The Early 1980s In Kuwait: What Do You Remember?

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Kuwait, 1982 (Photograph by Dennis Sylvester Hurd).

In the Robert Altman post I mentioned Farouq Abdel-Aziz, the host of Monday night’s “Cine Club,” and it got me a tad nostalgic about those days. So I thought it might be interesting to our older bloggers and readers to reminisce about those days.

The early 1980s in Kuwait would have been tough for today’s young men and women: no satellite stations; no internet; no modern movie theatres with the latest releases; no Ipod; no fancy video games (although we did have the Sony Walkman and the Atari VCS).

The Kuwait National Cinema Company’s theatres were in a decrepit condition (hardly anyone went to movies). There was a useless and idiotic boycott against major American studios and actors such as Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor and anyone else who performed in or supported Israel . KNCC screened low-budget Asian martial arts knock-offs and made for television movies. Once in a while you’d get a MAD MAX 2 or RAMBO, but those hits were few and far between.

The Kuwaiti soccer team was a hell of a team: ‘Our Camel Was a Winner’.

The Kuwaiti theatre was bold, brash, original and hilarious (i.e. Bye Bye London, The Knights of The Stock ExchangeFursan Al-Manakh).

Coca-Cola and Ford were not available here (due to the boycott). Pepsi was the norm everywhere, alongside Seven Up and Crush, and we drank them from the bottle.

Entertainment was relatively non-existent, unless you counted renting Salmiya’s The Video Club’s pirated films as “entertainment.” We’d also occasionally visit the occasional ‘Jukebox‘ concert that would play Salmiya Cinema – kids dancing and lip-synching to George Michael, Bananarama and Kajagoogoo (can you imagine such a concert occuring now in Kuwait?)

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QUINCY

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SHOGUN

I remember KTV2 – it was at its peak: SHOGUN, QUINCY, C.H.I.P.S., MAGNUM, among many other top of the line newer American shows of the time – language, violence and disturbing situations were not censored, only kisses and pornography. We were a much more liberal society in those days. Today the station is a shadow of what it once was, having been superseded by the likes of One, Dubai Television, MBC2, among many others.

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C.H.I.P.S.

As far as fast-food or dining were concerned during the early to mid-1980s, I remember the Dairy Queen adjacent to Salhiya, and the trio of Mister Donut, (or was it Dunkin Donuts?), A&W and Swensons in Salmiya, as well as a Sizzler on the Sultan Center road. There was no McDonalds, Hungry Bunny(they came into the picture during the late 80s), Burger King or Arby’sHardees was the King of Fast Food and Pizza Italia was the King of Pizzas. The Movenpick restaurant opposite Salhiya was also very popular.

The once-thriving Clubs like the ‘Hunting and Equestrian Club’ and the ‘Gazelle Club’ (Nadi Al-Ghazaal) were winding down in popularity. The Drive-In theatre was also a far cry from its 1970s heyday when it was the place to be. Those clubs were eclipsed by the Salmiya Sports Club (next to the Pearl Marzouq building) where people could swim, dance, learn martial arts and basically have a good time.

Flirting was done in a more low-key and civilized manner. Young men did not walk around in groups intimidating women or trying to drive them off the streets if they didn’t acknowledge their interest.

There were more Westerners then. You could see them everywhere; they were a welcome sight. Kuwait was the destination in the Gulf for expatriates.

Private schools had mostly expatriate students, Kuwaitis were a minority. Now it’s the reverse.

Even though we had no emissions laws or regulations, Kuwait seemed much less polluted in those days. I don’t remember seeing any pinkish smog hovering over the city.

There was hardly any major traffic; you could drive from the Showbiz area in Salmiya towards the Marriot “Love Boat” Hotel at the end of the Gulf Road in less than 15 minutes. There were fewer deuce bags on the road.

What do you guys remember from the Kuwait of the 1980s that you would like to share?

35 thoughts on “The Early 1980s In Kuwait: What Do You Remember?

