Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where to Take a Visitor to Kuwait

I had a request from a new friend. She asked for ideas on where to take a visitor to Kuwait and I have never done a post about it before, so here goes. These are my personal preferences and I’m sure people can add their own if you would like to comment. I started doing some digging and came across even more information on the net (I have added links).

Morqab Tours is excellent.  See my post on them HERE listing tours and prices.  Nuzha Tours offers tours of Kuwait also; however, they are not flexible when it comes to minimum numbers of people before they will do the tour. They also publish the Kuwait Zoom Magazine which has monthly updates of activities as well as maps (you can find it at the airport or Sultan Center). Nuzha Tours should (in my opinion) take over TEC (see below). I found some really cool information that the US embassy, Kuwait has put together. You can find it by clicking HERE. It was written by two women and my compliments to you, dudettes! Outstanding data.

See the Sea. Every visitor to Kuwait must see the country from the sea! There are nine islands off the coast of Kuwait: Failaka, Bubiyan, Miskan, Warba, Auhha, Umm Al-Maradim, Umm Al-Naml, Kubbar and Qaruh. Kubbar is the most popular island during the summer (packed with people and boats during the weekends -- home to the Teeny Tiny Kuwait Bathing Suit Contest every weekend at 4:30 pm), Qaruh is surrounded by a coral reef and nesting ground for sea turtles, and Umm Al-Maradim boasts phosphorescent algae. This phenomenon has been documented in other parts of the world (Florida, for example), but is not well-known in Kuwait; Any movement in the water creates tiny lights like “fairy dust”, similar to that given off by fireflies. On a starry night when the moon is full, it is magical. The water is clear enough to see the sea floor and hot as bath water in the summer. The sky is a blanket of stars and the lights from the mainland shore and the off-shore oil rigs twinkle in the distance. For a shorter trip, for 1 KD, you can catch a pontoon boat from either souq sharq (in front of Debenhams) or Sultan Center restaurants complex (next to the yachts club) which will take you on a 30 minute tour of the Kuwait Bay, complete with Kodak moments (photo ops). If it all possible, try to get to Failaka (by ferry at Ras Salmiya or Marina Crescent). It is really worth your trip - especially now, before they start developing it into "something different". The Safir Heritage Hotel is on the island if you want to stay overnight and day packages are available. Note that the island are just about the only places where you will find natural (as in “not man-made” like at the hotels), clean beaches.

I don’t think anyone should miss camping in the desert (can be a day trip) but unless you know someone with a camp, it might be difficult. You can check in Al Waseet for people who rent camps (the camping season goes through the end of March, but you have to check the newspapers to see when the Municipality ends the camping season). Nuzha Tours is probably your best bet for a 1 day camp with lunch. (By the way - none of those pictures on their website of the desert is of Kuwait!) If you don’t do any other camping, go to Mutlaa Ridge (80 N towards Iraq past Jahra - photo) for a picnic and watch the sun go down. It is so worth the drive. When it gets dark, you can see the lights of Kuwait City across the bay. I wish someone would build a (environmentally friendly/green) restaurant there someday. It is truly one of my favorite spots in Kuwait.

I took my mom to the camel markets (with Kuwaiti friends) in Salmi towards Jahra. Don't ask me how to get there again. I went gerbil hunting at night out there (again with Kuwaiti friends) and I still don’t know where the Hell we were.

I usually take my visiting friends/family to see the older, traditional places in Kuwait. I know when I first came here in 93, all I wanted to see were the old souqs - and my Kuwaiti girlfriends didn't even know how to get to them! :)

There are, of course, the usual places to take visitors. Mubarakia, which includes the gold market and "souq hareem" or women's market selling "traditional" items including my favorites like “thobe neshla” (thin, gold-thread embroidered cover for traditional dancing) and “farwa” (wool outer garment worn by men in the desert typically lined with lamb fleece), and several small carpet and Bedouin woven goods shops. Souq Al Kuwait for traditional Kuwaiti sweets and pastries. Then there's the fish market (next to Souq Sharq), Tareq Rejab Museum, the Towers (my mom calls them "the balls of Kuwait" – there are 3!). Friday Market and the tent market right next to it (you can drive through that one - just to let your people see an example of all the types of tents they sell - it is pretty cool).

