Why in the world would anyone vacation in Kuwait?
I heard this question over and over, so I guess I’ll answer that here first. Kuwait is RIGHT in the middle of a whole bunch of places that Americans are simply not allowed to go, or not easily allowed entry. With that being said, I got both in and out with no problems what so ever, and I didn’t have to pay for a “guide”. This means it’s an un-censored look into what life in the middle east is like. I wanted to see for myself. And I did. I’ve seen now with my own eyes what a “sheikdom” is like. I think that’s important for a good world view.
So, what did I think? Yes it was worth the cost, and I would do it again. Kuwait city is not the best tourist destination, but generally speaking I found the people friendly and hospitable.
Tourism, is not a concern in Kuwait, so if you go there, you have to remember that. There are things for locals to do, so that is what you’ll be doing as well. What I would recommend is to go and just enjoy the culture, find the good food, visit the old souq, see what it’s like to live there. That’s where the real journey is.
Below is my account of the few days there. If you have any other questions about visiting Kuwait, please feel free to ask!
Kuwait City Day 1
As my plane landed in Kuwait City I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I could tell right away that these people walk down a different path than I ever have.
After stepping off the plane I realized that it was 11pm and there were many many families around me. Kids everywhere, and the airport was full. Very much unlike what an airport would look like in the US at the same time of day.
Leaving out of the airport I knew that I had to get a tourist visa before going through customs. I was told it would cost 7 Kuwaiti Dinars (KD). As I followed the crowd from the plane to the exit I realized that not only was I in the back of a huge line to get out, but that the visa area was in a different place. I followed signs back up stairs and around a few corners and surprisingly there was no one there. I thought it was a little strange. I got my visa signed and my passport stamped and headed back down to the line, which had not moved one bit since I was there previously.
Standing in line to go through customs for a minute, a man in a security uniform came up to me and said “Come with me.” “Oh crap!” was all I could think, because of my previous horrible experiences in Mexico where I ended up in a room trying to explain what an oil sample from a diesel engine was and why I had them in my bag. So I follow the guy, and he takes me through all the people to the front of the line where a lady looks at my visa and passport and says “have a nice vacation!”
I stood there with my mouth open for a second and decided to go before anyone changed their mind!
After all that I went and met up with my friend, who took me on a quick tour of the Kuwait Towers and then dropped me off at my hotel room. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow after I get some sleep!
Kuwait City day 2
Day number two here in Kuwait City has been quite a day. I took off early to try and beat the heat and made my way over to the “old town” section of the city. The Old Souq is an open air market that is what I would expect to have seen fifty or a hundred years ago in the town. I spent quite a bit of time walking around taking in the sights and seeing what all there was to offer. There’s just about anything a person could want or need there.
The food is also simply amazing. I ate some really great stuff, but I have no idea what it was called! I just pointed and the nice people gave me the show. I had some type of lamb kebobs, a pita wrap thing that was incredible and then a little later a pizza-ish type of baked flat bread. I’m definitely headed back before I go.
After about noon, the heat is intolerable. I believe it was around 120 degrees in the afternoon today, so I went back to the hotel and took a long nap.
After sunset I went back over the the Kuwait Towers to take some pictures. Lights in the city are very pretty, I really need to figure out a way to get up high though. If I can get up to the top of one of the large buildings over the next couple of nights I’ll be a happy man.
Tomorrow I head south.
Kuwait City day 3
Today i made my way south to a suburb called Salmiya, which is about ten miles down the coast. Salmiya is mostly what I would call a typical “suburb” or a major city. It’s where the people live, or so it seems.
I went down that way to check out the Scientific Center of Kuwait. I was a little disappointed, actually. It wasn’t that it was bad, but I am just so very spoiled by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium trip I did recently. That place is the standard in my mind for all Aquariums, and while this one wasn’t as good, I can honestly say that if I was a Bedouin from the desert and never saw an Aquarium before I would probably lose my mind.
The coolest thing that I saw in Salmiya was that they had a little area with several “Dhows”, which are the old pearling boats that were used for some time in the history of the area. The quality and craftmanship is just completely top notch. The picture above is of the a couple of these ships.
In the evening I went around and tried to sneak my way into a couple of the buildings to get up high and take some pictures. FAIL! Oh well. Tomorrow is plan b for that, stay tuned!
Kuwait City day 4
Today has been…. very interesting.
I woke up and went for a nice long swim in the Persian Gulf. The water was a little different than I thought it would be. It’s not very salty, brackish almost actually. It’s also very silty and not very clear. From what I understand all this happens because there is a counter-clockwise current in the gulf and all the water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers goes directly into Kuwait Bay. The water temperature was about what I would have expected, maybe 80 degrees or so.
After my swim I made it back over to the “Old Souq” area and did a little bit of looking around. I really want to get a gift for each of my kids, but I don’t know what. I’ll probably stop back in once more and grab a few trinkets or something. It’s not so easy sometimes! I did take a few good pictures there though.
From the Souq I hoped in a taxi and asked to be taken to the Kuwait war museum, and this was the beginning of the end. The nice Pakistani man had no idea where he was going. I had been told it was a ways out of town, so I didn’t really say anything. Then I knew we had gone too far when I saw a sign for the city of South Doha. I asked nicely if he would turn around and take me back, and that’s when it happened. He ran out of gas! I said, “OK!!! What now?” He replied, “This is where I am taking you, that will be 3 dinars please!”
So I told him “I DON’T THINK SO!” and started walking back. I looked on my phone and it’s…. 18 kilometers! Now I wasn’t too happy, but what can you do? So I walked. I passed a sign that said 41 degrees.
“Let’s try not to that again!” I say to myself. I figure I’ll stop along the way and check out the Kuwait National Museum. Closed.
I got into a taxi with a carefully selected Indian driver and went back to the hotel for a nap.
After a bit of rest, my friend was off work and decided to buy me dinner. It was a pretty good deal, and it was nice to see him. We decided to avoid adventure for the evening and eat at Chili’s to be safe. I was fine with that.
Kuwait City day 5
Today has been pretty awesome. I made it to a few of the best museums in town and had a really good time checking them out. No crazy taxi rides either!
First I went down to the Grand Mosque of Kuwait for a tour. It’s simply incredible inside. The said no pictures, so I can’t show you, but trust me when I say it was one of the most picturesque buildings I’ve ever been in before. The nice man who was a tour guide told me all about it’s history and some of the finer points of the architecture. He also told me a little bit about Islam and the times of the prayers. I very much appreciate the open nice people that I met here. There was no preaching and I never felt lower than them at any time. I appreciated this place very much.
After the Grand Mosque I went over to the Maritime Museum that I talked about earlier. When I saw it last it was closed, but this time I got to take a look. The museum in great shape and does a very good job of explaining the different types of ships and equipment that were used for pearling and also supplying the town with fresh water for drinking and cooking. It also had some really interesting pictures of the city from a hundred years ago, and my how it’s changed! This was my second favorite place in the city.
The last place I made it to was the Sadu house, a kind of museum that talks about the history of the Bedouin art in the country. There were displays of typical basket weaving and what not. It wasn’t extremely interesting, but it was a very nice building and nice people.
So, I fly back home tonight. My flight leaves here at 0345 (UGH!) and I should be back in California by 1700 on the 12th. Of course I’ve come up with my own opinions on travel in general to this place, so I’ll do a little write up on that when I get home, and I’ll also show off some of the other pictures I created along the way.
Wish me luck on my flight!