Wednesday, September 29, 2004


From The Onion:


خوش سؤال

نقاب by Giorgio Armani

Italian fashion legend Giorgio Armani came out in defense of the نقاب and said "It's a question of respect for the convictions and culture of others. We need to live with these ideas, we need to learn how to do it."

Fine. I hope Mr. Armani will stick to his words after he's run down by a deranged نقاب wearing female motorist as he's crossing Via Manzoni.*

*shameless namedropping

Shakira in Kuwait

Not in concert. Calm down... sigh

In her new role as UN Goodwill Ambassador, Lebanese-Colombian bombshell Shakira will be visiting Kuwait for 3 days before the year's end to get a firsthand look at the special facilities for children with special needs.

A noble cause and a welcome visit. But why does the poor woman have to be the guest of the awful عائشة الرشيد?

No, that's not Kubbar in the background!!

The Only Game in Town?

While I don't pretend to know much about student elections at Kuwait University, it does seem that Islamists (Ikhwan to be exact) have controlled the outcome of every election for the past decade. And how could they not when they're backed by the international Muslim Brotherhood and its outpost in Kuwait جمعية الاصلاح .

Read this from Al-Qabas:

هل الإخوان الحزب الوحيد؟
نتائج انتخابات الـجامعة: استمرار صناعة الشباب الكويتي
فهد العلي

تظهر نتائج انتخابات الجامعة مرة جديدة ان هناك طرفا واحدا في البلاد يمارس العمل السياسي اليومي بموجب منطق حزبي هو الاخوان المسلمين وقد استطاع للمرة الـ26 السيطرة على اتحاد طلبة الجامعة. ويعود انتصار الاخوان في الجامعة الى كونهم الجهة الوحيدة الناشطة سياسيا أكثر مما هو تعبير عن تأييد ايديولوجي لهذه الفئة داخل الجامعة، لأن هناك سنوات شهدت نشاطا محددا لفئات أخرى جعلت امكان خسارة الاخوان للجامعة واردة، ولكن سرعان ما تراجع هذا النشاط لغياب فئات حزبية منظمة تقف خلفه. وقد بدا واضحا في السنوات الاخيرة أن الجامعة هي مصنع كوادر الاخوان الحقيقي وقد ساهم هذا المصنع في تجديد دم قيادات هذا التنظيم ومد تأثره الى داخل الطبقة الوسطى الكويتية، خصوصا في مناطق محددة، انطلاقا من نفوذه في الدوائر الحكومية، بحيث يستطيع أن يؤمن مواقع ومقاعد وفوائد للكثير من الشباب الساعي الى البروز الاجتماعي وتحسين مواقعه الحياتية.

ونعود الى السؤال الرئيسي: الى متى السماح لفريق سياسي ايديولوجي لم يجرؤ على تمييز نفسه بشكل حاسم عن الفئات الاصولية المتطرفة بالسيطرة على قطاع اجتماعي بالغ الأهمية هو الشباب الجامعي؟

ان الواقع الراهن يعكس الوضع البائس للقوى السياسية الأخرى خصوصا تلك التي تقوى بالديموقراطية والنظام البرلماني، وأحيانا بالليبرالية، هذا بالاضافة الى غياب حزب للدولة بشكل عقلاني ومقبول. ان القوى الاخرى تمتلك امكانات كبيرة لا يجري استغلالها، ولكن مشكلتها في كونها لا تدرك ان الجامعة والمدرسة هما المجال الرئيسي للعمل السياسي، عدا أنهما مصدر التوظيف في دولة يعمل 95% من طاقتها العاملة في القطاع العام. سيطرة الاخوان على قطاعات التعليم المختلفة ستزيد من مأزق هذا القطاع والمجتمع عموما، لأن فكر هذا الفريق لم يعد له علاقة بالمستقبل، فيما لا يستطيع الفكاك من فكر قوى الماضي والتعصب المذهبي والديني في بلد يسعى الى اصلاح نفسه لمواكبة التطورات المتسارعة. فالشباب يُلقن مفاهيم لا تتناسب مع ما يتعلمه فيقع في دوامة لا تنتهي.

ان نتائج انتخابات الجامعة تستحق الدراسة والمتابعة من كل القوى الديموقراطية لأن الاهمال المستمر لهذا القطاع البالغ الأهمية يعكس عدم جدية هذه القوى في مجال التنافس الرئيسي في الكويت

السؤال هنا لما يسمى بالقوى التقدمية.. لماذا لا تتبنى الطلبة بنفس الحماس والجدية والتنظيم المخيف لجمعية الاصلاح؟ ولماذا لا تعيرون انتخابات الجامعة أي اهتمام يذكر؟

And if there are any KU students reading this, and who are not thrilled with the outcome of the elections... Get off your ass and do something or you will only have yourselves to blame!

