A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘Kuwait’ Category

blogs and bedouin

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to those of you who are celebrating today! And to those of you who blog, a less merry bit of news from Kuwait: a proposal to increase the government’s power to monitor blogs produced in Kuwait.

The news comes from a Zawya piece published on the 23rd, and it is a bit third-hand. The Zawya story was taken from Bahrain’s Gulf News, which in turn took its information from a local news site. The blog law proposal is interesting, particularly for its rationale: that what is being written on blogs is more dangerous than what is printed in newspapers and broadcast on television.

The proposal and its rationale are interesting, but so is the sudden segue to Kuwait’s ongoing internal conflict between its bedu and urban (well, the word is “hadari”, but its generally translated here as “urban”) populations.

I have more to say on this, but my mother is having an iPhone crisis, and I think the entire family may need to get involved. Happy reading!

Kuwait’s information minister has urged the parliament to endorse a proposal to monitor blogs, citing social and stability threats.

“Electronic blogs post matters that are now threatening national cohesion and that are much more dangerous than what is being published in newspapers and broadcast on satellite channels. We are therefore working on a draft law to monitor blogs and we urge the parliament to approve it,” Shaikh Ahmad Al Abdullah Al Sabah told Kuwait’s MPs yesterday, Alaan news portal reported.

The minister’s plea came as the country’s social fabric has come under heavy strain following the broadcasting by Al Sour on Saturday of a controversial programme that claimed that tribesmen were not genuine Kuwaitis and that many of them broke the law by holding dual citizenship.

Bedouins make up half of the native population and have 25 MPs in the 50-member parliament.

The programme charged that the only “true and genuine” Kuwaitis were the descendents of those who lived inside the walls surrounding Kuwait City in the 19th century and that the others were not Kuwaitis.

Thousands of Bedouins reacted angrily and staged a rally during which several lawmakers and activists called upon the government to take stringent action against Al Sour and Scoop TV stations for broadcasting the programme and Mohammad Al Juwaihel, the owner of Al Sour …

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Posted in blogging, Kuwait | Leave a Comment »

water where you least expect it

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 11, 2009

For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing a fine job of ignoring my half-written Doha posts. But this past weekend, a chance encounter with a stray water bottle reminded me that I have much to do before this blog goes back on hiatus.

This past Saturday I found myself visiting my friend J, and looking at the eclectic liquor collection on J’s kitchen counter. Banana rum, flavored vodka, something pink and fruity – something for everyone in need of a party drink, it seemed.

And then I saw something for me: a tall skinny water bottle, with a design and color scheme that reminded me of some familiar water towers:

IMG_1281

You have a bottle of water from Kuwait! I said to J in excitement.

What? J asked, clearly not paying particular attention either to me or the counter-top liquids.

When were you in Kuwait? I asked, still excited.

I’ve never been to Kuwait, J said, surprised. Why are you asking?

I held up the bottle, with something of the same gravity that the Statue of Liberty holds her lamp.

This bottle is from Kuwait, I said, much as if I were saying, This is the Holy Grail. Sometimes I get a bit over-enthused.

I’ve never been to Kuwait, J insisted, frowning. I think the bottle is from my trip to Turkey.

Sometimes I have the patience to explain that in Turkey people speak Turkish, which is written in Roman script, and in the Arab world people speak Arabic, which is written in the Arabic script. Sometimes I don’t. So I just smiled and said: I’ve always wanted to go to Turkey.

I’ve always wanted to go to Turkey, which (according to J) imports its water from Kuwait :).

Posted in Kuwait | 1 Comment »

Ward’ening off swine flu in Kuwait

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 4, 2009

Last week I reported on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait’s efforts to make swine flu, at least as a term, go away: the Embassy’s warden message described it as “H1N1 Influenza A, formerly known as swine flu”.

Apparently those efforts have been less than successful, as indicated by the latest warden message, posted below. Mr. Formerly Known as Swine Flu has now been acknowledged as Mr. Sometimes Referred to as Swine Flu.

