Kuwait : Going backwards?

January 15, 2007

So another year has come and gone.

In the run up to the one year anniversary of the late Sheik Jaber Al Sabah, perhaps it’s an appropriate time to reflect on a year which promised some exciting times for the much vaunted ‘New Kuwait.’

2006 gave us hope. Not only did Kuwait have a new ‘visionary’ leader at the helm, but many of the previous constrictions, such as women’s voting rights, were finally lifted after a 44 year struggle for equality.

Remember the buzz, the hype, the wild rumours?

Was Kuwait finally going to break from its 17th century shackles and (gasp) modernize ?

So let’s take a look at what has been happening in the aftermath of the great ‘power struggle’ which ensued late last January.

Hmmm.

Aside from an extraordinary amount of money being spent on an entire entourage of ‘Foreign Policy’ Related Travel expenses……er…..not a lot.

Whilst the rest of the Middle East has moved forward, evaluated their political and economical positions , embraced progression and pushed for a more open and liberalized society – what’s been going on in our Kuwait?

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Photos: Spooky Weather in Kuwait

December 21, 2006

I was driving down the Gulf Road yesterday afternoon at around 4 pm.

As I arrived close to the Marina Mall Area, I was greeted by one of the weirdest, most eerie sunsets I have ever witnessed. Not only was the sun unbelievably low but it was also eye piercingly bright. I literally couldn’t see anything ahead of me despite wearing some pretty dark-lensed sunglasses. As you can imagine, it made the driving conditions incredibly uncomfortable to say the least.

I’m not sure if this was some kind of polar sun / moon solstice, but whatever it was – it didn’t feel right!

I woke up this morning and couldn’t see anything. It’s gone all foggy.

Perhaps some of you Astronomic gurus could help us out?

To see the pictures, please click below.

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Photo: Kuwait – Blatant Business Identity Theft……

December 18, 2006

 

It always bemuses me why I see so much blatant ‘Business Identity Theft’ in Kuwait. It’s a sad joke really.

Multi National Companies spend millions of dollars a year on their logos and their corporate branding. It must therefore, drive them absolutely insane to see places like Kuwait discarding copyrights and laughing in the face of acceptable, ethical business etiquette.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of 5 or 6 cases of undeniably identity theft in Kuwait. It typically ranges from a sneaky ‘play on words’ to a more sinister ‘redesign’ of a famous International logo.

What I don’t understand is what goes through the heads of these talentless, thieving buffoons. How can they essentially copy and paste someone else’s creations – whilst trying to pass it off as their own concept?! I mean seriously, who are they kidding? Are they even kidding?

Let’s take ‘Batriq’ restaurant as a ‘golden’ example. It’s an overly obvious and blatant rip of the McDonald’s logo. Anyone and everyone could attest to that.

Instead of the world famous ‘Golden Arched M ‘….. Batriq gave us the ‘not-so-famous-and-sadly-pathetic B.’ ……Hell, they didn’t even BOTHER to change the Gold and Red theme!

I was inspired to write this post after I saw downtown Beirut’s ultra famous, ultra chic department store ‘Aishti’ sitting quietly in a backstreet neighborhood of Salmiya.

So what of Kuwait’s ‘Aishti’? Can we expect more of the same high caliber, high fashion designer wear?

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Kuwait: Everywhere I look…..I see Dudes!! Why?

November 13, 2006

 

It’s a strange phenomenon that I’ve only ever felt in Kuwait. Why is it that every single place I go – be it the gym, the mall, the restaurants, the coffee shops, the offices, I feel like I see an overwhelming number of males.

Where the heck are all the women in this country? Do they not go out, or are they – the females – simply outnumbered?

It got me thinking a lot about the demographics of Kuwait. There must be a birth rate problem. Surely there are too many males being born and not enough females, right?

