Kuwait City (Arabic: مدينة الكويت Madīnat al-Kuwayt) is the capital of Kuwait.
Kuwait City is a bustling metropolis of high-rise office buildings, luxury hotels, wide boulevards and well-tended parks and gardens. Its seaport is used by oil tankers, cargo ships and many pleasure craft. Its most dominant landmarks are the Kuwait Towers. Kuwait City is not, however, an attractive city to visit as much of the architecture and its general feel is one of sand-blown dustiness.
The main residential and business areas are Salmiya and Hawalli. The main industrial area is Shuwaikh within the Al Asimah Governorate. The main palaces are As-Seef Palace in the old part of Kuwait City where the Emir runs the daily matters of the country, and the government headquarters is in Bayan Palace, while the Emir stays in Dar Salwa.
If you don't have your own wheels, taxis are the most practical form of transport. Meters are universally ignored (the official fares haven't changed in years), so agree on the price before you set off. There are three basic types:
Call taxis (aka hotel taxis) are all-white with company decals on the doors, and they can be found lurking around major hotels. Usually ordered by phone, these are usually fairly nice and will take you where you want to go with a minimum of fuss, but charge steeper prices: KD 3 is the standard fare for most trips around town, while going to/from the airport is KD 5. However, if you manage to catch one on the road (away from the watchful eye of the dispatcher), they may cut you a discount. Kuds Taxi, tel. 241-3414, is one of the largest operators.
Airport taxis are larger American cars that have their own ramp at the airport. They have a printed fee on the inside of the taxi with the fares fixed. Many drivers will, however, try to demand higher fares.
Orange taxis, which are actually white-and-beige with yellow license plates and "TAXI" signs on the roof, prowl the streets of Kuwait looking for passengers. Fares are negotiable, with short hops from KD 1 and a longer trip across town around KD 2. Readily available, you are likely to be tooted by them as you try to cross the road. The divers will try to increase the cost of the journey and huff and puff if the traffic is bad, or if you weren't completely clear on where you were going. They will then demand more on arrival. It is easy to see when they are about to pull this trick as they will start to complain about your inaccuracy shortly before arrival. Some, but not all, orange taxis ply only along fixed routes, and you'll be expected to share the cab (and the fare) with other passengers if you board one of these.
The Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC) and CityBus run buses in and around Kuwait City, with a flat 200 fils fare for trips in the city. The two run on the same routes, so KPTC bus 999 will get you to the same place and for the same price as CityBus 999. However, bus shelters are spartan, schedules erratic and information lacking, making this a poor second to taxis if you're in any sort of hurry and not desperately short on cash. For the adventurous, privately-owned CityBus maintains an up-to-date list of routes on their website , while KPTC's website is only in Arabic. Apart from the Bangladeshi working communities, who do all the low-end jobs in Kuwait, very few others use the public transport. Buses are mainly male, with many of the travellers listening to music without headphones on their mobile phones. The buses can also be filthy as many sit and eat sunflower seed and scatter the shells all over the floor.
Useful bus routes are:
- 13: Goes from the Airport (KWI) to Mirquab (city center), 1h
- 15, 16, 999: Go from Mirquab south all the way parallel to the coast. 999 goes as far as Fahaheel.
- 1 Kuwait Towers, Sharq, ☎ . 9AM-11PM. Kuwait's unofficial symbol, found on everything except the flag, are Kuwait's top attraction. Designed by Swedes, built by Yugoslavs, and opened in 1979, they're actually rather interesting up close, as the spheres are covered with a funky polka-dot pattern made up from colored circular plates. The first, 178 m (583 ft) high, houses the Viewing Sphere (123 m [403 ft]) complete with a rotating viewing platform; don't miss the photos of the damage done by the Iraqi "barbaric invaders", at the foot of the staircase to the second level of the sphere. In the viewing sphere there is also a small bar that serves soft drinks and snacks. You can enjoy your snack at a stand-up table on the rotating viewing platform. The lower sphere houses the Ofok restaurant (82 m [270 ft]), serving breakfast (ladies only), lunch and dinner buffets daily. The second tower, 145.8 m (478 ft) high, is for water storage and is not accessible to the public, while the third, sphereless spike mostly serves to light up the other two at night. Best visited, but also the most crowded, at sunset. KD 2.
- Liberation Tower. One of the tallest telecommunications towers in the world. Tourists are no longer allowed to enter the tower; however, visitors seem to be allowed in on February 25th, National Day.
