REJOICE! The Streets of Kuwait are Finally Safe!

Finally, the people of Kuwait can sleep soundly knowing that their streets are safe once more.

Yes, although hard to believe, the menace is gone, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

All our problems have been solved! The sky is brighter! The birds fuller! The sun shinier!

5 years it took, but finally, today, justice shall be served.

….

The stickers on my car shall be removed.

Gone shall be the Autobot logo on the back, as will the Lion’s head logo on the right side.

Yes, the streets shall be safe! REJOICE MEN AND WOMEN! DANCE IN THE STREETS! LADIES, RELEASE YOUR DAUGHTERS!

You are all safe now.

For 5 years since I purchased my vehicle I have adorned it with stickers, not pertaining to anything religious or political, but just for the mere idea of making my car different to any other Red Sportage out there.

For 5 years I drove past police cars, was waved through police checkpoints, and renewed my registration 3 times. It is on this day, that officer # ***** in squad car **** decided, at the roundabout near BBS, that my reign of terror must come to an end.

The process though could use a little tweaking; I was pulled over at the roundabout, my licence and registration were confiscated, I was asked to drive ALL THE WAY TO SALMIYA even though Hawally police station was JUST DOWN THE ROAD, by like 200 or 300 meters.

Where incidentally, there happens to be a U-turn that is repeatedly violated ON A DAILY/HOURLY BASIS, right. infront. of. the. police. station.

When I asked what my transgression was, I was told I would be informed at the police station.

This was at 7AM.

By 8:30PM the officer in question makes his triumphant return, with many bedazzled drivers awaiting their fate, their transgressions ranging from parking on the 4th Ring Road to having stickers on their cars.

FYI apparently the name of your car on your side door is considered a sticker and is to be removed as well.

The fine is 5KD. However, you are to relinquish the keys to your vehicle, proceed to Jabriya Police Station on SUNDAY, pay the fine, then proceed to the impound lot in SHUWAIKH, submit a few documents, pay demurrage on your car for taking up valuable space at the impound lot, be told that you missed a document, return to Jabriya to retrieve said document, then go collect your car.

Très amusant.

What Kuwait Can Learn from Turkey – Dogs & Trash

Last week over the long weekend, my wife and I decided to visit Turkey (actually the decision was made in September 2014, I digress).

Whereas most people that visit Turkey are enthralled and amazed by the Islamic architecture and deep-seeded history nestled in every nook and cranny of Istanbul, I saw a different kind of beauty.

The first, although seemingly highly unlikely, lay in the trash.

What visitors to Istanbul will notice immediately is that there are no giant trash receptacles above ground. Ergo the question, where does all the trash go?

The answer was made clear on a late evening walk from the Grand Bazaar:

IMG_3550

What you will see on certain streets in Turkey is two Trash bins, the size of your average trash bin, with a metallic tip above them. If you pause for a moment when throwing your trash into this bin, you will notice a delayed thump indicating your trash taking quite some time to reach the bottom of this seemingly waist level trash bin.

The fact of the matter is, the trash bin is merely the head of a much larger receptacle that is pictured above.

This is ingenious, not only can Kuwait benefit from this idea, but any country where the streets are littered with brightly colored trash bins, even Italy!

The second thing I noticed was the stray dogs. There were plenty of stray dogs. Some even decided to chase after me whilst I was doing my morning run one fine day. What struck me as odd was that all the stray dogs had ear tags on them; a little digging revealed that the stray population of Turkey undergoes capture, neutering/spaying and release, to live their lives on the streets and not breed, therefore controlling the population.

This is a welcome change from the murder that occurs on the streets of other countries, including Kuwait.

Any country in the world can stand to be better; it is always a good learning experience to travel the world and see what can be exported where and used.

