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Since Saddam's invasion and quick defeat back in 1990, Kuwait has undergone the arduous task of rebuilding a nation devastated by war. Things are looking kind of like they used to, as the oil trade once again operates at a blistering profit. But landmines still hide under the surface, making Kuwait a place where one ought to tread lightly and cautiously.
Kuwait City has undergone serious reconstruction since the war. Though a large collection of important Islamic art was destroyed by the Iraqis, the city still affords some nice treats for visitors. The contrast between the city's Grand Mosque and its iconic Kuwait Towers reveals the story of a conservative Muslim nation inheriting a billion dollar oil industry. A short trip from Kuwait City is Failaka Island, an ancient settlement which thrived under Greek occupation and is now Kuwait's best archeological site.
Kuwait's recent history and devout Islamic tradition makes it a fascinating introduction to the Middle East
In 3rd century BC, the Ancient Greeks colonized the island, Failaka, on today's Kuwait coast under Alexander the Great and named it "Ikaros". In 127 BC out of the ruins of the Seleucid Greek Empire, Characene was founded at the head of the Persian Gulf in borders similar to present day Kuwait. Its capital was Charax Spasinou, "The Fort of Hyspaosines". The city was an important port in the trade from Mesopotamia to India and provided port facilities for the great city of Susa, further up the Tigris River.
Kuwait was founded in the early eighteenth century by members of the Bani Utbah tribe in the year 1705. Kuwait was then known as Guraine; the Bani Utbah established the town and port of Guraine and called it Kuwait.
In the 1870s, Ottoman officials were reasserting their presence in the Persian Gulf, with a military intervention in 1871—which was not effectively pursued—where family rivalries in Kuwait and Qatar were breeding chaos. The Ottomans were bankrupt, and when the European banks took control of the Ottoman budget in 1881, additional income was required from Kuwait and the Arabian peninsula. As the influence of the Ottoman Empire increased in the region, Kuwait was assigned the status of a caza of the Ottomans. After the signing of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, then Amir of Kuwait, Mubarak Al-Sabah, was diplomatically recognized by both the Ottomans and British as the ruler of the autonomous caza of the city of Kuwait and the hinterlands
Oil was first discovered in Kuwait in the 1930s and the government became more proactive in establishing internationally recognized boundaries. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and the British invalidated the Anglo-Ottoman Convention, declaring Kuwait to be an "independent sheikhdom under British protectorate."
On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and the then Amir of Kuwait, Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah. The Gulf rupee, issued by the Reserve Bank of India, was replaced by the Kuwaiti dinar. The discovery of large oil fields, such as the Burgan field, triggered a large influx of foreign investments into Kuwait. The massive growth of the petroleum industry transformed Kuwait into one of the richest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and by 1952, the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Egypt and India.
On 2 August, 1990 Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. Saddam Hussein, then President of Iraq, deposed the Amir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Sabah, and installed Ali Hassan al-Majid as the new governor of Kuwait. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States-led coalition of thirty-four nations fought the Persian Gulf War to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On February 26, 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces, restoring the Kuwaiti Amir to power. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait and the country has spent more than five billion dollars to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990–1991. Kuwait has since largely recovered from the socio-economic, environmental, and public health effects of the Persian Gulf War.
In 2003, Kuwait served as the major staging base for the coalition forces in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah became the Emir of Kuwait in January 18, 2006.
Kuwait is mostly a desert country that hugs the Persian Gulf. Kuwait shares international borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Although Kuwait is close to Iran they do not share any physical border. Located in the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land area. It lies between latitudes 28° and 31° N, and longitudes 46° and 49° E. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait. The country is generally low lying, with the highest point being 306 metres above sea-level. It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited. With an area of 860 km2, the Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380-metre long bridge. The land area is considered arable and sparse vegetation is found along its 499-kilometre long coastline. Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor.
Kuwait is organised into 6 governorates (muhafazat)
White sand beaches cover the coast of Kuwait that are extremely inviting. Coral reefs are now being restored in order to encourage better diving. These beaches do not come cheap. The resorts and private beaches are extremely expensive but the brave traveller may be able to find some free beaches more off the beaten track.
