• Kuwait

Kuwait

Overview

Officially the State of Kuwait (Dawlat al-Kuwait), Kuwait is an Arab country in Western Asia that is situated on the Persian Gulf. It has strong cultural heritage dating back to antiquity with ruins from the Mesopotamian era on Failaka Island.

With an area of 6,880 square miles, Kuwait has a population estimate as of 2016 of over 4 million people. 60% of these people are Arabs, 37.8% of them are Asian and 1.9% are African.

The capital city of Kuwait is Kuwait city. It is the political, cultural and economic centre of Kuwait and is considered to be an important node in the global economic system. Kuwait has a high income economy and is backed by the world’s sixth largest oil reserves. The country has the fourth highest per capita income in the world and is the most democratic country in the region.

Kuwait is considered by many to be the cultural capital of the Gulf region and is often called the “Hollywood of the Gulf” because of the popularity of its Arabic television soap operas and theatre. The culture is also popularized through dialect poetry, radio and modern art. Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula. It is home to more than 20 art galleries with the Sultan Gallery being the first art gallery in the Gulf region. Kuwaiti music contains musical influences from many cultures including India and East Africa.

The society in Kuwait is tolerant. The population is mostly Sunni Muslim, while Shia Muslims are roughly 30% to 40% of the population. Kuwait also has a large number of expatriate Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs and is the only country a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council with local Christians who hold citizenship other than Bahrain.

Modern standard Arabic is the official language of Kuwait, though its everyday use is limited to journalism and education. Kuwaiti Arabic is used daily, with Kuwaiti Sign language being used in the deaf community. Since the first grade, English is taught in all schools. It is widely understood and used as a business language. There are actually schools that teach subjects exclusively in English and only teach Arabic as a subject. French is also taught as a third language for only two years to students in the humanities department.

When to Travel – Weather

The weather in Kuwait is usually dry and hot. In April to October (summertime) there is little rainfall and it is usually hot and humid, but you can still tolerate staying there during this time as there are many air conditioned amenities available. There is limited rain and cool temperatures in winter, which spans from November to March. These months are usually accompanied by chilly evenings and pleasant daytime temperatures. The ideal time to visit is in spring, which is February to April, because the weather is usually cool and pleasant and the desert is adorned in transparent lime green, decorated with petunias.

Food and Drink

Let me start by saying Pork and alcohol are absolutely illegal in the country. You are not allowed to import them. Failure to abide by these laws could result in penalties as severe as jail time.

If dining in a high end restaurant or a hotel restaurant, be sure to check the bill for a service charge. Many restaurants include a service charge that will replace the tip, but if no service charge is included, leave a tip of 10-15%. Try your best to arrive on time for meals and make sure to follow your hosts lead.

The main staples foods that the Kuwaiti people consume are various types of rice, Hummus and Tabbouleh which is a "salad" generally made of parsley, bulgur, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon. Kuwait’s cuisine includes, but is not limited to seafood such as crab and mackerel, poultry and meats such as mutton. Popular dishes include Falafel (a fried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) balls served with vegetables in bread), Kebab (usually with a base of roasted lamb or chicken and vegetables in pita bread), Machboos (the national dish of rice topped with chicken, lamb, or fish and sometimes also a tomato sauce), Qouzi or ghoozi (a grilled lamb stuffed with meat, rice, eggs, onions, and spices).

The tap water is usually safe and is chlorinated but can cause slight upset in the stomach. Bottled water is available. Depending on the occasion or the season, the locals favor coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks and juices.

Popular Vacation Spots

The Avenues - Located in Kuwait City, the Avenues is the largest shopping mall in Kuwait. It can be found in the Rai area extending from Fifth Ring Road from the south and Al Ghazali Highway from the east. It features more than 800 stores and parking space that fits more than 1000 cars. It boasts traditional ambience as well as beautiful modernized looks.

Souk Al-Mubarakiya - This is a souq in Kuwait City, Kuwait. It is one of the oldest souqs in Kuwait, and was the center of trade prior to the discovery of oil. While strolling around this market place you will find heritage goods such as Persian silk carpets, real Arab antiques, perfumes like musk and oud, and traditional costumes, accessories and jewelry, spices, honey and other goods. It’s a great place for shopping, eating and sightseeing. It is cozy and nice with shops ready to give you bargain deals.

Kuwait Towers - Standing on a promontory into the Persian Gulf are these three towers. They are a beautiful landmark and symbol of modern Kuwait. A fantastic view greets you when you reach the top. You can view the skyline. There are activities other than sightseeing that you can also do like visiting the restaurant and the paintball park.

Grand Mosque - The Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Kuwait and is recognized as the official mosque of the country. It is a lovely spiritual place. It is huge and wide with architectural designs that will leave you in awe.

The Mirror House - This is a museum located in the city of Kuwait. It is exactly as the name suggests. It is the only house in the world that is completely covered in mirror mosaic. The owners (Khalifa and Lidia Al-Qattan) turned their house into a work of art using broken pieces of glass to decorate the outside and inside of the house.  It is now considered a museum, but is still private property and so appointments have to be made before visits. Women’s pointy heels are not allowed as it could damage the floor mosaics. The experience feels like a magical journey.

Practical Information

Transport

Kuwaiti people drive on the right side of the road. The legal driving age is 18 years and you must possess an International Drivers Permit to be allowed to operate a vehicle if you are going to be staying there. Do not drive a rental available for rent at the airport if you are scared of reckless driving. On the highway you might just experience some Lamborghini Gallardos blazing pass you. Kuwait has a network of highways that is extensive and modern. On major highways the speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph). There is no railway system in the country. Kuwait’s public transportation system is cheap and is spread widely across the country with public automobiles that travel round the clock. Most people travel by automobiles. There are two airports in Kuwait. The Kuwait International Airport is the hub for international travel.

Currency

The Kuwaiti Dinar is the currency of Kuwait. The banknotes are represented in ¼, ½, 1, 5, 10 and 20 dinars. There are ATM machines all over Kuwait where you can withdraw cash in the local currency. All credit and charge cards allow you to access cash from ATMs and you might gain some advantage from the rate of exchange between the tourist or commercial rate, although you’re likely to incur a charge for a cash transaction. There are also occasions when a credit card isn’t only useful but a necessity, for example when renting a car or booking into a hotel. You can of course use a foreign credit card in the Gulf and you might benefit from delayed charging, but not if you withdraw cash, for which charging starts immediately. You might, however, find it more convenient to receive your bills in local currency and pay from local funds, rather than to be subject to fluctuating currency conversion rates. Banks are open Sunday to Thursday from 8:00 to midday.

Visas

Citizens of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not require a visa to enter Kuwait, and may use National ID Cards to enter the country. Citizens of the European Union, Andorra, Australia, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Laos, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Monaco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Swaziland, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Vatican City and Vietnam may obtain a visa valid for 3 months on arrival to Kuwait if arriving by air.

About the author Kadene Buchanan

Kadene is a small town girl from Trelawny, Jamaica, hometown of Usain Bolt. Her love of travelling stemmed from her first trip to another Caribbean island and fell in love with the culture and beautiful landscape of Grand Cayman. From then on, her family would take her on frequent trips to several destinations all over the world. She has always been an avid reader and loves writing about her trips to these exotic destinations. Travel writing is Kadene’s greatest passion along with preparing exotic dishes and collecting authentic souvenirs. She hopes to explore the Eastern side of the world in her future travels and will always keep writing about those experiences!

View all posts by Kadene Buchanan

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