The Married Man Chronicles – Part 1: For Her

Happy birthday, dearest wife of mine,

Your presence in my life is truly divine,

We’re barely a year into our matrimony,

Writing the first few pages of this epic love story.

~~~~*~~~~

Marriage is a difficult undertaking. We have been brainwashed by the media, as well as our parents, into just how difficult of a path it is.

Think about it; all movies show you is the quest for love and the end result – the male and female leads fall into each others embrace and declare their undying love for one another, end scene, roll credits.

What about the next day? Or the day after that? Or the month?

On the real life side, we are born into a world where “hopefully” our parents have ironed out all the kinks between them and function as a united front. We miss out on all the arguments that lead to this well-oiled machine coming to fruition.

Nobody tells you how difficult marriage is; how hard it is to go from thinking of ME to WE.

I feel like going out. She is tired. What do we do? A sane argument would be for each to do as they please, but then there is no we, only two me’s, and as mathematics has taught us: ME(M) + ME(F) does not equal WE.

Nobody tells you what to expect.

And that is the beauty of the journey that is matrimony – it is unique, it is undefined, it is not like any other.

Anyone who tells you life is all sunshine and pink roses is either a) lying to you or b) lying to you.

There will be times you cannot stand each other, there will be times you cannot be apart from each other, that is the dance of life. That is the balance that has to be maintained.

Have I reached such Nirvana?

Far from it, but as I said before, the beauty is the journey.

As we approach one year of wedded matrimony, and on this, the day of her birthday, her first birthday as a married woman, I find myself thinking here is looking towards the next 60 years of firsts and birthdays.

More chronicles and revelations to come as they reveal themselves, in this, the first post of the Married Man.

~~~*~~~

So thank you, dearest wife, for being an integral part of my life,

I may not show it, at least to you,

But your words and thoughts affect everything I do,

The actions that you do not like,

Get filtered out when the time is right,

I do not take anything you say in vain,

That is how I love you in ways I cannot explain.

Kuwaiti-Born Vs. Kuwait-Born – Know the Difference

There is such a thing as bad publicity, and Kuwait has had its fair share of such.

Starting with Zero Dark Thirty, the film covering the tactical take-down of nefarious OBL, Kuwait was portrayed as a wild-nights party haven.

zero-dark-thirty-bar-in-kuwait

The point: this kind of scene is not available in Kuwait.

Second, the man that lead the US to OBL was nicknamed Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti.

The point: his real name was Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, a Pakistani national born in Kuwait.

Ergo, it became important to differentiate between “Kuwait-Born” and “Kuwaiti-Born”, the former being anyone born in Kuwait, the latter being Kuwaiti nationals at birth.

Currently, the hype is all on Jihadi-John, aka Mohammed Emwazi, who is currently being billed as “Kuwaiti-born”.

To set the record straight, Emwazi has no ties to the Kuwait nationality except being born here to stateless parents, who were later discovered to be Iraqi’s who had torn up their passports, who ended up leaving Kuwait after the Iraq invasion as the father was a police officer who’s loyalty came into question after the war.

They became naturalized British Citizens.

Kuwait is NOT a breeding ground for terrorists, as the media would have people believe, thanks to monikers such as “Kuwaiti-born”.

The Mark of Shame on Kuwait

Picture if you will the following scenario; an expat from abroad getting the opportunity of a life-time – to live and work in Kuwait.

They pack their bags, purchase their tickets, board the plane and land in Kuwait, with a head full of dreams and a heart full of hope, they enter the airport building with wide eyes and the first thing they see is…

A gang of smokers, spewing out of the smoking room, smoking right smack-dab in the middle of the airport.

Smoking has been banned at all airports around the world, Kuwait seems to have not gotten the memo as of yet.

No matter, our starry eyed passenger heads to passport control, only to be greeted with a queue as long as the eye can see, immediately after getting off of the escalator or the staircase, whatever their preference was.

Kuwait airport is bursting at the seams, much like the waist of an overly obese man trying to fit into a pair of jeans he owned 20 years ago. After eating a 10-course meal.

The lack of ventilation within the airport makes the already lax smoking laws even more ridiculous as one lit cigarette can cause enough damage to remain at the airport for hours on end.

There were talks of expanding the airport, but due to “unknown” reasons, the plans are being readdressed.

The airport is a country’s first impression to newcomers, and a source of pride for its citizens:

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First things first; smokers within the airport should be PUNISHED and PUNISHED SEVERELY. It is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE when it is outlawed in public places.

If 10 flights land together at Kuwait International Airport, which more often than not is the case at peak times, bedlam ensues and the queue at immigration stretches all the way to the staircase, maybe even beyond? I have not seen it, but is sure to happen – this signals two things:

1) Immigration process is taking up too much time, but as it is a prerequisite to ensure the safety of Kuwait, that cannot be altered.

