By Ben Garcia

The old Souq Salmiya is now called Barayih Salem after a public-private partnership deal was sealed in April 2019 to manage the area after it was refurbished. Barayih Salem is a commercial and business hub in Salmiya with a total area of 24,000 square meters. It houses 13 commercial establishments, which are currently occupied by around 570 companies.

Barayih Salem is located in the heart of Salmiya along the famous Salem Al-Mubarak Street. A new management took over the area as part of the government's 2035 vision to diversify and create more economic hubs. Barayih Salem is headed by CEO Abdulrahman Jassim Al-Fawaz. His task is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the area, including programs and activities suitable for the newly-renovated market. Fawaz told Kuwait Times the project is new to Kuwait in terms of a contractual relationship between the government and the private sector.

Abdulrahman Al-Fawaz

"The development of this area is basically connected to Kuwait's 2035 vision, wherein the government will enter into joint ventures with the private sector, hoping to earn revenue from other sources other than oil," he said.

Supporting Kuwait's SMEs
"Barayih Salem is the first major joint venture with the Kuwaiti government, represented by the Municipality - the owners of Barayih Salem - and the national fund supporting small and medium enterprises. The intention is to support small and medium businesses as part of the strategy of the country to help startups thrive in the current setup. That is why Kuwait established the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise Development in 2013. The project is for a short-term period only under our management - three years as per the law. After three years, the process of tendering it again will begin," Fawaz said.

As the developer and management of the area, they deeply thought about how to implement the Municipality's vision by converting the place into a hub for entrepreneurs and SMEs and for people visiting the area. He said several programs and activities were in place for 2020, but they were put on hold due to the coronavirus.

Cultural activities on hold
"If not for the pandemic, we would've held several activities including cultural programs for various nationalities, bazaars, shopping festivals and lots more. On top of these programs are five types of membership under Barayih Salem. The cultural and commercial club focuses on various social, cultural and commercial activities. We have membership for government entities, business owners, visitors, vendors and residents," Fawaz said.

The beautification and development of the area started in 2018 and it was turned over to the new management in April 2019. "We have three major steps that we were supposed to implement in the first quarter of 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has slowed our efforts. Right before the pandemic, we were able to convert the place into an artistic hub for budding artists.

We turned the place incredibly beautiful with several artistic designs on the walls of establishments. In February, we painted murals on the walls of Barayih Salem - we have around 25 murals with more to come. We will paint the place with more beautiful colors and attractive images for visitors of various nationalities to behold," Fawaz said.

Shopping, recreation and leisure
"When we started operating Barayih Salem, our objective was to turn it into a beautiful place for shopping and recreation, and make it as open as possible for easy access and easy shopping. We know this area will be busy, but we consider the people living nearby. We want residents to be involved in all our activities because they are the ones to benefit. Residents can get direct benefits, from discounts to deliveries of products," he added.

Part of the plan is to have more parking spaces. "We have several multi-level parking areas already, but people still want to park near the place they want to visit. After the pandemic, which we believe will come to an end hopefully early next year, we will implement some of the rules we agreed upon and heavily fine those who are illegally parking their cars at Barayih Salem," Fawaz said. "We have several warning signs inside Barayih Salem to avoid using the area as a playground for scooters, motorbikes and bicycles. We do not want any accidents to happen to visitors - safety is our priority."

By the first quarter of 2021, around 500 bikes will be stationed around Barayih Salem, and people can use them by subscribing to an app for a minimal fee using a QR code. "These bikes will be deployed and anyone who wants to use them around the vicinity of the area can use them. They can be returned to any of our bike stations around the area," he concluded.