Kuwait City

Travel Guide Middle East Kuwait Kuwait City

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Introduction

Kuwait Towers

Kuwait Towers

© moonboots

Kuwait City is the capital of Kuwait and is the largest city in the country with about 2.4 million people living in the metropolitan area. It is located in the central coastal part at the Persian Gulf and is the economic, cultural and political heart, while the rest of the country being almost empty. The city has been inhabited since almost 300 years ago and has seen an enormous growth during the last decades.

Today, it is a wealthy city with many high-rise office buildings and several of the bigger international hotel chains all have luxurious hotels to choose from. This means that spending time here doesn't come cheap. Still, it's great place to visit and not many travellers come here although it has something to offer if you are into something different than Dubai. The Kuwait Towers are a main landmark and a display of wealth of both the city and the country.

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Neighbourhoods

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 current Emir stays in Dar Salwa.

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Sights and Activities

Kuwait Towers

View from Inside Kuwait Towers

View from Inside Kuwait Towers

© rayoujo

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.

Other Sights and Activities

  • The Science Center - Located on the water front in the Salmiya area, this is a great place to have fun and learn. There are also some cool boats to see.
  • Shopping - Go to some of the finest shops in the world in the Salmiya district.
  • Jal Az-Zor - Near to Kuwait City, go to this preserve to watch many migratory birds including the elusive Black Vulture.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. edit
  • 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.
  • 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.

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Events and Festivals

Liberation Day

The national holiday celebrated on February 26 marks the liberation of Kuwait via Operation Desert Storm at the end of the First Gulf War. Patriotism is shown by rejoicing in public buildings, parties, street parades and dancing, and the joyous waving of the flag. It’s a time of remembrance for the thousands who lost their lives during the Iraqi invasion, and for those who were captured and imprisoned.

National Day

Celebrated in February on the day before Liberation Day, National Day marks the final emergence of Kuwait from Ottoman rule and its transformation into an independent country. National dress is worn and it’s a time for family, parties and feasting.

Hala Festival

The Hala Festival in February is a celebration of springtime, with the parched desert land alive with lush greenery and vibrantly colored flowers. Migratory birds arrive by the million, and cultural events, street parades, and carnivals are held throughout the month. Shops and stores hold their annual sales, drawing visitors from Arab countries and beyond.

Ramadan

The most important religious festival in Kuwait is the holy month of Ramadan in August/September, celebrated as the time when the Prophet Muhammad revealed the Koran to his followers. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking and pray five times a day instead of the usual four. The month begins with the viewing of the new moon, and evenings during the festival are spent eating, talking and celebrating life with friends and family.

Eid el-Fitr

The most joyous of all Kuwait’s festivals is Eid el-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The festivities last for several days, and include visits with friends and family, gift exchanges and feasts. Eid is a time of peace, forgiveness, merry-making, and massive celebrations.

Eid el-Adha

This October religious festival remembers Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and is commemorated with visits to mosques, family meals, new clothes and the giving of money and gifts to children. In rural areas, a sheep or goat may be sacrificed.

Islamic New Year

The Islamic New Year falls on the first day of the first month of Muharram in October, November or December, depending on the Islamic calendar. Kuwaitis watch the new moon in the early evening as days begin at sunset. Cards wishing health and wealth are exchanged along with gifts, and New Year resolutions are set. It’s a low-key event, centered on the family.

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Weather

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 degrees at night. From June to September have daytime temperatures averaging 40 °C to 45 °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.

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Getting There

By Plane

Kuwait International Airport (KWI) is located 16 kilometres south of the city. The national airline, Kuwait Airways flies throughout the Middle East and to some parts of Asia. 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 its own lowcost airline as well, the Jazeera Airways. Destinations are almost exclusively in the Middle East, and the North Africa as well as South Asia.

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Getting Around

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

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.

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Eat

There is a wide choice of options, ranging from traditional local food to international Western style cuisine.

  • 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).

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Sleep

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.

  • Hawali Continental Hotel, Hawali Qutiba St.
  • The Oasis Hotel (At intersection of Ahmad Al-Jaber Street and Mubarak Al-Kabeer St), ☏ +965 2465489, fax: +965 2465490, ✉ sales@oasis.com.kw. Solid hotel in down town Kuwait City, will arrange pickup from airport, good Indian restaurant on the top floor.
  • Courtyard Kuwait City, Al Shuhada St (Dasman), ☏ +965-22-997000. 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.
  • Radisson Blu Kuwait, Al Bida Al Tawoun Street, Salwa, ☏ +965 2567 3000. 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.

View our map of accommodation in Kuwait City

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Learn

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.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are several internet and telecom service providers in Kuwait. The media in Kuwait is among the most outspoken in the Gulf states, journalists self-censor on issues related to royal family. Kuwait is one of the fastest growing ICT markets in the region. Majority of the Kuwaiti population can afford to have Internet services at home, the reason the country has fewer Internet cafes than other Gulf countries.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for Kuwait is 965. Local phone numbers are 8 digits long. Numbers starting with 2 are landline telephones, while numbers starting with 5,6 or 9 are mobile telephones numbers and numbers starting with 1 are service numbers. there are no area code and dialing within Kuwait will never require an additional 0 in the beginning.

Kuwait uses GSM and mobile phones are widely available. The operators are Zain, Wataniya Telecom (Ooredoo), and Viva. As roaming charges can be very steep, it makes sense to get a local SIM card. a new SIM can be obtained from any of the official branches. A SIM can be bought from most telephone stores, and doesn't require registration. Registration requires the passport of the one who's applying. The prices for a new SIM card are very low.

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Accommodation in Kuwait City

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Kuwait City searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

as well as Lavafalls (5%), Hien (4%), Sander (1%)

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This is version 18. Last edited at 8:55 on Jul 10, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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