Belle de Jour, R.I.P.

It is with great sadness that I report on the passing of one of the most interesting and addictive blogs out there. Belle de Jour is/was the online diary of an extremely witty and articlulate London call girl, who also won the Guardian's Best Blog of 2003. She gets her name from the classic French movie of the same name, starring the incomparable Catherine Deneuve as a bored housewife who spends her afernoons as a brothel prostitute while her husband is at work.

At the height of its popularity, the blog was the subject of much speculation around London, with the media intent on finding out her real identity and indulging in a guessing game that went on for months. Some even went as far as to claim that she wasn't a call girl at all, but a famous writer who could even be male!

Her full diary has just been published in a book, and here's the Amazon synopsis:

Belle de Jour is the diary of a London call-girl. This isn't a salacious catalogue of sexual encounters, rather it's the unfolding story of her life: the difficulties in juggling her very understanding boyfriend with her profession; the question of what to wear to work; the problems associated with managing pubic topiary and the often hilarious hypocrisies she bears witness to every day. And of course, there's the odd sexual encounter thrown in for good measure... It's witty, compelling, educative and oddly moving. Belle is a twenty-first century Moll Flanders who will appeal to women because of her honesty and guts, and to men because she lifts the lid on what call girls are really thinking...

I hadn't checked in with the blog for a while and just found out this morning that it has been discontinued by its author. I'm just impressed that she managed to keep her identity a complete secret!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Comment Fonts

I wasted an entire morning, fiddling and panicking with the comment fonts. Now I've settled on the slightly bigger Tahoma font you see now, but hey at least the Arabic is easy to read. Abu Hafs rejoice!!

Thanks to Nibaq for the suggestion.

Mobile Turnover

It says here that Kuwaitis change or upgrade their mobile phones every 5 months on average. I'm sure we're not alone in this trend, I hear the Japanese are even worse.

What about you?

Technical Difficulties

I don't know what the fuck is going on with the blog. I complained to Blogger Support about the tiny Arabic fonts and the fact that my NAV bar looks all weird.

It's not working properly and I am extremely annoyed!!!!!

Monday, September 27, 2004


I discovered this morning that whether I leave the house at 7.45 or 8.00 I will still get to the office by 8.15. So, I will reset my alarm clock for an extra 15 minutes of valuable sleep time. And that - as future jailbird Martha Stewart always said - is a good thing.

I also want to express my anger at the stupid "restaurant" مطعم الرميح located at the mouth of Fahd Al-Salem Street on the roundabout, next to the Four Points Hotel. Their crazy, slave-driven waiters literally throw themselves at any car that passes by and may have resulted in more accidents than I care to count. I also noticed in the afternoon, driving home, that some cars park on the tip of the island at the beginning of the street so they can eat their sandwiches in their car from that same place! They could care less if they are obstructing traffic, or causing accidents!


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Brand History

An amusing article in Al-Qabas's business section (awful website, I know) about how some of the world's most famous brands came to be. And below is an article I submitted to Al-Qabas a while back, but never got published.

من يعمل في مجال التسويق يجد نفسه مسئولاً بشكل مباشر عن بناء الاسم التجاري للمؤسسة التي يعمل بها والحفاظ عليه، وأيضاً عن ترويج هذا الاسم ليتردد على كل لسان سواء على النطاق المحلي أو الدولي. فقد دأبت أشهر الشركات العالمية مثل مرسيدس و مايكروسوفت و نوكيا و ماكدونالدز وغيرها الكثير على بناء قيمة لعلاماتها التجارية تقدر بمليارات الدولارات، مما جعل هذه الشركات ومنتجاتها معروفة للمستهلكين والمستثمرين حول العالم وتميزها دون غيرها من المنافسين. إن أهمية بناء القيمة للإسم أو العلامة التجارية تكمن في قوة تسويق منتجات وخدمات هذه الشركات، فمثلاً في الكويت نجد ما لذ وطاب من ماركات تجارية عالمية منتشرة في جميع المجمعات التجارية حتى أصبحنا نترقب قدوم الماركات التي نراها في الخارج عاجلاً أم آجلاً

ولا تقتصر هذه الجهود الجبّارة على الشركات ذات المنتجات الاستهلاكية، فها هي أكبر البنوك والمؤسسات الاستثمارية العالمية مثل سيتيبانك معروفة للجميع حتى لمن لم يسبق له التعامل معها. ولكن هنالك جانب آخر لهذه الجهود قد يغفله الكثير وهو بناء القيمة التجارية لجذب المستثمرين، فمن يتتبع أسواق المال العالمية يستطيع الاستثمار في الكثير من الشركات ذات الأسماء التجارية المعروفة دولياً لما تبعث هذه الأسماء من اطمئنان وثقة للمستثمر وأيضاً لتميز كل شركة عن غيرها باسم تجاري مميز يسهل حفظه والتعرف عليه. ولم تتوصل هذه الشركات الرائدة إلى أسمائها إلا بعد بحوث واستطلاعات حثيثة ومكلفة، قامت فيها باستكشاف مشاعر الناس وردود أفعالهم تجاه الاسم المقترح وأيضاً لون وشكل الشعار والخط المستخدم فيه.

