Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Expat Rental Woes - Displaced Families

(Photo:  Arab Times)  Some of the Renters

No Power, Water For Sixty Families At Owner’s Mercy
Suffering Tenants Appeal For Justice
Arab Times
KUWAIT CITY, Feb 16: In a series of difficulties faced by tenants because the landlords increase the rents of apartments at will, 60 families are said to be living without electricity and water in one of the residential buildings in Maidan Hawalli, reports Al- Seyassah daily. This happened because the owner of the building sought to increase the rent midway (DG:  usually before the end of the rental agreement after 5 years) and the tenants refused to pay and the former cut off water and electric supply.  (DG:  All completely illegal, by the way.)
The tenants have appealed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid, and Minister of Electricity & Water Abdulaziz Al-Ibrahim to solve their problem. The tenants reportedly sought the help of the emergency team of the Ministry of Electricity and Water after the landlord denied cutting water and power supply and a report showed the supply was cut off manually and that the ministry had nothing to do with the power outage. Several tenants, elderly and children suffered due to this indiscriminate act of the landlord especially since some of them are sick.  (DG:  Why isn't the landlord in JAIL?!)
Many of them slept at several places because there was no power supply. They say they want to settle the issue with the landlord once and for all. They say if the issue is of increasing monthly rent this can be resolved in a reasonable manner without causing harm to the tenants. Some of the tenants said they sought police help but to no avail and one of them was even detained for hours and finally released.
My Editorial [also known as "bitching" (US form of the term)]
Whatever happened to doing the right thing?  Do these landlords pray?  Fast?  Have their own families?  Has greed and corruption become so commonplace that these occurrances seem "normal" in Kuwait these days?  And why isn't the government helping them  - especially since (in this case), they appealed directly to ministers?  Why were they detained by police when requesting their help?  
Isn't there any decency here anymore?
I have had expat friends who have had to endure the same types of problems.  Sure, there is a tenancy law in Kuwait, but when you go to the rent court, you need to speak Arabic or have an Arabic translator present - at each and every instance (of which there will be many).  The procedures are so long and tedious that many people just give up and move out (or move on).  Why is this so when the majority of the people renting property (because you CAN'T own) are English speaking?
It is kind of a double-edged sword because most landlords don't want to rent to Kuwaitis (because Kuwaitis have rights, can speak Arabic, can fight back; and for other reasons that I could cite, but may be construed negatively); so they welcome expats (who can be easily abused).   (Disclaimer:  I'm not stating that all landlords are unethical/immoral, but there are growing numbers recently.) 
But hey, you can't change every archaic law to make it better/more fair, right?  But you can make new ones like not selling fish to expats or fining/deportation for barbecuing on the seaside, or or or...
Personal Rental Experience
Mashallah, I've got to say that I've been blessed with happy living in accommodations with good landlords.  I have only lived 3 places in 18 years here.  (Mashallah, Mashallah, Mashallah*).
The furnished temporary accommodation I first got myself into was a short-term deal in Salwa [with a phone, pool, maid service.... screaming kids 24/7, lizards in my bathroom, a dummy thermostat because the apartment was illegally cut in half using drywall and they were faking that I had control of the AC/heat (ha ha!  good one!); food smells (tacos AGAIN?!) from the noisy neighbors next door with The Devil Baby, etc etc].  I wasn't very happy there; but it was what it was:  a jumping off point to a more permanent home; an opportunity to get the lay of the land (and to start accumulating stuff I recognized from Ikea!).
My first "permanent" apartment, I lived in for 11 years in Salmiya until they decided to demolish the building and I was given the (legally-imposed) choice between 6 month's free rent or a payout of the equivalent of 6 month's rent.  During the 11 years that I lived there, the building hariss, Mr. Khalid, became like a big, Nubian brother to me. He fixed things, carried things, helped scare off lovesick little boys when they followed me home (it was Salmiya).  I invited Mr. Khalid to barbecues, brought him covered dishes, and gave him gifts (I wish I could have afforded to buy him dental work, but he still had a warm smile regardless.)  The apartment was on a top floor and very quiet with a lovely view; and it was very cozy.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.  Or so I thought...
Where I am now is (Mashallah) like my own (as in "I own it") home.  It has a private entrance, and a terrace with potted plants.  Plenty of room.  It's very quiet.  It was like God sent it to me when I was in despair (you can read my previous posts about trying to find an apartment in Kuwait - HELL!)   