  1. how can you say there was no Hungry Bunny ? Hungry Bunny was the best resturant , the one in keifan had children playground
    i’m not sure about Arby’s , but i remmber it closed 2-3 years after libration , wasn’t much of salmiya guy
    i remmber that in 1980’s the place for games was Muthana complex , if you wanted video games it was the place to go
    I also remmber Hawali was The West Bank , with slogens and pictures of yasser arafat and such
    It was crazy to go to any Cenima , it was full of indian and was dirty with old chairs
    i remmber i once went to some kids movie ( forgot the name , the one with the lion / tinman )
    and how bad the picture quality it was
    I remmber We & children ( نحن و الاطفال ) it was The toy store , nothing like it yet , fantasy wasn’t even half as good
    About KTV 2 , i remmber i was watching some kids Cartoon ( i think Transformers ) and going to the USA ( my father was studying there ) and found that they were at the Last episode of the season , which KTV2 was just started playing ( which is Great ) and i would buy games of cartoons before they arrive to kuwait 😛

  2. Hungry Bunny and Arby’s were late 80s as I recall (I might be mistaken). I remember the Arby’s one in Salmiya – it had some kind of automated order system that was pretty fancy. Pity that place didn’t last. Their roast beef and cheddar sandwiches put Hardees to shame.
    Oh and we had a TOYS R US around the Holiday Inn area. That was a huge place and it was quite exciting to have a store like that in Kuwait.
    Yeah, Forzaq…as far as movies are concerned – even if they brought new movies the sound and quality would be terrible, scratchy, blotched print and such.
    You describe a tin man and a lion – did they show the original 1939 ‘Wizard of Oz’ in some dinghy theatre during the 1980s in Kuwait…that is so bizarre (unless it was some tv knockoff).

  3. what was that theme music to cine club called?
    as soon as you mentioned cine club that track started playing in my head and i cant get it out.
    shopping at safeway, dont forget that.
    that tunnel thing in salmiya with the music shops and juice shops.
    white castle(?) and its pirated cassette tapes of the last albums.
    listening to eddie murphy’s raw on the bus ride home from school, and later NWA 😛
    lol @ A&W’s,… to this day whenever i see one abroad i have to get a hotdog and root beer float.
    hungry bunny,… remember their tv add and theme song? “hungry bunny, i’m so hungry, hungry bunny” hahahaha!
    and finally, regarding tv, and i’m not even sure this was on KTV2 or dubai (remember you had to have a signal booster to get a signal from dubai),…………CHART ATTACK!!
    dammit now i’ve got that theme song in my head…..

  4. Taling about television, remember those antenna motors with the large round dials sitting next to your TV? The purpose was to turn the antenna towards other TV station and on a good humid day you could get the Emirates TV ch 33, or Bahrain. You did not need to get Iraq or Iran TV, they where overshooting into Kuwait spreading propaganda and any Television with a simple Antenna could get them.

  5. In addition to Hungry Bunny, who I’m sure was in the 1980s.
    There was the infrequent visits to Failaka Island, and the resort which was there owned by Tourist Projects Company, it was really nice to have an island where people lived in and it was good fun also travelling there in some nice ferries brought at the last 1980s.
    on KTV2, I can’t forget Thunder Cats cartoon, it was awesome, bought all the action figures from the series.
    On Arabic charts, there was this young singer called Nawal 😉 and her hit (Four Years) Arba3 Seneen 🙂 and in the early 80s, Thalatha Ray7een ElSal7eiya.
    On technology, who remember the first “Car” phones, where it was like a home phone with lots of equipment in the trunk. Late 80’s There was “in6alaq 1”. Anybody has a picture of it?
    Lovely old days.. (sighing), The Age of Innocence.
    Amer..you made me feel old.. (I’m not)

  6. Amer by the Holiday Inn area you mean farwaniya ?
    because We & children ( نحن و الاطفال ) hand 2 shops
    one in salmiya and a very large one in farwaniya
    i don’t remmber we had Toys R Us

  7. Forzaq: Yes, Farwaniya, I’m not sure if it was called ‘Toys R Us’ or ‘Kids R Us’ but it was a huge compound. I’m surprised that did not last; maybe the location did not help.
    Veto: Remember the Iraqi propaganda stuff every single night? Citizens standing in queues offering Saddam money, jewels and donations for the war – it was sickening and we all fell for it, unfortunately.
    Skunk: Safeway in Salmiya I remembered – at its peak it rivalled Sultan. I remember White Castle…Wasn’t that on Salhiya second floor (or was that a different joint?) or maybe it was on the main Salmiya road…I liked ‘Cine Club’ and I remember that theme tune as well…Farouq would give a brief description of the film, we’d watch something like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, NETWORK or Marlon Brando’s BURN! and then he’d discuss it – it was a treat for film fan aficionados. And his selection of movies was always great.

