Kuwait, although small (its land mass totals only 17,820 sq
km, which is a bit smaller than the state of New Jersey), is rich in petroleum and natural gas — its crude oil
reserves account for about 10% of world reserves. And while
the 1990/1991 Iraqi invasion and occupation, and the Gulf
War, took place less than two decades ago, there is little
sign of its destruction and devastation.
The country has a population of approximately 2.6 million,
of which about 45% are Kuwaitis and the rest are expatriates.
One of Kuwait's most famous landmarks — the Kuwait Towers —
has been completely restored. You can travel by high-speed
elevator to the sphere on the tallest of the three towers (it's
187 metres high) and take in the city from its revolving
observation area and restaurant. One new addition to the
landscape is the 372-metre tall Liberation Tower, which
symbolizes — you guessed it — Kuwait's liberation from Iraq.
To get a closer look at Kuwait's culture and history, head
to one of Kuwait's museums or historical sites. Learn about
traditional Bedouin weaving at the Sadu House, located in the
complex of the Kuwait National Museum, or see
precious Islamic antiques at the aptly named Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (House of Islamic Antiques), or experience traditional pearl diving at
the annual pearl diving festival. There is also the Tareq
Rajab Museum, the Science and Natural History Museum, and the Saif Al-Shamlan Museum.
Visit the Old City Wall Gates, which were originally built in 1922 to
keep out wandering desert tribes. The Folklore Centre, which
is actively preserving and teaching Kuwaiti folklore. And
Doha Village is Kuwait's traditional dhow (a type of boat)
building area. But perhaps more fascinating is the fact that in the 4th century
BCE, the ancient
Greeks colonized an island, called Failaka Island, about 20km (12 miles) off what is now Kuwait City.
You can see some of the island's artifacts in the national museum, and can still take a ferry out to the island today.
For less cerebral fun, Kuwait offers a variety of amusement
parks and entertainment venues. Considered one of the best
amusement parks in the world, Entertainment City is located
only 20km from Kuwait City. It has different themed sections
such as Arab World, The World of Wonders and Surprises, and
Future World. Musical Fountain offers a water show set to
music and coloured lights. And for those hot summer days,
there is the wet and wild
Aqua water park.
Physical pursuits range from swimming (in one of the city's
many pools or in the Arabian Gulf) to horseback riding to
golfing. You can even strap on your ice skates and go for a
twirl at the Skating Hall. If you're into serious lifting —
of shopping bags, that is — your shopping experience in
Kuwait can range from the air-conditioned comfort of a
modern mall, such as The Avenues to the frenetic bargaining in a traditional
souk. Finally, there are large cooperative supermarkets,
gold souks, fresh food markets, and several modern shopping
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken in medical, business, and social circles.
Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, with approximately 85% of the population (including expatriates) being Muslim (these are divided at 70% Sunni and 30% Shi'ite). The remaining 15% include Christians, Hindus, etc.
Kuwait has three Catholic churches and one Catholic mission. There are also a Greek Orthodox Church, an Armenian Orthodox Church, a Coptic Orthodox Church, an Indian Orthodox Syrian Church, a Greek Catholic/Eastern rite church, an Anglican Church, a National Evangelical Church, and a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The local currency is the Kuwaiti dinar. This is shown as KD or KWD. It is not fixed to the US$, like many other Gulf currencies, rather it fluctuates. For the past several months, the range has been approximately 1KD= US$3.56-3.59.
In the summer the heat can be fierce, with daytime temperatures reaching 43-44C (110-112F) or higher. Winter temperatures are much cooler, dropping as low as 7C (45F) at night.
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