ولكن ماذا عن الوضع في الكويت ودول المنطقة (حتى لا نتهم بالتهجم على الوطن)؟ إن نظرة خاطفة على أسماء الشركات العاملة في المنطقة قد تصيب الإنسان بالحَوَل لأن الأسماء تتشابه وتتكرر مراراً بشكل ممل حتى لا يستطيع أحد التمييز بينها، فمن "الشركة الكويتية ل..." أو "شركة الكويت ل..." إلى "الشركة الوطنية ل..." إلى "التجارية" و"العقارية" و"الخليجية" و"الأهلية" و"الدولية" وغيرها. ولي تجربة شخصية في هذه المعاناة فأنا أعمل منذ سنة ونصف في إحدى الشركات الاستثمارية المحلية المعروفة و لازال البعض إلى يومنا هذا يعتقد أنني موظف لدى البنك أو شركة التأمين ذات الاسم المشابه والتي لا تمت لمقر عملي بأي صلة. ومؤخراً ضمن حملة تسويقية مباشرة كنت أحاول فيها تحديد الشركات التي نود مخاطبتها للاستثمار في صندوق استثماري كنا بصدد طرحه للاكتتاب، أصبت بالذهول لما رأيته من انعدام أي ابتكار في عملية تسمية الشركات عند تأسيسها. حتى عندما شذت بعض الشركات الجديدة نسبياً عن القاعدة التقليدية السقيمة، نجد وكأنها أجمعت على إتباع قافية موحدة مثل "بوبيان" و"برقان" و"أرجان" و"بيان" و"أعيان" و"الميدان"!!

ما الذي يمنع القائمين على هذه الأمور من إيجاد اسم شامخ يرمز إلى نشاط الشركة ويلهم المستهلكين والمستثمرين على حد سواء؟ قد أفهم لجوء الشركات القديمة التي تأسست منذ عقود لأسماء عادية وبسيطة تدل على نشاطها و جنسيتها نظراً لقلة المنافسة آنذاك وعدم الإلمام بأساليب التسويق الحديثة، ولكن على سبيل المثال لا الحصر كيف توصل مؤسسي شركة الطيران الخاصة المزمع قيامها قريباً إلى اسم "شركة الجزيرة للطيران"؟ ألم يجدوا اسماً أفضل من "الجزيرة" الذي تكرر في جميع دول المنطقة حتى السأم؟ وإذا كان هذا الاختيار النهائي فيا ترى ما هي الأسماء التي رفضت، وهل سهروا الليالي وأجروا البحوث الدقيقة كما يفعل نظرائهم في الدول المتقدمة؟ لا أعتقد ذلك، بل أكاد أجزم بأن العملية تمت بأسلوب "السلق" كما تعودنا من جميع مؤسسات الدولة

لحسن الحظ أن هناك مؤسسات كويتية شابة ذات نظرة تقدمية وعالمية حرصت أن يكون لديها اسم مميز من بين جميع منافسيها داخل الكويت وخارجها لدرايتها بأهمية هذا الموضوع، فعلى سبيل المثال لا الحصر، لدينا "فيلا مودا" الذي أصبح إسماً تجارياً معروفاً دولياً ولا يستهان به ( ترى مو قاعد أشاخي حق صاحبنا !)، وأتمنى أن تكون للأنشطة التجارية الكويتية الجديدة نفس هذه الحيوية وهذا الاهتمام بالإسم التجاري وذلك للنهوض بها إلى مصاف الشركات العالمية الكبيرة

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Playlist Sept 25 - Oct 1

Not much of a playlist, but really a list of songs that I had on Repeat on my trusty iPod over the weekend. Click on the links.
  1. Wiser Time - The Black Crows: Driving down the highway, desert sunset, this was the perfect song to accompany the journey.
  2. American Idiot - Green Day: Besides the biting lyrics about American media, this song marks a great return to form for Green Day. It just kicks ASS!
  3. Bohemian Like You - Dandy Warhols: Waaaaay before Vodafone drilled this song into our heads, I flipped over this 2000 release's driving beat and killer guitar hooks. Great for driving too!
  4. Be Mine & Electrolite - R.E.M.: From the very under-rated "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" album, both these tracks are pure pop magic.
  5. L Restaurant Bar - Ralph & Elie from R.E.G. Project: Original, sublime and gorgeous. This collection of loungey house tunes by Ralph & Elie was composed specially for Beirut's "L" Restaurant. It's amazing and they will soon (inshallah) give Thievery Corporation a run for their money.