  8. It didn’t return because during the invation it was burned down to the ground
    i don’t think they wanted to reinvest in rebuying the stock that was lost
    I used to watch Iraq TV in the morning , Grendizer

  9. xlant post
    you guys forgot wimpy fast food. there was also night clubs in Kuwait in the crown plaza and Marzooq pearl mseelah beach club ..

  10. I’m a Kuwaiti who grew up in the states and moved to Kuwait later in my life. But on my few visits in the 80’s i remember go to WIMPYS everyday, and those were dam good burgers.
    I also remember seeing those big white cell phones and thought that was the coolest.
    ……and of course my one visit to have dinner in the Kuwait towers…..great experience, but bad food ;p
    Great Post Amer

  11. AAAAAH yes the 80’s.
    Just the thought of it makes me feel happy and remember my golden days of my childhood.
    Here is what my memmory serves me:
    – going to cinema al-andalus to watch movies such as: Super man, Jaws, Star wars, Rambo, Birds.
    – Going to my grandfathers house (rest in peace) on fridays and looking forward to play soccer after lunch with my cousins.
    – ATARI ruled.
    – KTV 2, I would never miss the “A-TEAM”,”MAGNUM PI”, and that tv show where they had all them foreigners in a classroom trying to learn english so that they could be americans. lol.
    – YES, it was kids and toys and it was in farwaniya, it was heaven. :), followed by a trip to safeway.
    – Pizza hut was my place, and Filfila had just started to break out, not forgetting about the nice shawerma stand on the side of hungry bunny in kaifan.
    – Cartoon’s were big in those days, my fovorites were; Grindizer, “ABtal al-mala’ib- hero’s f the fields- it was a soccer cartoon”, “zena and nahool”, “stories of alf laila and laila-every friday morning”. gosh i could go on and on.
    – going to a sold out soccer game to cheer for Qadsia. (brag all day in school about kicking al-arabi’s behind in the game, the next day. lol.
    – Yeah, WIMPY was big, I mean BIG.
    – Fire works along the the gulf streets during the celebrations, just park your car on the curb, sit on the hood, your parents would go and buy the ice cream or popcorn and enjoy watching the fire works.
    – CARS: Kuwaitis love thier cars, Chevy Impala’s where king, Buick regal and park avenue’s, younger gen. drove in their zx’z and skyline GT’s. a lamborgini Countesh passing by your car was a dream come true, and ofcourse The CADDY is YOUR DADDY.
    – finally, break dancing was the hip thing to do, yeah, if you knew how to break dance and won a challenge after shool you are KING baby. looool.
    CHEERS.

  12. oooh I miss Hungry Bunny! I used to go to the one in AL-Muthana Complex for lunch while visiting my dad at work in Salhiya Complex hehehehe good ol days!
    Other than that.. erm I was born in 1982 and lived in Kuwait since 1984 and I can’t remember anything about Kuwait until after the Invasion

  13. I really enjoyed remembering the good old days. I didnt read everything but did you guys miss entertainment city? I also miss “ma3rath alketab” the book exhibition its not the same as it used to be. 🙁
    Cartoons.. I loved Flona,
    Hidy, Cindybell Al Amira Yaqoot.
    and I LOVE mojaladat Lulu alsaqeera the arabic “little lulu comic books” does any1 still have those.
    Video games.. Atari and Sakhar computer!!

  14. ‘Entertainment City’ – forgot about that one. Maybe because it’s forgetable? I remember the ‘Sindbad’ and ‘Log Ride’ – I’ve seen better in Bank Holiday temp amusement rides in London.
    Cars: How can one forget the ZX?

  15. You guys he tape shop at the under ground in Salmiya was Subway!!! (Where DJs Joey and Nizzar) pirated their lives away. Buy 5 get 1 free!!! 5 kd went a long way.
    On the mezzanine in Salhiya you had White house with Ayad and some ASK kids hangin out pretending to be working.
    The toy store was KIDS’R’US!!!! What the hell is Children & Us??? That is soooo funny!!!!!
    Dude-It was a subsidiary of Toys’R’Us.
    Who remembers Popye chicken? Rootbeer was called A&W drink and if you were cool the only place to hang out was A&W Salmiya (affectionately known by the geezies as Donut.) We coulodn’t wait for Wednesday-SKATING!!! 5-7 pm, then if you were in for a treat there would be a hockey game after. If not, you had to head to Movenpick for Veal and Rosti potatoes….and you cant forget the minicoupe….Those were the days….
    Come saturday I used to wish the moms would sleep in so I could steal her car and drive to school my self undetected….she’ld be too embarrassed to come to school to get the car and sure I got my butt whopped when I got home, but who cares- I LOOKED SO COOL CRUISIN AFTER SCHOOL TODAY!!!!!