Well let’s take a look at the latest statistics posted for 2005 and I think we’ll find some pretty interesting results:

All Figures are for Year Ending 2005

Kuwait Total Population: 2.9 million (up 8.6% for 2005) – huge growth, shows our population and our economy is expanding

Kuwaitis: 992,000 (up 3.8%) – Can you believe we still didn’t get to a million? It’s been at this number now for seemingly years

Kuwaiti Females: 51 % – What? This can’t be right. Where are they?

Kuwait Males: 49% – But everywhere I look, I see males. Impossible.

Non Kuwaiti Males: 70% – And so lies the problem

Non Kuwaiti Females: 30% – And so lies the problem part 2
Other Stats:

Kuwaitis under age of 15: 40% – Amazing Statistic. Now we know why Marina is always packed with kids

Kuwaitis under age of 30: 68% – Kuwait, according to this statistic, is an incredibly young country.

Most Populated Areas in Kuwait : Hawalli and Farwaniyah, where 48% of the total population live. This explains the traffic problems associated with these areas.

And so, we find (at least partial) answers to our questions:

70% of the Ex-pats who come to Kuwait (a total of 2 million) are Males. Translated into approximate numbers, this is roughly 1.4 million males to 600,000 females. A shocking imbalance.

So why is this?

Well, let’s look beyond the recent influx of foreign contractors who now reside in Kuwait and look to identify the real, crux of the problem.

Kuwait is one of the few countries in the World, where Nationals do NOT work in the ‘service sector.’ Our ‘service sector’ relies solely on TCN’s (American terminology for ‘Third Country Nationals’) to do the associated work.

Jobs in Construction, Transportation, Food and Catering, Industrial Cleaning and any other type of Manual Labor typically require males to do the often laborious tasks.

Let’s elaborate.

Typically these ex-pat males will NOT be able to come to Kuwait with their wives or their families due to the high costs of living associated with the country. For the average service sector worker, Kuwait is an excellent place to earn a comparatively good wage before returning back to their originating countries with the monies saved. Those leaving workers are then simply replaced by more TCN’s – and thus, the cycle continues.

And the future?

As our companies grow bigger; our need for manpower will also be increasing. The rift between the male and female population is therefore set to grow even further.

So what of other countries in the region with similar setups. What of countries like the Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain? There are hundreds of thousands of service sector jobs there – how come the ratio doesn’t ‘appear’ as skewed as Kuwait?

Well, there are a number of possible reasons:

1) Tourism: Vacationing families, vacationing couples and mixed sex ‘singles’ often go to Dubai, Qatar or Bahrain for fun, entertainment and relaxation. In many public places, you will see a good mixture of couples and ‘mixed sex’ groups which helps to increase diversity and at least ‘mask over’ the demographic disproportions.

2) Career Perspectives: Kuwait, as a country, is simply not as enticing as our neighbors for single ex-pat females to live and work in. We are still a society which is predominantly male orientated. I’m sure we all know many ex-pat females who didn’t think twice about taking a job in the Emirates, Qatar or Bahrain. Can the same be said of Kuwait? The environment is simply not as appealing.

Solutions: Whilst we could of course debate this all day, we could start by:

-Promoting Kuwait as an equal opportunity country for both sexes to live and work.

-Increase Touristic Interest in the country. Perhaps with the advent of projects like Failaka Island, we will see a slow, gradual push toward the true value of tourism.

-Encourage ex-pat families to reside here by offering them the right to buy land or properties.

I would like to leave you with one last question to ponder on. When was the last time you heard of a group of young, single females going to Kuwait on a random visit or vacation?

Hmmm….even our stat book will be hard pressed to answer that question.


Virgin Megastore: Where have all your DVD’s gone?

November 8, 2006

I went to Virgin today for a quick browse through their new products. I tend to start at the magazines section, slowly work my way through the books section and finally onto the DVD / Music section.

The entire store had been renovated since the last time I was in there – and the setting looks a lot more like a multi-brand electronic / entertainment store now. After collecting my magazines I headed over to the DVD section.

I was used to the previous layout where an entire corner section was was laden with the ‘latest’ DVD’s and ‘TV Box sets’ – so imagine my surprise when I saw only 6 threadbare rows of DVDs in the entire 2000 sqm store!

