Waleed Bin Talal & His Entourage

Saudi princes do travel with very large entourages and I always think that Waleed Bin Talal is a bit on the more sensible side. It seems being at the top of the business ladder in the middle east he needs quite of people to keep his affairs in order.

The rich have their way of living and in order to look so prim and proper at all times, anywhere they are found, requires utmost maintenance. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud is no exception and has announced, as means of proof against some harsh accusations, his 26-member entourage. And they are – a private physician, assistant manager of his palaces, private assistant, executive assistant, personal affairs manager, two personal affairs assistants, manager of protocol department, manager travel and external affairs, assistant manager telecommunications, private affairs for the Princess, her beautician, athletic trainer, two private security details, assistant head of the Audio Visual Department, the Prince’s personal hairdresser and two guys listed as “companions”.

Link: LuxuryLaunches

Formula Drifting on Reem Circuit KSA

I haven’t been to Reem Circuit in Saudi Arabia so this is the first time I see from this footage but it seems they gave Vaughn Gittin Jr and his Formula Drift Mustange free reign over the track and anything around it. Formula Drifting is one of the coolest sports to watch and the amount of skill it takes to control the vehicle at high speed is over the top to say the least. And it seems Gittin enjoyed himself on the track with a few close calls.

Project Completition in the GCC

Construction

Looking at all the different projects that been completed in the last 5 years you can see construction projects, financial projects, media development, business development projects, telecommunication development. So many different kinds that I don’t know how to list them all. Saudi talks about projects in the billions of dollars while Bahrain completes these important project within a certain budget and does a fantastic job when seeing the end result. Qatar is on an insane boom of every kind, and UAE is still continuing with the projects the planned out and scrapped the ones that didn’t work. In all these countries you can see all the different kinds of projects and the result of their completion, but in the case of Kuwait. In the last 5 years Kuwait has re-tendered and canceled so many projects that I honestly lost count. I can’t remember any major project that has been completed in the last 6 months. Kuwait is stagnant, in place and no change even though we all want to progress forward. They have been talking about Fiber to Home for the past 8 years with no result in Kuwait while Oman is connecting fiber between very distant cities as well as other maritime projects. Below is my ranking of countries based on project completion, the funny is that Kuwait has the highest number of running projects but a very low successful ratio. All the Gulf countries have passed Kuwait in regards to progress and development, and our government has yet to do complete any major project. For how long was the first ring road stuck with no construction of projects then suddenly everything came alive in 6 months ago.

Projects Completed By Ranking:

  • Qatar
  • UAE
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Oman
  • Bahrain
  • Kuwait

BlackBerry: The Alternative – None

BlackberryCurve

“With no solution available and in the public interest … Blackberry Messenger, Blackberry E-mail and Blackberry Web-browsing services will be suspended until an acceptable solution can be developed and applied,” Telecommunications Regulatory Authority director-general Mohamed al-Ghanim said in a statement carried on state news agency WAM.

I was surprised as anyone else for UAE’s and Saudi’s announcement that they will be cutting off all Blackberry Service of all kinds. Meaning that even if you have a service from another provider from another country it will not work in the UAE or Saudi.

There were announcements a few months back that they were contemplating shutting down the service in Kuwait, but luckily they are too lazy to go through the politics to do it, and it would be an damage many of the telecom company’s bottom end.

They cite security reasons as the main reason not censorship, but the reality is that they have no control over Blackberry services what so ever when people use them. In reality it’s very difficult to figure out someone from their Blackberry PIN, and so they can broadcast msgs, send items to people without having it intercepted or scanned. Blackberry came on fire over the past two years in the MiddleEast, everybody wanted the service, and it really took off. But the authorities weren’t to happy, in Emirates they have a lockdown on communications of all sorts, but this one seemed to have slipped them and they aren’t too happy about it, and the same goes for Saudi.

Now for the real interesting part, last year there was a little debacle with Etisalat trying to install spyware on their handsets through a Blackberry software update. That was really the Spyware product of SS8 which can monitor communications of Blackberry, but it was removed by RIM the manufacturer of Blackberry and people were pissed. Now here is the little details they fail to mention, SS8 develops products such as these but they have to take license proprietary software from RIM to use it. SS8 is only licensed to sell the software in the US, Canada, and the UK which they have to the governments, and they aren’t licensed to sell in any other country including the Middle East, that is why they were pissed about the Etisalat debacle in 2009. So I think the tactic of Saudi and UAE are trying to put pressure on RIM to allow SS8 to sell in the Middle East or the service will be shut down and they will lose a large amount of revenue. I don’t know if they do or don’t block the service in a few months but its going to be a hell of a blow to RIM’s income.

Out Of Commission!

SandDesert

Taking a nice break for a few days, about 5 days I think in total, the logistics aren’t completely worked out. We are heading out to a location in the Saudi Desert for some fun in the sand. Something different to do for New Years, I wanted to take a break, and this is the best possible break. No forms of communication in any direction, its a risk but really worth taking and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it. I think we will be traveling 800 to 1200 kilometers to get to our destination but it is a beautiful location that we went to in 2007 so I’m looking forward to it, and I get to test the new Landcruiser in the desert.