2) There are not enough immigration counters available at Kuwait International Airport.

The latter seems to be the more logical answer, and requires immediate rectification.

It is a shame to see Kuwait lagging behind the rest of the GCC when it comes to airport expansion – gone are any dreams of turning Kuwait into a regional HUB if the airport cannot accommodate the country’s own citizens and residents.

Mentality of Kuwait’s Water- Squirting-Squids

Lets face it, if you haven’t booked your ticket by now already, chances are you are going to be stuck at home for this long weekend holiday in Kuwait celebrating National and Liberation Day.

Word of caution to any first timers; avoid going out at all costs. AT. ALL. COSTS.

Already you will realize that street corners are bedecked with kids (and adults alike) shooting water guns at passing cars. If you thought this was a neighborhood initiative to offer free cleaning services after the tumultuous weather we had this past week, think again.

Ever since the “Great Foam Ban” of 201X (all the previous years have joined into one blur), the “Poison-of-Choice” for festivities was Foam (in a can) which became outlawed and contraband by the authorities as a result of the havoc it wreaked on cars (and in addition to a group of ladies spraying hair remover onto unsuspecting victims).

Not ones to shy away from festivity, the people of Kuwait were quick to find a replacement for the foam cans; the dreaded water guns. The bigger, the better was always the motto, and as we look out over the horizon from our vantage point in the city, we see a cloud of dust settling over, promising to cover the streets in its hazy embrace.

You will also realize that every seller, from cornerstore baqala to toy shops and even traffic light hawkers have begun peddling their plastic water receptacles for varying prices depending on your budget.

In addition, you will also notice the presence of a myriad of “Out-of-Town” licence plates, from all over the Gulf Region, Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain and even as far as Oman. Everyone is here, with one destination in mind: The Gulf Road.

Tomorrow the Gulf Road will be transformed into a battle ground of wet proportions. Everyone will be out with the sole purpose of “getting wet”, you would assume this would call for the people to be dressed in wet suits, however they do not.

Driving down the Gulf Road will be beyond a catastrophic nightmare. A snail in a salt shaker would probably move faster than you that day.

All forms of modesty and decency are discarded as people wage water wars along the Gulf Road. Strangers will unite and butt heads up and down the street. Little fat kids will walk around hauling gigantic water guns, some come with their own neat little water pack on their back like ghostbusters.

Mosques along the Gulf Road will diligently turn off the water in the bathrooms, much to the chagrin of mosque goers. However, water coolers will have lines as far back as a bridal gown store with a 90% discount on branded dresses during wedding season.

The people amass an unquenchable amount of water shenanigans throughout the year that comes pouring out on these two days, and then is forgotten once more till next year.

It is sad to see such a momentous occasion in the history of this Nation being taken so lightly and viciously. Who amongst you remembers exactly what is being celebrated, or why?

February 25: Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah’s reign was so central to the evolution of modern Kuwait that when he died in 1965, the date on which he had ascended the throne in 1950 (February 25) was designated National Day.

February 26: Liberation from the Iraqi Invasion, designated Liberation Day.

But no. Everyone looks at it as a moment to run around like crazy people in a watery war zone.

I was almost arrested last year when doing something constructive to commemorate the occasion: Running 25KM up and down the Gulf Road, at risk of life and dryness. Not this year. I am out of here for the holidays.

Stay Dry.

The Forgotten Marketing Channel – Customer Service

Companies take note, we live in the age where it is not about what price you set, but what your customer will eventually get in terms of service that distinguishes you in the field.

Customer Service: The Forgotten Marketing Channel

Via Salesforce

What the Blackout in Kuwait taught us

We are unprepared.

The power outage in Kuwait took many people off the grid for prolonged periods of time; in excess of two hours. Traffic was disastrous, houses were in disarray.

what people were searching online

what people were searching online

Our first realization should be that we are the pampered generation. Everyone took to their iPhones, Sonys, Samsungs, HTCs etc. to serve as flashlights, those of us with a little foresight (and a bad case of hoarders syndrome) still maintained a few “Old School” telephones, the ones that are turned on by holding the “cancel call” button and locked by holding the Star button.

