Officially known as the State of Kuwait, Kuwait is located in Western Asia and sits at the north of eastern Arabia. The country shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is flanked by Iran on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Thanks to its massive oil reserves and its location, this tiny country is one of the richest in the world per capita.
Kuwait’s main city is the capital, Kuwait City, and there are all kinds of things to see and do while you’re here. These include visiting some of the city’s museums, which showcase some of the finest art from the Islamic world and tell the story of Kuwait, and exploring some of the natural wonders of the country.
Kuwait City is the country’s capital city and is also the largest. Here you can walk along sandy beaches and try out a variety of activities, from peacefully combing the beaches to aqua adventures such as jet skiing. The souks sell all sorts of treasures, including gold, incense and spices, and visitors can also browse more modern goods such as electronics in these areas. Diners will be spoiled for choice when faced with street food snacks originating from cities as diverse as Beirut and New Delhi, and fine-diners can choose between the cuisines of Italy, China, Iran, and France – among a host of others.
If you want the best view of Kuwait City, head up to the revolving observation deck at the top of the tallest of the three Kuwait Towers. Accessed by a high-speed lift, the sphere makes one revolution every half hour and is free to use provided you have made a lunch or dinner reservation at the Tower’s Restaurant. At an altitude of 187 metres (613.5 feet), the views are unparalleled. If you’re taking a camera, however, be aware that zoom lenses are prohibited.
Kuwait City Museums
Around the capital there are a number of museums and collections for visitors to enjoy. Two of the best are the Kuwait National Museum, which features the Al Sabah Collection of Islamic Art, and the Science and Natural History Museum.
Kuwait National Museum
The most prominent is the Kuwait National Museum, which first opened in first open in 1957 and features exhibits dedicated to Kuwait’s the ancient past, the country’s development as an Islamic nation and the dramatic impact of the oil industry on Kuwait. More than 2000 items are on display, including an extensive library and archaeological treasures. Looted and burned during the Iraqi invasion, and despite some of the exhibits still being missing, the museum has been re-opened to the public and a replica of a magnificent 1930s-trading dhow — an Arab sailing vessel — has been constructed on site and is now open to visitors. The museum also includes a planetarium.
The Al Sabah Collection of Islamic Art
The Al-Sabah Collection of Islamic Art, acclaimed by international art historians as one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world, can again be enjoyed in an annexe of the Kuwait National Museum.
This magnificent private collection grew from nothing in 1975 to more than 20,000 pieces in 1990. Islamic Art fascinated Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah since his childhood experiences at school in one of Islam’s holiest cities, Jerusalem. Later travels took him to nearly all the major historical and artistic centres of Islam throughout the Middle East and Central Asia where he collected art treasures and artefacts with the aim of preserving them, promoting Islamic art at home and abroad, and introducing the public – both Kuwaiti and foreign -- to the aesthetic values of Islamic art and the genius of the Islamic civilisation.
Experts rank Al Sabah’s holdings the largest comprehensive collection in the Islamic world comparing favourably with collections in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, and St Petersburg, none of which have been amassed by a single collector in under a century. The collection includes jewellery, manuscripts — including miniatures of the Holy Koran —, ceramics, metalwork and countless other artefacts and instruments.[PJ2]
Science and Natural History Museum
Collections on display at the Science and Natural History Museum include fossils, stuffed animals, skeletons and dried flowers. Exhibits focus on health, petroleum, space travel, and electronics.
The Tareq Rajab museum
The Tareq Rajab museum housing an extensive collection of textiles and costumes, ceramics, manuscripts, metalwork, silver folk jewellery.
The Saif Al-Shamlan Museum
The Saif Al-Shamlan Museum houses a collection of rare antiques, including a Turkish-made rifle of pure gold stamped by Sultan Abdul Hameed II in 1906.
Dickson`s House, built in the 19th Century and later occupied by Colonel Dickson, the British Commissioner in Kuwait are all important places for visitors to gain insight into Kuwaiti history, life, and culture.
AL SADU, Bedouin Weavings of Kuwait
The Sadu House is far more than simply an exhibition of traditional Bedouin weaving. Founded as a means of preserving a rapidly disappearing way of life, Sadu House actively promotes the art and craft of Bedouin weaving.
A nomadic people dependant on their flocks, the Bedouin made great use of sheep and goat hair. Shorn by the men of the clan following a short spring season, the wool was used in its natural colour or dyed – traditionally using locally available plants -- and spun before being woven on an easily dissembled loom. Skilled weavers were accorded high respect, and their work – the family tent and its dividing walls, camel bags, rugs, and hangings – was an integral part of Bedouin life.
The last half-century has seen the rapid decline of the nomadic life style, and fearing for the loss of valuable cultural heritage, a group of concerned Kuwaitis launched the Al Sadu project in 1979 with the aims of reviving, preserving, and promoting the traditional craft. In1991, the project became a cooperative society, and the weaver/shareholders can be seen weaving in the courtyard.
Courses in traditional weaving are run from the centre which also serves as an outlet for the sale of traditional weavings and more modern accessories such as wallets, purses, bags, and cushion covers.
Kuwait`s wildlife has proven to be far more resilient than many people expected to the ecological disasters including oil flooding and toxic fumes brought about by the war. Camels are found throughout the country, and several varieties of lizards, including the spiny tailed dhub and the desert monitor, are fascinating to observe. There are also several varieties of snake such as the deadly black desert cobra and several types of constrictors
Kuwait for birdwatchers
Due to its position on the major migration routes, Kuwait is an important stop-over for migratory birds, and the species count is an impressive 280 species.
The best time to bird-watch in Kuwait is at the peak of the spring migration, when the largest numbers of birds and species make their 'refuelling stops'. October is also a good time, although there is less food following the winter rains. Jal az-Zor National Park, which includes part of the cliffs of Jal Az-Zor ridge and escarpment as well as a coastal area with sand dunes, salt marshes and mud flats attracts falcons, black vultures, eagles and the lesser kestrel, a globally threatened species whose numbers have been declining in recent years.
Grey Herons, Avocets and large flocks of waders, pause in the shrimp-rich bay of Dahwat Kazima.
The reed bed pools of Al Jahra Nature Reserve in Western Kuwait, the result of effluent flowing from Al-Jahra town, have been described as one of the great bird watching sites of the Middle East for the impressive list of visiting raptors during the spring and autumn migrations. Among the 220 species of resident and migratory birds catalogued are Buzzards, Spotted Eagles, Steppe Eagles, Imperial Eagle, Marsh Harriers, Lesser Kestrels and Black Vultures.
Business in Kuwait
At the end of the 20th Century Kuwait was, to the rest of the international community, , to much of the rest of the world, was a little known oil producing country in the Middle East. However, the country’s location and activities surrounding its main export, oil, have made it one of the richest countries in the world per capita.
The main airport in Kuwait is Kuwait International Airport and is located approximately 9.5 miles south of Kuwait City.