All Posts By mahmood

Bahrain Blogging Scene… Where is it?

Bahrain-Blogging-Scene

[updated 5.9.15] I wanted to know what blogs are still being published in Bahrain and I went searching. I found eleven, other than this one. There must be more, surely. In 2006 when I was aggregating all the blogs I remember that the list exceeded 200 at one point. That number has crashed to eleven which are mainly concerned with lifestyle. Food and fashion is the top earner it seems. I remember MyBahrain.ME did a feature on the blogging scene last year with the ladies appearing in the picture above which offered a glimpse of the current blogging scene.

I’m very happy for their success of course and wish them a lot of luck, but am I missing something here? Aren’t there any other Bahraini blogs? If you know of any please contribute. I’d like an updated list to help nurture blogging in Bahrain again.

Here are the ones I found so far:

  1. [Lifestyle] Blonde in Bahrain
  2. [Food] Food and Tools
  3. [Food] The Slice of My Lyfe
  4. [Travel & Photography] Not just a Photo
    1. Rasha Yousif (portfolio site)
  5. [Food] Restless in Riffa
  6. [General] Rantings by Nouf
  7. [Fashion] Mara Mustafa
  8. [Tech] Waleed’s Tipnology
  9. [Tech] A7maDev’s Home
  10. [Fitness] Nerve Bullet
  11. [Photography] Lifeommentory

Know of any to be added to this illustrious list? Please enter the details in a comment below.

Update 29 Aug 2015:

How did I forget Suhail’s blog? It’s the only one currently touching on political as well as entrepreneurship and health topics, so here’s another one you definitely have to have in your bookmarks:

Update 30 Aug 2015:

Update 2 Sept 2015:

Update 3 Sept 2015:

Update 5 Sept 2015:

Update 6 Sept 2015:

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A bit of nostalgia

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old Bahraini 100 Fils note
Did we have more taste then than we have now?

Life was more colourful then, as this beautifully simple currency shows. It harkens back to a time when things appeared easier. And as far as I can remember, even the weather was a much better! I still remember the smells of those balmy summer nights as we watched the stars in a dark, unpolluted sky as we dozed off to sleep on mats on the roof. Sans air conditioning other than an occasional breeze.

I’m not suggesting that it was all idillic. As in any age, challenges existed, but they didn’t seem that insurmountable. However, I’ll admit as I wasn’t expected to make my own at that time, I wouldn’t be the most reliable judge. Suffice it to say that my dad did work multiple jobs and my mother did her bit of entrepreneurship too to support the family and make ends meet. We got by.

I hope that the picture of the 100 Fils note brought a smile to your face; those of you who not only remember it, but actually used it.

How do you remember that bygone time? Does any particular image or sound come to your mind when you’re pulled back?

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Reflections on the Purpose of Life

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Over the last few months a change has descended on me. A restlessness that is not quenched just by going to work, making money and paying the bills. I most certainly came to the realisation a long time ago that I did not want such a life. That was, in fact, the primary reason why I left a secure and well paying career to embark on the much more difficult entrepreneurial journey. I believed that entrepreneurship would allow me the opportunity to gain control of my life and livelihood and open up the new horizons I was anxious to explore on my own terms.

I also know that it’s not an age thing, nor the fact that by May next year I would have fulfilled my self-imposed and welcomed obligation of seeing my children through their university education. My vision was to set them on their path of financial independence, and ultimately financial freedom. Arriving there; however, is completely up to them.

All I’m sure of is that this kind of restlessness isn’t new to me.

I decided not to go on summer holidays this year. I had too much going on and opted to stay and take care of things. A few days before Eid, I paused at a particularly difficult time I was going through and asked myself those question again: “is this it? is this what I got into business for? am I living to work, or working to live?” To be honest, I must confess that I’m most definitely living to work. I wasn’t an owner, I was owned. I refused to surrender to that. I had to get out even if for a few days. I reasoned that the business won’t collapse if I absented myself for a few days, and if it does, then it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place.

