I just came back from a trip to the gulf where I visited Kuwait and Oman. The plan was to visit Bahrain as well, but because I did not have enough blank pages in my passport for the visas/stamps we decided to spend some more days in Oman instead of going to Bahrain. I am really happy we prioritized Oman, as the country really has a lot to offer – but more about Oman later!
We spent two days in Kuwait City, which was more than enough time. It is not much to see in Kuwait City – if you ask me, the city only has one real tourist attraction; The Kuwait Towers. It was really hard to fill the days with things to do. Even the malls (where Kuwaitis seem to hang out) were boring. During the day, the streets were empty and nothing was going on. Such a weird place, I have never experienced this kind of emptiness in a city before.
I got the impression that Kuwait does not want tourists – at least they are not doing anything to attract them. For example is it very hard to find official tourist information about Kuwait. I read blogs and used Tripadvisor to find out what to do, but I soon realized that they did not offer updated information – neither did the few official websites I could find. For example, we wanted to visit a tower to see the view of Kuwait. Our first choice was of course the famous Kuwait Towers. I checked the towers’ website and everything looked OK, so we went there, only to find it closed. There were no signs or anything, so we had to ask someone why the place was closed. They told us the towers were closed for maintenance. After doing some more research online, I found out that it has been closed for several years! Then, I tried another tower, The Liberation Tower. Luckily I did not trust the official information and looked through some forums and blogs, and I soon realized that this one also had been closed for years. So annoying!
Even though The Kuwait Towers are closed, you should visit the towers if you are in Kuwait. The architecture is phenomenal. Did you know that the towers are used to store water? Pretty impressive. The area around the towers is also very nice, especially at sunset. The Liberation Tower is also a great attraction, even though it is closed for visitors.
Even though it is not much to do in Kuwait, it is still a very interesting place to visit because the country is very different – in every way. Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world, but they have the 5th largest oil reserves in the world. Kuwait is extremely dependent on oil, and I did not see any Kuwaitis with “regular jobs”. I have tried to find some numbers on how many percent of the workforce that are foreign workers, and even though the number varies it appears to be around 80% – or more! I have read that the government treats their inhabitants very well, maybe too well – for example, if they are getting married or buying a house, they get an amount of money from the government for free (I don’t know if this is true, but the point is that the government is very generous). No wonder they love their emir (at least it seems so on the surface, as his picture is all over the city!). The expatriates, on the other hand, do not have any benefits; it is said that they are treated terrible and their salaries are very low (200-400USD a month). I cannot imagine what will happen to this country when the oil era ends…
I always love to try traditional food when I visit new countries, but for the first time ever, I could not find any good restaurants offering local food. What I could find was dozens of American restaurants and fast-food chains. Kuwaitis must love fast food. Even at the breakfast buffet most of the food were fried – fries, fried samosas, fried fish, fried onion rings, etc. In 2013, Kuwait was ranked as the fattest country in the world – not very surprising!
Souk Sharq is mall with stunning surroundings. From the mall you get a nice view of the city’s skyline. The fish market is an interesting place located close to the mall, and here you also find the harbor with old fishing boats.
As mentioned, I found Kuwait very interesting. A place I will remember. Kuwait is just so… weird. Not necessarily in a negative way – but everything was just so strange. There were no people in the streets. We basically had a whole day in Kuwait without seeing a single person, except foreign workers on construction sites. Still, they have so many skyscrapers and huge buildings. We were like; Are all these buildings empty? Why are people never walking in or out? And why are we alone at every single restaurant? Kuwait City, with its 650.000 inhabitants, felt like a ghost town!
Friday evening we decided to go to the city’s traditional market, Souk Al-Mubarakiya. When we got there, the ghost town feeling disappeared. What a place! The marked was huge and crowded. For the first time, we did not only see foreign workers – we saw Kuwaitis! The souk was obviously the place to be on a Friday night. This night made our stay in Kuwait, as it changed the impression we first got of the city. We even ran into a TV-show recording in the area as well, which was quite entertaining. I do not know what kind of show it was, but a man I asked told me it had something to do with the liberty of Kuwait. Anyways, it was very fun to see!