You know, it's too bad people in Kuwait don't appreciate dancing to rock music at parties. I guess there ain't too many rock chicks and rock studs around to form a consensus, and the few that exist are into crap like Linkin Park/Nickelback/Evanescence/Limp Bizkit.

Toilet Humour

This has to be the funniest thing I've read in ages. It's totally gross, and delivered in a deadpan style that reminds me of classic "Saturday Night Live".

Who knew Abu Hafs could be so funny when he's not ranting about... well, everything!

Islam Phobia

This is depressing

اقنعة الموت السوداء التي يرتديها الارهابيون وكتب عليها لا إله الله او كتب عليها محمد رسول الله ثم يقومون بذبح الرهائن الابرياء في منظر بشع فظيع لم تر البشرية مثله ومن خلفهم يافطات كتب عليها شعارات اسلامية وتناثر اشلاء الابرياء من اطفال ونساء بفعل السيارات المفخخة التي يقودها انتحاريون ومشهد الاطفال الابرياء المحتجزين في روسيا في مدينة بيسلان وسقوط مئات منهم قتلى وسقوط مئات الابرياء في تفجيرات اسبانيا واندونيسيا وتركيا والمغرب وتونس ومصر والمملكة العربية السعودية، ادى الى اجتياج مرض فوبيا الاسلام او الخوف من الاسلام جميع بلدان العالم واصاب شعوبها

Read the rest of the article for more on this disturbing phenomenon..

And then for a counter-balance, click here for an interview with Asma Hasan, an eloquent and very reasonable American Muslim author.

ضيق صدر؟

If one is going to be running a country, then one should at least have some patience and tolerance for whatever criticisms appear in the press. The reason the press (and maybe the blogs too) tends to highlight the bad things that happen in Kuwait is because THEY NEED FIXING!! It's as simple as that. Sure, there are several "agendas" competing for attention but in the end it's all for the general good of the country.

I was a bit surprised by Sheikh Sabah's impatient comments last Thursday about the press, but at least he pointed out himself that the government bureaucracy and the "Baladia" are rotten to the core. And he finally told Al-Watan to lay off Minister AbulHassan, which can only be a good thing.

Of course, there was no way Abdul-Latif Al-Duaij was going to let the comment about him being out of touch for writing from the U.S. pass without a killer rebuttal. Mohamed Msaa3ad Al-Saleh and Ahmad Al-Rubei also shot back today with their columns, but where is Ahmad Al-Dyain, who was singled out for scorn in Sheikh Sabah's press conference?

I am sure that Sheikh Sabah, like all world leaders, does not have time to read everything in the papers and relies on a daily press digest from his advisors. But what kind of people are they? Do they show him everything or just what they think he should see, based on their own hidden agendas?

قلة أدب وقلة تربية

How many times have we seen this sort of behavior? It's the main reason I avoid Kuwait Airways whenever I can...

المرأة العنيدةيوسف الشهابظن بعض ركاب ?الخطوط الكويتية? - وبعض الظن إثم - أنهم ما إن يدخلوا باب الطائرة ويجلسوا فوق كراسيها الوثيرة، فإن هذه الطائرة تكون قد أصبحت ملكا خاصا لهم، بموجب صك فرماني لا ينازعهم عليه أحد، حتى وإن كان مثل هذا النزاع بالثوابت والاعراف القانونية. ومثل هذا الظن يصل بمثل هذه النوعية من الركاب إلى التمادي في الاعتداء على حقوق الآخرين من الركاب، بل وتحدي طاقم الطائرة، رغم علم هذا البعض ومعرفتهم بأن قوانين السفر تحكمها ضوابط وقوانين تتعلق بتعيين كراسي الركاب وفق الارقام المحددة لكل راكب، ووفق نوعية الدرجة في الطائرة وتتعلق ايضا بطريقة وطبيعة التعامل بين الراكب والمضيفين او أي فرد من افراد طاقم الطائرة.. ولا أعتقد أن أي راكب يجهل ـ لا سمح الله ـ مثل هذه التعليمات واللوائح، التي لا تحتاج الى مذكرة تفسيرية يجب توفيرها لكل راكب على الطائرة.

