Arab Organizations HQ Building

Last Saturday I visited the Arab Organization HQ building. I needed to satisfy my curiosity why this building is acclaimed to be world renowned for its beauty in the Middle East and has been attracting visitors around the globe. Now I know why.

The Arab Organizations HQ building houses 4 major Arab organizations namely  : 1. ) Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development,2.)  OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), 3.) Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and the 4.) Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company. This building costs USD $ 150 Million & was completed in 1994.

The exterior of the building itself offers a lot of history & functional concept behind it.  I don’t know about you but beyond every aesthetics, I’d like to know the concept behind it since what lies behind the facade is quite interesting.Outside it looks like a box-type massive structure with deep recessed windows but these features are intentional.In a climate where day time temperatures can reach 50° C, heat and light posed critical design challenges.  The virtually maintenance-free rough stone and granite exterior creates a natural sand trap.  Windows on each face of the building are deeply recessed and angled to offer indirect sunlight.The whole building blends modern architectural techniques with traditional Arabic artisan crafts.

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As I entered the building, I am faced to this massive hand-carved door. A total stunner which is labor of love considering the thousand pieces that this door needs to be assembled. This door is used as the main entrance of the building. Each door weighs one ton, and they’re so well-balanced that they will open at the touch of a finger. A Tunisian carved stone surround the entrance of this building.

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The colossal Moroccan wall fountain & giant tile work on both sides of the interior of the lobby area which gives a delight surprise to any visitor.This building houses approximately 2,500 kinds of indoor plants all imported from the Netherlands .

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A historical carpet hung just above the information area of the lobby.

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Wood screen carved in traditional Arabesque design.

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This beautiful view of a chandelier from Germany above the spiral staircase leading to the second floor of the Library.

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Woodwork of the base of the spiral staircase.

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The outer view of the wood frame separating the Main Lobby to the Library. Once inside the Library, the viewer has a different view of the movements from the outside and the reflection of light creates a rather formidable pattern.

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Beautiful Tunisian woodwork pattern inside the Tunisian Room.The highly polished surfaces of the Tunisian Room  reflect the exquisite craftsmanship of the Tunisian ceramic tile panels and exquisitely carved stone work.  The huge marble conference table is surrounded by arches gracefully supported by double columns.  The walls are carved Tunisian stone and the floors, columns and arches are hewn from Jordanian stone.  Decorative panels of wood and stone repeat the ceramic designs.  The Moroccan cedar wood of the ceiling flagrantly scents the air.

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So much adore for this majestic Atrium of the Arab Organization HQ building. These trees are revolving to get equal amount of sunlight and aged 40 years old.Once in the Central Atrium, the trees are positioned in gravel using Hydroculture.  Since there is no soil around the trees, their nutrients are supplied in the water.  Their under floor pots are regularly turned to prevent any natural tilting towards the sunlight from the Glass Wall.

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The majestic Egyptian Mashrabia towers the full 9 stories in height in the center of the  main Atrium surrounded with 40 years old revolving trees .

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Imagine the feeling of lightness created by nine stories of pure air in the core of the building. The sky seems to stretch endlessly upward, unhindered by the large glass skylight in the ceiling and the enormous suspended glass wall on the north east.Here we see many of the traditional features. The majestic Egyptian Mashrabiya towers a full nine stories high. Lush vegetation and central trees (each over 40 years old) provide additional shade. The Syrian fountain adds soothing water music.  The marble floor repeats the geometric star patterns of the skylight and fountain.

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This Syrian fountain located in the center of the Atrium depicting the traditional hoash or central courtyard of classic Arab house design. The gentle water sounds lend a cool tranquility. It’s concentric star design repeats in the inlaid marble of the Atrium floor.It serves as a common ground for the building’s occupants and visitors, a comfortable area for socialization and interaction.

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The ground-floor Pre-function Hall displays Moroccan design from the refined detail of the gypsum ceiling to the zellige mosaics adorning each wall and a fountain . The marble pillars are inlaid with Moroccan tiles. A Moroccan carpet covers the center of the floor. Even the small brass table surrounded by four chairs boasts an intricately designed base. Hand-painted door from Morocco lead from Pre-function Room. And every ornament, every stitch here has been executed by hand.

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Another interesting feature of this building is the ceiling lights designed to coordinate the whole design of this VIP receiving area.

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Furnished in black leather and cherry wood and equipped with remote controlled programmable lighting and simultaneous translation services, the Multi-function Hall is the largest conference room inside the Arab Organization HQ building.

Large hand-woven wall-hangings, designed by a Kuwaiti artist, depict Arab history and culture, while enhancing the room’s acoustics.  A carved wooden suspended ceiling incorporates subtle lighting, enhanced by the indirect light that filters through the marble screen.  The traditional star design of the floor is repeated in the inlaid tops of the cherry wood tables.

