Touring the main attractions of Kuwait in a day on the trip Perusing the Persian Gulf.
Kuwait Visa on Arrival
Landing in Kuwait my first task was to get a visa on arrival. I was directed out to the departures hall, which is strange as I did not go through immigration yet, where there is a special desk for visas.
I filled in a form and took a number. I didn’t have to wait long until the number was called. At the desk the lady explained I needed to pay with Kuwaiti dinars. Nearby was a money-exchange counter. Back at the desk a man explained I needed stamps. I was a bit confused as to what he meant which annoyed him as he continued to point toward a machine. This machine dispenses stamps and you have to put the right amount in to get two stamps worth 3 dinars.
Finally I handed in the stamps and a different lady processed some papers, stamped the immigration entry stamp and gave my passport back to me.
Country 122 complete!
From the airport I got the shuttle to Hilton Resort Kuwait. With only a day in the country, I had to head out immediately to see the sights. I organized a driver at the hotel to take me on a day tour for 30 Kuwait ($100). It was expensive but time was not on my side.
These are the sights of the day.
Kuwait House of National Works
The war museum was by far the most interesting attraction of Kuwait. It focused on the Iraqi invasion, the atrocities committed, and the war effort with assistance from other countries.
Outside old artillery and even Uday Hussein’s golden car with a fist sticking out of the roof were on display. After paying the 1 dinar entrance fee, I went through the museum with my driver. The first display is a memorial with a large bomb and the flags of all the countries that aided in the war effort.
Then we went through some crappy diorama which were suppose to have sound but they didn’t turn it on. Next was a hall to honor the countries that helped. The U.S. had a big corner.
The last part was the most impactful, a display of the atrocities and methods of torture that the citizens of Kuwait suffered. The last item of the museum is a sawed off head from a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein purchased by the museum as some form of retribution.
From there we went to the National Museum but for some reason the guards said the museum was closed. The whole area was under construction which according to the driver just popped up over night.
From there he showed me two mosques next to each other, one with a green minaret and one with a white. Almost identical, one was a Shi’ite mosque and one was a Sunni.
Religiously tolerant, there were also churches throughout the city.
Downtown Kuwait City
Then we drove around to see the Kuwait National Assembly which was designed by a Danish architect and completed in 1982. Then we went a bit further and stopped at the Grand Mosque and Seif Palace, with its famous clock tower topped with pure gold. The driver pointed out the different color of the bricks on the palace wall. He explained the hole was blasted by the Iraqis to load trucks of palace’s valuables.
The modern buildings and many construction projects was a clear sign of Kuwait’s current economic health and rebuilding attitude.
The main souk was a massive market mixing modern shopping areas and traditional stalls in open areas. I took the opportunity to get my tourist shirt though it was difficult to find, I ended up spotting an independence day shirt with the Kuwaiti flag! Perfect.
Back with the guide, we to see the Maritime Museum where some beautiful dhows were on display. Then some ruins that were being restored, but the area was closed off.
We went to the bay and glanced at the sea of fishing boats. Across the street was a typical Kuwaiti house which a security guard let us go inside to have a look. The room was arranged with seating against the wall in a semi circle facing a center table and TV.
The last and most iconic sight we visited were the Kuwait towers. Opened in 1979, these towers were designed with blue and green tiles to pay homage to the tiling of the early mosques. My guide pointed out how some tiles were different colors. These were replacement tiles to repair the bullet holes inflicted during the Iraqi invasion.
In the parking lot men were getting ready for a walking marathon. As we continued on the road, the women’s race was taking place. Some participants wore a hijab which must have been inconvenient for the race.
Concluding the tour, we headed back to the hotel. The guide who was living in Kuwait during the invasion shared some firsthand stories. He told me about his truck that he was trying to save by puncturing the tires and removing engine parts, but the Iraqi army showed up and commandeered his truck. He witnessed this and when he confronted them, they just pointed their guns at him. The invading army looted and pillaged the town, taking what they wanted. Anyone that resisted was shot.
He talked about how he stocked up on cigarettes to bribe soldiers on this overland drive from Kuwait to Beirut. It was really dangerous.
On their retreat, they destroyed many buildings like a famous boat hotel.
On the highway, the guide pointed out small craters and holes on the road that were caused by U.S. bombing that were timed to explode above the ground in order to kill soldiers but not damage infrastructure.
Back at the Hilton Kuwait, I relaxed a bit before heading to out with the shuttle to the Al Kout Mall.
I wasn’t really interested in shopping, so I sat near the largest fountain in Kuwait and enjoyed a hookah while locals socialized and played on their smartphones around me. Girls in veils flirted and giggled at boys at the adjacent table.
The stores were very high end with one side of the mall that included a marina housing some impressive yachts. A tower that visitors could climb offered some high ground views of the area (including of an oil refinery in the distance). There was also a food market with fish and even live chickens and whole goats.
Catching the shuttle back to the hotel, I had completed a full day of touring in Kuwait.