في رحلتي الأخيرة، حدث موقف على الطائرة الكويتية قبل اقلاعها من الكويت، وهو موقف ما كنت أتمنى أن أراه من، سيدة كويتية، تدرك بالتأكيد قوانين السفر وضوابط الجلوس بالطائرة وفق الأرقام المحددة لكل راكب.. والسالفة، بدأت حين جلست السيدة على مقعد لراكب آخر الى جانب زوجته.. جاء الرجل يطلب منها الانتقال الى المقعد المخصص لها فكان جوابها: أنا قعدت وشوف لك مكان ثاني، رد عليها الرجل باحترام، يا أختي هذا مكاني وانت مكانك هناك.. والرقم يثبت ذلك، ردت عليه بلسان يخرع: ماني قايمة.. الأماكن وايده روح دور لك كرسي.. حاول الرجل إقناعها بالتي هي أحسن.. لكنها تمادت وردت بالذي هو ليس أحسن.. من امرأة.. محجبة، وتدرك ما ينبغي على المرأة ان تلتزم به من سلوك في التعامل مع الآخرين، ويبدو أن الراكب قد شعر بأن طرق الاقناع مع السيدة الراكبة قد اغلقت، فاستعان بأحد افراد الطاقم، وبالفعل جاء الرجل يطلب منها بكل أدب الجلوس على المقعد المخصص لها حتى يمكن للراكب الجلوس على مقعده، لأن الطائرة على وشك الاقلاع، لكنها ايضا ردت: ماني قايمة وأنا فيني سكر واحتاج إلى الحمام دائما.. رد عليها المضيف: يا أختي الطائرة سوف تقلع وساعدينا حتى لا نضطر إلى الاستعانة بمسؤول الطائرة.

وضحكت النسرة.. وردت: واحليلك سو اللي تبيه ماني قايمة.. ثم دخلت في جدال مع الراكب صاحب الكرسي قائلة: وأنت ما عندك الا هالمكان؟.. روح شوف كرسي ثاني، رد عليها الرجل.. يا أختي هذا رقم الكرسي وهذه زوجتي، وانت جلست في مكاني وأرجو ان تعطيني الكرسي، تجمع اكثر من شخص من افراد طاقم الطائرة ودخلوا معها في جدال انتهى بانصياع جناب السيدة الراكبة.. الى مقعدها الأصلي وجلوس الراكب في مقعده.

ماذا يمكن تفسير مثل هذا السلوك.. هل بعنجهية.. أم تمادٍ وتحدٍ.. أم شعور بحرية ما يريد ان يفعله الراكب فوق الطائرة الكويتية؟.. شخصيا لا أجد أي تفسير سوى.. انه العناد والتحدي.. وربما الجهل.. وهذه مصيبة.


ادعت الراكبة أنها تحتاج الى الحمام دائما لأنها تعاني السكر.. كلام نصف مقبول، لكن الغريب أن زمن الرحلة خمس ساعات ونصف الساعة.. ولم تذهب هذه الراكبة -السكرية ـ خلالها الى الحمام. وبالمناسبة.. لو كانت هذه الراكبة على طائرة اخرى لكان الموقف قد انتهى.. بحذفها من الدريشة.. طال عمرك

Friday, September 24, 2004

Chicken Nuggets

A uniquely Kuwaiti "expression" - if you can call it that...

I'm not even 100% sure what it means or how it came about, but I think it's supposed to be a derogatory term that refers to (mostly) young, upper middle class, Kuwaitis who went to foreign schools like A.S.K. or N.E.S. or a bilingual school like Bayan. I think it also refers to Kuwaitis who went to university in the States and Europe, although I know of several Kuwaiti specimens who spent years in America but came back speaking the worst English imaginable, having spent their time there mainly cooking "machboos" and playing cards with other like-minded Kuwaiti students.

I'm also not sure if there's an age limit to the expression. Even I've been called a Chicken Nugget (behind my back) and believe me... I ain't no spring chicken!! I also never went to any of the schools I mentioned; I graduated from a standard government all-boys high school but I did go to college in Washington D.C.

So what do you think it really means? What are its origins? And what's so bad about being a Chicken Nugget?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tiny Arabic Comment Fonts

Calling all geeks! The Arabic font in the comments is so damn small, we're going blind reading it. I've tried everything with the template and nothing seems to work.

Any thoughts?

!تعزيز الأخلاق

بما أنكم أثبتتوا خلال نقاشنا اليوم وأمس أنكم " سرسرية " و " سكارى " و أخلاقكم زفت، ققد أصدرت عليكم حكم بالتوجه إلى موقع الشيخ محمد العوضي " ركاز "، لعلكم تتعظون

!إنها حقاً عائلة محترمة

From The Onion:

Blog Junkie

I recall a while back, Mama Fusla warned of Internet and Blog addiction. I saw her point, but of course I declared myself "above such nonsense". Well, boys and girls... she was right. It's happened. I am now officially addicted to blogging!

