Monday, February 29, 2016

Toastmasters Kuwait

I SUCK at public speaking.  If you've ever heard me speak in public - you know this to be true.  I immediately make off-color, inappropriate jokes that leaves everyone in the room with their jaw on the floor.  Like the time at the American Business Council when an MC called me up to, "Say a few words" spontaneously.  WRONG!  Bad move.  I didn't know what it was about.  I didn't know why I was up there.  So, I said the first thing that popped into my mind, "Hi.  My name is (Desert Girl) and I'm an alcoholic.  It's been 3 days, 4 hours, and 22 minutes since my last drink...."  (Dead silence. Blank stares.)
Disclaimer:  No disrespect to the problems that alcoholics face. I've had a few in my family and I know the ugly truth about how difficult it is for everyone involved.
Anyways, Toastmasters would really help me, I'm sure.  One of my dear colleagues is very involved with local Toastmasters and has requested my assistance in a sponsorship drive.

Toastmasters Kuwait factoids:
The first Toastmaster club was established in Kuwait on 1999, and currently there are 55 clubs in Kuwait with 500+ members eager to learn and form a community of learners who care about their self-development. Kuwait is part of District 20 and has 4 divisions.
Some of their programs include:

A self-paced program
Speech writing and presenting
Weekly interactive meetings
Table Topics™
Participation in meeting roles
Opportunity to conduct meetings
Small groups

Right now, they are seeking sponsors for local events.  Company names/logos will appear on their publications and social media outlets.

“Every Toastmasters journey starts with a simple speech.”

I’m helping a friend to find sponsors for an April 29 event in Kuwait, combining several local Toastmaster clubs at the American University of Kuwait.

Are you interested in joining Toastmasters? Want to work on your public speaking?  This is an excellent opportunity to find out how local clubs work and to meet some of their members.
Toastmasters is seeking sponsors in the form of cash donations (ranging in denominations of between KD 200 and 500) or gifts that can be awarded to winners at the event.

For more information on how you can sponsor and/or get involved, please contact Yousef at

Toastmasters main website:

Thank you!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Liberation Day

Why I don't celebrate Liberation Day the way that some do....

I hated it when spraying people with foam  was the "fun" and acceptable way to celebrate a day that I take very seriously:  Liberation Day.  National day - ok.  That's just really another holiday to me, but I have a personal history with the liberation of Kuwait and I take great offense to the way that many people here choose to celebrate the day that commemorates a loss of life and sacrifice.

(I'm glad it is banned, but it's been replaced by something equally as offensive - water guns.)

I'm not gonna lie (oh YES I am!).  I'm older than the 29 years that shall remain my official age...

I worked to help liberate Kuwait.  I was there with Kuwaiti friends in Washington DC - from the day that Kuwait was invaded by Iraq on August 2, 1990 (at a spontaneous demonstration outside the White House)  through to the end when Kuwait was liberated by ALLIED (not only Kuwaiti as it is now being told) forces on February 26, 1991. (Allied meaning "alliance" - meaning friends and brothers/sisters in arms.)   I volunteered at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington, DC.  I volunteered with Citizens for a Free Kuwait and several other groups working towards education (of the American people because many didn't even know where Kuwait was at that time); and ultimately freedom/liberation for Kuwait.

My Kuwaiti friends were tortured. Some died.  Some cover up their scars and you would never guess by looking at them that something awful had happened to them.  Some lost family members and still don't know where their bodies are buried.  Some were maimed.  Some lost all hope - even till now.

Some of my female friends volunteered to FIGHT along side of the US military (they were allowed to go as interpreters).  I was with them in training until the time that they left (I'm American so no-go).  Nothing is written about them (25 young female volunteers in all) in Kuwaiti history books.  Nothing is mentioned in speeches or on plaques.  They were given the rank of honorary sergeants during the war and paid by the Kuwaiti Government as such.  They went to basic training at US military camps in New Jersey and boarded planes to undisclosed destinations surrounding Kuwait; waiting for the opportunity to get back in when Kuwait was liberated and find their families.  They slept in the mud.  They sacrificed - some going against the wishes of their families.  Many Kuwaiti men at the time considered them a disgrace to their country; female Kuwaitis going to the battlefield.  I suppose they must still be shamed by the fact that KUWAITI WOMEN FOUGHT FOR KUWAIT in 1990/91 because nothing is ever mentioned about it.