- 2 National Museum (on Gulf Street between National Assembly and Grand Mosque). M-Th 8:30AM - 12:30PM and 4:30PM - 7:30PM; F-Sa: 8:30AM - 11AM, 4:30PM - 7:30PM; Winter afternoon hours 4PM - 7PM. Stripped of many artifacts during the war – part of it has been renovated and is now open to the public for display. One exhibition shows ancient relics found on Failaka Island and the other resembles a carefully designed copy of an old Kuwaiti souq (market). An old Kuwaiti boum (dhow) is on display as well. Entrance is free.
- Sadu House. Right beside the National Museum. Made of coral and gypsum and is used as a cultural museum to protect the arts and crafts of Bedouin society. It is an ideal place to purchase Bedouin goods. Seems to be closed at least temporarily as of early 2010.
- Bayt Al-Badr Right beside the National Museum. It is one of the very few houses left that were built in old Kuwaiti architecture. Seems to be closed at least temporarily as of early 2010 but it's worth passing by.
- 3 Seif Palace (Between Grand Mosque and National Museum). Built in 1896, the interior features original Islamic mosaic tile work, though these suffered badly during the Iraqi occupation. You will not be allowed to enter, however it is still interesting to walk by and see the vast gardens of the palace.
- National Assembly (beside National Museum). Not open for public.. The National Assembly is the seat of the Kuwaiti parliament and is one of the few pieces of fine architecture in the country.
- 4 Grand Mosque. Across from the Seif Palace and about 400 m (1,300 ft) east of the National Museum. Guided tours by friendly Kuwaitis are available for tourists. Women can borrow a proper dress from the mosque in order to enter. You will likely be told a time to come back for a tour by the security guard when you visit the mosque. Come back at that time and there will hopefully be a couple of guides available.
- War Museum (located in residential area at the end of the Gulf Street near Shuwaikh port, opposite to Kuwait Petrol Company headquarters). The war museum depicts the somewhat gory view of Kuwait on the Iraqi invasion.
- Fish Market (just west of the Sharq mall). Maybe the most interesting thing to see in Kuwait. It's a giant, bustling building filled with rows of counters stocked high with fish. The interior is kept very clean with people hosing down the floor constantly.
- Entertainment City (near 7th Ring Road in Doha area). Amusement park for families.
- Scientific Center (On the seaside beside the Gulf Street in Salmiya). The Scientific Center is a family-oriented amusement facility features a 3D cinema with nature movies and an aquarium. Traditional boums (dhows) are on display outside.
There are quite a few things to do in Kuwait City. It is possible to have lunch or dinner in the Kuwait Towers (the three towers by the sea with water storage). It is worthwhile to take a tour of the Grand Mosque in Kuwait, just kindly ask the security guard in front of the entrance to the mosque. Across the street from the Grand Mosque is the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange, which seems to be open to the public.
While in Kuwait it is also crucial to smoke Shisha (Hookah/Hubbly Bubbly) at a cafe in Kuwait. There are also quite a few great restaurants with Iranian, Lebanese, and Bedouin foods.
To escape the intense heat of the Middle East, visit the Aqua Park near the Kuwait Towers. It's KD 3.50 to get in and offers a variety of modern rides and pools.
One can also walk along many of the well-kept sidewalks that line the coast of Kuwait. At dusk, it's ideal to sit on a bench across from the Sharq Mall and watch the sun set on the Arabian Sea. Buy yourself a cheap sack of nuts or bagful of olives from the souq in the fish market and relax.
Fitness fanatics and the health conscious have several options to get engaged with exclusive fitness center in and around Kuwait City. Some of the best health clubs and gyms are attached to hotels like the Palms, SAS Radisson, Hilton etc. There are also stand alone spas and fitness centers. Elysium, Flex, Spa time and Ayurmana are a few of the highly top fitness centers in Kuwait. Ayurmana also has a highly rated Exclusive Yoga Studio for women and Ayurveda Center.
The American University of Kuwait is located in the Salmiya District, the Gulf University of Science and Technology is located in Mishref, Australian College of Kuwait is located in Mishref, the American University of the Middle East and the American College of the Middle East are located in Egaila, Kuwait University has a few campuses at different locations in the city, Box Hill College Kuwait is located in Abu Halifa.
Many British, American, French, Indian and Pakistani schools are located in different areas around Kuwait.
Several high-end malls in Kuwait City, with the Marina Mall being one of the largest. However, prices are quite expensive especially compared with other places in the region - most name brand products will cost 2-5 times what they would cost in the west.