I realized it last night, and started running the symptoms through my head. Here they are:
  1. Instead of checking email, I'm now more interested in checking comments on posts, both on my blog and others.
  2. I configured Blogger to send me alerts to my Hotmail so now I get a little pop-up alert thingie on MSN Messenger whenever there's a new comment on my blog.
  3. I'm finding difficulty pulling myself away from the PC.
  4. My work is suffering because I'm blogging at the office. Even when I try to do some work, the MSN alerts distract me and I run back to the blog to see what's there, and of course think of a reply.
  5. I'm sleeping later than usual.
  6. Last night I got into bed then remembered a comment that Sheba made on Mad M's blog, that I maybe didn't answer properly. I jumped out of bed and went back to the PC to check what I said.
  7. Before falling asleep, I ran a few ideas in my head for my next blog subject. Surely there are other things to think about!!
  8. The new "topic du jour" among friends is who said what on whose blog.
  9. The new guessing game among friends is trying to guess bloggers' identities.
  10. You know how I said it was bliss being offline for a week on vacation? I LIED! It was torture at first, but then I gradually got used to it. A case of blog withdrawal?

For more general symptoms, I urge you all to check out this list. Is there a 12-step program to cure this addiction? HELP!!

I will leave you with a verse from Angie Stone's "Love Junkie" , reworded:

Blog junkie

So damn funky

Stone cold monkey

Hard to shake off my back

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Last Dry Country Standing?

Leave it to Islamist columnist Adel Al-Qassar to write an article praising Oprah Winfrey's syndicated talk show for its honesty in dealing with issues such as drug addiction and rape, and then turning around and attributing this "decline in morals" to the absence of religious guidelines in American society. While he claims not to gloat over the "moral crisis" that America is supposedly going through, he could not resist taking a potshot at Kuwait's secular liberals who he claims are calling for more degenerate behaviour such as mixed education and allowing alcohol to be served on Failaka.

We've discussed this issue ad nauseam, and even yesterday's IKEA post somehow veered into a discussion about booze in Kuwait. The rumors about Failaka have been swirling for months now and have reached places as disparate as Denmark and California. Kuwait is one of the last countries on the planet to remain officially dry, and is joined by such exalted company as Saudi Arabia and... well I wanted to say Qatar, but they've loosened up recently, haven't they? But you get my point; these are not countries I want to emulate and look up to. Before we go on a Saudi offensive, let me be clear: I only have sympathy for Saudis and admiration for their ability to withstand such a brutal life. (Note: is blocked in Saudi Arabia so don't expect a Saudi tirade anytime soon!)

What I'm interested in here is not your personal view on the alcohol issue or whether you think it should be allowed or continue to be banned. I would like to get a feel for how realistic this issue is:
  1. Forget the predictable Islamist MPs for a sec... Will general Kuwaiti society accept it?
  2. Are alcohol drinkers in Kuwait a small privileged minority or is it much more widespread than any of us realize, thereby justifying its legalization?
  3. Will it result in even more deaths on Kuwait's highways? Our record is bad enough already.
  4. Will it make a huge difference in the number of visitors to Kuwait?
  5. Will it positively affect the so-called Tourist Industry in Kuwait?
  6. Should it be manufactured locally just like soft drinks?
  7. Can we expect a wine industry in Wafra? Don't answer that one!
  8. A few people stand to lose millions if it is ever legalized. How influential are they in keeping it banned?
For the record, I fully support Jambino's plan but who wants to wait 6 years? :-P

A Tourist Story

Today's Al-Qabas has a stomach-turning feature about a hapless foreign visitor who arrived in Kuwait, and by a cruel twist of fate took a wrong turn somewhere in his taxi and ended up in the uncharted depths of Khaitan. The online version of the article only has the hysterical dialogue with the taxi driver, but for a "pictorial" version you have to see it in the paper itself.

A tragic situation in one of the world's richest countries!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Death at IKEA

No, not the IKEA branch here in Kuwait, but in Saudi Arabia, of all places! The opening of the country's first IKEA store in Jeddah resulted in the deaths of 3 people who were crushed to death in a stampede of shoppers eager to get their hands on modern Swedish pine furniture! It seems IKEA staff are also trained paramedics... Who knew!

And on that note, I will direct you to the lyrics to a snappy little song about IKEA by Jonathan Coulton, a software designer who moonlights as a rock singer. You can also download it here.