My wife did the smart thing and took Ramadhan off to visit her family in Scotland. I decided to surprise her by joining her. I called to ask her to pick me up from Edinburgh airport the next day. Needless to say she was surprised – pleasantly I might add – and that was the start of one of the best holidays I have ever had.

The spontaneity and the return to one of my cherished passions were what made this holiday so special. I took the time to ensure that I get some quality me time. I went jogging every day in beautiful surroundings, greenery all around, clouds in the sky, cool air, drizzle or rain sometimes, courteous people and drivers and the actual availability of continuous pavements! I also indulged in photography which was always my first love, and we both just decided on the spur of the moment to drive to a destination hundreds of miles away!

One of the long drive destinations was Inverness. I’ve always liked it and have fond memories of visiting the home of Nessie while at university in Scotland. I went jogging that morning and fell in love with the city again; its river and the breathtaking scenery it offered, the woods close to the city centre. In the evening we joined the throngs and discovered that Inverness has become the wild party town of the north. Such a happy atmosphere. We loved it.

From there we decided to go to Oban on the west coast. We still can’t remember why or how we thought of Oban and why we decided to visit. Nevertheless; while having dinner on arrival in Oban we noticed a nature walk in the close-by island of Kerrera in the local tourist map brochure and decided on the spot once again to go on that five mile walk the next day. That was one of the best decisions we have made on that trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was after four miles of walking in that beautiful wilderness that we encountered the first humans since leaving the ferry. Needless to say, we could have done the walk a lot faster, but we both decided to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and take some pictures. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you would have come across some them.

Memorial Bench, Kerrera Island, Scotland

To both Frances and I, we will never forget that trip. We really bonded and the walking and disconnecting from the world for a few days allowed us to re-connect and have long conversations without distractions.

All that forced me to reflect on what I require out of life now, at this particular stage in my life.

I realised that in Bahrain, I have been living to work with hardly any space left to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Yes, it was absolutely necessary to ensure that I meet the goals I have set for myself such a long time ago, but now that they are almost met, what next? Do I have to continue to toil at the same level? Or is it time to retire and relax? Although I’ve not yet decided what to do next, I can tell you that retirement isn’t in my consideration just yet. It’s not that kind of itch.

“What’s the ideal situation?” I keep asking myself. Obviously financial freedom continues to be an important goal, but so is actually living. Pragmatically, I’ve got a good thing going now, and its scary to let go. What is required, I feel, is actively pursuing a new way of life; one that prioritises working to live, rather than the opposite. This has become so important to me… and it’s threatening the old way of life. I don’t know where that will take me and I’m not going to allow a sudden shift to derail all the hard work that I have poured myself into. I will; however, find a way to detach myself gradually from the business and allow it to flourish without my constant availability and input. I need some time to think and need to put some plans into action.

New experiences, horizons, treks, open fields and skies are beckoning. I can’t wait for this new journey to continue.

I would really appreciate if you would be kind enough to share your own experiences with me if you went through the same journey. How did you manage the transition? How did you ensure success and sustainability? In hindsight, what would you have done differently?

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No sympathy for fat people

weight-chart-mahoodNone.

Because I was one and know from my own experience that the solution is in one’s own hands – and mouth – and no one else’s.

Brutal. Honest. And true.

So stop your whining and just get on with it.

Let me tell you how I got it done.

  1. Determination
  2. Commitment
  3. Sacrifice, and
  4. A vision for where I wanted to be

Hold on to that number four, believe me that alone will drag you out of bed, make you determined to say no to that sweet cake or extra food and allow you to go the extra few minutes in the gym to complete your program.

Also, again from experience, nothing is as powerful as one’s own determination to start. Real determination. When I started I was at one of the lowest points in my life and I made the commitment to change to the better at 5pm on the 9th of June 2013 in Vienna, Austria. I was 116.5kgs then. I’m 84.2kgs now, and as you can see from my weight progress chart, I managed to keep off what I lost for the last two years.