- Western style shopping centers: Souk Sharq (Kuwait City) and Marina Mall (Salmia) are both on the coastal Gulf Road and offer excellent shopping. Another shopping centre is "Al-Kout" (Fahaheel) it has several beautiful coffee shops and many other outlets. "Araya Mall" (Sharq) and Al-Salhiya Mall (Sharq) offers high-price designer brands. The Avenues is a new mall which has come up and is one of the largest in Kuwait.
- Traditional markets: A famous destination is the Souk Al Mubarakiya in the heart of downtown. Middle Eastern and Oriental items abound as well as a gold and jewelry market. Souk Al-Juma'a is a Friday market with very low-priced mass-produced goods and second-hand stuff. The Mahameed markets in Behbahani complex have similar selection and pricing as well.
- A more Oriental atmosphere can be found on the other side of town also in a western-style mall called Souk Al-Watiya or Al-Watiya Complex, located beside the Sheraton Hotel and 4 Point Sheraton. This place is also called the Adidas Building by local Filipinos. Situated close to churches the whole area can look like a mini India Town and Filipino Town during Friday and Sunday. Many restaurants also serving either fast food or oriental traditional foods. This is also a good place to buy any gold or jewelry.
The Al-Fanar mall in Kuwait has restaurants, cafes and many shops like Ralph Lauren and Lacoste.
French: Le Relais de l'Entrecote (Avenues Mall, Al-Fanar Mall, Salmiya) - The traditional steak frites, based on the original Parisian restaurant in Porte Malliot; Paul (Marina Mall, Salmiya and others) - The patisserie which serves pretty authentic pastries/baguettes and some decent entrees.
Italian: Viaggio Restaurant located in the first floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel has probably one of the best authentic Italian food in town. Lorenzo, next to Salhiya Complex (in Sharg), and Ricardo, which is in the Sheraton are considered among the best Italian restaurants in Kuwait. Pomodoro which is in Sharg next to the church also serves good Italian food. Nino's, on the Gulf Road, is also good, but is more of a casual restaurant.Gelato Italiano, at Sharg area Ahmed AlJaber st. - Gaz Tower, Tel. 22434434, one of the first in Kuwait since 2001, very popular, and offers a large selection of Italian ice creams.
Indian: Mugal Mahal(sharg), Bukhara (Sheraton hotel), Silk and Spice (Al Kout Mall,Fahaheel), Asha's (Marina crescent). The Spice Club (360 Mall), is a popular spot in the new mall, and is acclaimed for it's North Indian delicacies and varied menu, hence an attraction to regular foodies year round - highly recommended.
Lebanese: Villa Fayrouz (Sha'ab), Mejana (Al Kout Mall, Fahahel), Mais Al-Ghanim (Gulf Road), Tarboosh (Sheraton Hotel), Burj Al Hamam.
Persian: Shahrayar (Sheraton Hotel), Shabestan (Crowne Plaza Hotel), Baba Taher (Sharq)
Kuwaiti: AL-Marsa which is in the Ritz Hotel on the gulf road, highly recommended if you want to try local cuisine.
American: Johnny Rockets (Marina Mall, Kout Mall, The Avenues), Chilis and Fridays both located on the gulf road
Japanese: Kei (Marriott Hotel or Marina Mall), Maki (Marina Waves, Edo (Shaeb) Sakura (Crown Plaza hotel or Layla Gallery) all four are highly recommended.
Chinese: Greens (Gulf road), Golden chopsticks (Sha'ab), Peacok (Radisson Sas Hotel).
Burgers: Burger Hub serves over 50 kinds of gourmet burgers & appetizers the largest selection in the GCC & M E (Gulf Road in front of Al Seif palace), burger gourmet (marina mall). Burger Co. (Hawalli in front of Muhalab Mall)
Breakfast: Prime and Toast is the first gourmet Deli in the Middle East located opposite (Seif palace).
- . 360 mall
- The Fish Market, Marboula. A great fish restaurant where fresh fish is on display and sold and cooked per your instructions. Of additional interest is that this great restaurant is next to TGI Friday's, which Kuwaitis treat as a high class restaurant and stand in long queues to be seen in - an ideal opportunity to partake in excellent food while people-watching
Western chains are prevalent in Kuwait, with the JW Marriott and Sheraton as the largest five-star hotels in the downtown business district. The Courtyard by Marriott and Four Points by Sheraton are also present, along with two luxury Le Méridien properties. A Crowne Plaza is located near Kuwait International Airport; there are also two Holiday Inn properties, one in the shopping district of Salmiya and the other located in downtown Kuwait City. Additional resort hotels, such as the Hilton and Kempinski, are located on the coast.
