Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mall of Kuwait: Oh, Dear

The past couple of days of my life have been completely wasted (well, not quite wasted, let's say spent) online just checking stuff out. Hey, I've given myself the week off after the exceptionally hectic month I've had! Anyway, I'm not sure how but at some point this morning I ended up on the Tamdeen Real Estate Company (Kuwait) website. They're the people who brought you Fanar and the Al-Kout/Manshar cluster. They are now apparently working on something called 360˚ Kuwait in South Surra, and the Mall of Kuwait in Sabahiya:

This is getting ridiculous. How many malls does such a small country with less than three million people need? And it's like each new one that comes along tries to outdo the last one. So they're just going to keep getting bigger and bigger. My only consolation with all of this is that at least they've stopped reclaiming land from the sea to build these monostrosities (probably because there's no coastal land left to reclaim - but I won't get into that again).

The reason I'm writing about this is to share with you the blurb on the Tamdeen website about the Mall of Kuwait. The points I would like to highlight here are in bold.

Located between the two main highways linking Kuwait City to the south, the Mall of Kuwait in the Sabahiya area will have a massive retail area of 150,000 square meters. Designed to capture the imagination of the nation, it will be surrounded by gardens, water bodies and some of the most extensive leisure and dining facilities. The mall will have a hypermarket, five anchor stores, the world’s best brands and spectacular entertainment facilities. It will integrate the ethos and culture of Kuwait, making it a cultural hub for the community. When the Mall of Kuwait opens, it will become an iconic landmark for Kuwait and a fitting tribute to the country’s grand vision.

Of course there are the obvious questions that one can ask in connection with the opening of yet another mall of this grotesque size in Kuwait: how many hypermarkets does Kuwait actually need (360˚ is having one too), how many Starbucks' are going to open in this place, how much extra stock does H&M have at the end of every season, etc. Also, how many of those big hideous clown bouncy things are going to ruin the gardens, water bodies, and leisure facilities? But let's forget about all that. They wanna open yet another mall, let them.

But who else is hanging their heads in shame right now at the thought of being part of a nation whose "imagination" gets "captured" by the sight of 150,000 square meters of retail space? Who else is humiliated that the "ethos and culture of Kuwait" is defined by shopping, coffee, and food? Does anybody else find it troubling that the "cultural hub" for our "community" is going to be a shopping and entertainment centre that probably won't even have a bookstore? An "iconic landmark for Kuwait"? Landmark in whose eyes? The tourists who will come flocking across the southern border to shop in Sabahiya?

And finally, it will be a "fitting tribute to the country's grand vision." Sadly, I think this statement is actually true. This is Kuwait's grand vision. It's all about shopping malls and satiating the short attention span of its population. You know, this mall will probably be completed around the same time as the new National Library on the Gulf Road in Kuwait City. I bet that for every one person that enters the National Library, 500 people will be walking into the Mall of Kuwait. We all know which one I'll be living in!


  • 500??? When did you get so optimistic? For every Kuwaiti who enters the library, 5000 will go to the mall!!! You made my blood boil with this post - everything you said is exactly true. That's the thing - you want to make a difference, to make things better, to build a better country... But if the majority do not want it and just want more malls, who are we fighting for? Wouldn't it be better to just go to a place where we actually value the same things as (at the very least) a bigger number of people???

    By Anonymous Raine, at 6/06/2007 8:00 pm  

  • Raine: EXACTLY! That's what I've been telling you guys (you and Red). Let's pack up our bags, pack up Dad and our loved ones, dismantle Dad's house brick by brick, and reconstruct it on the beach along the Costa di Amalfi.

    Aahhh...if only.

    Yes, I guess 500 was optimistic. But in terms of the library visitors, I'm assuming schools will be taking their students there, etc. So factor in involuntary visitors. :) But yeah, for every voluntary visitor the library gets, 5000 will be hitting the mall.

    You're so right, though. Sometimes (well, often) I get so frustrated and angry and sad, but then I realize that people like us have really become outnumbered. So is it really "our" Kuwait anymore? Maybe we just have to give up. Because we fight and fight and sacrifice so much to try and help this country, but at the end of the day, who/what are we fighting for anymore?