Avoid the animal market at the Friday Market - very sad. Don't go to the zoo - it is awful for anyone who loves animals. Do go to the aquarium/Scientific Center.

You can always go to the malls; which is so ordinary that I’m only going to mention Kout -- not for the shopping, but because of the architecture, dancing water fountain, and just all-around beauty of the place. You have to take visitors to Kout if for no other reason than just to sit outside and have a cup of coffee next to that mesmerizing fountain. There is a Lebanese restaurant at the end of the mall (which I can’t remember the name of right now – I think it is Mirjian or something similar) which has good food and is very pretty. It faces the sea. Ok, I’ll mention Marina Crescent because it is also pretty and nice for breakfast or coffee (by too crazy with young people running around at night).

Several of my American newcomer friends find shopping at the co-ops fascinating (T, you need a life, girlfriend!) It is kinda interesting because you see items that you wouldn’t see “back home”. I bought several female relatives stikanas, saucers, and spoons for something like a total of 4 kd and they went bananas over them. My mother liked the co-ops too, come to think of it.

Antiques in Kuwait are mainly from the region – not Kuwait. My favorites are in the basement of the Al-Ozeina Building (downstairs from the American Beauty store) on Salem Mubarak Street in Salmiya, close to Marks & Spencer. It is easy to miss - the signage is small (photo) and easy to miss when you are driving past. Just look for the building with all the beauty supply products. There are also stores in Mubarakia and Muthanna Mall.

Muthanna also has my favorite bookstore on the basement level. They’ve got good reference books on Kuwait.

You have to take them to a traditionally Kuwaiti restaurant and I recommend Shatiya Watiya (although it is kind of hard to get to because of the construction). It is located downtown in the Behbehani houses next to the church. There is another Kuwaiti restaurant in Salmiya, Fareej Suwaileh, near Marks & Spencer, but when I went there, the service wasn’t great. Le Notre on the Gulf Road is a great place to take people at night because of the view of the Kuwait Towers.

When I first came here, I went to 2 places that were very interesting to me: The Red Palace in Jahra and The Qurain House (also known as "The Martyrs Museum"). The Red Palace is an old fort that was the scene of the famous battle of Jahra fought in 1920. I found it interesting because everything is so small. (were people that much smaller in 1920?) Nuzha tours offers visits to the Red Palace. Qurain House is probably one of the last remaining relics of the Gulf War and very emotionally moving. I cried. They have pictures and stories of the Kuwaiti resistance guys who fought and died there. Again, Nuzha offers tours there - or you can try to find it by following signs off road 208. We got lost in Qurain trying to find the house, and the young Kuwaiti guy we stopped to ask for directions took the time to drive us there, which I thought was a nice gesture.

Additional links to information on places to see in Kuwait:

In my humble opinion, the Touristic Enterprises Company (which is similar to a Board of Tourism in other countries) has done a terrible job in promoting tourism and activities in Kuwait. They don't market themselves and even through a Google search, were cumbersome to find. Once you get to their page, you will find multiple spelling mistakes and under the main English window in "Events", "No events posted". Chellooooo - what about Hala February, etc? That is just an embarrassment to Kuwait! Disgraceful. Further, with all the military forces and peripheral staff in Kuwait since 2003 - in addition to Kuwait as the NYT's 52nd top travel destinations, you would think that the TEC would have cornered the market on activities and tours in Kuwait, but noooooo.

Below are better, more informative links (many of the sites are from OUTSIDE of Kuwait. Feshla ya TEC!)









Q8Sultana: Things to Show Your Visitors In Kuwait (Thanks for the link, Girlfriend!)

19 comments:

Purgatory said...

Edo, that is where they should go, and if they are chubby, they should meet me.

Desert Girl said...

Boy, you so crazy!!! LOOOOL.

SAKURA SA KU RA.... Actually, I went there last year for the Valentine's Day Masacre and the service was so bad that it was like a goat rodeo. But the food still kicks Edo's fishy ass!

Purgatory said...

sushi is fishy, thats a sign of freshness.

So what about the chubby part :)?

Baroon said...

I am still amuzing my self by printing..and going up and down on the links you gave :D

Iq8 said...