When I moved to Kuwait in 1996, there were so few Westerners that Kuwaitis would stop and thank me on behalf of my country for helping to liberate Kuwait.  There were many smiles.  It was a wonderful and unifying feeling.  In the 90's, celebrations on the Gulf Road were with flag-flying cars (similar to now), but with the flags of ALL of the Allied Forces; especially US, British, and Saudi.  Street vendors sold all flags on the corners.  People still remembered their recent history.  And most people were respectful.

I stopped celebrating when a young boy tore the American flag off my car and stomped on it on the ground. That day changed me.  I remember the look on his face:  Hatred.  More than that, he tried to get into the car.  It was awful.  I wasn't afraid - he was just a boy.  But who taught him that?  Why didn't he understand?

Why can't people remember their history here?  The pulse of the country has turned from unity to bashing.  I don't feel wanted here like I used to.  It makes me sad.

The older generations here certainly remember, but the young generations are not being taught. Or maybe they are being dismissive.  Why?

And why is it considered appropriate to assault people in "celebration"?  I don't go out after being maliciously drenched in water outside my home (the distance from the door to my car) by a gang of four "celebrants" (as the media now calls them).  I went in, changed; only to walk out and be assaulted again by the same juvenile delinquents, waiting to ambush me.  Is that celebrating?  Are paint-filled balloons and God-only-knows-what-filled water guns randomly aimed at people who then plead for them to stop?  Is that what Kuwaiti children are being taught?  Again, it makes me sad for this country to know this is what it has come to:  A vagrant disrespect for others.  (And it seems that most expats are the easiest targets.)

Sermon:  If you want to shoot people with paint and water - go play paintball at an amusement park where others have AGREED to it.   I don't find it amusing to have my car damaged or to be soaked when I'm asking people not to.  Teaching your delightful little delinquents that it is acceptable to disrespect older people will eventually turn the same disrespect towards you.  Can I get an "ameen"?

So, I honor Liberation Day in my own way:  Reflection.  The only outward statement of unity is the SAME statement  I made in 1990 and 1991 in the Washington, DC area:  My, "I LOVE Q8" Virginia license plate.  People in DC would stop and ask me why I had it and I would get to educate them one-on-one as to what was really happening to people (just like them) inside Kuwait during the invasion.  Now, I carefully place that same license plate every February - inside the back window of my car.  No flags to rip off.  No way to (easily) tear it off.  It is the way I honor the sacrifices that my friends (and my own family) made to this country I love.  I try not to even drive during the few days surrounding the holidays - as even highway travel is an invitation to get vandalized.

Kuwait - teach your children well. Help liberate them (if you will pardon the pun) from hostility towards others.

Bedoun (Stateless) Police Officer Run Down and Killed During Celebrations

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 26, (KUNA): One policeman was killed and several others injured when they were run over by a vehicle at Dasman roundabout in Kuwait City, a statement by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said on Thursday.

Security forces have apprehended the perpetrator, named as Abdulaziz Waleed Shaheen Al-Shamlan, after he had fled the scene, the statement added.

The deceased, identified as Turki Mohammad Al-Enezi, and five other policemen who have been injured, served at the General Department of Traffic, the statement noted.

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent on Friday a cable of condolences to the family of the martyred policeman.

In his cable, His Highness the Amir voiced heartfelt and sincere condolences to the martyr’s family who was run over by a motorist.

In the cable, His Highness the Amir prayed to Allah the Almighty to bless the soul of Al-Enezi with mercy in Paradise and to bring solace to his family.

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah stressed the necessity of implementing directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for treating sons of the martyr Turki Al-Enezi as Kuwaiti citizens.

Kuwait will never forget the martyr who sacrificed his soul for its sake, the Ministry’s Public Relations and Media Security Department said in a press statement Friday.

The move is an honor to the martyr’s efforts in serving the country, it added.

The statement referred to the parental feelings of His Highness the Amir towards the martyr, who is a Gulf son to a Kuwaiti mother.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said Kuwait is proud of sacrifices offered by the martyr Turki Mohammad Al-Enezi.

The minister made the statement during Al-Enezi’s funeral on Friday.

The country’s soil embraces today a martyr who sacrificed his soul for its sake, the Ministry’s Public Relations and Media Security Department quoted Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled as saying.