After 3 years, the landlady (sister/-in-law of the owner actually - long story!)  asked to increase the rent by 50KD.  Although I know the law and all that yada yada, I didn't have a fit; it was all good. I know she travels a lot and gets her hair did like I do on the regular.  The apartment is so amazing (Mashallah) and I have so much privacy and amenities that I didn't blink an eye before agreeing to the rent increase (the first time she asked me).  It was all very friendly and amicable,  New rent, new lease agreement extending the payment rate for a few years; girlfriend gets her hair done.  Everybody is happy and I'm even thinking about re-decorating the big bathroom (Crazy-Dog-Lady Legacy - ha ha!).
I am, Mashallah, blessed because I can afford a 50KD increase in rent; however.  Many people living in Kuwait can't.  I can't imagine what it would be like living on a limited income, caring for children or elderly parents or sick relatives (or just being sick or elderly and or sick and elderly and having that type of stress).  When we were in the Great Kuwait Blackout of 2015 (all 2 hours of it) the other night, I thought about how lucky I am that our electric/water doesn't go out very often where I live. And I did actually think about those who were living without electricity and water and how they must feel all the time.  
So now I'm thinking about these 60 (not 5, not 20, but SIXTY) families and they are in my prayers too (I'm sorry that you have to go through this - especially the elderly because God knows that there is enough to worry about in your twilight years).  I hope their issue will be resolved soon.  Maybe some truly righteous landlord with empty apartments can offer to help them temporarily?  

*Note the use of "Mashallah" throughout posts.  I jinx myself horribly; give myself "hot eyes".  Stating "Mashallah" (In the name of God) wards off evil.  Inshallah.
More posts related to Rentals in Kuwait