I had an overdose  of artworks displayed in this building. I’ve said to myself to myself that it’s no wonder people flocked to see Arab Organizations HQ. Now, I have high respect for each of the intricate wood carvings and in every detail of this structure. I cannot even give justice to the actual views compared to my photos. One must need to be in this tour to learn about how rich the culture behind the walls of this building. This is indeed a fusion of Moroccan, Egyptian, Tunisian,Syrian and overall Arabic design & culture into one.

A visit to this place turned an ordinary Saturday morning into a memorable one. I am so grateful with Aware Center for enabling this tour to be accessible for Expats like me. It was a pleasure once again to discover beautiful building like the Arab Organization HQ building. The tour itself was very well done & executed in a very detailed manner. I highly appreciate even the coffee break in the Atrium’s cafeteria which offered a delightful snack with a majestic view of the glass wall panels with a view from outside & the Artwork inside the Atrium.

I highly recommend for anyone who is in Kuwait to try to visit this building, you won’t regret it. Should you want to learn more about this beautiful architecture, then you can explore their website here. You can even view their virtual tour here. This place has contributed to my cravings to see much more of Kuwait cultural heritage,its amazing architecture & advanced engineering designs.

Have you visited any important building or structure lately? What was it significance?

If you would like to visit any monumental structure of architectural importance, what would it be?

 

 

 

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Diwaniyas: Kuwait’s own culture

If there’s anything that stands out from Kuwaiti culture up to these modern times, Its their DIWANIYA. When I first came to here, I was keen on observing Kuwaiti lifestyle and habits and especially the local lingo of many things. Diwaniya   is  also one of the first  Arabic words I have learned.

Right in the street of where I used to lived, I often see Kuwaiti men gathering together in their Diwaniya area, an extension from their Villa’s front yard. It becomes a common sight so I start to wonder what is  this type of gathering  and what’s the use of it. I have never seen this habit in Holland or in local areas in Philippines.

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Kuwaiti Diwaniyas evolved from traditional tents with seating pillows or cushions.

What is exactly a Diwaniya?

Diwaniya is a traditional culture of Kuwaitis that literally means “To gather together , or a place of assembly , parlour, Hall or lounge “. It originates from Arabic word “Diwan “ which means the place where the Amir meets his subjects and listens to their concerns. Now every household in Kuwait has its separate hall that serve as the Diwaniya where the Kuwaiti men receives his male guests. Kuwaiti Diwaniyas evolved from the traditional tents with seating pillows, into solid building with modern interiors. Nowadays, sophisticated Diwaniyas emerges with modern facilities which normally the setting for gatherings, public functions or political agendas.

The diwaniya include a main sitting place, called “Diwan”. Doors of the diwan overlook the internal hall that is comfortably furnished for guests. There are many cushions arranged in a specific way to be used as seats and armrests. The floor is covered with woven Persian carpets. The diwaniya, also, contains utensils for preparing coffee, which is redolent with cardamom. Using a special brazier, this coffee is prepared either on the far side of the diwan or in a small annexed room. Coffee preparing utensils consist of graduated sizes of brass coffeepots with lids and long beaked spouts called “Dallal”. Coffee is served in small cups made of pottery. Either the owner  prepares the coffee himself for guests or he hires a servant to do this job for him. This is why a Teaboy is an in-demand job in Kuwait.

Diwaniya in Kuwait has preserved its importance in the social, political and economic life. Today, diwaniya is considered of the important social institutes that play influential role in the democratic and parliamentary life. It became a referential indicator and place where many decisions were made. The number of the Diwaniyas increased to the extent that one Diwaniya or more can be found in every street. Some of them receive guests daily, others receive guests for only one or two days per week, and others receive guests only on special occasions.But definitely this is a daily part of Kuwaiti culture that has been passed from generations to generations. For well-off Kuwaiti families, a Diwaniya hall is a luxurious setting, and to be invited into it is quite an experience.

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Typical scene of Kuwaiti gathering together in Outdoor lounges,parlours or simply referred to as “Diwaniyas “.

The general atmosphere of diwaniyas became similar to that of social clubs, cultural and literary forums and political salons. Some of these modern diwaniyas are equipped with television sets, radios, satellite dishes, computers and phones. Other diwaniyas set themselves goals to achieve, like sports, economic, political. In the past , Diwaniyas plays an integral part of the candidate or politician running in election in Kuwait ministry. This is the hub for all opinions & informal discussions.They plan schedules and set dates to reach their goals. Others declare topics for discussion days before receiving guests.The public Diwaniyas are open for Expatriates,usually men gather together to chat any topic under the sun during their leisure times.

Historically, Diwaniya is exclusively for men only, but nowadays, a mixed gender Diwaniya are quite a norm or even the Women only Diwaniya. An example is the “Al Duaij Diwaniya of Qadsiya “ which welcomed a mixed gender audience of Westerners, US soldiers,  & Embassy staffs  that are based in Kuwait gather together to share views about Arab & Western culture.

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Typically Kuwaiti  : men in Dishdashas  in their Diwaniya

So if you’re in Kuwait and you heard the term Diwaniya, then you know that its simply means “Let’s get together & have a drink “!

What particular culture you appreciate in the country  you’re living in right now?