How I managed to lose that weight was hard work both emotionally and physically. Maintaining the “no campaign” is emotionally hard. I still struggle sometimes with saying no to bread and other goodies. Keeping the vision of what I want to be helps me maintain that all important no.

The physical part became a welcome habit now. I actively look forward to going to the gym and practicing sports whenever I can. That time is precious to me because apart from it allowing me to maintain a fitter body, it also resets my mood and makes me a happier, calmer and a more content person. It allows me to focus on an issue that I need to pay attention to and the regular exercise allows me to have much more restful sleep which is so very important to the maintenance of health and weight too.

I don’t like the fact that I’m going against doctors’ orders not to run, but it’s too much of a good thing and a pleasure to ditch altogether. I’ve reduced the running distance now to just 5km in 30 minutes at a time, and I only run three or four times a week. Way below my iconic Athens Half Marathon, but good enough for me at this present time. As you can see from the chart, I was able to maintain my new weight over the last two years and surpassed my supposed ideal weight as suggested by the Dukan Diet, which was the weight-loss program I followed.

So in essence, if I can do it, so can you!

I’d be happy to help anyone lose the blubber by sharing my own experiences. I won’t give you advice, so please don’t expect that. Go to a qualified doctor to give you that kind of stuff. What I can give you is an honest sharing of my own experience of how I got it done to inspire you to gain a better and healthier lifestyle.

Now off you go and start your own journey to better health.

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eh

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It’s been such a long time since I published anything here. I’ve lost interest, but kept the blog up for posterity’s sake. I believe it served a purpose, and still does. It holds inspiration for some, and a healthy archive for others. To me, I can’t just delete it as it’s a part of me and my identity. I still love the sweat, tears and anguish as well as a lot of laughter and best friendships developed through Mahmood’s Den. So it’s going to stay.

It’s clear; however, that due to the politics and the constraints currently experienced, I do consciously edit myself. I didn’t update the blog for so long because of this self-imposed censorship. I hate it. I absolutely detest it and feel like a coward every time I write a sentence only to delete or amend it to what I think would be acceptable. The easiest thing to do is to go with the flow and fawn. That, to me, would be more difficult than jumping off a building.

I do miss writing though. So very much.

Maybe one thing I could do in the interim is to concentrate my efforts on writing about my hobbies and my interests. Less dangerous than venturing an opinion, and certainly more cowardly – in my book – but you’ll forgive me for that I hope. I want to write and want to share and want to inspire and want to be inspired and want to converse and want to make new friendships and want to develop the ones already established and want to use the energies and passions I have to do good.

So here goes.

Photography. Gardening. Filmmaking. Health. Sports. Fantasies. And general opinions about whatever takes my fancy.

What do you think? Worth a go?

I’ll share with you a current passion: I’ve started conceptualising a short film. You know that my job is to make films, so how is this different? Well, for one thing, it’s going to be a narrative film. I’ve never done that before; well, if you would excuse this crude experiment that is, and I feel that I have a nice story.

At this moment in the story’s life, I’m complicating things because of trepidation, lethargy, priorities, laziness, whatever. I tend to get like that sometimes if I don’t want to do something. But I do want to tell this story! So it can’t be any of those things, surely. Maybe it’s just an incubation process? I also tend to do this. Get an idea to percolate for a few minutes to a few months or even years in my mind and when it‘s ready to pop out, it does. All in a flood!

Just like this post 😉

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Unethical telecom companies in Bahrain – VIVA as an example

VIVA is an unethical telecoms operator in Bahrain, avoid at all costs.

Update: I received a reasonable refund from VIVA after they heard my complaint. Their management contacted me personally to resolve the issue and offered a way to stay as their customer. I appreciated their offer but demanded a refund for the over-charging which they satisfied. I have now moved back to Batelco. I hope my experience with them now will compensate for the experience I’ve had with them previously. With competition, they seem to be improving but there is plenty of scope for them to rise higher.