Everyone, including a friend of mine, insisted to use smartphones as flashlights, when I posted to Facebook stressing that I could not remember how to turn on this ancient piece of equipment, I was ridiculed. After a while, I figured out how to turn on the LED flashlight, and kept it on for the duration of the outage.

Secondly, my wife is a huge fan of candles, and we had many, many, MANY at home, in all shapes and sizes, smells etc. we set a great ambiance at home by using the flashlight to find the candles.

Most people had no flashlights, or those that did had no batteries for them.

If the blackout has taught is anything, its that the age of smartphones is not forever; come a catastrophe, or a small annoyance (let’s face it, on a global scale, what happened yesterday was no more than a mere blip on the radar) smartphones will drain themselves dry. Once that happens, we are left with no contact with the outside world.

Rules for the next blackout:
1) Invest a meager amount in a phone that is not smart; no internet, just calls and a flashlight.
2) Stock candles in the house, along with matches.
3) Flashlights – JiC the phone whose charge lasts a week decides to die on you.
4) Pack of cards – you have to keep yourself entertained somehow. Do people still play “Deal”?

Smart up! Ditch the smart phone in emergencies.

From Arab Spring to Islamic Caliphate – Coincidence, Opportunity or Design?

We do not usually partake in much politicking online, however recent events have forced our hands.

Conspiracy theories; who subscribes to such idiosyncrasies? The belief that nothing in life is by chance, that everything follows a hidden agenda, be it Alien, Mason or otherwise.

Let us examine the facts:

1) For the longest time, in all our life time (those born in the 80s/90s) the Middle East has been a hornets nest of strife – from the presence of the Israeli aggressor on Palestinian lands to the multitude of secular divisions that fueled countless wars and bloodshed in the region.

2) During that period, terrorism began to loom. On September 11, 2001, terrorism in the name of religion reared its ugly head, bringing about a new wave of fear to an already stressed global populace that began striking around the world.

[this event in itself is already rife with several conspiracy theories]

3) 17 December 2010, a Tunisian street vendor by the name of Mohamed Bouazizi, in the face of injustice, sets himself alight and unwittingly became the martyred catalyst of the Tunisian uprising (link), the first ripple in the wave that would eventually be referred to as the “Arab Spring”.

4) Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya followed suite (link).

I myself cannot believe that the single actions of one man miles and miles away can have such a diverse domino effect as to lead to the toppling of world leaders who had been in power for DECADES, in excess of my own time on this earth.

During the chaos, another incident happened that greatly contributed to where we are now:

5) The death of Osama Bin Laden – May 2, 2011 (link).

Which eventually lead to the birth of the new defacto Terrorist Organization: ISIL aka ISIS aka IS (more names than a PR campaign can spew).

According to this CBS report (link), the “group” was born in blood at Camp Bucca, which was known as the largest, and one of the toughest, American prisons in Iraq.

… at least 12 of the top leaders of ISIS served time at Camp Bucca, including the man who would become the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. CBS News obtained photos of 10 of them in Bucca’s yellow prison jumpsuits.

U.S. officials who worked at Bucca told us they were concerned that prisoners were becoming radicalized. The prison has been described as “a pressure cooker for extremism.”

Given the US Army’s propensity for by-any-means-necessary tactics, why were these radical elements allowed to survive and thrive? Everyone can recall the infamous Blackwater incident (link), and Abu Gharib Prison (link), there must be countless other cases where prisoners “disappeared”, those deemed too unstable or too dangerous. It would seem, for all intents and purposes, that Camp Bucca was not as much a PRISON as it was the melting pot from which the “group” sprung. Per that last statement, “pressure cooker for extremism”, you do not put such combustible elements together unless you are aware of what might emerge.

The “group” started gaining prominence AFTER the death of the “Serpent’s head”, and quite recently began appearing in highly televised and produced videos showing decapitations and burning people alive.

The “group” has flourished in areas where once-upon-a-time there was an iron first rule, however as a result of the Arab Spring, a power vacuum took place that funneled everything into a black hole of indecision, fear and murder.

For all intents and purposes, Libya is a war-zone, a country torn against itself. As is the case in Syria, and Iraq, and Yemen.