  16. “On the mezzanine in Salhiya you had White house with Ayad and some ASK kids hangin out pretending to be working.”
    Rea, welcome to the Blog – heh I remember White House in Salhiya.
    I remember there was a Popeyes as well in Hawalli – opposite Nugra (there is a gas station there now). Movenpick for the Veal, definintely! And of course A and W = where cool peeps hung out, we’d always see a cop or two there making sure people were “behaving.”

  17. I am an American (female) and visited Kuwait in the 80’s. I was about 8 years old (I am now 28). I LOVED Hungry Bunny and still have the hat they sold. They also gave away orange cups that when you put it in the freezer, you could make a slushy. We visited Entertainment City, and I do remember the Sinbad ride! I think the bumper cars were the most fun, though 🙂 I remember the Toys ‘R’ Us being pretty big. I still have the Barbie we bought when I was there. My favorite spot was our short visit to Khiran Resort (is it still there?). We watched some TV–a show we used to watch in the States was “Different Strokes” and in Kuwait it was renamed, “Arnold and Willy” and as a kid I thought that was hilarious. Mostly, I remember kind and gracious people, delicious food, and the beautiful Gulf!

  18. Hi Red-head, Thanks for posting – everyone loved Hungry Bunny (unfortunately they were all replaced by Burger King which isnt doing half as good as Bunny did in those days).
    The Sindbad ride was crazy, Id always see technicians in the background walking around while we rode that.
    As for tv shows: Different strokes, jeffersons..

  19. Khiran is still there btw but its not the sea chalet destination anymore as other resorts have popped us (i.e. Hilton).
    Its kinda rundown and still looks the same mroe or less.

  20. Greetings-
    My niece, redhead, told me about your site. She had received an email that I wrote telling everyone in our family how I messed up on my 17 years old daughter’s study abroad applications (I forgot it was 2007 and had her fill out applications for 2005!)
    Well I must admit I probably remember the 1980s in Kuwait better than what year it is now. Anyway, I remember when redhead came and visited Kuwait and how she and her brother went crazy over the Chicken Tikka commercials on T.V. The infamous phrase “I like it spicey” and the spicey guy in the commerical with the unforgetable moustache has forever been a fond memory.
    I am grateful that you were revisiting the ’80s-I believe that photo at the top of this string was taken in Salmiya on the corner where the Chicken Tikka restaurant was located.
    I also remember staying away from the Hungry Bunny because of it’s name and then finally trying it at the Hungry Bunny in Rumaithya (sp?)and realizing I liked it as much as Hardees.
    I have so many great memories of Kuwait. Thanks for the site and thanks to redhead for cluing me in.
    Redhead’s Aunt

  21. Don’t forget the re-run of Donny and Marie Show in early 1980s. Later when I left Kuwait did I realize that the show ended in 1978 and that we were watching re runs. Definately Kuwait was low key in those days. But the people were much friendlier. Crime was non existent. Life was great…no traffic!

  22. “Don’t forget the re-run of Donny and Marie Show in early 1980s. Later when I left Kuwait did I realize that the show ended in 1978 and that we were watching re runs.”
    Hahah true.
    And you are right, people seemed made of better ingredients then and I dont remember opening the paper and reading about dozens corruption cases, sexual crimes, murders etc.

  23. Well i know you people are on about the 80’s but in kuwait city i mostly used to go for a Hardees’s or a Hungry bunny or Shrimpy next to the Kuwait towers. Boy may early days as a child in the mid 90’s sitting in the Ali-Rasier (sorry if spelt wrong) chilling with no care in the world, now that location,beach and views are destroyed and now is the “The Scientific Center”. As for the cinema there was no age limit i was 6 and went to watch mars attack (12). But no kuwait has changed and i miss the “old” kuwait!

  24. Welcome to the Blog, Ross and thanks for sharing your insights.
    You are right, things aren’t the same, we seem to have lost our innocence.

