Located in the north-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land area. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait. There is little difference in the country's altitude with the highest point in the country being 306 m above sea-level. It has nine islands, all of which with the exception of Failaka Island are uninhabited. With an area of 860 km², the Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380 m long bridge. Sparse vegetation is found along its 499 km long coastline] Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor.
Kuwait has some of the world's richest oil fields with the Burgan field having a total capacity of approximately 70 billion barrels (1.1×1010 m3) of proven oil reserves. During the 1991 Kuwait oil fires, more than 500 oil lakes were created covering a combined surface area of about 35.7 km². The resulting soil contamination due to oil and soot accumulation had made eastern and south-eastern parts of Kuwait uninhabitable. Sand and oil residue had reduced large parts of the Kuwaiti desert to semi-asphalt surfaces.
Kuwait has an arid continental climate. Summer, which lasts from May to September, is extremely hot and dry with temperatures easily crossing 45 °C (113 °F) during daytime. Winter season, from November through February, is cool with some precipitation and average temperatures around 13 °C (56 °F) with extremes from -2 °C to 27 °C. Annual rainfall averages less than 127 mm and occurs chiefly between October and April. The spring season in March is warm and pleasant with occasional thunderstorms. The frequent winds from the northwest are cool in winter and spring and hot in summer.
Southeasterly winds, usually hot and damp, spring up between July and October; hot and dry south winds prevail in spring and early summer. The shamal, a northwesterly wind common during June and July.
Kuwait is divided into six governorates :
Being a highly cosmopolitan society, Kuwait has a diverse and vibrant culture. However, the influence of Islamic and Arab culture on its architecture, music, attire, cuisine and lifestyle is prominent. The most distinctive characteristic of local Kuwaiti culture are the diwaniyas, a large reception room used for social gatherings attended mostly by close family members. While the Islamic dress code is not compulsory, many Kuwaiti men prefer wearing thawb, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton while some women wear abaya, black over-garment covering most parts of the body.
This attire is particularly well-suited for Kuwait's hot and dry climate. Western-style clothing is also fairly popular, especially among Kuwait's youth. Seafood has been the mainstay of the Kuwaiti diet for centuries. The Arabs in the Arabian Gulf region played a crucial role in the spice trade between India and Europe and spices have remained an important ingredient of Kuwaiti cuisine. Traditional Kuwaiti cuisine includes Machboos or Kabsa which borrows heavily from South Asian cuisine.
Kuwait has an extensive, modern and well-maintained network of highways. Roadways extended 5,749 km, of which 4,887 km is paved. In 2000, there were some 552,400 passenger cars, and 167,800 commercial taxis, trucks, and buses in use. Bus services are provided by City Bus and state-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Corporation.
There are a total of seven airports in the country, of which four have paved runways. Kuwait International Airport serves as the principal hub for international air travel. State-owned Kuwait Airways is the largest airline in the country.
Kuwait has one of the largest shipping industries in the Arabian Gulf region. The Kuwait Ports Public Authority manages and operates ports across Kuwait. The country’s principal commercial seaports are Shuwaikh and Shuaiba. Mina Al-Ahmadi, the largest port in the country, handles most of Kuwait's oil exports.
With a history of more than 380 years and a rapid pace of development, which never lost sight of its heritage, Kuwait has many places of interest for both the young and the old.
Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah
Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI), The Islamic Art Museum, is a public institution based on the private collection of Islamic art formed by Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah since 1975. It was loaned to the State of Kuwait in 1983 to be exhibited at Kuwait National Museum.
Over 30,000 objects of art from the 8th to the 18th century AD covering all the Islamic lands from al-Andalus, Spain to the boarders of China constitute the core of Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, around which a variety of cultural activities revolve.
Public lectures, seminars, art courses, archaeological field trips, musical recitals and audio-visual programs are introduced annually in Kuwait, to enhance the public awareness and appreciation of Islamic history, art, architecture and archaeology, along with in-house publications on objects from the collection and other areas of knowledge.
Under the auspices of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, DAI hosts a series of lectures on Islamic history, art, architecture and archaeology given by internationally known scholars. Most lectures are in English. Please call or email for more information on 563-6561 / 6528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building
The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building, situated in Shuwaikh area near Kuwait City, blends modern architectural techniques with traditional artisan crafts. Completed in 1994, it is home to four major Arab organizations: the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company.
Designed to exclude the heat while retaining as much natural light as possible, a considerable challenge, the Arab Organizations Headquarters Building stands as one of the most exciting examples of innovative architecture to emerge in Kuwait. Careful study was made of the angle of the sun's rays throughout the year in order to calculate the shape and depth of the windows in each direction. The artificial lighting has been specially designed to give the effect of daylight, adding to the overall brightness of the space.
The interior of the building reveals a treasure trove of Arab artisan crafts and design.
Considered one of the most acclaimed buildings in the Middle East, it draws thousands of visitors from across the globe.