- 1 Hawali Continental Hotel, Hawali Qutiba St.
- The Oasis Hotel (At intersection of Ahmad Al-Jaber Street and Mubarak Al-Kabeer St), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Solid hotel in down town Kuwait City, will arrange pickup from airport, good Indian restaurant on the top floor.
- 2 Courtyard Kuwait City, Al Shuhada St (Dasman), ☎ . Much nicer than your average Courtyard, but priced to match. 22 stories of understated modern style built around a soaring atrium. Large but shallow rooftop pool, decent gym, free wired Internet in every room and wifi in the lobby, amazing breakfast buffet. Directly connected to the Arraya Centre shopping mall. US$250.
- 3 Radisson Blu Kuwait, Al Bida Al Tawoun Street, Salwa, ☎ . This five-star beachfront resort hotel is a few minutes away from the center of Kuwait city and major shopping areas. There is a large selection of business, recreational and leisure facilities, wide range of recreational activities. There are also amazing restaurants to choose from and a free city shuttle service. The major drawback is the raw sewage being dumped into the sea a few hundred meters away. If you have a sensitive nose, best to not stay here.
Kuwait City is one of the safest places in the Middle East. Crime rates are low and the neighboring civil conflict in Iraq has not spilled over into Kuwait. The same is not true of some of the suburbs where it can be very unsafe for single females to walk alone. Cars will pull up demanding that western women get in and they can be very threatening.
Be very careful crossing streets -- Kuwaiti drivers are reckless. There are no pedestrian lights, pedestrian crossings are virtually ignored.
Kuwait is a mostly Muslim country so wear respectable clothing during your travels. That said, "respectful" is a relative term. Kuwaiti malls are full of young Kuwaitis in shorts, tight clothing, etc. Along with Dubai, this is one the few places in the region it is easy to get away with wearing shorts if one wants to.
Do not say anything that might be perceived as an insult to Islam, the Kuwaiti government, or national pride. Drug trafficking, murder, and rape are punishable by death. It is also important to note that swearing publicly at someone, or gesturing obscenely, is grounds for arrest and steep fines or immediate deportation.
The best way for any Westerner to cope with living in Kuwait, particularly if coming here without family, is to make plenty of friends. The newcomer will find that friendships among members of the Western expatriate community are formed more quickly than back home. There are plenty of social activities to get involved with, especially sport (cricket, rugby, sailing, squash, tennis, horse riding, darts, to name a few). Also available are theatre groups, ramblers, choirs, and business associations (in conjunction with various of the Western embassies here). Christian churches are also well represented.
An essential first step is to register with your home country's embassy, under the warden system, so that the Consular staff know you have arrived and where you live in Kuwait. Also, it is sensible to register with a decent doctor and a dentist. Your embassy can help with this.
Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait and possession of this carries very harsh penalties. Many inhabitants, however, both Kuwaiti and expatriate, maintain well stocked bars at home. Home brewing is a thriving hobby. That said, it is essential to remember that this is a Muslim country and it is foolish in the extreme to flout openly the laws of the place. Due respect should be shown at all times.
The summers (particularly July and August) are extremely hot, with temperatures during the day reaching over 50°C (122°F) for weeks on end. It is therefore important to drink plenty of water at these times to avoid dehydration and to keep out of the sun as far as possible. December to February can, surprisingly, be really cold, with night time temperatures falling below 0°C (32°F). The spring time (March and most of April) is delightful in terms of weather. Thereafter, the weather heats up and it is often mid-October before the place starts to cool down.
- Greece, Khaldiya, Bl.4,Str 44, Hs 4 (P.O.Box 23812 Safat 13099, Kuwait), ☎ , , (Emergencies)fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- United States, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com kuwaitACS@state.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Poland, Al-Jabriya, Block 7, Street 3, Villa 20, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
Everyone who has spent more than a few months in Kuwait quickly realizes that they have seen and done everything that can be seen and done here. Exploring the Gulf region becomes a relatively low-cost diversion whatever an adventurer's tastes may be: rock climbing, snow skiing, scuba diving, fishing, drinking, dancing or whatever. You'll definitely want to leave Kuwait if you seek to avoid boredom.