  25. Wow. such great memories. I left kuwait when I was about 5 or 6. Do you guys also remember Hulk Hogan and Superfly?? Thinking it was all real?
    I remember my mom scaring me with a dude called sharkaan sharkoon.

  26. Fantastic, it was truly a trip down memory lane , younger hey days in Kuwait.
    I remember when “Kids R us” opened in kuwait, it was supposed to be the biggest toy store ever
    anyone remember the logo, i think it was a yellow bear
    I guess Salmiya Centre was pretty popular, those interested in music had to go to “Bells” and “Swan lake” , 2 shops where we used to get all the newer cassettes
    how about a bite? Hungry Bunny, Chicken Tikka, hardeez
    For the book lovers, there was the “family Book Shop” at the corner of Salmiya Center and then of course Hallmark
    For a cheap department store, UTC(Union Trading centre) was always crowded and not to forget Alghanim for the electronic junk
    Speaking of TV,farouq abdel Aziz the host of cine club, still brings abck lots of memories of monday night, I rememebr getting annoyed at his long commentary before the movie actually started.Wonder whether Cine Club still exists??
    so we had “Iftah yah simsim” and grendizer, rajul ul hadidi, for the arabic cartoons
    English cartoons ranged from Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker to thundercats, anyone rememebr Chilly Willy or Felix the cat??
    Donny & marie, Shogun, Growing pains, Automan, A Team, Knight Rider, Street hawk, Murder she wrote, Twilight Zone……..and Ripley’s believ it or not, the jeffersons and Bill cosby show
    Fridays were a drive towards Messilah beach or off Ras salmiya near the Bahrain street to the beaches or the various parks in the city
    I remember kuwiat tower was initially built, it just had a parking lot in front of it and the rest were plain shore land
    cross the seif palace and a couple of guards with sten guns at the gates……….
    There was this ship brught to shore called the Marriot hotel…….rememberr???
    lots more memories, will chip in later
    Rony

  27. Rony, thanks for your great, insightful post, you touched on mant pop culture aspects we all went through!
    As for Cine Club, no it ended during the late 1980s, but I enjoyed Farouk Abdel-Aziz’s comments as well.
    The Marriot ship got burnt by the Iraqis during the invasion!

  28. wel wat can one say abt the gr8 q8 of the 80’s and the 90’s , i use to stay in darwaza
    nex tto the ministry of inf. oh my it was a paradise, those wonderful thursdays and fridays and also other public holidays , not to 4get the gr8 ramadan days.
    but sad! all that was gone when i went to q8 in 2005, i agree those were student days and the last one was a workin once, but still, SORRY TO SAY KUWAIT HAS LOST ITS GLORY DAYS.

  29. Kuwait My Birth Place 18th January 1976 Shaikh Jabir Hospital The Red Color Ahhh Lived in Khetan Studied in New Indian School Jabrih then Moved to Salmia and shifted to Pakistani School Rumesia Dad Used to work for the Kuwait Airways Ahhhhh what Good Old Days Cant Forget the Kuwaitis And the Sea Side The entertainment City the Sultan Center , Kids r us , Safeway , Hardees’s , Hungry bunny , wimppies , Salmiah Beach Kuwait Towers Ohh yeeah the Cartoons Grendizer , and other Shogan and chips wer my fevoret and A Team aswell aaahhh cant forget the time i sepend my 17 years in Kuwait so beautiful n Relaxing place such nice people ahhhhhh i Love to go back to my chid Hood and do wanaa vist the places my old school and meet my friends I miss Kuwait 🙁 i do remeber i used to live in Salmia Amaan Street Building # 22 6th Floor Flat # 22 🙂 the shawarma shop under our building hmmm still can smeel the Fillafils the shawarma The Humass The Mutabal Ahhhhhh i miss my Child Hood 🙂

  30. I was a member of the Sheila Carter Band who had a residency at the Gazelle Club in 1971. Have some fantastic memories and am so sorry to see photographs of the once vibrant club now in ruins. I often wonder about the wherabouts of the owners Anwar All Mulla and “Miss Moody”

  31. the 80s how can i forget the best ever period of life, and you know you forgot wimpy it was the best burger ever up till now in 2009 i remember the burger with a fried egg on top and kutchup oh god that was heaven at that time.
    and who can forget the amazing TV show on thursday nights dony and mary i remeber my sister and myself we used to bring wimpy sandwiches and watch the show together.
    those were the days.

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