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/06/2007 8:34 pm  

  • I never knew we even had a 'grand vision' :D

    The whole planing system in Kuwait (and most 3rd world countries) is based on the 5 years plan (al 5e66a al 5amseyah). I remember Dr Tareq Al Swaydan once said in one of his lectures that this kind of planing system is only suitable for a baqqalah [a grocery]!!

    By Anonymous moayad, at 6/06/2007 9:28 pm  

  • Hehehe yes, welcome to our grand vision! And yeah, we love those five year plans. Have you read the early ones from the sixties and seventies? Man, it's depressing to do so, because we STILL haven't implemented their visions!! Many of the "problems" we had back then that these plans were trying to solve still exist.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/06/2007 9:50 pm  

  • May I puke? am naseous readnig about how pathetic this is. Not what you wrote but the fact that malls are mushrooming everywhere!! I went inside one of the old houses next to Amiri hospital!! Bait Alsidra to be precise. Let me tell you how gorgeous the place was! I'd love to live in it. I heard that that complex of old houses is going to be torn down for yet another unnecessary glass office building. SAD! absolutely SAD!

    By Anonymous Jibla, at 6/06/2007 10:44 pm  

  • Bait alsidra is GORGEOUS. I love going there. All those little houses are great, except for the hideous signage the ones next door have put up in neon colours with a plastic cactus or something outside if my memory serves me correctly. I wish there were stricter rules enforced about how they can decorate these old houses (like the Spago fiasco). But Bait alsidra itself is great - the owners of the places inside there have done a beautiful job. I wish I could live there.

    I have heard conflicting reports about whether it will be torn down or not. I think the latest verdict is that they won't. But you never know in Kuwait.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/07/2007 1:51 pm  

  • Oh, man! And think of all the traffic this will generate for our already poorly equipped infrastructure :((

    Personally, give me an untouched bit of earth any day over anything man-made...Kleio I will join you at the library instead!

    By Blogger Harmonie22, at 6/08/2007 1:52 am  

  • Harmonie: Yeah, you and I are gonna be living in the new library! Look at the pictures on the website I linked to. It seems like it's going to be really nice. I'm really excited about it. It's about time Kuwait had a proper library. I boycott the al-Babtain library because of what they did to the archaeological site underneath it.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/08/2007 1:49 pm  

  • The whole issue is so infuriating that I could not have something useful to say. But it is a great post.

    A nation that does not read is a dead nation(it might sound like a cliche but it is very true). Look at the people in Kuwait! They love buying Layalena and zahrat al khaleej magezines!

    I heard a few months back that the Ministry of Education, God bless its rusty and out of date soul, has scrapped the high school subject/course on libraries (maktabaat)! can you believe this? instead of improving the content of this course to teach higschool kids something about research and libraries, they actually get rid of the whole thing!


    By Blogger Traveleer, at 6/09/2007 11:27 am  

  • Build it and they will come, skipping and tripping over their black abbayas...

    By Anonymous red, at 6/10/2007 5:26 pm  

  • Traveleer: Oh dear. If they got rid of that class, then you can ignore my comment above that assumed that schools would be taking their students to the new national library. But it honestly doesn't surprise me. This kind of a move is perfectly in line with the typical Ministry of Education way of thinking. Why teach our students how to research when all we want them to do is memorize and regurgitate what we feed them?

    Red: Hahahahaha! What a fantastic image! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/11/2007 3:39 am  

  • Kleio,
    there is something else I noticed. Most studnets in kuwait (highschool and university) know 2 ways of completing a research paper or a report

    1) go to Hawalli and have these specialised office do it for you

    2) get on google and copy/paste the material you want.

    so why do we need libraries in Kuwait? lets build more shopping malls and restaurants.

    I had a dream about the future vision of Kuwait..Here it is: (one shopping mall for every citizen)


    By Blogger Traveleer, at 6/11/2007 10:55 am  

  • This is the end of my second year coming to Kuwait 4 or 5 or more times a year for weeks at a time. When I first came, 2 years ago, my Kuwaiti colleague gave me what he calls his "mad dog tour", all the while telling me there's nothing to do in Kuwait except shopping. Of course, I thought he was nuts - there's so much to do! I thought - but, now, at the end of two years, oh yes, have I realized how right he is. And for me, it's even worse, as my employer (a university) will not allow me to drive in Kuwait, so I am restricted to where my feet can take me.