The minister prayed to Allah Almighty to bless the martyr’s soul with mercy in Paradise and to bring solace to his family, wishing those injured speedy recovery, the statement said.

Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled and some senior officials at the ministry took part in the funeral.


God rest his soul.  In the photos circulating on Instagram, you can see Abdulaziz Al-Shamlan being held by police officers while on the ground.  He was SMILING.  What an insult.  

It is a wonderful step for the Kuwaiti authorities to honor the police officer by granting his son's Kuwaiti nationality (as stated).  

Many of Kuwait's military and police forces are Bedoun (stateless - without nationality).  When Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah (God rest his dear soul) was targeted for assassination in the '80's, his Bedoun bodyguards were martyred.  I don't know what happened to the status of their families. (The last I heard was that they were not granted citizenship.)  Kuwaiti Bedoun during the Gulf War either risked or gave their lives for Kuwait. They/their children still don't have citizenship.

On another note, I am VERY HAPPY to see that the media has published the full name of the assailant in the story above.  I'm a firm believer that publicly shaming those responsible for heinous crimes will have an affect on others who may be at risk for similar activity.  They will think twice.  Their families will teach better values (who wants your neighbors and your entire country to know that you have a criminal in your home?).  Yes blah blah blah it is a small-knit community and having a criminal as a brother might certainly affect his sister's/female cousins' chances of marrying someone from a respectable family.  But hello - if this guy had been taught values, morals, and respect for human life, he never would have mowed down innocent police officers on duty. He never would have even considered it.  

And if he was on drugs - GET him into an institution.  Get him help.   FACE the problem of drugs or mental illness in the community instead of sweeping it under the carpet.  The problem is only getting worse, isn't it?  Stabbings, murders, rapes, drugs.... face the fact that it is all here and do something about it.

End the era of entitlement and disrespect.  What happened to compassion and values?  BE RESPONSIBLE for yourself and family members.

Taste of Kuwait, Marina Mall, March 17-19

For Tickets:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kuwait: The Future #FoodCapital 2030

I heard about this first on Kuwaitiful and would like to add my peanut gallery comments here on my own blog.

I have met several young Kuwaiti chefs who are incredibly enthusiastic and ambitious about their trade.  I am hoping that this video will come to fruition.  I think that successful businesses in Kuwait thrive on the stomachs of others;  Anything food-related.

As you will see in the video, many of the restaurants are set in the Avenues.  Many many restaurants in Kuwait and the GCC are owned by the same people (I don't know who did the video, but I'm guessing).

They also feature sweets and chocolates (both big business in Kuwait).  For years now, mini-anything is selling.  Mini-cheesecakes, mini-muffins, mini-cupcakes.  Big business - especially catering to people who think that less equals less ("If I only eat a mini, I won't gain as much as if I eat a whole portion." - which is great until you eat all dozen minis).  They're also cute, catering to the girlie crowd.  Friend have a baby?  Sweets!  Friend pass her exam?   Sweets!  Friend get over bad menstrual cramps?  Sweets!  Whatever the excuse, sweets are here to stay.

Here's the thing:  I haven't found much seasoning in any food group/venue here.  I think the palate of Kuwait is mostly bland, not spicy.  Real Kuwaiti food uses a variety of spice, but when you go to a restaurant, I've found watered-down versions that aren't really the same thing.  And spicy here isn't spicy elsewhere.  Some like it hot.  Stop trying to cater to a bland audience. Don't be afraid to make a bold food statement and once you do; don't lower your standards to please a few customers.

Further, if I'm going to go somewhere with great ambiance and expensive food (speaking as an expat), I'm going to want an alcoholic beverage with it.  Like at hotels in Dubai, Bahrain, and Qatar.  I have zero problem with spending money/time at a venue where I can sit with friends and have a couple glasses of wine with a meal.  When I spend the same amount of money for the meal without the alcohol, that irks me.  And ask any Western tourist. Chances are that they are going to say, "Me?  Go to a dry country?!"  Yeah... so tourism from those markets isn't much of a good bet.