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blackout in Kuwait

Photo:  Arab Times
 Blackout Hits Kuwait
Main Grid Glitch
Arab Times
 KUWAIT CITY, Feb 11: Most areas in the country experienced sudden power disruption at 7:30 pm on Wednesday because of a technical breakdown in Al-Subiya Power Station and this had a negative impact on Doha Power Station, reports Al-Seyassah daily.
This necessitated isolating some networks as a precautionary measure due to the increased pressure on other stations. However, officials from Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW) announced one hour after the blackout that electricity was restored gradually in some areas and it will be back completely in a few hours.
The affected areas include Hawally, Jahra, Jabriya, Salmiya, Al-Rai, Al- Rumaithiya, Qurtuba, Al- Nuzha, South Surra, Adiliya, Mangaf, Jaber Al-Ali, Khaitan, Dasma, Haiteen, Fahaheel, Sabahiya, Al-Shuaiba and Al- Ahmadi.
This is in addition to huge and vital establishments like Kuwait International Airport, Avenues Mall, (DG Note:  I love what is "vital" to Kuwait!) Sabah Health District, hospitals and other areas. It also halted traffic movement completely for several hours amidst angry outbursts among netizens on various social networking websites.
An unprecedented security mobilization to organize traffic flow due to the breakdown of traffic lights and to protect some major utilities in the country followed as the teams from Civil Defense and Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD), along with the Operations Rooms of the Interior Ministry and Medical Emergency Department which received hundreds of reports about accidents and people stuck inside elevators.
Accordingly, MEW officials and their counterparts in the Interior Ministry appealed to citizens and residents to stay at home or in places where they are and refrain from going out to the streets until the electricity is restored. Sources from MEW clarified that Al- Subiya Power Station, which produces 5,000 megawatts, was out of service due to the breakdown; indicating that 2,000 megawatts was later restored gradually.
In the same context, Minister of Electricity and Water Abdulaziz Al- Ibrahim and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah confirmed in subsequent press statements that electricity was restored gradually in different areas, stressing that the blackout was due to a technical breakdown.
Furthermore, Minister of Health Ali Al-Obaidi announced during an inspection tour in hospitals that all of them were working normally by using generators. Also, the Interior Ministry refuted rumors that a destructive activity is behind the blackout and there is no truth in the alleged theft in a bank in Al- Qurain.
Actually, I'm kinda impressed by how fast public services reacted to the blackout.  Within minutes of the blackout (in my area, Rumaithiya - which just so happens to be right down the road from Dar Salwa, residence to His Highness The Emir - police vehicles were in the area and helicopters were flying overhead.  
I could hear my normally-calm upstairs neighbors (the Dutch are such a together, placid, group of people) in the hallway inquiring about the problem...
Then of course the neighbors with the house next door (who must have a backup generator) started gathering loudly (with all their lights on), and kids started throwing things off the roof; leading responsible citizens in the neighborhood to shout at them.  (Ok so your lights are on.  La dee da.  We get it.)  The horny cats in the neighborhood thought it was a free-for-all and many a stray kitten must have been conceived last night for all the noise that was going on (come to think of it, maybe that was the neighbors, not the cats....)
The only way I could have known what was happening (with the electricity, that is) was one of the major forms of communication:  Tell-a-Kuwaiti.  I thought I could score some pity/free food, so I sent a friend a message saying, "Dude, my power just went out in the middle of cooking diner.  Could you drop by with a shawarma on your way home?"  Alas, I was foiled by a nation-wide blackout and they were in the same situation.
So, I lit candles (my house is like a Catholic church), played laser-pointer-tag with my big dog, and finally decided to go to sleep.  Early!  I was just drifting off when BAM!  My TV blares back on and there are bright lights in my face.  That was a fast blackout...  About 2 hours in total.
I'm really glad I wasn't out on the road because road rage in Kuwait under normal circumstances is awful, but I heard that last night was like Hell night.  
[Sidebar:  Why is Kuwait like Egypt all of a sudden?  When did it become "ok" to blast your horn at other people?  This is not native to the culture of Kuwait!  A short time back, if someone honked at a Kuwaiti, it would be cause for a fight.  Now, it is the Kuwaitis doing the honking.  Like as soon as the light turns green.  When did it become socially acceptable behavior here?]
Back to our story
I started thinking about how really blessed we are.  We rarely have power failures of any kind (in Kuwait, in my neighborhood, in my house) and a blackout is unheard of (I thought it was those ISIS mofos...)  In contrast, my sister's million-dollar-home neighborhood in the States is hit by power outages all the time (especially during the winters or flood times).  She finally had enough one bad winter and bought a back-up generator that is so smooth, you can't even tell if the power has gone out (no flicker, no noise, just redundancy).  
I also started thinking how easy it would be for terrorists to shut down the country.  I thought it might have been sabotage last night. Think about it:  Everybody and their grandmother uses a "smart" phone these days.  Many people (like me) don't have land line phones.  Scary.  

I didn't know how long the blackout would last, so I remembered to do what my mother always does:  Fill up every kind of container with water.  I was thinking that if I needed to re-charge my phone or my computer I could do that in my car.  Glad it didn't last that long.
What must it have been like here in 1990?  Dayum.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Death For Kuwaiti Policeman For Kidnapping And Raping A Filipina

This might be one public hanging worthy of attending....

Death For Kuwaiti Policeman For Kidnapping And Raping A Filipina
Arab Times

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 11: The Court of Appeals upheld ruling of the Court of First Instance that sentenced a Lance Corporal in the General Traffic Department to death for kidnapping and raping a Filipina, and attempting to kill her later.

According to the plaintiff’s counsel, Attorney Sultan Al-Tawalah, although the court has done the right thing to punish the defendant who perpetrated crime against his client, he will also demand for civil compensation. Case files indicate that the officer was on duty when he stopped two Filipinas for verification of their civil ID cards.

This led to the discovery that one of them violated the residence and labor laws since her residency had expired. He ordered her into the police car and the taxi driver, who was conveying the women, disclosed that he was asked to drive away with her companion, saying, “Move away quickly!” This information was contained in the testimony of the taxi driver.

The officer then drove the woman to a desert area in Mishref where he raped her despite strong resistance from the woman, prompting the officer to stab her in the neck.