Kuwait Friday Matket http://www.Kuwaitfridaymarket.com
are you talking about this site ? Pure classifieds for Kuwait

Murtaza said...

heeey .. i like ur posts - they are interesting .. !

well i am visit kuwait for a business trip - but my evenings are goin to be free. could u tell me some nice places to visit after 7pm!

i want to see something different - not malls and blah!

mn_786@hotmail.com

Desert Girl said...

Mubarakia. Have something to eat in the open-air dining section and feel what Kuwait used to be like. They serve an awesome shrimp dish (can't remember the name, but it is similar to shrimp fajitas). They have all kinds of cultural little shops - even if you aren't interested in shopping, you can see traditional wares and market. Gold souq is also there.

Go to the Tareq Rejab museum. It is a wonderful place to see all kinds of artifacts from across the GCC/Middle East. I found it fascinating.

Kuwait Towers - wonderful view of the whole city.

Acquarium.

Take a small boat trip around the bay for 1 KD from the kiosk at the end of the parking lot where Sultan Center/Jeans Restaurant is on the Gulf Road.

Inquire at any of the business or social orgainizations in Kuwait as to what events they have coming up. Ask them to participate as a guest. Most meetings are held monthly and if you will be here for 25 days, it is long enough to attend a meeting or two and meet people from the community.

Those are several suggestions and I don't believe that everything in my blog post was about malls. Look into the links I provided and go to find guidebooks on Kuwait or perspectives on the internet.

Enjoy Kuwait.

Naimesh said...

Oh wow... really nice... i just booked my tickets to kuwait and already i have check-list for travelling in kuwait...

thnx miss desert :)

Wish u a happy diwali..

Kuwait Sightseeing said...

I will be extracting some information from this blog to develop the article http://www.kuwaitstay.com/discussions/sightseeing-kuwait

Please let me know your thoughts

Desert Girl said...

Kuwait Sightseeing - Nice site you have. If you write to me (Amerab@gmail.com), I will provide you with lots of other information you can use. I couldn't find a contact on your site.

nugster said...

Kuwait has a hidden it's a shame that tourists are unaware of, specially where the Bidoon live, places like Jileeb Al-Shiyookh and Ragga. there is something about the the architecture, the streets, and most important, how the running water plashes thru the streets. it's almost like Venus Italy.

I think I'll start a touring bus and make lot's of Money.

Expats in Kuwait said...

there are many sites that can help you, like indiansinkuwait.com, http://www.expatsinkuwait.com, http://www.q8classifieds.com, etc

Jalila Qattan said...

You have done a very comprihensive work on your article and provided valuable links for many individuals to visit and have an idea on the richness of culture in Kuwait. I would like to add our link www.qattanart.net on your list which is the original site of the Qattan's Art Work including the MIRROR HOUSE you included in one of your articles.
Thank you and best regards

Luminita said...

Thanks for your informative post. Im planning to visit Kuwait for the next Eid. I'm a GCC resident and I thought that would be lovely to visit a new country for 1 day... Any tips and tricks for visitors traveling to Kuwait?...

Hassan Al-Azzam said...

This is really very nice post , thank you very much.

By the way, I am the one who wrote this link : http://al-azzam.maktoobblog.com/806257/kuwait-offers-many-places-of-interest-to-all-age-groups/

Thank you very much for adding my link to your useful post.

I've updated my post on new link with some pictures of interested places to visit in Kuwait:
http://alfanarholidays.com/blog/?p=127

wishing you all the best.

Hassan Al-Azzam

Anonymous said...

Hi, can you please give directions on how to go to Mutlaa Ridge? and how much will it cost to go to Failaka Island? Hope you can suggest me more places here in Kuwait to take sunset photography. Thanks!

27th said...

Hi, can you please give directions as on how to reach Mutlaa Ridge? and how much does it cost to go to Failaka Island? Thanks!

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 12:36 - Mutlaa. Take 4th Ring Road North. Keep going past Jahra. The ridge is the highest area in Kuwait.

It costs 5kd on the boat from Marina Crescent to Failaka for a round trip ticket.

Anonymous said...

I really want to have a boat tour in the Island of Kubbar. I've heard many great things about it. I am also interested to see the scenery because I've never been to any countries in this part of the world. I am sure it is going to be a nice experience. We just had our oban wildlife trips but a tour in the Islands of Kuwait is worth to be tried.