While it’s a fact that telecom companies are nothing but glorified automated billing systems, why aren’t they forced to let their customers know of the expiry or anniversary of their contract?

At the moment, VIVA, and I suspect the others too, carry on with their completely unethical practices of not notifying their customers that their contracts have ended, and continue with full unethical intent to charge them ad infinitum the very same charges per month even after their customer have fully paid their smartphone packages.

When I questioned VIVA why this is the situation when my iPhone contract expired in Dec 2013 and they continued to charge me nevertheless, their reply was that it is not their policy to inform their customers that their contracts have expired. I pursued the matter further to try to get a refund to no avail.

I thought I would take this to the telecom’s governing body, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and submitted the following:

Mobile number: xxx

Operator: VIVA

Type of complaint: VIVA did not inform me of the iPhone package plan expiry on the anniversary of the original contract (Dec ’13) and kept charging the same amount beyond that until Feb ’15 when it was discovered.

Type of resolutions requested:

  1. Refund the difference in charges from Dec ’13 to date
  2. Force ALL telecom operators to inform their customers on the anniversary of their purchased packages; either offer an upgrade or downgrade by customer choice

I’m available to meet to submit all correspondence with the operator to gain an equitable resolution.

I believe that the action of the telecom operators in this regard is unethical and should be corrected. All telecom operators around the world are essentially automated billing systems, it is their ethical duty to program those systems to inform their customers of the expiry of their contract and offer competitive packages to retain them. It is not the responsibility of a simple customer to keep track of these dates.

I look forward to your response.

The TRA’s response was not slow in coming, I just received a telephone call from them to inform me that they cannot accept and progress the complaint because it is up to company policy how they deal with this issue. When I asked them how I can escalate this matter, the response was that they didn’t know, effectively blocking any further action. To say that this was the response of the governing body is very disappointing. To me, this situation is taking advantage of customers in a completely nefarious manner. The bait and switch con doesn’t have anything on this.

There are two ways I can take this issue forward now: one is to go to court and the other is to get a member of parliament to sponsor a bill forcing a correction of these cons. I don’t have much hope of success on the first because of the necessary time and funds, and the second is equally as bad because parliament seems to be more interested in municipal, rather than legislative affairs.

What’s the solution then? How might a person effect change in this country whose very bodies that are supposed to protect citizens rights aren’t doing the jobs they are designed to perform?

I’m in the process of switching away from VIVA, hopefully never having to go back to them for any further service.

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Hey there. How’s it going?

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The thing that truly disturbs me about attempting to write anything, in my blog here or elsewhere, is the necessity to censor myself, and thinking twice, thrice or more about just about everything I write. The environment in Bahrain at the moment isn’t conducive to free thought or speech. Everything – it seems – is construed as traitorous, or at least unpatriotic. The political views are so far apart now that there is no hope of rapprochement. It’s a zero-sum game; for a side to win, the other has to lose. It’s absolutely ridiculous. You open any paper now and what you read are threats and exclusionary politics.

Until when? I’m tired of this situation. Both sides are waiting for the other to give up and until then, they will use whatever tool available to pressure the other side without any regard to the people caught in the middle. The only winners here are the brown-nosers; selfish twats who’s only way to gain anything is by feeding on the misery of others.

How should this situation be resolved? Here are my thoughts:

  • The common denominator must be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Inculcate social justice. Yes it’s difficult, but this is something that must be set at a very high priority to get us out of the quagmire we’re currently in.
  • Evolution rather than revolution. As we’ve seen in other places around the world (Iraq, Iran, Syria, and other locations) abrupt change to the status quo is very painful for all concerned and is unrealistic. Methodic change anchored to clear goals and timeframes is a much better option.
  • The way to arrive at resolution must be through a meaningful dialogue whose outcome must be binding on everyone.
  • The method of governing must change; the current iteration was a good experiment but obviously the experiment did isn’t a complete success by any means. There is vast room for improvement.
  • Call things by their name. We can reach a better future together by stopping the practice of idolising individuals and by identifying wrongs. Create a proper accountable structure and reward and penalise on merit, rather than allegiance or any other criteria.
  • Don’t take criticism personally and don’t demonise those who you disagree with. You only succeed in belittling yourself if you do.