The woman pretended to be dead, so the officer fled immediately when blood started gushing out and she looked unconscious.

As he was entering the car, he discovered that the woman was alive, so he returned to intensify the stabbing in the neck, back and chest, and then hid her under a huge mound of sand to become a prey for stray dogs. When the investigation started after his arrest, the officer claimed to be psychologically unstable but the medical report indicated otherwise.


I'm glad to see that there is equal justice under the law being enforced in Kuwait.  This crime was so heinous and revolting. To him, she was nothing more than a piece of meat.

"Serve and protect." not "kidnap, rape, stab, go back and stab some more."  Why don't they publish his name???  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Mubarakiya Post

Mubarakiya - February 2, 2015

When I first came to Kuwait in 1993, I said that I wanted to go to a Kuwaiti market.  They thought I meant, "mall" and I was very disappointed in what they showed me (at that time, the only "mall" in Kuwait was Fanar).  Until I got a little more specific and I ended up at both the Friday Market (which is no longer traditional - more like a junky flea market) and Mubarakiya (which IS traditional and not a tourist trap, but a place where locals go to get good deals).

Last night, I drove by Mubarakiya last night and saw that they had lots of colorful light displays, so I am going to try to get down there while the Annual Mubarakiya Expo (see below) lasts.

Souq Mubrakiya was named after Mubarak bin Sabah Al-Sabah,  the seventh ruler of Kuwait from May 18, 1896 until his death on November 28, 1915.  He is regarded as the founder of modern day Kuwait (and grandfather to a few very nice people I know).

Mubarakiya History (Source: Bazaar Magazine, Feb. 2015) "Sheikh Mubarak Al Kabeer’s Kiosk in the center of it all, people were able to openly communicate their hopes, dreams, and worries to their leader. Soon enough, a little further down the road from the Kiosk, a Diwaniya was born, dubbed as Diwaniyet Al Ra’eel Al Awal – The Elders and Founding Fathers’ Diwaniya or commune. The Diwaniya became – and still is – a place for the country’s elders to meet and discuss everything from social issues to the coming elections. Past the Diwaniya, one of Kuwait’s oldest Post Offices can be found. Standing tall, the original majestic doors were preserved, along with a beautiful blue and white post box. Further still, the gates and marker for the Mubarakiya School – a 100 year-old institution of education. Currently open as an exhibition and celebration of academia, the school welcomes visitors from Monday to Saturday."
I frickin LOVE Mubarakiya and I learn more about it all the time.  It is my happy place; my most favorite (man-made) place in all of Kuwait.  You can keep those new, fancy-pants malls.  I’m happy with the funky old-style found only here.   I take every visitor to Kuwait to Mubarakiya and I highly recommend that others do the same.  f you are an expat living in Kuwait and haven’t visited this souq, you’re a dumbass.  (Sorry, but you are.)  You are not going to get the real flavor of Kuwait until you see it.  (That's right, I'm talking to YOU.  Step away from the Big Mac and walk outside of McDonalds....)

The GOOD NEWS is that you don't have to stay a dumbass!!! Call my friends at Morqab Tours and they will take you on a guided tour of the entire area, introduce you to long-time vendors, and take you to lunch/dinner and shopping at Mubarakia.  Morqab - Phone:  6510-0772.  

The souq consists of many sub-souqs:  Gold, clothing, fabric, traditional Bedouin robes, spices, fish and meat, perfumes, bkhoor, along with alleys for open-air restaurants, sweet shops, camping supplies, cosmetics (entire basement area dedicated to an international assortment of stuff) and specialty shops of many other kinds.  It is also one of the few places remaining in Kuwait where  you can buy traditional Bedouin weavings.

I've had visitors to Kuwait who only wanted to by T-shirts as gifts for friends back home.  Unfortunately, it is REALLY hard to find T-shirts our souvenirs that have anything to do with "Kuwait" on them (even at the airport).  It's kinda weird, but true.  On my first trip to Kuwait (and again later when I moved here), all I was interested in bringing as gifts were traditional Kuwait items. You can find anything traditionally Kuwaiti at Mubarakiya.


You can always just go downtown to Mubarakiya by yourself and look around (especially now that the weather is great!).  Google Map of Mubarakia HERE with attractions.