Whatever his name, the Kuwaiti authorities clearly are not fooled – and nor are they interested in letting him get his former or sometimes hands on Kuwait residents. If you’re planning a trip to Kuwait in the near future, be ready for a health check-up. And if you’re planning a trip elsewhere in the region, be ready to be ready: I imagine that other countries may follow Kuwait’s lead.

Kuwait City, Kuwait
May 4, 2009

MEMORANDUM

To:             All American Wardens

From:           Consular Section

Subject:        Warden Notice 2009 – 8

Please circulate the following message without additions or omissions immediately to all American citizens within your area of responsibility.

Begin Text.

Warden Message
Kuwait
May 4, 2009

This Warden Message alerts U.S. citizens to the latest information regarding human cases of 2009-H1N1 influenza, sometimes referred to as swine flu.  The Kuwait Ministry of Health, Ports and Frontiers Division, is distributing three-part health surveillance cards to travelers arriving from countries that have reported cases of the H1N1 influenza. Within 72 hours of arrival, travelers are required to report to a designated Ministry of Health clinic to receive a check-up.  Currently, some Ministry of Health clinics are requiring travelers to return for a second check-up within seven days of arrival.  Failure to meet these requirements could result in a fine or imprisonment.

The clinics are listed in Arabic on the back of the health surveillance card.  With this card, most taxi drivers or hotel staff should be able to direct travelers to the nearest center.  The ministry also has a website at http://www.moh.gov.kw/ that lists, in Arabic, the centers’ locations and contact information. One part of the health surveillance card will be kept by the traveler.  Currently Kuwaiti authorities are not requiring travelers to turn in their copy of the card.  Travelers transiting Kuwait or planning to be in Kuwait less than 72 hours should ask airport authorities for guidance upon arrival …

Posted in Arab world, health, Kuwait | Leave a Comment »

introducing Mr. “formerly known as swine flu”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 1, 2009

Yesterday I received the latest warden message from the United States Embassy in Kuwait. (As long-time readers know, I was never able to successfully register myself for the US Embassy in Lebanon’s warden updates, but like Old Faithful, I receive a steady stream of messages from the embassies in Damascus and Kuwait.)

For those of you currently in Kuwait, the hotlines listed might be useful. For the rest of you – including those who, like me, have been scrubbing their hands like never before – the Embassy’s PR effort may be the most interesting tidbit. Here’s the start of the release:

This Warden Message alerts U.S. citizens to the latest information regarding human cases of H1N1 Influenza A, formerly known as swine flu.  The Kuwait Department of Health has reported that airport authorities have begun screening passengers arriving from countries with reported cases of H1N1.  The Kuwait Department of Health has set up an influenza hotline staffed with medical professionals who speak Arabic and English to answer Kuwait specific questions about travel regulations and health issues related to this influenza.  The hotline numbers are 2486-4936 and 2486-4930 or by fax at 2486-5892; the numbers are currently staffed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

That’s right: what I and my fellow neurotic New Yorkers are doing our best to prevent, despite the inherent germiness of subway seats, stairway rails, elevators, and – let’s face it – one another, is catching a virus now “formerly known as swine flu”.

I certainly understand the economic and religious/cultural impact of naming a virus after pigs, but: in New York, we’re still calling it swine flu.

Glad to know that the Kuwaitis are so enlightened, though 🙂 .

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Kuwait, words | 4 Comments »

Sunday spam: “viable and vibrant”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 5, 2009

Happy Sunday to all of you, from me and Mr. Fahad Fahad Al Ajmi, a happily corrupt executive at Kuwait National Petroleum Company:

Mr. Fahad Fahad Al-Ajmi,
Kuwait National Petroleum Company,
P.O. Box 70 Safat 13001 Safat – Kuwait.
Email: fahadalajmiknpc@gmail.com

Assalamualaikum,

Permission To Remit $14M Into Your Company or Private Account.

[No sense in beating around the bush, here: Fahadain gets to the point immediately.

I am a member of the Federal Government of Kuwait Contract Award and Monitoring committee in the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC). Some time ago, a contract was awarded to a foreign firm in KNPC by my committee. This contract was over-invoiced to the tune of US$14m (Fourteen million US dollars). This was done deliberately, the over invoicing was a deal by me to benefit from the project.