I’m sure there are other factors to consider. However, this short list might go a long way in finding an equitable solution that everyone aspires to.

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2014 Reflections

Where has the time gone? For goodness’s sake it feels like Jan 1st, 2014 was just yesterday! Never mind. Let me recap the goals I set for myself for 2014 and see how I did. Here goes:

  1. DONE: Run the Athens Half Marathon (read the “down side” below)
  2. DONE: Maintain weight at or below 91kg – I’ve actually averaged 86kgs with 83.5 being least and 89 max
  3. DONE: Go the gym 5 times a week. Nailed this one, I go 6 times a week now
  4. DONE: Read one book a month. I’m averaging more than 2 books a month actually. I’m burning through the iBooks store and that one hour on the bike in the gym 6 days a week is a big contributor to that.
  5. DONE: Make a short movie; I’ve done several with the start of the Mahmood’s Garden Shows initiative as well as several others. Nothing narrative though.
  6. DONE: Get a comprehensive health check. All A-OK.
  7. DONE: Get one international client for GB

Here are the goals I did not reach 🙁

  1. Read 4 fiction novels in the year. I just read Wilbur Smith’s Vicious Circle. Disappointing story that was too.
  2. Dedicate Sundays and Wednesdays to no TV. Yeah sure!
  3. Organise a photography exhibition
  4. Start a Yoga Studio
  5. Start the GB Saudi brand in Dammam
  6. Get a massage every 6 months

So overall, I think the progress was okay. Let me share with you some of the other accomplishments:

2014 Accomplishments

  1. My Self
    1. Health
      1. Completed the Athens half Marathon
        1. The down side of this was having to undergo an ORIF Hip Surgery on 30 June with three 10cm screws. My right femur’s neck fractured probably because of the double whammy of planned drastic reduction in weight, and training for a full rather than a half marathon (I downloaded the wrong app, one for a full marathon training rather than half which doubled all distances etc. I didn’t realise that for a while but when I did, I threw caution to the wind and went with it. Bad move!
      2. Completed the Al-Areen 10k Challenge
      3. Maintained weight at 86k – down from 116.5kg
      4. Maintained approximately 10,000 steps per day
        1. over 4,000,000 done
        2. approx 3,220 km logged
    2. New and Scary Things done
      1. Spoke at the EO Rule Breakers Event in Munich, Germany
      2. MC’ed the Think Pink 10-year anniversary Gala
      3. Did the iFly thing in Singapore
    3. Gardening
      1. Overhauled and replenished a lot of the garden
      2. Seed nursery for the first time in 3 years – good results
      3. Started a weekly(ish) Gardening Show: The Mahmood’s Garden Show at mahmoodsgarden.com
      4. Built a deck in the front garden
    4. Travelled to my 42nd country – Ireland; list of countries travelled to in 2014:
      1. Dublin, Ireland
      2. Singapore
      3. Penang, Malaysia
      4. Munich, Germany
      5. Cologne, Germany
      6. New York, USA
      7. Washington, DC, USA
  2. My Family: I asked them to give me some feedback a couple of days ago (Arif chose to stay in NY this Christmas, so his answers are still to be emailed, when he surfaces from the various celebrations no doubt!) here’s some of their contributions:
    1. “More understanding this year, checked your temper at the door” – Amna
    2. “You brought a lot of kindness to the table this year” – Amna
    3. “Given a lot of emotional support to the family” – Hanan
    4. “You opened another opportunity for me going forward in my life” – Hanan
    5. “You provided emotional support to help me support the kids” – Frances
    6. “Kept everyone afloat financially” – Frances
    7. “We’ve done a bit more together this year” – Frances
    8. “You’re not tormenting the animals as much!” – Frances
  3. My Business
    1. Gulf Broadcast
      1. Another profitable year
      2. Exceeded 2013 turn-over
      3. Inducted one new member of staff (Ryan Andrews)
      4. Inducted our fourth intern (Latifa Algosaibi); the most successful so far!
      5. Signed new employment agreements with three new staff members to start in Jan and Feb 2015
      6. Re-envisioned the company’s mission, vision and core values
        1. Core Values: Risk Taking, Innovation and Learning
        2. Purpose: Helping Businesses Thrive (this one was unanimously decided just this afternoon!)
      7. Re-envisioned our product line and will be relaunching a refreshed offering in Jan 2015
  4. My Community
    1. EO
      1. Successfully managed EO Bahrain
      2. Handed over a thriving Chapter
      3. Successfully held the EO Majlis regional event
      4. Attended Penang University
      5. Continued as the Internal Awareness Chair at the Global Communications Committee
        1. Nurtured and launched the Translation Initiative which will have a major impact on the globalisation and growth efforts of EO
        2. Nurtured and launched the EO Nation Conversation / Transparency initiative, the inaugural event was held at the Great Hall of the United Nations in Switzerland during the EO Geneva University
      6. Inducted as a member of the EO Path of Leadership global subcommittee