Trip Advisor Reviews of Mubarakiya HERE (including photos)

Life in Kuwait Blog posted this on February 1st:   The Annual Mubarakiya Expo started today (Feb 1, 2015) and will continue until February 9 at Souk Mubarakiya. Local small businesses will have tables set up selling their items in support for small business and Hala February festivals. Al Mubarakiya website (End)

Bazaar Magazine also has an article and photos Mubarakiya this month. Check out their story HERE.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Kuwait Jails Stateless Activist

Kuwait Jails Stateless Activist
Enezi Flees
Arab Times

(DG Note:  Actually, they can't jail him if he's already gone, so the headline is inaccurate.)

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 1, (AFP): Kuwait’s lower court Sunday sentenced a stateless activist for five years in jail for insulting His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, his lawyer said. Khaled al-Kafeefa told AFP that defendant Abdullah al-Enezi, who has apparently fled the country, was not present in court for the ruling.

Enezi was arrested in February last year for taking part in a gathering for stateless people, locally known as bedouns, to demand Kuwaiti citizenship and charged with insulting the Amir. Criticising the Amir in Kuwait is considered a state security offence, with those found guilty faced with up to five years behind bars. Enezi was detained for three months before being released on a $1,700 bail (1,500 euros) and banned from travel, the lawyer said. But Kafeefa said he has learned that Enezi had fled Kuwait and sought political asylum in a Western country.

Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait in April to investigate allegations of police torture of Enezi and two other stateless men detained for taking part in protests. On Sunday, the Kuwaiti court also acquitted 36 bedouins who had been accused of taking part in an unlicenced demonstration and assaulting police, Kafeefa said. But a lower court on Thursday sentenced six stateless men to one year in jail to be followed by deportation for allegedly taking part in an unlicenced gathering and assaulting police.

The court asked five of them to pay each $700 to suspend the jail term, but refused to extend the exemption to the sixth defendant, leading stateless rights activist Abdulhakim al-Fadhli. All the rulings can be challenged.

The bedouns were born and raised in Kuwait and claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship. But the government says only 34,000 of an estimated 110,000 stateless qualify for consideration and that the rest hold other nationalities.

(DG Note:  They have been "studying" the cases of Bedoons for several decades now.)

I wonder what "Western country" granted Abdullah Al-Enezi political asylum.  

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Shops, cafes ordered to close by midnight – Municipality, MoI seek to combat rising crime

Arab Times
1 February 2015

KUWAIT: The municipality will enforce a Cabinet decision mandating all stores, restaurants, cafes, billiard halls and similar facilities to close by midnight. Municipal Director Ahmed Al-Subaih said that the municipality and the interior ministry have agreed to activate this decision in all areas - commercial, investment and residential - while shops in the industrial areas of Shuwaikh, Sharq, Ardiya, Sabhan and Fahaheel will have to close by 10:00 pm.

Speaking to the press after a meeting with the Interior Ministry's assistant undersecretary for public security affairs Maj Gen Abdul Fattah Al-Ali, Subaih said that the closing time on weekends (Thursdays and Fridays) and on official holidays would be 1:00 am. "Exceptions will only be made upon official permission from the interior ministry," he added.

Subaih noted that Ali was fully convinced of the need for such measures to maintain security in view of the growing number of crimes such as drug abuse, vehicle theft, shootings and others. Subaih added that the new timings would be circulated to all six governorates' municipal offices so that they could be put into practice.


Yes because as we all know, vehicle theft, shootings, and drug abuse happen most often at restaurants, cafes, stores, and billiard halls!  Rising crime never happens in residential neighborhoods or during peak shopping times at malls.

Rising crime in Kuwait has nothing to do with the desperation of the youth - many Bedoon/stateless - with little or no other ways to support themselves than by crime.  

Rising crime has nothing at all to do with the price of meth vs. a bottle of alcohol.  Nope. 

2 February update

Backtracking.  I love backtracking.  Not our fault....   Tongues  were waggin over this decision, so the decision to close restaurants after midnight is now "baseless."  

The word "Study" as defined in Kuwait:  Never going to happen.