What about variety?  There are too many fast-food, family-style restaurants in Kuwait to count.  There's a new one popping up every week.  This country has totally turned me off to hamburgers, for example. I've had hamburger overkill.  Hamburger saturation.  Stop talking to me about how much better your hamburgers are.  How about a Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich shop (or any other type of authentic Vietnamese restaurant?  Ethiopian?  Kuwait has some of the best seafood anywhere, but where can you find an authentic crab house that serves steamed/spiced shrimp and maybe a clam bake?  (Make it easy for people to take the whole pot back to the family or for outings.)

I gotta say, though, when I first got here in '96, there were only 2 sushi restaurants and now look at Kuwait.  Sushi is mainstream.  Maybe there is hope for other types of food.

And people here do lack entertainment and places to meet.  Which is why mainstream coffee shops can get away with selling a cup of coffee for the equivalent of US $10.

And on that note.... Here is a business concept for you....

When I first got here, not very many people rode motorcycles.  Now there are thousands of them (male and female) and there are many motorcycle clubs and events.  Why is there not one motorcycle bar?  (Serve non-alcoholic beer on draft ...until... when...).  Simple food.  Simple surroundings.  A place for people to gather.  Everybody's got the gear in Kuwait, but they are using Starbucks as their meeting place. I've never seen that in any biker movie in the West.  Picture this:  The scene for a biker movie in Kuwait;   Muscly tough guy biker in full regalia (leather jacket, chains, slicked back hair, torn jeans) walks up to the barista and orders a tall skinny cappuccino with a shake of chocolate on top.  Emmm... not quite the same affect.

Anyways, I digress because I'm on a roll....

But I've got to say, the most successful places are going to be the ones that have the best overall dining experience.  Good service can't be overlooked and at the moment, most local restaurants aren't providing consistent quality of service to go along with their food.  If you can afford a fine dining experience, you want good service. You get bad service even once and you may not go back.  Maybe someone should start a training center specifically for the restaurant business in Kuwait.   (On the flip side, I haven't heard anyone call me, "Sirmaam" lately, but then again, I have only been working and going home recently, so I don't have the data.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

First Round in Tenancy/Rental Court

Two words:  It Sucked.  I didn't expect anything different....

Here's my advice for those having the same misfortune of being illegally kicked out of your home by your landlord and going to the rental court:    Bring someone fluently Arabic-speaking.  Plan to be there at around 8 am on the day of your hearing.

Hawalli Rental Court is no picnic.  Nothing is apparent.  2/3 of the inhabitants of Kuwait are not Kuwaiti.  Many of the population do not read or speak Arabic.  A large number of people filing cases in rental court these days are expats.  Why?  Because Kuwaitis are harder to kick out and the norm these days is kicking out  your tenants so you can make more money off the next expat.  Anyhoo, we are in an Arabic speaking-country.  The court system is all in Arabic.  Unfortunate, but true.

I have a "lawyer".  Ha ha.  I say that with a bit of irony because here is the latest scam:  law STUDENTS posing as lawyers.  They look around for a friend or a relative who has been practicing law for 2 years.  This will allow them to open an office and get a license to practice law under the 2-year-experienced-lawyer's name.  2 year guy rarely works there - if ever.  So, you get a law student and, in my case, a bunch of Egyptian lawyers who technically aren't supposed to be able to stand up and represent your case in court.  But guess what?  My law STUDENT sent one.

So many many many layers of BS....

Even finding your way into the parking lot at the court is a mystery.  I spoke Arabic to the Arabic speaking Arab parking lot attendant, asking him (in Arabic) if I was in the right place for the rental court. He asked me to speak Arabic.  Sigh.  He did not direct me to the barking lot.  In fact, he didn't even want to allow me to make a U turn out of the lot I had turned into. It was obvious from the 1/2 mile long line of honking cars behind me that I couldn't back out.  He was phoning for a supervisor when I frantically made hand signals to show him where I was going.

When you finally make it to the multi-story barking garage (drive past the court on the main road and the entrance is on the right), you make your way to the first building with a blue sign that says (in English and Arabic), "Legal Services Department". You must ask at the reception desk where to go to be told what floor and court number your case will appear for the day.  When you enter the room, there is a number machine with 2 choices (in Arabic).  I hit one; no clue what they said.  I explained in Arabic to the clerk what I wanted, handed him my civil ID card and he wrote down the information (in Arabic) and handed it to me.  It included my case number, the floor number and the hearing room number.