شباب كول

لا أتحدث عن الفيلم السينمائي الكويتي بنفس الإسم بل عن مقال طريف وواقعي لعلي البغلي أكّد فيه ما كنت ألاحظه منذ مدة ليست بقصيرة. الكل يتحلطم على شباب الكويت اليوم لكن ما يمرّون به من تجارب تتشابه كثيراً مع تجارب أقرانهم في الكثير من دول العالم، مع فارق كبير في وسائل الترفيه المتوفرة لهم (إن وجدت هنا) وأيضاُ بكمية الكلام الفارغ عن العادات والتقاليد الذي يجبرون على سماعه من أولي الأمر

كلنا مررنا بفترة طيش الشباب، بعضنا يتذكرها بشوق وحنين وبعضنا يتحسّر على ما فاته والبعض يتنكّر من هذه المرحلة الهامة في حياته ويدّعي كمال الأخلاق حتى في سن المراهقة، وأخيراًً يوجد عدد لا بأس به لا زالوا يعيشون حياة المراهقة حتى بعد سن الأربعين

حدّثوني قليلاً عن فترة مراهقتكم في الكويت. هل كانت وناسة أم ملل؟ هل انتهت بعد أم لازالت في أوجها؟

Sunday, September 19, 2004

وين الكتّاب؟

أين اختفت المقالات؟ أين أحمد الربعي وعبداللطيف الدعيج؟ لا أراهم يكتبون بانتظام. هل سأموا الكتابة وملّوا من الحديث مع "الطوفة"؟ أم هل هناك اسباب لا نعرفها؟

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Long Weekend

It's another of those nice long weekends here in Kuwait, and where did everybody disappear to? Beirut of course!!

I'm sure the irony is not lost on anyone ;-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

!تبط كبدي يا لبنان

With words of praise out of the way, it's time to turn a critical eye on Lebanon. Here are a few observations of things that annoy me to no end.
  1. The disturbing "Cult of Personality". The streets are littered with posters of Lebanese politicians, both dead and alive, in a variety of nauseating poses. Just like any other Arab country, I suppose. The most disturbing are of the dead ones. Moussa Al-Sadr disappeared in 1985 and Bashir Gemayel was assassinated in 1982. Move on already!!
  2. The cheap posters of President Lahoud, "photoshopped" onto Bashar Al-Assad, with the names of the ass-kissers who produced them printed below.
  3. Will someone explain to me how certain neighborhoods came to be named after the buildings and companies that dominate them? Sodeco, Gefinor and, for fuck's sake, Solidere?! Imagine if Salmiya was renamed URC or Al-Fanar or Sultan Centre!
  4. Kuwaiti drivers maybe homicidal maniacs, but we do stop at traffic lights. Eventually.
  5. The weather in February.
  6. The short ski season.
  7. The corrupt politicians.
  8. The fact that after 15 years of civil war, most people will tell you it was fought for nothing.
  9. Dunkin' Donuts in prime locations.
  10. Arabic with a French accent.

While I personally haven't experienced this, many Kuwaitis feel that Lebanese look down on them for whatever reason or stereotype. It may be true, but I also believe that stereotypes are unfair generalizations rooted in fact. One rotten experience results in a sweeping generalization, and that is unfortunate. But it also works the other way round: Many Lebanese feel inferior when they're here in Kuwait.

Why is that?

بحبك يا لبنان

It's no surprise that half of Kuwait spent all or parts of this summer in Lebanon, although I'm willing to bet that very few Kuwaitis ventured outside downtown Beirut or whatever towns they own property in (Bhamdoun, Sofar, Aleyh, etc.). Kuwait's love affair with Lebanon goes back several decades, and is stronger than ever today. Many Kuwaitis love it for its beauty, weather, scenery and food; others for its vibrant nightlife and exceptionally attractive people; a small minority for its incredibly varied arts and culture (some go for Fairuz, others for Haifa Wehbe). I love it for all of that and more..

And yet, I doubt that anyone of us has a complete understanding of this fascinating country that is so close to our hearts. For example, of the thousands of Kuwaitis who flock to Lebanon all year round, how many actually have Lebanese friends who live there, as opposed to casual Lebanese acquaintances in Kuwait? Not very many, I assure you.

