In early October, I made a trip to Kuwait.
I arrived in Kuwait safely and sound, but my large backpack that I checked in, did not make the connecting flight on Pegasus Airlines via Istanbul from Paris, which resulted in wearing the same clothes for about 65 hours. It was actually not that bad in terms of what to wear, since I had only one set of clothes, so there was not much thinking to do. The heinous part was the hassle to chase the bag, get it delivered and especially the long wait on the phone to talk to a representative (usually Filipino, “ok sir, I am sorry sir”) and wearing the same pair of underwear. For those of you that face this problem in the future, either (1) buy a new underwear or (2) wear the original underwear inside out or (3) go commando at some point. The lost bag happened to my friend Taso when we visited Bordeaux together in September, and he ended up wearing the same pair of clothing for 72 hours. I had to laugh at him, since he was complaining like a Frenchmen but I believe I got jinxed and it happened to me.
Anyhow, back to Kuwait. It is a very small country at the tip of the Persian Gulf bordering Iraq (remember Saddam Hussein’s invasion?) and Saudi Arabia. The country is rich in oil, producing about 2M barrels per day for a local Kuwaiti population of only 1.3M, while there is an influx of migrant workers mainly coming from the Philippines (mostly in services), Bangladesh (think construction, drivers, etc), India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Egypt that totals around 2.9M.
I spent 3 nights with my couchsurfing host, John, who is a professor at one of the universities here. A well-educated and travelled man, he was in Africa in the late 60s. He had numerous stories to tell, which were great to listen to and very interesting. He was roaming around Africa when the Bushman did not even know what a coke bottle looked like. We toured around Kuwait, hung out at the Friday market (not so interesting, selling mainly clothes and odd articles), went to the Kuwait City souk, downtown areas of Kuwait City, Salmiya, Kuwait Towers, mosques and more. Kuwait is a dry country and thus, if you are an alcoholic, this is probably the best place to come. There are no income taxes (if you make $100K, you keep all of it), sales taxes and gas is extremely cheap. I believe this is a great country to raise kids with family and save A LOT of money.
During my stay, I befriended Maciej from Poland. He is an expat working here at one of the big Kuwaiti conglomerates and I was lucky to be invited to a local dinner at the souk and met his wonderful family, Magda, Ola, and Michael. I’m not sure if Kuwaiti food really exists (correct me if I am wrong), but basically, think any kind of Middle Eastern stuff is consumed here. The best way to sample local food was to go to the supermarket. There was a very big chain called Lulu (I love this place) where there was an entire section on food. I normally try local food at the supermarket to see what I like and then, I usually order at the restaurants. I really liked the hummus, tabouli, lebnah and kebab at the souk and at Lulu. I felt like a little kid going to Lulu, spending most of my time in the food section. I think I spent half the time looking at and eating dates. Personally, I do like Ajwa dates from Saudi Arabia, but the Medjol from Jordan and the Mahbroum from Saudi Arabia are very good too. There are so many varieties and hence, I ended up eating around 500 grams during my four-day stay.
With no nightlife, the people tend to hang out at malls, barbecuing at the waterfront or pretty much stay at home and chill. Some of the houses owned by the Kuwaitis were like mansions and garages filled with expensive cars. I took a picture of this gigantic house, which was owned by the wealthiest woman in Kuwait. With a very strong influence from America, every single fast food/American chain restaurants exist in Kuwait, except for Taco Bell and Tony Romas. I don’t think I saw Arby’s either. Due to the abundance of fast food and sweets, Kuwait seems to be facing a high level of obesity among different age groups.
In general, there were some tourists attractions, but three or four days was more than enough to visit Kuwait. There were cheap flights from Dubai, so come check it out for yourself when feasible.
Other useful information below:
Visit the downtown souk
The towers along the seaside
Malls, malls, and more malls
Stroll along the beachfront. During the day, there was almost no one there. In the evening and on weekends, it gets very full with locals out with their family.
Transport-A taxi costs 7000 Dinar from the airport to downtown. This comes out to be roughly $23 USD for a 20-minute ride. The smarter option is to take the local bus outside of the airport which costs 250 Dinar and then take a taxi to your location. The taxi should be less than 2000 Dinar when you leave the airport to any location. Otherwise, there is a bus for 1000 Dinar from the airport directly to Salmiya. Public transportation is almost inexistent, but there is a bus 999 that runs along Kuwait City to Salwa and the south for 250 Dinar per ride.
Sleeping-I checked online and did not find any hostels. There were smaller no-name hotels starting around $50 USD per night.
Food – stay away from fast food and eat at the local joints. Almost every kind of Western chain is available, but don’t bother going. Local meals can cost anywhere from $5-10 US Dollars. Another option is to go to the supermarket (eg. Lulu) and buy your meals. The pre-cooked meals are cheap and gives you a chance to try many different types of local and non-local dishes.