I went to the floor.  I found the hearing room (all signage is in Arabic) after asking around.  I then asked how I could find out what order my case would be heard (you are given numbers, not timings).  There is a big digital screen (in Arabic).  Any of the guys wearing badges with the scales of justice on them are lawyers.  You can usually pick out the sharper ones; ask one of them to help you find your number on the screen (using your civil ID as a guide).  I was lucky 14.

Some of the hearing room attendants bark out the numbers (in Arabic).  Sometimes you have to go and sit in the hearing room (which is difficult because they are packed with people waiting their turns).

I don't think this system is fair to people participating in hearings - OR to the judges and court case workers.  It puts too much pressure on the system.  When my number was called, I had a friend translating (a lovely lawyer who just happened to be in the building that day).    Neither of us got a chance to speak.  I made one statement, pointing at my "representative" who I had never seen before, "THAT is not my lawyer.  I don't know who that guy is.  Where is the Kuwaiti lawyer?"  The judge said, in English, "It's ok."  Uh noooo, it was NOT ok.  I never discussed my case with that person.  How could they "represent" me if they knew nothing about my case.  (They don't care - they're getting paid a a fee to complete the case.  This makes me ponder if it is better to pay an hourly rate or one lump fee.  I still think one fee is better.)   It was over in less than 5 minutes.  She didn't have time to translate until it was over - and then I was shocked at what my "representative" asked (he asked that the apartment be site inspected.  I moved out in May of 2015.  God knows how many people have walked through there since!)  They kicked us out of the hearing room because I was arguing with my "representative".

Today I fired my STUDENT lawyer after she yelled at me paying customer) for half an hour on the phone yesterday - demanding to know who my translator was; stating that the basically-mandoob-rep she sent hadn't done anything incorrectly, yada.    She has never given me a complete copy of my case file.  I sent her a letter asking for all of my documents - in detail.  This is lawyer #2.  The first guy took 100 KD and never returned my phone calls!

Why am I pursuing this case?    Because what they did to me was WRONG.  It literally forever changed my belief in Kuwait and Kuwaiti people.  I have loved this country for many years and they jaded that.    I had no idea that such awful people existed here.  What happened to me last year was heinous. It was intentionally.  It was a violation in a series of terrible violations.  And I did nothing wrong.  My parents always told me to stand up for what I believe in.  I NEED to fight this.  Yes it is costing me a lot of money.  When I finally do leave Kuwait, I don't want to believe that everyone is bad because of circumstances at the end.  I really want someone to prove that there are good people and it can have some kind of a good outcome.  And I don't want those horrible people to be able to do it to anyone else less fortunate than I am.  I want them to feel it and remember it.

US Contractors – Your legal rights and the Kuwait Labour Law

A lawyer friend asked if I wanted to post the below on my blog.  Fer sure - because a lot of people don't know their rights.

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I am hearing more and more each day about the break time gossiping and moaning that surrounds the work contracts here in Kuwait.  Most of the gossiping is done by Denny Crane methodology;  Legal Eagles just cherry picking what they hear from one person and another,  then combining a mish mash of complete inaccurate information.  So, on that note I would like to just explain a few simple terms to you guys:

·      If you have a Visa 18 you fall under the Kuwait Labour Law of February 2010 – A copy is here for you to read.
·      The Kuwait Labour Law supersedes any work contracts that you have with your employer
·       If you decide to take Legal Action against your employer to recoup any overtime, indemnity or holiday pay outstanding you can sue your employer through the legal system in Kuwait without any retribution from them – once a case is filed you are protected. You must realise that your employer can not sack you because you are taking them to court – if they try, this works  in your favour and substantiates your claim even more.
·      You can file a case up to 1 year from leaving your employment – but this takes more time to process.
·      As an American citizen even signing a contract outside of Kuwait in advance to your arrival here – you are still bound by Kuwait laws.
·      You might want to check out the following site – this is the big buzz word in the US at the moment – Human Trafficking – yes guys – you come under Human Trafficking by your own employer – quote(5)(i) Using misleading or fraudulent practices during the recruitment of employees or offering of employment, such as failing to disclose, in a format and language accessible to the worker, basic information or making material misrepresentations during the recruitment of employees regarding the key terms and conditions of employment, including wages and fringe benefits, the location of work, the living conditions, housing and associated costs (if employer or agent provided or arranged), any significant costs to be charged to the employee, and, if applicable, the hazardous nature of the work;
(ii) Using recruiters that do not comply with local labor laws of the country in which the recruiting takes place;

