, even competing with all my favorite iBooks from the early 2000’s including the 12″ PowerBook.

Where do I begin? Let’s talk about the size first, although 14″ doesn’t sound much smaller than 16″, and even though in photos it doesn’t look that much smaller, in reality, the difference is huge. As I’ve been doing since 2001, the first thing I order when I buy a new laptop is a black Waterfield SleeveCase. The sleeve offers plenty of protection so I tend to throw around my laptops into the backseat of my car, on the car floor, or onto my desk. Throwing around the 14-inch feels so easy now that I’ve come from the larger 16-inch. I know how easy throwing around a laptop isn’t something you’d think of when buying a new laptop but it’s really something that we all do. The 14-inch is easier to carry around, shove into places, and is a much more portable machine than the 16-inch was.

Another issue I had with the 16-inch was the battery life. It wasn’t that great and lasted around 4-hours. The new 14-inch lasts so much longer that I’m going to compare it to my iPad. I don’t charge my iPad daily even though I use it daily. The new MacBook is the same, since I got my MacBook over a month ago if I really think about it I could probably tell you exactly how many times I’ve charged it. The battery easily lasts over 10 hours so I don’t charge it every night but more like every 3 or 4 days now. I usually keep the laptop on my couch in my living room when I go to sleep while with the 16-inch I’d take it back to my desk so I can charge it and have it ready for the next day. It feels freeing not having to charge the laptop every night.

The keyboard is another thing that is just amazing about the laptop, the best keyboard I’ve used to date on any laptop. Firstly the touch bar is gone which is good news. Although I was a huge fan of it when it first came out, Apple never really expanded its features or abilities so over time I just started wishing I had regular buttons.

Other things to mention, the laptop has a notch similar to how new iPhones do but they’re less noticeable on the MacBook. It doesn’t bother me at all and it makes me feel like I have more screen space because the menu bar has now moved up to where the camera is, instead of it feeling like the menu bar is eating up important screen real estate. That top menu bar strip feels like bonus space. Apple also brought back some ports including the SD card slot which I just got to use now for the first time to move photos from my camera to my laptop. Very practical but I won’t use it that much myself. I also need to mention how good the new MacBook feels to hold. Both my MacBook Air and my 16-inch MacBook Pro have sharp edges whole the new 14-inch has softer rounded edges and so feels really great in my hands. Finally, the new MacBook looks very hot, one of the best-looking laptops to date.

So like I mentioned at the start of this post, this new 14-inch MacBook Pro is one of the best laptops I’ve ever owned. I love it a lot and already feel so attached to it that I put up my 16-inch for sale without hesitation. I also got it for a pretty good deal, Amazon had a $200 off offer on the 14-inch so I ended up buying it for KD530. I just checked now and they actually have the laptop discounted right now at KD546, so not as good a deal as I got but still cheaper than retail. If you’re looking for a laptop I can’t recommend this one enough. Definitely get it.