Before any of you jump on me, this is not a Kuwait vs. Lebanon discussion (although it might end up one). Most Lebanese will find many things that they absolutley HATE about their country, but I'll leave that to them, or maybe for another post when I'm not feeling so generous. But in the meantime, here's what I personally love about Lebanon beyond the obvious reasons listed earlier:
  1. My Lebanese friends. The only way to see any country is through the eyes of the locals and I have been fortunate to see places I never would have seen thanks to my friends in Beirut, all of whom I love dearly. It also means I can go to Beirut alone whenever I want and not wait for my unreliable Kuwaiti friends اللي ما عليهم متّكل
  2. Wherever you go in Lebanon, you are assisted or served by young Lebanese who take pride in their job and are always ready with a smile and a kind word.
  3. Every Lebanese business is owned, managed and mostly staffed with Lebanese.
  4. I love when Lebanese meet other Lebanese for the first time, they ask which town or ضيعة they are from. Makes it sound like a huge country!
  5. The resilience and resourcefulness of the Lebanese.
  6. The remarkable renaissance of downtown Beirut, no matter what one may think of Solidere and Hariri.
  7. Ashrafieh in the daytime.
  8. The incredible countryside from the north to the south.
  9. Spectacular summer sunsets.
  10. Chateau Kefraya.
  11. French with a Lebanese accent. I love it!

There's more, but that's enough for today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Promote Your Blog

Actually, just an excuse to post this really cool picture ;-)

What's YOUR Cause?

A Fathers 4 Justice campaigner dressed as Batman has been removed after staging a five-hour protest on a ledge by the Buckingham Palace balcony. Dave Pyke, 48, who was dressed as Batman's sidekick Robin, is understood to have stopped climbing the ladder onto the roof, after being threatened by armed police. Fathers 4 Justice was set up by fathers who have either no access, or very limited access, to their children and feel they have been treated unfairly by courts.

So, boys and girls... Do you have a cause you firmly believe in or is apathy in your blood like most of us Kuwaitis? Who would you dress up as to publicize your message?

Meanwhile, imagine the queen dressed as Catwoman..

Monday, September 13, 2004

9/11... What if?

That Was Fast!

I can't believe my vacation is over!! :"-(

I spent an entire week with no Internet connection, and let me tell you I highly recommend it! It was a fun vacation with lots of beach and sunshine in temperatures suitable for human consumption, so believe me when I say that going online was the last thing on my mind. I stashed my laptop in my hotel room's closet and never looked at it until last Thursday when I got to Beirut. There's lots to say about Beirut beyond the usual stuff you hear from the average Kuwaiti visitor, so the next few posts will be dedicated to that.

I also avoided all TV and printed news while I was away, except for one stray moment when I switched on CNN just in time for news of the school massacre in Chechnya. I just went numb when I saw that. It shook me even more than September 11. If this bloody tragedy doesn't make Muslims around the world rise up and take back Islam from the hands of extremists, then nothing will, and you can bet that this once great religion is doomed forever.

I then read something that stuck in my head: "Certainly not all Muslims are terrorists, but it seems that all terrorists these days are Muslims"

Chew on that, people!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Allawi @ RNC

Looking at the front page of Al-Watan, for a split second I thought Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was speaking to tribe leaders.... at the Repulican National Convention!!

The Strange Case of the Missing Diplomat

I heard this story last Sunday, about a Kuwaiti ambassador who is back in town on a short break. The story was that he left his house in Surra on Saturday afternoon to get some cash and never came back home. When he didn't show up by Sunday his wife filed a missing person report with the police, who were all over Surra searching for clues.

Of course, in this day and age your mind automatically assumes the worst. I started imagining a politically motivated kidnapping, and that he would turn up on Al-Jazeera in a tape from Iraq or Afghanistan, and it would be the biggest story this year. Even when Mad M said he had a bad feeling the other day, I wondered if it had to do with this story. I wanted to write something about it here on the blog, but decided to wait until some official news came out.

Well, it's a good thing I waited. Turned out the man had a fight with his wife and just disappeared to scare her and teach her a lesson..



I will leave you with an excerpt from an article by the distinguished author and playwright Gore Vidal, in which he analyzed the American "State of the Union" in 2004. In a segment on prohibition of drugs and alcohol vs. law and order, I found this passage particularly intriguing:

Brainwashing on the subject begins early, insuring that a large crop of the coming generation will become drug addicts. Prohibition always has that effect, as we should have learned when we prohibited alcohol from 1919 to 1933; but, happily for the busy lunatics who rule over us, we are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing. The period of Prohibition called the "Noble Experiment" brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order that we have ever endured--until today, of course.

Lesson? Do not regulate the private lives of people, because if you do they will become angry and antisocial, and they will get what they want from criminals, who work in perfect freedom because they know how to pay off the police.

How about that, folks? Discuss amongst yourselves!

I'm outta here!


In less than 24 hours, I will start my 10-day break. Obviously, while I'm away I intend to relax and enjoy myself to the fullest, so I doubt I will be blogging. I will have the laptop with me in any case, so if the spirit moves me and I need to say something, I will. But I will try my best not to do any blogging because surely there's more to life.... and besides you all need a break from me anyway!

Those of you who know where I'm going, I'd really appreciate if you could please keep it to yourselves.

See you soon!