From the moment I landed in Kuwait, it was clear that I was one of the rare tourists to visit Kuwait 🙂 Pretty much everyone else looked like a local, a migrant (Kuwait has a huge share of migrants) or business men/women.
Country Counter: https://gattokaran.com/2019/01/22/country-counter/
One of the easiest ways to figure out how serious a nation is about tourism is to look at two things:
(1) Reach of the Public Transit
(2) Presence (or absence) of up-to-date Tourist Information portals
Kuwait flunked in both these categories big time. Because Kuwait has a huge migrant population, the bus routes serviced all the areas like residential colonies and major work locations like refineries Etc. But it did not touch the handful of “Tourist Attractions”. I had a tough time figuring out the Ramadan impact on various “Tourist Attractions”. Most of the portals were not up-to-date and even when I physically went to a place, e.g. The Grand Mosque, the information I got from the guards were sketchy, at best.
So, overall, if someone asks me for my recommendation, Kuwait would definitely NOT be at the top of the list.
Having said that, I had a very good time in Kuwait, except for some minor glitches here and there (More on that later). I like to experience each Country as much as I can and am not that flustered by inconveniences 🙂 My friend from college days, who has been living in Kuwait for a long time, was a big logistical help.
Usually, before a trip, I tone down physical activities to avoid getting injuries. This time, I could not resist a jog. Alas, I injured my right foot and made it worse by continuing to run, hoping it would go away. I had landed in Kuwait with a pronounced limp. During the 1st day itself, I braved the blazing hot Kuwait Sun for 8km of limping … (Really enjoyed the walk, despite the pain).
Quick recap about Kuwait
- “State of Kuwait”: This is the official name 🙂
- Kuwait is a Constitutional Monarchy
- Kuwait is a small oil-rich Emirate
- Foreign workers (migrants) constitute almost 90% of the population
- Of the overall 3.4 million population, only around 1 million are the local Kuwaiti nationals
- Kuwait has a very elaborate Social Welfare system, where Education, Healthcare, Employment and Housing are taken care by the Government
- Murarak I had signed an agreement with Britain, making Kuwait a British area in 1899
- Oil was first struck in 1938 and by 1946, Kuwait started exporting Oil
- In 1961, Kuwait voided the agreement with the British and became an independent nation
- Kuwait was invaded by Iraq on 2nd August, 1990. Following severe aerial bombardment by US and its allies, ground assault was started on 23rd February 1991. Kuwait was liberated in around 4 days! 26th February is thus celebrated as “Kuwait Liberation Day”.
- Kuwait had to spent almost 5 Billion USD to repair the damage to the oil infrastructure due to the war
- During the long-drawn-out Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Kuwait had supported Iraq. Kuwait had declined to forgive Iraq’s 60+ Billion USD debt after the war and from then on, the friction started between the two countries
- Kuwait has one of the highest Human Development Index ranking (in the Arab World)
- Kuwait has a GDP of around 300 Billion USD
- Arabic is the official language of Kuwait
Al-Qurain’s Martyrs’ Museum: Man, it took some getting to! I had to pull out a massive 10km overall walk in the heat (no buses in that area and surprisingly, I got no taxis either, other than a short ride in a Indian (Kerala) guy’s taxi. 2 of those kilometers were due to me trying to get to a highway (in the opposite direction) to try for bus/taxi (there was zilch!). The Sun has made me “medium-rare” … 🙂 I did like the walk through the residential neighborhoods and getting to see locals go about their life.
This museum is a former Kuwaiti house where 21 local fighters fought Iraqi invaders. 7 of them survived. The house was battered and there are shell markings everywhere. Guess how many tourists were there? 1. Yes, your truly. My arrival caught the staff by such surprise that they gave me some freebies and treated me like a Sheikh … 🙂
The Avenues Mall: Claims itself to be the 2nd largest mall in the Middle-East. I am not a mall guy and usually hates going to malls. But this one came highly recommended. Yes, it is huge for sure. One of the biggest I have seen, if not the very biggest. It took me ages just to walk all around it.
Mainly due to my injured foot, much as I would have loved to walk, stuck to taxis today. It was possible because the places I went to today were all major local landmarks and taxis were plenty. The previous times I used taxis here, they always used the meter and charged as per that. For one of the rides, I missed checking if the driver used the meter. He had not turned on the meter and he ripped me off pretty good 🙂
One of the taxi rides was with a Pakistani driver. On the way, another driver cut him off (pretty badly I must say) and my driver let it rip with abuses … Now, this guy has taken PhD in Abuses. It was hilarious to hear his Pakistani lingo, using various nasty combinations of words and phrases: “Male Genitals”, “Female Dog”, “Female Genitals” Etc. 🙂
At the Kuwait International Airport (KWI) one can see poor porters desperately trying to earn 1.5 KWD for helping travelers with their bags (1.5 KWD is the Government-mandated rate for porters).
Actually, when I arrived in Kuwait, I was very impressed with the Arrivals Area and also the helpfulness of the Immigration and Support staff.
What a turnaround when I was leaving … A cow-shed kind of Departure Area and above all, I had the bad luck to lock horns with a grouchy “Interior Ministry” Security guy. The main (initial) security check guys made me take out every damn thing in my carry-bag and inspected it thoroughly. Their biggest questions were related to the several packs of Floss I carried. After giving them some basic knowledge transfer on Dental Care and repacking my bag (I took my own sweet time, occupying most of the table), okay, ordeal over or so I thought.
Later on, at the gate, there was yet another security baggage screen. The security staff were dressed in white tops. There was this one grouchy guy in a blue top, which said “Interior Ministry” on it. This dude went ballistic seeing my trusted PowerBank (20000 mAH), which had previously been through 10+ countries and 10+ airlines and 10+ airports. Without any explanation, he just said “Sorry” and threw my PowerBank in the security check dust-bin! What!!?? I vehemently argued and pleaded my case. Just when it looked like I might have to spend some time in a Kuwaiti jail, I stopped the fightback.
Among the countries I have visited, I will be hard pressed to not have Kuwait at the rock bottom (Yes, below Paraguay, Mongolia and Myanmar!), as a tourist destination. Though I definitely liked my Kuwait experience (mainly due to the excellent support from my friend from Kerala, India, who has been working there for 12+ years), overall, this “Interior Moron” did leave a bad taste … 😦
(Till date, I am not exactly clear as to WHY he threw it away. Even Oman Air’s (the airline I was taking) instructions tell that PowerBanks should not be checked in (I.e. It has to be in the CarryBag). Is it the fact that it was one of the larger PowerBanks? (20000mAH) Is it that he figured it is a good PowerBank to “acquire”? I guess I would never know …)