One of the rare tourists … :-) [Kuwait]

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 Counterhttps://gattokaran.com/2019/01/22/country-counter/

Travel Tipshttps://gattokaran.com/2018/09/27/travel-tips-from-a-travel-fanatic/

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

 

 

 

 

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Kuwait Dinar (KWD) … One of the most expensive currencies in the World.
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Kuwait International Airport (KWI). The arrival was a breeze … It looked all modern, clean and streamlined. Immigration, Baggage Claim, ATMs, Food Etc.
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There are two main bus companies … KPTC and CityBus. KPTC has a wider network and is Government-owned. The routes are displayed through numbers. You can check the routes on KTPC’s translated web-page http://www.kptc.com.kw/
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My KPTC bus ticket … There are some standard set prices, like 250 Fils, 350 Fils Etc. The bus ride was very smooth. The driver was a Punjabi Sardar 🙂 He was quite chatty and I could not catch some of what he said …
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The early morning ride to Mirqab (Main KPTC Bus Station) … Almost all buildings were either white or a shade of light brown.
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Most of the migrants (from all over Asia) stay in apartment blocks like these …
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My first glimpse of the Liberation Tower …
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At the city center, the roads are pretty nice …
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Luxury cars for rent … Lamborghini, Ferrari Etc.
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The beautiful Kipco building … At 240 meters, one of the tallest buildings in Kuwait.
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Another angle of the Kipco building …
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Another nice looking building under construction … Looks like a cucumber.
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Construction of the Al Hamra tower started in 2005. It was completed in 2011. It is the tallest “Carved Concrete Skyscraper” in the World, whatever that means, and the thirtieth tallest building in the world at 414 m (1,358 ft). The tower has 80 floors. There is an empty core in the building (as you can see in the picture). The building has a spiral style. There is a high-end shopping complex at the base of the tower.
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High-rise apartment buildings …
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“Calicut Live” Kerala Restaurant: Famous personalities from Kerala, India, have given their quotes 🙂 The food was nice …
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Al Hamra Tower … At 413 meters, the tallest building in Kuwait and the 30th tallest in the World.
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Most of the streets were empty … I am guessing that it is due to two main factors: (1) The heat … The Sun was relentless 🙂 (2) Ramadan and the related fasting … I landed in Kuwait on May 6th, the starting day of Ramadan 🙂
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Burgan Bank building … A nice shiny building …
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The Grand Mosque … I got conflicting information from different security guards. One guy told me that I can enter the Mosque at 08:45. At 08:45, another guard told me that due to Ramadan, visitors are not allowed. When I asked a 3rd guy, he told me to come back in the evening … All said and done, I could not enter the Mosque 😦 I would have loved to have added this Mosque to Sheik Zayed Mosque of Abu Dhabi and Sultan Qaboos Mosque of Muscat …
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Kuwait National Museum: It was closed for renovation … There was this nice Dhow displayed outside. There was zero information on any Kuwait website that this museum would be closed during Ramadan … As I say above, I do not think Kuwait gets many tourists.
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A nice mosque … During one of my walks in Kuwait City.
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You can see the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Causeway in the distance … The 4th longest bridge, was newly inaugurated. The bridge supposedly shaves an hour off the drive from Kuwait City to an uninhabited area about to become the country’s major free trade zone
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As I said, the Kuwait City roads, especially close to the center of the city, are pretty nice …
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Tall buildings wherever you turn … 🙂
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A Fire Station … Actually, taking photos of government buildings and official buildings is frowned upon …
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This is Liberation Tower, a 370+ meter tall (39th tallest in the World) structure, used by Department of Communications. Look how I positioned Mr.Sun behind the Tower (few seconds of escape) J Though the construction had started before Aug 2, 1990 (when Mr. Hussein decided to invade Kuwait), it had stalled during the Gulf War and once completed, got its current name …
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Another view of the Liberation Tower … I tried entering and was turned away 🙂
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I love using public transit wherever I go … Nothing gives you as good a peek into locals as public transit. I took several bus rides in Kuwait. This was CityBus #16.
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CityBus buses looked a bit more new to me …
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The locals do not live in apartment complexes. They typically live in houses like these.
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Kuwait Towers … A part of the 34 Water Towers in Kuwait City. The Kuwait Towers were inaugurated in 1979 and is the major tourist site in Kuwait. The towers were closed for maintenance between 2012 and 2016. The main tower is 187 meters tall and carries two spheres. The lower sphere holds a water tank (lower part) and a restaurant/cafe/lounge/hall in the upper portion. The upper sphere (at 123 meters) holds a cafe and turns fully (360 degrees) every 30 minutes. The views were very nice. The 2nd tower is 147 meters high and serves as a water tower. The 3rd thinner tower holds the lighting equipment for the the main two towers. The towers are lit up in the night. In total, the main two towers hold 9000 cubic meters of water.
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A view of the Kuwait skyline from the Kuwait Towers area …
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More houses … During one of my Kuwait City walks.
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View of the Kuwait City Corniche from near the Kuwait Towers …

 

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 … 🙂

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Al-Qurain Martyrs’ Museum …
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Al-Qurain Martyrs’ Museum … It was good to reflect on the apparent happenings during the Iraq invasion in 1990-91. I took the staff by total surprise! Looks like they were not expecting any tourists 🙂
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There are a lot of water dispensers all over the city … Of course, due to Ramadan, I did not see anyone use them though.
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For some reason, during my walks, I saw a lot of dead birds, like this one … Hmmm. Possibly the heat …
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Alcohol is not allowed in Kuwait … Tried this non-alcoholic “Malt Drink”.
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View from the top of Kuwait Towers’ main tower … It is a Water Park. If you look carefully, you can see 3-4 youngsters enjoying themselves in the surf area.
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A view of Kuwait City … From the Kuwait Towers.
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Kuwait City Skyline … Look at how the Al Hamra Tower dominates the skyline.
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“Kerala Express” Kerala restaurant … Look at how each booth plays video of typical sights one encounters while taking a train ride in Kerala, India. Food was distinctly mediocre …
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Another non-alcoholic Malt drink …
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Nice Middle-East fashion … In The Avenues Mall …
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Middle-East Sweets in Carrefour Super-Market … The Avenues Mall. I could not resist. Bought some to eat at the hotel.

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. 🙂

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The Avenues Mall … The main walkway …
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Fish market in Souq Mubarakeya … Looks like folks were stocking up for Ramadan Iftar.
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Souq Mubarakeya … It was quite empty as I walked around. Tried to find some good souvenirs. Was not successful …
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All the taxis carry detailed ID cards, identifying the driver and the vehicle …

 

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 …)

 

Adios!

3 thoughts on “One of the rare tourists … :-) [Kuwait]

  1. rwadenyj

    I am going to Kuwait next week. The information and pictures are very helpful in providing insight about the country. Thank you 🙂

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