·         The Legal procedure here is simple and painless:

o   You find a good bi-lingual lawyer – please understand only Kuwaiti Lawyers can stand before the judge in Kuwait
o   You Sign Power of Attorney ( ‘Tawkeel’ in Arabic)– this enables your lawyer to act on your behalf – this can be done in about 30 minutes
o   You discus your issues – take all forms of paperwork including proof of any overtime sheets or payslips that you have
o   The lawyer will look over all the documentation and work out how much money is owed to you what you can claim back through the courts
o   You agree on a fee – this is usually around KWD 1,500 dependant also on complexity of the case and if you are leaving you must appreciate contact through international means (this might push the fee up to KWD 2,000) also, they will charge a recovery fee of around 7% - but, the monies collected on your behalf will be sent directly to you once received. Expensive ?  Yes and No – once your case is filed you need do nothing – the Lawyers will take over everything – and monitor every aspect of the case for the duration – considering most Lawyers have a normal flat rate of KWD 50 to open a file – and charge anywhere between KWD 150 – 300 per hour consultation – looking at this you will realise it’s a justifiable cost. Some may charge you less than this – but you have to question is the firm experienced enough and do they have native speaking English staff?  But, on the other hand if they try to charge you over KWD 2,000 you are paying waaaay too much.
o   Once in agreement to everything a contract is signed.

·         The legal process once you decide to peruse your case through the courts in Kuwait is quite simple:

o   Your file is presented to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour ( MOSAL - Sha’oon this is the local name) where it is registered and a case number is given.
o   Your file will be given to a Sha’oon Manager – he will be the one looking at all the evidence and collating the information from both sides to give his recommendations to court.
o   Your employer will have 3 chances to attend an informal hearing with him in the Sha’oon offices.
o    If your employer does not attend 3 times then the case gets automatically sent to the Civil Court.  In all honesty,  it’s a case of sit back and wait – usually takes about 6 months for it to get a hearing date – Kuwait Judicial system is paper driven and as we all know every man has his stamp !
o   If your employer does decide to turn up at either of the 3 appointments given to them by the Sha’oon  they have a right to present any documentation that they have – this can also give opportunity to settle out of court – they will be asked would they like to settle out of court – if this happens and they agree then terms and conditions will be set and an agreed amount will be negotiated and a payment date set out.  This will be legally binding !!!

o   Even if you decide you want to leave Kuwait during this process – your lawyer will fight on your behalf for your rights.  Just make sure you have a good lawyer that has your back !!!

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Their office number is 1810011 if you want to discuss it further.  The initial consultation is free.

Just to let y'alls know:  You can't go back to the US and fight it there.  There is no jurisdiction for the first round.  You have to file a case in Kuwait and based on that outcome, use the Kuwaiti case as evidence in your subsequent case filed in the US (if you choose to do that).  There was a recent class action case against an American contracting firm working in Kuwait where the plaintiffs filed in the US.  The US judge threw it out as the Kuwait Labor Law does not apply in the US.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Useful info for Mothers in Kuwait

I'm not a mom and no nothing about kid's stuff, so when I get asked by readers, "Where do I... yada yada... for my kids?" I usually have to scramble around to find information.

I just stumbled across this blog and thought I would share because it has such great information in such a user-friendly format.

Here ya go, moms....

Link is:

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Bahrain for the Weekend

Since I'm on a travel roll and in the mood to write, I am posting about this weekend's trip to Bahrain.

Like many cities in the GCC,
an ever-changing skyline has emerged in Manama.

I've been to Bahrain a million times (as have a lot of my readers, I'm guessing), but more in the past than I have done in recent history.  The country has grown since then.  A LOT.  We were with friends with a rental car and they had been in Bahrain a few months before and stated, "I have to be careful on the roads because the traffic patterns change constantly and I can't remember where to go since last time I was here."  I remember hearing that from Emiratis when returning from school to their own country;  blink, and it changes.  I was totally confused in Bahrain and even the taxi drivers didn't know some of the new places we wanted to go.

If you haven't been to Bahrain before, I'm going to give newbies some brief tips on what to do, where to go, etc.