[Great – you sound like a wonderful custodian of your country’s resources, and a very trustworthy partner.]

I now desire to transfer this money which has already been moved out to a Security Company in United Kingdom, in any Overseas Account, which I expect you to provide to me.

[“… which I expect you to provide to me”: Ah, the khaleej sense of entitlement – how delightful.]

Meanwhile, this is the breakdown of the sharing modalities after it has been paid into an account you shall nominate for the purpose of this transfer deal: a) 25% of the money will go to you for acting as the beneficiary of the fund. b) 5% has been set aside as an abstract projection for reimbursement to both parties for incidental expenses that may be incurred in the course of the transaction. c) 70% to me the originator (which I wish to commence a viable and vibrant foreign investment scheme or project in conjunction with you) in your country.

[I’m loving the “incidental expenses” allocation, which seems to be a growing trend in financial scam spam emails. Does this make the deal sound more credible? And could there be a more painful phrase than “sharing modalities?”]

To effect this transfer, I therefore request the following: 1. Bankers Name and Address where the money would be transferred into. 2. Account Number 3. Your Private telephone and Fax Numbers for quick communication. The above information would be used to make formal applications as a matter of procedure for the release of the money in your name and onward transfer to your nominated account.

[I think he means “designated” account – “nominated” sounds like its up for an award. And what is this scam email obsession with fax numbers? I don’t know anyone who has a private fax number these days, aside from my parents – and they are definitely not interested in ill-gotten Kuwaiti gains.]

Although we have not met or entered into any kind of contract with you before as to know the extent of your honesty, but I personally want to believe that you are honest enough and would not sit on the money if it finally got into your account. Again, I consider you to be of average intelligence and potentially highly qualified to handle this transaction.

[I’m not sure that a man embezzling $14 million is the best judge of anyone else’s honesty, which makes me hope that his estimation of my intelligence is a little off as well.]

It does not matter whether or not you or your company does contract projects of this nature described here. The assumption is that your company won the major contract and subcontracted it out to other companies. More often than not, big trading companies or individuals of unrelated fields win major contracts and subcontracts to more specialized firms for execution of such contracts.

[Hunh.]

Please acknowledge the receipt of this letter if you are interested and send the required information mentioned through email. I wait in anticipation of your co-operation.

Thanks,

Yours Faithfully,

Mr. Fahad Fahad Al-Ajmi

[Below is my favorite part of the entire email: a personalized “Confidentiality” disclaimer.]

————– CONFIDENTIALITY———–
This email and attachment, if any, is intended only for the person to whom it is addressed. The contents may be privileged, confidential or otherwise protected from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify me immediately and then delete this document. Do not disclose the contents of this document to any other person, nor take any copies.

Guess I’m violating the “Do not disclose …” instruction by posting Fahadain’s email. Oh well: if you’re in the market for an unethical $14 million, consider it a gift; if you aren’t, consider it some light weekend reading :).

Posted in advertising, Kuwait | 2 Comments »

the power of women?

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 17, 2009

I came across this article from The National earlier this weekend, and while I love the recognition that Muslim cultures have historically been much better about giving women control of money and property, I’m not sure that I like this suggestion that Gulf women should put their personal finances to work for “the region’s flagging economies”.

Hence I am pasting the article in below, in hopes that some of you will share your opinions, and give me some new insights!

KUWAIT CITY // Tucked away on the second floor of Kuwait’s stock exchange, a handful of women smoke, gossip and scour the market’s fluctuating prices, a world away from the throngs of male traders below. Women may be on the edge of the Gulf’s financial world, but according to a new report, their vast savings could provide a major boost for the region’s flagging economies.

The report, Discover the Hidden Treasure – Untapped Wealth of GCC Women, released by Advantage consulting in Kuwait last month, said it is not just men who have benefited from the oil money that has poured into the Gulf’s economies in the past 50 years, women have, too. However, instead of being put to work in the markets, most of their savings are in money, land and jewellery.