It does not seem likely, even for a second, to believe that everything that happened was a result of a street vendor taking their own life.

The Arab Spring was a success in Tunis, partial in Egypt and a failure elsewhere, where pretenders to the throne arose to challenge the status quo.

Also, keep the following in mind; the armies of the Middle East (not to be confused with the 5 Armies of Middle Earth):

Capture

 

Of the 13, the largest in terms of Active Frontline personnel, 3 of which are currently for all intents and purposes, immobilized; Yemen, Syria & Iraq.

Of the other 3, two are already embroiled in skirmishes across their borders (Egypt & Lebanon) and Jordan has been drawn into the fold with the murder of its pilot.

The question arises, despite having knowledge and information regarding weapon’s caches, training schools, depots and other strategic intel, why would Egypt and Jordan hold off on taking action until the murders of their delegates?

My Mother, My Treasure

February is a glorious month in the Kuwait calendar; people scramble to book tickets to travel for the National and Liberation Day holidays (that quite conveniently happen to create a nice extra-long 4 day weekend this year!) in addition to the plethora of discounts, given Kuwait’s Hala February festivities as well.

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Hala February has progressed quite steadily since its inception, encompassing a parade nowadays in addition to multitudes of prizes, draws and discounts making it the busiest month of the year. From radio to television, mega-mall to corner-store baqala, everyone is getting in on the Hala February Festivities.

Further, February features the one day of the year the world has come to the consensus to jointly celebrate love; Valentine’s Day. Yes, that one day of the year where all women go doe-eyed and all men spend insane amounts of money to out-valentine other men (oh, did you see what your friend Adam did for his wife last Valentine’s?), from buying flowers and chocolates (or chocolate flowers and flower-filled chocolate for the health conscious) to locking poor defenseless teddy bears in cages painted red as a token of “love”.

I have never forgotten Valentine’s Day; in fact, I always celebrate it. Since it has been deemed the international day of love, it also happens to be the day of birth of the most important person in my life; my mother. People always wondered why I celebrate Mother’s Day in February, despite it landing in March, for in our family, Mom’s birthday was in February (hence Mother’s Day), and Dad’s was in March (you guessed it, Father’s Day!).

Yes, the stars aligned and the universe set its cogs in motion for this angel to be born amongst us on this most celebrated day of the year. When it came to sacrifice, she sacrificed a lot for us, as my dad was also born and raised here, she was uprooted and set new roots in Kuwait. She worked tirelessly with my father to provide me and my brothers with an education that most people back then criticized them for, citing the back-then crazy fees charged by English Schools (wonder what they think of prices nowadays?), most times working double shifts and holidays/Fridays at the pharmacy, and still finding the energy to help us with our Arabic and Chemistry homework (Dad took care of the rest).

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Looking back at our childhood, I cannot find a single memory in which my mother was not a part of. Everything from admiration to berating, and all things in between. There was that one time at the age of 5 or so I coyly asked my mother to show me what “signature” meant, then I attempted to forge hers on my Arabic dictation test on which I had scored an abysmal 2/10. Suffice to say I was caught, and from that point forward never dropped below a 9.

We spent hours upon hours strolling the lanes of Souq Mubarakiya, back when all the roads were made of sand not pavement. It was the ideal place to be on weekends, with a touch of history as well as many bargains. As children my brothers and I took full advantage of these, running from one toy store to the next as they called out the age-old bait of “everything for 100 fils”, we would grab everything within arm’s reach and then turn to our mom with broad smiles from ear to ear. She would of course thin the selections down, knowing full well these toys would be mercilessly shattered by the same time next week.

All visits to Souq Mubarakiya ultimately must culminate with one activity; a visit to the snacks shop close to the parking lot, run by the same brothers for all these years, serving the tastiest samosa’s and other friend goodies which despite being so bad for you are oh so good!

If Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, there is no greater love to celebrate than that of a mother’s. Take advantage of this month’s festivities to pamper these queens that walk amongst us, take her shopping (avail the best discounts!), followed by an idyllic stroll in Souq Mubarakiya and culminate it with a dinner and a gift, which will always fall short, for what gift can you possibly give to the woman that gave you life?

Love.

Happy birthday Mama Omaima.

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