    This has been the year of my awakening to all that is wrong in Kuwait. My heart aches for this country, which, as I've posted before, was so devastated by the invasion and occupation 17 years ago. The effects are everywhere, not just physical, but mental, emotional, psychological, and, yes, spiritual. And my heart aches for the Kuwaitis who recognize this and yet can't get past the huge walls of wasta and blaming and paralysis in this country (like my Kuwaiti colleague).

    Nonetheless I love this country, and I love more than a few of the people I have met. And reading the blogs of you young ones, filled with love for your country - and with a passion to make it work - this gives me hope.

    By Blogger Red Shoes, at 6/21/2007 8:05 am  

  • Red Shoes: What a lovely comment. You know, there really is a lot to do in Kuwait other than shopping or eating. My friends and I go out on cultural adventures all the time. But you have to know about these places, or you need someone to show you and open up this whole other world. I'll be moving back to Kuwait in August - next time you'll be there send me an Email and I will take you on a tour of the "other" Kuwait!

    My heart aches for Kuwait too. I'm slowly starting to lose hope for it. It's so hard to be part of the minority that really cares, and to be fighting what is rapidly becoming a losing battle against the majority of people who just have no idea what this country could be if they just opened up their eyes and minds and hearts a little bit! I will continue to do what I can, but I'm afraid the shopping malls are going to win in the end (I think they've already won!).

    I just realized that I never replied to the Email you sent me a while ago. I have the memory of a goldfish (or an aspiring absent-minded academic!). I will write back soon. I find the work that you're doing on Kuwait incredibly interesting, and I would love to meet to chat about this stuff one day when I come back.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/22/2007 12:50 am  

  • oooh kleio - I would love a tour through a woman's eyes that doesn't involve shopping or eating (not that I don't enjoy both)! My two grown sons came with me in January and we got around a lot then (because they could drive even though I am not allowed to ... bah!)

    As for losing hope, please don't. Sometimes these periods of seeming insanity are periods of cultural transition to something better, not something worse. But if you young ones - I don't mean to exempt the older generation but it takes the energy and passion of the young ones to keep us creaky old ones moving - give up hope, the transition will certainly be to something worse.

    And besides, look at the US - if ever there was a country worth giving up on! My Kuwaiti colleague tells me it's not the same because at least we have "the rule of law". Hah! It's going fast. And proportionally I would bet there's just as few readers and just as many shoppers and eaters.

    I'm leaving for home in a few days but expect to be back for a week or two before Ramadan starts. I hope to connect with you then.

    By Blogger Red Shoes, at 6/24/2007 5:58 am  

  • Red Shoes: I'd be happy to take you around on a tour! Why aren't you allowed to drive in Kuwait by your employer? That seems strange and unfair.

    Yes, it is up to us in the younger generations to bring about change and work towards a better future for Kuwait. But what scares me is the generation that comes right after mine! The teenagers and early twenty-somethings in Kuwait today. The Marina Mall generation. How on earth are they going to run this country one day?! But I guess you're right, it's not just Kuwait. The patterns we see here are the same in most places. Nobody reads, people are apathetic, and Starbucks rules the high street.

    There are some small windows of hope I can still see, though. Places like Loyac give me hope - who help place young Kuwaitis, high schoolers or university students, in part-time jobs over the summer, etc. It teaches young students a valuable lesson that is otherwise lost in Kuwait. Working does not always mean a cushy ministry desk job where you work for 10 minutes a day. You see these students over the summer working behind the counters in coffee shops and fast food chains, as well as in banks and other organizations. It's funny that in any other country in the world you would never need a programme like that to place you behind the counter at McDonald's, while here it is an innovative venture that is critical for the country's future.

    Despite the trends we face that are parallel with the rest of the world, Kuwait will always be quite an anomaly in so many different ways! And I will always love the confused little place, despite all its obvious flaws.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/25/2007 10:51 am  

  • Hi, I think that it is sad that nobody seems to really like Kuwait! Tried to google who would and nobody replied! That is scary!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/27/2008 11:25 pm  

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