“It is truly surprising to see such vast potential remain untouched,” said Ms Safa al Hashem, chairman and managing director of Advantage. The social standing of women in the GCC has improved, the report said, but “there is still a long way to go”, Ms al Hashem adds.

Women in the GCC countries control around US$246 billion (Dh904bn) the report said, quoting the Middle East Economic Digest. The report estimates that as much as 60 per cent of women’s personal wealth is held as cash. Despite their important economic role, women in the UAE and Bahrain are far less likely to receive credit than men.

There is a good reason for women to prefer to keep their savings in cash, said Nabila al Anjari, general manager for Al Jazeera real estate development. Often, when “men take care of women’s money, after one or two years, they don’t let them know what is happening in their portfolio,” she said. “In the culture, you shouldn’t ask where your money is, or there will be big trouble. Women lost their money in this way.”

The women in Kuwait’s stock exchange have taken control of their own finances. Until 2003, they could only make deals by telephone. Now, they have a separate room with female brokers and real-time information.

The playing field has not completely levelled out: female traders are still a fraction of the men. “Though a lot of women have cash, they don’t know how to invest it,” Ms al Anjari said.

That may be the case for many women in Kuwait, but the portfolios of others would make seasoned investors tremble.

“I’ve invested around one million dinars (Dh12.6 million), not all my savings, around half of it,” said Nejeeba al Refei, an investor in the bourse. Her portfolio is off limits to male members of her family. “I dominate my money,” she said. “Most of my female friends invest money from their families’ savings and jobs, too.”

Women in the Gulf’s vibrant young cities like to spend on shopping, beauty salons and trendy abayas, but Ms al Refei is confident their increasing participation in society will lead to more involvement in the country’s bourse. “Women know everything nowadays. They are educated, attend forums, everything.

“The money the Gulf’s women hold in their bank accounts will make a difference in the financial markets after three or five years – when they start to invest it more.”

Good deals on the stock exchange for women, like everybody else, are harder to find since growth in the global economy shuddered to a halt. Another woman who invests in the exchange, Umm Mohammed, took a chance by investing with a loan in 2005, before the boom went bust. She has suffered since.

“I invested all my savings and took a loan, now my investments are worth a penny a stock,” she said, and the loan still has to be repaid. “More women invested before the international financial crisis, but now, saving will be the main priority.”

“A lot of women bought property in Dubai hoping to get a steady income from the rent,” Ms al Anjari said, but since property prices plummeted, “a lot of people lost a lot of money”.

Ms al Anjari was at the helm of the all-female holding company Tejarati, which opened in Kuwait in May to tap into the vast stores of female wealth. But faced with the profundity of the global financial crisis, the women decided it was a bad time to take a risk, and pulled the plug.

“We don’t want people to say that women can’t succeed,” she said. “We thank God not one woman lost 1KD, we returned all the money. When the economic environment is ready, we will start again.”

Posted in Arab world, economics, Kuwait, women | Leave a Comment »

begging off in Kuwait

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 2, 2008

I am so embarrassed.

This morning I read a news article about a visa fee that Kuwait is considering imposing on foreign visitors. Apparently there are too many foreigners entering Kuwait – 500,000 this year already – and the government hopes that raising the fee will discourage visitors.

And its not the mere fact of their presence that troubles the government – its what they are suspected of doing while in Kuwait:

… Colonel Badr Saleh Al-Hamadi, Immigration Department acting general manager, said the ministry was looking at imposing a monthly fee on visitors.

Al-Hamadi said the move would be in line with other GCC members, which charge a visitor fee.

He said many expatriates who entered Kuwait on a visit visa did so to find employment or to beg in public areas, the later of which has become a problem in recent years, he added. …

I am definitely one of those foreign visitors – or perhaps two of them, since I’ve been to Kuwait twice since January.

As for the begging – I’m so sorry about that. I wasn’t begging, honestly – its just that I need to refresh my workout wardrobe. Holes in my running pants, grey socks, big old baggy t-shirt, worn-out sneakers: Americans have funny ideas about what is acceptable to wear to the gym.

