Difference between revisions of "Kuwait"
Revision as of 15:17, 23 December 2007
Kuwait is divided into six governorates (provinces):
The Kuwaitis trace their roots to the Al-Anisa and the Al-Utub tribe from the Najd province, in modern Saudi Arabia. They moved to Qatar and then to Al-Qurain (derived from Koot, the Arabic word for fortress), which is in modern day Kuwait bay around 1710. By 1752, the long term residents of Al-Qurain decided that the instability of the region, caused by warring tribes, called for the establishment of a stable government. The Al-Sabah tribe was chosen to rule, and the first Sheikh was Sabah ibn Jaber, who ruled as Sabah I, from 1752 to 1756. The Sabah's were skillful diplomats, and weathered out religious and tribal strifes successfully. They dealt with the Ottomans, the Egyptians and the Europeans. Mubarak I signed an agreement with the British making Kuwait a British Protectorate in 1899. The British were in Kuwait for quite a while by then, and as early as the 1770's Abdullah I had a contract with the British to deliver mail for them up to Allepo in Syria. The agreement gave the British control of the Kuwaiti foreign policy in exchange for military protection. In the 20's and the 30's, the chief source of revenue was pearls. But around that time the Japanese started flooding the international market with cultured pearls and this source of income was in decline. In 1938, oil was first struck at the Burgan oil field in Kuwait, and by 1946, they started exporting it. In 1961, Kuwait nullified the treaty of 1899, and became an independent nation. Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely liberated Kuwait in four days; February 26 is celebrated as Liberation Day. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. It is currently ruled by Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad AL Jaber Al Sabah after the demise of Sheikh Jaber al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah in January 2006.
Dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters. Natural hazards : sudden cloudbursts are common from October to April; they bring heavy rain which can, in some rare cases, damage roads and houses; sandstorms and dust storms occur throughout the year, but are most common between March and August.
Flat to slightly undulating desert plain. Highest point: 306 meters.
Most western citizens can get a visa at Kuwait airport, but it would be advised that you contact the Kuwait Embassy in your home country to find out more information.
Please note, Israeli citizens are banned by the Kuwait government from entering the country.
Kuwait International Airport is served by several airlines, mostly flying within the Middle East. The national airline, Kuwait Airways, serves New York City via London, as well as several European and Asian destinations. United Airlines offers nonstop service to Washington, DC.
Kuwait has no railway system.
Kuwait shares its borders with only 2 nations - Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The political situation in Iraq is volatile currently, so it's advisable not to use that route.
Kuwait Transport Company operates a nationwide service which is both reliable and inexpensive and there is the city bus which is a private company and offers better buses.
You may wish to consult a travel agent if you want to go by boat to or from Kuwait. Scheduled ferries to and from Iran are handled by Kuwait-Iran Shipping Company, phone +965 2410498, fax +965 2429508. The ferries go three times a week from Ash Shuwayk in Kuwait to Bushehr in Iran. One-way tickets from KD37.
Ports and harbors:
Kuwait has a good road system. All signs are in English and Arabic.
Taxi: These are recognisable by red licence plates and may be hired by the day, in which case fares should be agreed beforehand. Share-taxis are also available. Hailing taxis from the road is the most most practical approch. However some sources have reported it was not advisable, particularly for females, and they recommend that taxis are booked in advance by telephone from a reputable taxi company.
A standard rate is applicable in most taxis, but those at hotel ranks are more expensive. Tipping is not expected, however you should negotiate fares before boarding the taxi.
Car hire: Self-drive is available. If you produce an International Driving Permit, the rental company will, at the customer's expense, be able to arrange the statutory temporary insurance, which is drawn on the driver's visa.
However, it should be noted that driving in Kuwait, especially when new to driving in the country, can be extremely chaotic and frightening.
Arabic (official). Although in schools the classical version of Arabic is taught; and just like everywhere in the Arab world, Kuwaiti’s use the Kuwaiti dialect in everyday conversation. English is widely used and spoken. All traffic signs in Kuwait are bilingual. English is taught as a second language in schools in Kuwait beginning at the first grade.
See Kuwait City for listings of attractions in the city.
A port with many old dhows, Failakai Island can be reached by regular ferry services. There are also some Bronze Age and Greek archaeological sites well worth viewing, including the island's Greek temple. Traditional-style boums and sambuks (boats) are still built in Al Jahrah, although, nowadays, vessels are destined to work as pleasure boats rather than pearl fishing or trading vessels. Mina Al Ahmadi, lying 19km (12 miles) south of Kuwait City, is an oil port with immense jetties for supertanker traffic. The Oil Display Centre pays homage to the work of the Kuwait Oil Company.
Many of Kuwait's sea clubs offer a wide variety of facilities and activities such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, beaches, tennis courts, gymnasiums, bowling and even karate.
Sailing and scuba diving are available. Powerboating is a Kuwaiti passion. Horse riding clubs flourish in the winter.
Shisha at Grande Cafe. Marina Mall is amazing, tons of movie theatres. Even the American School is a cool place to visit. Lots of ruins from the wars. Bucallas are really cool mini stores.
The national currency is the Kuwaiti dinar. There are 3.45781 US dollars in 1 dinar (08 October 2006). Notes are in denominations of KWD20, 10, 5 and 1, and 500 and 250 fils. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 fils.
Credit / Debit Cards and ATMs/American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
Travellers Cheque Advice Widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling.
Kuwait is a tax free country. Custom-made items, imported items, and shipping out of the country can be expensive, so shop wisely.
There is a huge array of restaurants in Kuwait. Because the nightlife is non-existant, people go out to restaurants and malls. Almost every cuisine is available in high-end restaurants. Kuwait is known for its culinary specialties and catering services.
Hotels in Kuwait are expensive, but major Western chains are well represented. See Kuwait City for hotel listings.
Chalets and other weekend accommodation can be rented in many places along the southern part of the coast.
IO Centers  (formerly Gulf Business Centre) is the only premium serviced office provider in the country. They offer flexible terms and all business related services and are located in two locations: on the 28th and 29th floors of the Arraya Center in the same tower as the Marriott Courtyard hotel and in the new Dar Alawadi Center.
Kuwait is a very safe place and one would have to try very hard to get hurt. It is wise to respect the dominant religion (Islam) and local customs. That said, many Kuwaiti teens have adopted western dress (especially at the malls) and can often be seen in shorts and tight shirts. Many Kuwaiti drivers are extremely reckless.
Public health is entirely supported by the government at local clinics and hospitals, with a 5KD fee paid by foreigners visiting Kuwait and 2KD for expats with a resident visa. Private non-governmental clinics are available as well, but charge much more at 30KD and upwards.
The country code for Kuwait is 965. Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 6 to 7 digits long. To dial outside the country from Kuwait, prefix the country code with 00. E.g a US number would be dialed as 00-1-555-555-5555.
Kuwait uses GSM and mobile phones are widely available. Major operators include Zain, Wataniya Telecom. As roaming charges can be very steep, it makes sense to get a local SIM card: prepaid starter kits are available for around KD 5, including some call time.
Internet kiosks are everywhere. Calling overseas is also very cheap if you use the many booths that advertise 'Net2Phone' service. Basically it is calling over the Internet.