Most nationalities can get visas at the airport or now online prior to going.  Drinkers:  Once inside the airport, it is very important to remember to buy a couple of bottles at the duty free because you won't find liquor stores easily accessible in the city.  Alcohol is everywhere, but you can't buy bottles unless you're willing to pay a lot of money.

There is a hotel on every block, everywhere in Bahrain.  Tourism is big in Bahrain; especially on the weekends when people come across the causeway from Saudi Arabia (a 25-minute drive to Dahran).   I usually stay at the Juffair Grand because it is close to where I need to work in Bahrain.  It is an okay/clean/quiet 4-star hotel in the middle of Juffair and in walking distance to Katsuya Japanese restaurant where I had some of the best sushi I've had anywhere.  The hotel is also walking distance to Shebab Avenue ("The Guys' avenue) where there are many little restaurants, mostly frequented at night.  There are also little grocery stores...

Juffair Grand has a microwave and refrigerator in the rooms.  BFF wasn't too happy when I over-cooked (aka burned)  popcorn and we had to air out the room before the fire alarm went off.   (The room service biryani is outstanding - really well seasoned.)  Rooms come with buffet breakfast.

I wouldn't recommend Juffair Grand for nightlife (not my style).  They have Wranglers - which is a Texan off-take.  They've also got a sports bar called, Champs; Busters - a pizza place/nightclub;  Cloud 9 - a nightclub of sorts. If you really want to meet a pretty lady from the Philippines in a very tight, short dress - this is your place!   The US Navy base is right down the street so many visitors stay at the hotel.

You can find good hotel deals online.  Bandar Resort is really nice for the summer with water activities, but it is outside of the city a little.  Rotana rooms are sea-view and it has a nice pool. Ritz Carlton is also sea front with a nice beach (and Trader Vic's on the property).

Most of the clubs are in Juffair and within walking distance of each other.  If  you want Arabic music (Gulf style), try Pulse.  360 is very large and plays mostly Western music. Ibrida in the Rami Hotel is supposed to be good, but we didn't make it there.  Clubs close at 2am all over Bahrain (and then you hit the Shebab Avenue in Juffair for 24 hour dining).  We started early at around 9:30 pm and by 11, there weren't any seats left.

Shebab Avenue
(too early for shebab, but not for women on "the walk of shame" at noon!)

We went to Bushido lounge in Seef area on a Friday night.  It is Budha Bar style and has a nice outdoor seating area.  They play great music, have outstanding sushi, drinks and ambiance.  The only thing that really messed it up was the service.  My recommendation:  Go to the bar.  I wanted to get my drink on and they forgot my order - twice.

Many places have Friday Brunch (most hotels have brochure stands).  We went to Coral Bay.  It's a Lebanese restaurant on the corniche, but has a seafood buffet.  You can sit outside overlooking the water.  It looks kind of weird/dumpy from the outside, but the inside is very pretty (we thought we were in the wrong place!)

View from Coral Bay Restaurant
If you want to shop, City Center Mall in Manama (there are 2 City Centers) is the biggest.  However, if you are coming from Kuwait, you are going to find that most of the shops there are the same.  Seef Mall is similar (but stop for lunch at Aroma Cafe with an outdoor seating area).  Bahrain Gate Mall is similar to Mubarakia (but not quite, with not as few shops and restaurants).  We found some souvenier bargains there and there is also a covered atrium area in the middle where you can have coffee and/or a light meal.

Restaurants:  My Bahraini friend recommends Adliya area and Zoe's (where you can lounge at the back for drinks and music), Barcelona with an open-air areas, and Mirai for sushi.  Senior Paco's Mexican restaurant is also in Adliya (which is well known to the expat community for great margaritas and live music).

So once you're done with your weekend, it is good to know that there is an Irish pub in the airport for that last-minute fix before you return.  Hope you enjoy your trip.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

I'm Promoting Tourism to Qatar

Sometimes in the middle of all my complaining and ranting about every-day life, I forget how truly blessed I am to be able to do some of the things that I get to do.  Like this trip (courtesy of my job).  I try to be grateful for every little thing and then something big like this comes along and it just wows me...

As I said in my previous post, I love it there and I am really looking forward to going back (Qatar Airways just reduced their economy ticket for the 50 minute flight to Doha to KD 61.)   There are so many activities and events going on in Qatar and I am pleasantly surprised by it all.

