Many of my friends outside Kuwait, as well as some of those who live here, ask me about the place. There is plenty of information available on the web. I summarise some of the essential information on this page. It is more of an introduction to Kuwait than a guide.
Whether you live in Kuwait, moving here or planning a visit, I hope you find the information here useful. If you need any more information, or would like a useful link added, please email me.
Apart from the sights in Ikaros (Failaka), Kuwait is a relatively new place not showing many signs of existence until the 1600s, when the North-east portion of Arabian peninsula becomes part of the Ottoman empire. In the 1700s, settlers arrived at the site of present-day Kuwait City from the interior of the Arabian peninsula. The name Kuwait comes from the Arabic word Kout (small hut) which was found by the sea and was a famous landmark at the time. The settlement grew into a bustling trading hub during the early 1800s. In 1756, the Al Sabah family took control of power with the agreement of the main merchant families and many of the city inhabitants. In 1899 Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah (Mubarak the Great) struck a deal with Britain and Kuwait became a protectorate. Britain provided naval protection in return for Kuwait allowing London to control its foreign affairs. In 1937 large oil reserves were discovered by the American-British Kuwait Oil Company. Exploitation was delayed by World War II, but thereafter fueled the country’s development into what it is today.
In 1951, a major public works programme began. Kuwait’s infrastructure was transformed and residents began to enjoy a high standard of living. We are still thankful to the people in the 1950s and 1960s who set the stone in the foundations of what we have today. In June 1961, Kuwait gained independence. It joined the Arab League when immediately Iraq renewed claims that Kuwait is part of its territory. Iraq backed down after British military intervention. The National Assembley elections were held for the first time in 1963 under a newly drafted constitution.
In July 1990, Iraq complained to OPEC accusing Kuwait of stealing its oil from a field near the border. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened military action and invaded Kuwait on August 2nd 1990. Iraq failed to comply with a UN resolution ordering it to pull out. A US-led and UN-backed aerial bombing campaign began in Kuwait and Iraq. By late February allied forces reached Kuwait City. Iraqi forces torched oil wells as they pulled out. In 1994, Iraq officially recognised Kuwait’s independence and the UN-demarcated borders following UN pressure and Russian mediation.
In May 2005, parliament finally approved a law allowing women to vote and run for parliament. In June the first woman cabinet minister, Massouma al-Mubarak, was appointed.
Population: 3 Million
Area: 17,818 sq km – or 200 km
North to South and 170km East to West.
Time Zone: GMT + 3
Language: Arabic (English widely spoken)
Currency: Kuwaiti Dinar KD (KWD)
Kuwait is absolutely beautiful in winter and bloody hot in summer. That’s it… we have no other seasons! May to September are the hot months and I would advise staying away during July and August, if at all possible. Temperatures can reach well into 50°c and dust storms are frequent. August is also the month of humidity when you need to remind yourself to breathe.
Late September and into October usually sees significant improvements – with markedly fewer dust storms and absolutely beautiful evenings. December and January are relatively cold. Night temperatures can reach freezing – daytime is absolutely glorious. February is my favourite month. There are chances of rain and/or dust storms, but we get some of our best days during this month.
Current conditions and forecasts:
No mention of Kuwait is complete without this subject. We have some of the best roads in the world, at least the main roads, but we also have our fair share of monkeys. Many drivers are not aware of their surroundings. Tailgating and speeding are not head-turners. Be careful when driving and NEVER MAKE SUDDEN CHANGES to your speed or your lane.
SEE & DO
Eating out is what we do best here in Kuwait. The quality of food is the best in the region and one of the best in the world. There is a huge choice of restaurants ranging from fast food chains to high end eating houses. Cafes are all over the country too. We eat late here so most are open until midnight.
The old souq – Mubarakiya – is a must see. The unique ambience , the fresh produce, the many little shops, the restaurants and cafes I can go on for a while. The rest of your shopping can be done at the numerous malls dotted around Kuwait. There is a huge mall culture here and it’s unlike that of the US and Europe. I think it must be due to the weather but these have become leisure and meeting areas. I always notice how cinemas, cafes and restaurants at malls are always busy versus the shops whoose activity is seasonal. The Avenues offers a special feel in that it’s not a typical mall. The glass roof means you’re aware of the time of day which makes it more like a high street than a mall.
Museums are not our strength at the present day. A heritage village is under construction and the new Central Library will be opened soon. I do recommend the wonderful Tareq Rajab Museam, and if you get a chance then the National museam, Bait Al BAder and Sadu House are three more stops to make. The Scientific Centre is an interesting option for families. It’s also where Kuwait’s IMAX cinema is located. Kuwait’s public beaches are very nice – especially south of the country – and the private beaches are excellent. There are small parks around the country but nothing really impressive. A good walk with the family is from the Scientific Centre and on the Gulf Road all the way to Kuwait Towers. Kuwait Towers offer great views of the City and they are a piece of art themselves. Although designed in the sixties and built in the seventies, they are still one of my favourite architectural achievements in the Gulf.
will do this section soon…