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The three concrete reinforced Kuwait Towers dominates the skyline of Kuwait City. The principle tower is 187 metres high, has a restaurant, a viewing area at 123 metres and can move around doing a full rotation every 30 minutes. The second tallest tower is used to store water and can hold over one million gallons of water. The third tower controls the flow of electricity to the suburbs of Kuwait City. Opening to the public in 1979 it became a big tourist sight very quickly. The towers were heavily damaged during the war and were restored afterwards. Although a careful eye can still see some damage to the exterior of the towers.
Go spend some money at some of the flashiest shopping areas in the world. Start in the Salmiya area of Kuwait City with its new shopping malls and walking streets. Then move onto smaller boutiques, with much higher price tags.
Although some areas are still off limits for security reasons, Kuwait has some amazing desert to explore. Tall sand dunes go on for miles that beckoned to be climbed are easy to spot. Also look out for some cool domesticated and wild animals like lizards, snakes, birds and camels walking around in the sand.
Kuwait has an arid climate with warm to hot weather. There is no rain whatsoever from June to August. From October to May, there are about 3 to 8 days a month with some rainfall, totalling less than 100mm of rain a year. Temperatures are pleasant from November to April. January is the coldest month with average maximum temperatures of 18 °C, dropping to 8 °C at night. From June to September have daytime temperatures averaging 40 °C to 44 °C and nights still around 30 °C! Temperatures over 50 °C are not uncommon during summer and together with sometimes humid conditions makes this time almost unbearable.
Kuwait International Airport (KWI) is 16 kilometres from Kuwait City and the national airline is Kuwait Airways. Flights to and from Kuwait with Kuwait Airways include destinations mainly throughout the Middle East and other parts in Asia. Services include flights to a wide range of cities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India. All Gulf countries are served at least daily. Destinations further away include Bangkok, Manila and Kuala Lumpur to the east and Paris, Frankfurt and London to the west. Even New York is served.
Kuwait has it's own lowcost airline as well, Jazeera Airways. Destinations are almost exclusively in the Middle East and the northern parts of Africa. Also the Maldives Republic and Cyprus have flights though.
Only with your own car you can travel to Kuwait, provided that you will get a transit visa fro Saudi Arabia and have onward transport and visas for the country or origin and destination.
Saudi Arabian Public Transport Co has buses to a number of cities in Saudi Arabia and to Manama in Bahrain. Kuwait Public Transport Company offers roughly the same services, including buses to Egypt (Nuweiba - Cairo]] via Jordan (Aqaba - Amman).
Borders with Iraq are closed.
Several ferries and fast catamarans travel between Iran and Kuwait. Connections include Khoramshahr and Bushehr to Kuwait and Bushehr to Kuwait. Check the Iran Traveling Center for more details about schedules and prices. The ferries are operated by the Combined Shipping Company.
There are speedboat services between Kuwait (Shuwaikh Port) and Manama in Bahrain, taking just around 5 hours. Contact one of the travel agencies in the respective city.
Roads in Kuwait are mostly tarred and in a good condition. You can rent cars at the international airport or in Kuwait City. You need an international driving permit or you national driver's licence and you also need to buy local insurance. Traffic drives on the right and can be hectic in some places. Also, Kuwaitis are not known for the best driving skills so pay attention!
Several companies, including the Kuwait Transport Company, offer cheap and extensive bus connections in and between the major cities and towns. Services are aircon and frequent, but avoid rush-hour as the roads are packed with traffic during these hours.
No scheduled services exist, but traditional dhows can be chartered for trips to offshore islands or to go out snorkelling, diving and fishing.
Nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council states (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) do not need entry visas.
Nationals of the following countries can get a visa upon arrival:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.
All other nationalities need a visa beforehand from the nearest embassy or consulate.
See also Money Matters
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Kuwait. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Kuwait. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B and rabies are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
See also International Telephone Calls
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