The current racks only had 1 DVD per show space. It looked like some kind of joke!

I went over to the sales clerk and asked where all the DVD’s were. He pointed to the bare shelves. I told him that there was a much bigger selection before – what happened? He said that they were ordering more. I asked where the TV Box Sets were……he had no answer.

Something just didn’t add up, so I decided to do a little more investigatory work.

I went over to the cashier and asked her the same question. The uninterested assistant pointed to the ‘selection’ bowed her head, and went back to tapping on her keypad.

I’m not sure what the heck is going on – but something is not right. I don’t for one minute believe that they are really ‘out of stock.’ Has there been some kind of mass DVD cull in Kuwait that I am unaware of?

Where has your DVD selection gone Virgin?


Attack of the Bluetooth Advertiser, Kuwait

November 8, 2006


So I sat down for my weekly meal at ‘Entrecote‘ in Fenar Mall. I ordered the usual medium steak, diet coke and extra ‘green’ sauce to douse those crispy yellow fries with. I was starving and urged the waitress to bring the bread out as soon as possible.

Beep Beep….my phone ‘message alert’ went off.

It was a Bluetooth message stating something along the lines of ‘Out of the Blue wants to send you a message.’ I looked around the largely empty restaurant in search of the usual culprits….Hmmm…..A couple of old folks on the side, a married looking couple in the far corner and the waitresses.

Out of curiosity I opened the file and was greeted by an ‘Animated GIF’ file asking me to call an Advertising Company – if I wanted to place a similar Bluetooth ad. At first I thought it was pretty cool, I had never seen advertising like this before anywhere in the world let alone Kuwait.

I thought nothing more of it.

A couple of days later, whilst sitting down to eat my meal at Biella in Marina – I got another Bluetooth message – again from “Out of the Blue.” I opened it and got the same exact message. Call XXX for advertising. This time, my reaction was different – I actually felt pretty annoyed.

I realized that this company must have a Bluetooth system lurking throughout various locations in Kuwait. The machine must scan the area and look to catch you (literally) with an ‘Out of the Blue’ advertising campaign – whether you like it or not.

Advertising is a sensitive issue. Companies spend millions of dollars a year trying to come up with the latest ‘catch phrase / slogan’ to capture the ever flakey consumer’s imagination. TV commercials are forced throughout your favourite shows for a reason – because they make massive amounts of money for the broadcasting stations.

The one difference between TV Advertising and Bluetooth Advertising is choice. I have a remote control, I don’t have to watch what’s on the screen.

Bluetooth Advertising is a completely different ball game – why should I have to switch off my Bluetooth to avoid such blatant spamming? Why should I be disturbed by a ‘message alert’ from someone /something I don’t even know? What about those who wear wireless head sets or connect up to their Laptops via Bluetooth? Are they supposed to switch of their units to avoid these messages?

I’m not happy with this service as I feel it’s a blatant intrusion on privacy. Let’s hope it doesn’t catch on, I will get pretty angry having to keep rejecting or even deleting these messages seemingly ‘out of the blue.’


Shock Photographs: Wait A Second…A KUWAITI Family lived in this $hit hole??

November 7, 2006

Talk to most people around the World, tell them you are from Kuwait and they will automatically assume one or more of the following things:

You

  • have an Oil Well at the bottom of your garden
  • drive either a Mercedes or a BMW
  • employ a small army of Servants
  • and of course……you own and maintain a Palace

Whilst all of these ‘facts’ are of course absolute nonsense, it’s undeniable that Kuwaiti’s in particular, enjoy a privileged lifestyle thanks to the ‘cradle to the grave’ welfare system provided by the Government.

That’s why these pictures which I took of an apartment in Salmiya may come as a shock to most people. Members of a prominent Kuwaiti family lived here and vacated the premises a mere 4 Days (YES THAT’S FOUR DAYS) earlier.

Please click below when you are ready to view….

WARNING: I would advise you NOT to look at these pictures if you are about to take your morning snack or consume any food……

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