I hope everyone has a great new years!

Back from Hajj


After this long and amazing journey, we are all back from Hajj. It hit us as soon as we landed that it is very cold in Kuwait compared to wear we were. I’m lucky our flight wasn’t delayed but many others weren’t as lucky. I thought I might sleep right away but that wasn’t the case, I saw both family and friends, and fell asleep around 2 am in the morning. I couldn’t sleep more then a few hours and woke up around 7:40 am even though I wanted to sleep more I couldn’t.

I even went out on my bike for a bit, went to breakfast, saw family in the afternoon, and in the evening then with my friends for a bit. Out of the past few days I couldn’t watch a movie without passing out. Its interesting going to back to what I know, experiencing so much during a time that I wasn’t sure what was next. Tawaf Al Weda’a was hectic that morning and there was a lot of people, but we went to the top of the Haram and finish it. I was pushing a relative on a wheel chair while doing the Tawaf and that turned it into a competition for me, I was timing my laps while making doa’a which I found to be funny, I think God has a sense of humor. The hard part wasn’t the pushing, the hard part was braking so that I don’t hit the people that cut in front of me. As time progressed I cut the turn from 11 minutes down to 7 minutes which wasn’t too bad. After that morning I took a shower and my legs felt very light, and sore after a little while. Now back in Kuwait in this lovely weather, and so many family to visit and a few things to take care of.

The Last Few Days of Hajj

There was some point during our stay in Arafah that I completely forgot how long we have been there. It is a very serene feeling being at Arafah and there is a lot I would like to say about it, and our Hamlah did an amazing job with the timings and helping us avoid the millions of people here. Those 36 hours felt more like a few days but the time was flying between Doa’a and prayer, and talking to people.

You go through such a spiritual and religious experience with a dynamic group of people. You really do bond with these people and you don’t realize how small the world is. Just two more days to go, and it has been the best trip of my life by far. I am very lucky that I managed to come with some family members or else I would honestly be lost. You try to remember everyone you know and family, and even Doa’a for Kuwait to get better. I know people might not say this enough, but Saudi Arabia is doing an amazing job with the organization and the infrastructure to handle so many different people and I am thankful for being able to Hajj, and I hope this won’t be my last one because it is just such an experience.

We just had the 2nd day of Ramee Al Jamaarat and a lot of people were feeling under the weather. I felt queasy and a sore throat but I stayed in the Hamlah in Mina waiting it out and not doing much else. It did get better with time and Hamdilah by 11pm when we headed to the Jamaarat I was doing fine but by that time the flu set in on some of the women in our group and they weren’t doing too well and on the second day it was getting very crowded. One girl was not in good shape and they took her flying to the bus where the doctor was waiting for her, it was the case of flu and dehydration. And as we finished Jamaraat another 6 women fainted as we were walking, it was a moment where our group came together to make sure these women got safely to the buses, it is an exhausting experience and for everything they did they will receive a hasanah from God for each and every hardship during Hajj. You really do bond with people your group I don’t know most of these women but when someone is troubled you can’t do anything but want to help and there is a surge of energy inside of you. I know it might seem a bit strange reading all this but it is a such an overwhelming experience in Hajj. The one thing I am extremely thankful for is that this Hajj has been very easy in comparison to the stories I was told, and I am very happy to meet so many different and good people. There is a lot more that I want to talk about but these days I barely have time to sit in front of a PC and you just want to pass out after these long walks.

The Coming Haj


Now the religious trial will begin starting today saturday with Mina, Arafah, Muzdalefah, and Mecca again. A lot of people keep telling me to be physically and mentally prepared, I think I am mentally prepared, and physically I am rested so I am looking forward to it and thankful to be able to participate in this Haj. I know that a lot of people have it harder at different times for Haj, but the weather is cool which makes it easier on people during this Haj.

We tried a few times to pray in the Haram but mashalla there are so many people in Mecca you can barely make it to the outskirts even going an hour or two before the prayer. After prayer with the Hamlah there are these talks where they explain the reasons for certain actions and whats the next step which is good and useful. During those talks I ran into friends who I was even aware they were in Haj as well, let alone in the same Hamalah which is great. There is a good feeling between people and these sheikhs are very helpful are able to explain all our questions. I sometimes feel my questions are dumb but probably most people have the same question. And its good to discuss the next steps so that everything is clear, and I’m personally looking forward to Arafah.

Off to Haj

It has been a few years since I have been thinking about Haj and recently things just came together perfectly and with the help of family. I have read a few books and sat down with some people have been through Haj to give me a briefing of what I should and shouldn’t do. I’m happy that I am not clueless but do I feel ready for it, no, but I am looking forward to this spiritual experience.

There a lot of things I have memorized over the past couple of weeks, but I had a million questions and I even wrote down a lot of things. I’m going with my cousins who have been to Haj a few times so I won’t be too lost and the Hamlah (Pilgrimage Group) has a good reputation. Its physically and mentally exhausting but very satisfying, a responsibility for each Muslim to complete. I have even brought my camera with me to take some photos, but I wasn’t sure in the beginning so I asked and I was encouraged to take it.

Link: Flickr