Below are all the properties and places I visited (with links to their websites) during my brief 3-and-a-half-day trip to Qatar.  (We were busy from 7:30 am to 10:30 pm which is how we were able to do so much.  Thank you, Qatar Tourism Authority!)

Located on a crescent-shaped island and accessible by their fleet of shuttle boats, Banana Island Resort (which you are probably hearing a lot about) is lovely, but no alcohol is allowed – either at the resort or brought in by guests (limiting their market).  All staff members seem to be trained to say, "Salam alaykum" to guests as you pass by.   The above-water villas also don’t have direct access down to the sea nor do they have in-floor “windows” to the water below.  The resort does offer many family-friendly activities (wave pool, bowling, cinemas) has an amazingly beautiful/tranquil spa with views over the sea.  Also several restaurants and the food was very good.

Villa at Banana Island Resort, Qatar
Looks like Malaysia, right?
Standard bathtubs at Banana Island (me WANTS!)

Outdoor seating area in over-water villa next to private pool

Marsa Malaz Kempinski is a true luxury hotel on it's own man-made island, so that every room faces the water (all rooms have balconies).  Every room has a butler at your service. You walk into the hotel through a very large atrium with high chandeliers over decorative marble floors.  Located on the Pearl (which, unfortunately, is not close to the downtown center), it will have the largest nightclub (500 pax) in Qatar opening in February.  The artwork at the Kempinski is phenomenal.  There are 6M Qatari Riyals worth of Dale Chihuly (same artist who created the chandeliers at 360 Mall, Kuwait) chandeliers in the lobby alone!


Dale Chihuly Art at Kempinski
Entrance to Kempinski
Dale Chihuly Chandeliers

Four Seasons – standard Four Seasons high quality and luxury in a beautifully landscaped beachfront property.   Houses the famous Nobu (sushi) Restaurant on a peninsula off the long beach of the hotel.  Well landscaped pool area.  Cigar bar.  The rooms with sea views are extraordinary with doors that open so you can awaken to the sea.

View from a room at the Four Seasons

Beach front area at Four Seasons - Nobu on Right Top
Four Seasons pool area

Four Seasons pool area
Shangri-La Hotel is a cross between Asian and Middle Eastern décor and food selection.  Their rooms had the only welcome tray (really nicely done touch with dates, fresh fruit and sweets).  Nice spa.  It is adjacent to the City Center mall (there will be direct access to the mall soon).  Next to the Convention Center.  The service at the Shangri-La was outstanding. All the staff members just seemed genuinely happy to be there.

Welcoming tray at Shangri La

King bed at Shangri-La
Rotana is next to the Shangri-La. Also adjacent to the City Center Mall.  Next to the Convention Center.  The Rotana is perhaps a lower-cost alternative but still quite comfortable.

The Westin will open in April.  It is huge and very pretty.  Has the largest convention hall in Doha at 1700 theater-style.  Beautiful landscaping.  Villa rooms with private pools.  Wave pool on property next to their Thai restaurant.  It was in a strange area, however.  Not close to most attractions and driving in it does not allow for a 5-star first impression (once inside, however, that changes).
One of the Westin's pretty walkways
DoubleTree –   Walking distance to old town area.  The café (Open Café) has surprisingly amazingly good food for a hotel café – truly a 6-star meal in a cafe environment. 

And by the by - the hotels serve alcohol.

The Qatar Tourism Authority used Qatar International Adventures as their tour operator for our trip.  I was impressed by the quality of activities and their professionalism.  Check out their packages online. They are reasonable and I highly recommend the Msheireb Museum  tour, Katara Cultural village tour (with a stop to L'wzaar seafood restaurant inside Katara), and desert adventure (winter).

Souq Waqif is a must-see.  Similar to Mubarakia in Kuwait, Souq Waqif is an old souq with small alleys, shops and restaurants.  Most of the restaurants are more upscale than Mubarakia, however.  Souq Waqif also houses several small, boutique hotels if you would like to stay in the heart of the old-town area.  The Souq also provides activities and festivals throughout the year (LINK and LINK).

Souq Waqif

Bird houses at Katara

One of the old houses at Msheireb Museum
A listing of Qatar Events can be found HERE.

Visa requirements to Qatar can easily be looked up HERE.  Most Western nationalities can purchase a visa upon arrival at the airport.