(As for the people who do come to Kuwait for grey market jobs or to beg – my sympathies are totally with them. They must be truly in need.)

Posted in Arab world, clothing, Kuwait, travel, vanity | 2 Comments »

weekend in Kuwait, part three: shoe snobs

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 8, 2008

Welcome to Kuwait, said the immigration official when I handed him my passport for an entry visa. Are you here with KBR?

Um, no. In fact – definitely not. But the line of visa-seekers in front of me did have a number of contractor-type middle-aged men, so I can see I suppose how he might have lumped me in with them. The absence of “desert boots” from my Manhattan-black outfit might have been one indication, but of course not everyone is as besotted with footwear as I am.

But clearly there are some people in Kuwait who do appreciate a good shoe, and are not afraid to celebrate their snobbery:

My kind of store – I’m city, and I’m definitely snooty!

Posted in fashion, Kuwait | 2 Comments »

weekend in Kuwait, part two: an aunted house

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 7, 2008

One of the many things I love about going to visit my aunt and uncle is their way of being welcoming and hospitable – without making me feel like A Guest.

In our family, being A Guest means formality – it means maintaining consciousness of things like posture and elbows on the table and not expressing opinions (like “yum! I love Marrakesh” or “no, I don’t really like Chinese food”) and especially especially not bothering the hostess with too many questions and not making a mess.

My aunt has a gracious, low-key way of ‘teaching me to fish’: giving me the tools to make myself at home, and encouraging me to do so. I feel totally at home in their house, with none of the awkwardness of being A Guest.

What I love best (aside from the steady supply of chocolate chips) are the sticky notes she puts up in the guest bedroom:

I see these and they tell me: you have a place here – you are welcome here. As A Guest, I would feel totally uncomfortable rummaging through the spare room drawers – and equally awkward leaving my luggage strewn around. As a family member, I love my aunt’s thoughtfulness, because it makes settling in so much easier.

Now I’m back home, where closet space is at a premium and drawer space is – oh, let’s just say that the drawers I use have been the cause of great hilarity among several friends. I love being home, but I miss being aunted!

Posted in family, home, Kuwait | 2 Comments »

weekend in Kuwait, part one

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 6, 2008

Sorry to bother you, an acquaintance said on msn this morning, but are you literally in Kuwait?

Why yes I am, as my status message stated – although I’ve now spent the past few minutes wondering what it might mean to be metaphorically in Kuwait.

But I am most definitely here in the physical, too-too-solid-flesh sense, and very happy to be spending the weekend with my aunt, uncle, and the world-famous Qatari Cat.

And as always, the trip and the weekend have produced some memorable moments – starting at Lebanese emigration.

You will not come back to Lebanon, I think, said the early-twenties General Security officer as he intently scrutinized my passport.

I certainly will, I said. I have work on Monday.

Ah, he said. Okay. Please, what is your number?

I hate this question, because I know what comes next. Lebanon’s exit card asks for my address in Lebanon – where I have been staying. The serious emigration officials never require me to add my number, and for good reason: if I’m leaving the country, what good will it do General Security to have my Lebanon mobile?

So I began giving the officer my work number.

No no, he said, frowning. I want the number for you.

Ugh, I thought. And I so do not want to give it to you.

But since he was the one in uniform, I did as he told me, and he wrote it down – happily, on my exit card and not, say, in his mobile.

You will not be here while you are in Kuwait, he said, looking up from my exit card.

No, I said, wondering at this sudden conversational turn into the obvious. I won’t be here.

I can call you later, when you are back? he said, or asked, or said – it was a statement with a slight question mark at the end.

No, I said – and it was a statement, with a slight I’m sorry at the end.

I’ve had emigration officials, airport personnel, airline representatives and even grocery cashiers all try to capitalize on the phone numbers I’ve given them for official reasons (leaving the country, lost baggage, upcoming flights, delivery orders). Its not creepy any more – its just annoying. If I must deal with unwanted Lebanese admirers, at least I want the refined ones, like Sietske’s perfume expert.

Posted in Beirut, education, holidays, home, Kuwait, Lebanon, vanity, women, words | 4 Comments »