Located in the vast desert wilderness of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is the perfect destination for travelers who wish to experience both the rich heritage and the modern splendor of the Arab world. There's plenty to do in Kuwait, whether you prefer beautiful beaches, luxury shopping, or savory, exotic dishes. You can have a seat in a contemporary coffee shop or wander the alleys of the old souks to mingle with the locals. The Kuwaitis are lively people that embrace the traditional values of Islam while soaring into the 21st century with gusto. Follow their lead, and experience all the charm and brilliance that Kuwait has to offer.
Despite its luxury shopping malls, the traditional markets in the older parts of Kuwait continue to thrive. These open-air markets, or souks, maintain the spirit of old Kuwait with their colorful vendors, delicious aromas and Arab antiques. The Souk Al-Mubarakiya in Kuwait City is the largest in the country; you'll need at least a couple of hours to wander the packed alleys and barter with local shopkeepers for jewelry, souvenirs or exotic spices. If you get hungry, just stop in at one of the countless eateries serving tasty halal dishes, and wash it down with a hot cup of brewed tea.
The Liberation Tower has been a symbol of freedom to Kuwaitis ever since its completion after the Gulf War. The ceramic tile facade and geometric design draw your eye up toward a peak that's over 130 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower. The most popular of these sites, however, are the Kuwait Towers. They are home to restaurants, cafes, reception halls, and a rotating observation deck. The price of admission to Kuwait Towers is quite reasonable, but the view of the sun setting over the city skyline is priceless.
Artist Lidia al-Qattan transformed a broken mirror into a beautiful mosaic, which then inspired her to apply the same treatment to an entire home. The Mirror House's white brick exterior is the perfect canvas for mirrored mosaic planets, butterflies, stars and calligraphy. The artwork inside the house spans from floor to ceiling, with room after room of mirrors and colored tiles arranged into spectacular designs. A modestly priced entrance fee includes tea and cakes, and a guided tour of the house and galleries. The home is still used as a private residence, so appointments are mandatory but well worth the effort.
With over 300 miles of beautiful coastline, there are several beaches and beach parks to choose from during your stay. Al Oqeila Beach is popular with tourists; the vibrant culture and thriving nightlife make it a great place for socializing and people-watching. The nearby cafes and restaurants mean you won't have to go far for a bite of savory Kuwaiti cuisine. Messilah Beach is the largest one in the country, boasting three separate swimming pools, barbecue facilities, parks, and walkways. Salwa Beach is further south and has rocky promontories from which to enjoy the ocean view, as well as play areas for families. Be sure to stay for at least one sunset over the dreamy blue waters.
Failaka Island, located just over 12 miles off the coast, was first colonized by Mesopotamians over 4,000 years ago. Archeologists and tourists have flocked to this little island to learn more about the history of humankind while enjoying its unique climate. A day trip to Failaka Island is not too cheap, but the price includes transportation to and around the island, and a buffet lunch, making it a good value. Enjoy an up-close look at the remains of ancient villages and a temple from Alexander the Great's time on Failaka. Then, make your way to the graveyard of vehicles left behind from the Iraqi invasion in 1990. Plan your trip during the springtime to enjoy the balmy weather and see the flowers in bloom.
In the heart of Kuwait City lies one of the country's most treasured landmarks. The Grand Mosque is Kuwait's official mosque, accommodating over 100,000 worshippers during Ramadan. You don't have to be Muslim to step inside this impressive structure, however. Free guided tours are available to visitors who come outside of prayer time and Ramadan. After the tour, feel free to ask your guide any questions about the mosque or Islam. Muslims are happy to share their faith and encourage curiosity from all visitors.
The traditional art of Al Sadu, or textile weaving, has long been a colorful part of the Bedouin culture. Sadly, the artform has slowly begun to disappear in modern times. Sadu House in Kuwait City hopes to educate locals and tourists with its collection of Bedouin artifacts and handmade goods. The museum welcomes guests free of charge to tour the exhibition at their own pace. Authentic Sadu goods at the gift shop are handmade by local Bedouins and of the finest quality. Help support this ancient craft by purchasing an authentic handicraft, then relax at the coffee shop while enjoying the Bedouin artwork.
Past and present leaders of the country have prided themselves on their extraordinary collection of luxury vintage vehicles, many of them linked to significant moments in Kuwait's past. The Historical, Vintage and Classic Car Museum in Kuwait City is the permanent home for His Majesty's priceless collection. From British-made Aston Martins to classic Hollywood film cars, these rare and most expensive cars on the planet are worth a visit. Admission is free of charge, so don't hesitate to escape the Middle Eastern heat by visiting this exciting museum.
Whether you're traveling solo or with your family, the musical fountains at the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center in Kuwait City are a special treat. Over 200 fountains in three large pools dance in synchronization to traditional Kuwaiti tunes. Performances are staggered throughout the day, which makes the attraction popular among locals and tourists looking for a pleasant spot to relax. Take a walk along the path to enjoy the fountains up close, and if you've got time, wait for the sunset performance. Admission is free most days, which means there may be some room left in the budget for hot tea and a delicious dessert.
The Avenues Mall in Kuwait City is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Kuwait. Whether or not you enjoy shopping, it would be a shame to miss out on the effortless fusion of traditional and contemporary designs that characterize this structure. The mall has several distinct shopping districts, including Grand Avenue, which resembles the Champs-Elysees in Paris, and SoKu, modeled after New York's bohemian Soho district. The Souk district pays homage to the country's original outdoor markets, with the benefit of air conditioning. Spend a couple of hours wandering the districts, then grab a bite at one of many eateries.