So 2014 was a very eventful year, to be sure. To tell you the truth, though, those successes weren’t felt much because I felt that something important was missing. Something was taking the happiness energy out of all these successes. That something was some challenges with my family, and when I thought about this and talked to the kids and my wife, it was glaringly obvious that I did not prioritise them as much as they – and I – would have liked. I chose to spend most of my energy on the business and then the a large chunk of what was left was invested in my own pursuits. Although I tried to involve them, that attempt was not enough.

With this realisation, I determined to change the goals for 2015 completely and give priority to the family. I’m going to achieve this is by reducing the number of goals and consolidate them into a TOP 5, rather than go for a laundry list that will once again not allow me to direct my energy where I want it to go; strengthening my relationship with my family and enjoy our time together.

Other than setting the Top 5 list, I will also have a theme for 2015 for the first time, and that theme is going to be GROWTH. Determined and defined growth for My Self, My Family, My Business and My Community. This by the way is one of the best values I learnt being a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. Thank you #EONation and thank you Samer Kurdi for your #EO360. These concepts truly changed my life over the last couple of years.

My 2015 Top 5

2015 Theme: GROWTH

  1. MY FAMILY: Re-establish connections with my family and be more present and available to them. I intend to be pro-active in this sphere rather than reactive.
  2. MY SELF: Continue with the health journey. As in 2014, I do better when I set a tangible goal, like the Athens half marathon. The health goal for 2015 will be to climb Kilimanjaro in June.
  3. MY SELF: For my right brain, in 2015 I want to be able to play 3 – 5 Jazz tracks on the saxophone by the end of the year, and be proficient enough at it to enjoy the experience and make it a sustainable new hobby.
  4. MY BUSINESS: As to the business, I’m setting an achievable goal to grow revenues by a minimum of 30% over 2014 and also achieve budgeted financial goals.
  5. MY COMMUNITY: I’m going to continue to serve in the EO Global Communications Committee and Path of Leadership sub-committees until June. I’ll make myself available to help my community in other ways beyond June 30th.

I invite my family to hold me accountable to these priorities, and remind me once in a while to measure against them so I don’t lose track. The task now is to create quarterly tactical “rocks” to allow me to achieve the big goals of 2015. From there, I will break those rocks down to monthly and weekly tasks. Having such a conscious effort at achieving these goals will ensure a better chance at success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your own lists and successes of 2014. I do not want to hear any advice please. With all due respect, if you have a personal experience you can share that will help shed light on any challenges that I might encounter with my Top 5 items, please do share that. Avoid the words “should” and “I think”!

Have a wonderful, bountiful and peaceful 2015.

Much love.

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