The Liberation Tower
The symbol of Kuwaiti liberation, the unmistakable sign of the country's resurgence, the Liberation Tower is one of the tallest telecommunications towers in the world.
HH the late Amir, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, inaugurated this telecommunications tower in Kuwait City on March 10, 1996. This 372-metre structure is about 40 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower! It was named after the multinational coalition that liberated the nation from seven months of Iraqi occupation during the Gulf War. The tower has now become a symbol of resurgent Kuwait. The structure uses ceramic tiles on the facade from the base to the first mezzanine level, which is about 308 meters above the ground. Three light natural shades provide a geometric design from the base.
The tower and the telecommunications complex is divided into three working areas, A public communications center; the revolving observation level and restaurant at 150 meters; and the adjacent plant and equipment structure.
There are 18 elevators, two of which are glass enclosed and can accommodate 21 passengers each. They are also among the fastest in the world at 6.3 meters per second. Above the revolving mezzanine, six floors of offices with a total floor space of 12,000 sq m rise up and out in a section encased in anodized aluminum, designed to withstand Kuwait's extreme temperatures.
One of Kuwait's most famous landmarks, the Kuwait Towers are situated on Arabian Gulf Street on a promontory to the east of the City center in Dasman. The uppermost sphere of the largest tower (which is 187 meters high) has a revolving observation area and a restaurant with access by high speed lifts. The middle tower contains 1 million gallons of water.
The pyramid-shaped mosque in Ras Salmiya and the Fatima Mosque in Abdullah Al-Salem are fine examples of modern architecture. The Grand Mosque, opposite the Seif Palace, is an example of several traditional Islamic styles using modern technology while retaining the local characteristics of Kuwait as well as preserving the Islamic tradition of calligraphy. There are several examples of mosques dating from the last century still in use around Kuwait City.
Amusement Parks and Resorts
The government's success in molding the harsh desert environment of Kuwait can be seen in public parks as also along the sides on many main roads and boulevards. Many of the parks have amusement centers and children's play facilities. There are also several amusement parks dedicated to keeping children actively enthralled for hours at a time.
The Kuwait Touristic Enterprises Company (KTEC) manages three recreational parks. Each park features rides and amusement activities.
Resorts and Chalets
Chalets and other weekend accommodation can be rented in many places along the southern part of the coast. Khiran Resort is a KTEC facility with several hundred chalets and studio flats, a yacht club and a 240-berth fully serviced marina, swimming pools, playgrounds, sports and health facilities, shops, a supermarket and coffee shops.
Many of Kuwait's sea clubs offer a wide variety of facilities and activities such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, beaches, tennis courts, gymnasiums, bowling and even karate. Five sea clubs - Ras Al-Ardh, B'neid Al-Gar, Bida, Shaab and Fahaheel - are run by the KTEC. Each club has a special day or time for women and children only.
The Kuwait Sea Sports Club are government-owned and has facilities for all major sea sports. There are also several private sea clubs.
An old house located next to Al-Sadu house, Bayt Al-Bader was built between 1838 and 1848. It possesses a fine example of the famous front doors of old Kuwait. Local handicrafts are sometimes displayed here
Science and Natural History Museum
The museum contains displays relating to the petroleum industry, natural history, aviation, machinery, electronics, space and zoology, as well as a health hall and a planetarium. Much of the Science and Natural History Museum has been restored since Liberation. The Science and Natural History Museum is located on Abdullah Mubarak Street.
The site of a bloody battle between the Kuwaitis and the Iraqis just before Liberation, Al-Qurain House is now a museum dedicated to those who laid their lives. It is situated in the new Qurain housing area. There are several other such monuments around the City and the country.
The Municipality maintains several public gardens around the country. One of the most popular is in Fahd Al-Salem Street. All the gardens are well designed with naturally shaded areas.
Located in Omarrya on the Airport Road, the Kuwait Zoo covers 180,000 sq meters of parkland. Very few of the zoo's animals survived the Iraqi occupation but through a dedicated reconstruction program the zoo reopened in February 1993. Today it houses 65 species of animals, 129 species of birds and few types of reptiles, apart from other animals such as lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras, etc.
Located near the Ice Skating Rink on the 1st Ring Road, and badly damaged during the Occupation but now fully refurbished, the Musical Fountain provides a unique and delightful sight and sound show of musical fountains, every night during summer season.
Visitors interested in more intellectual leisure pursuits will find plenty of opportunities in modern Kuwait.
Kuwait Science Club
Open to members of all nationalities, the Science Club is situated on the 6th Ring Road. Managed by a group of enthusiastic amateurs, the Club's amazing range of facilities and the latest in scientific hardware includes the Aujairy Observatory. The Club aims at creating an informal environment where people of all ages, can develop their scientific hobbies.
Art and Artists
The government of Kuwait has, over the years, actively encouraged the development of artistic talent and has provided funding for artists to study abroad.
In Kuwait, the Free Atelier was founded in 1960 to provide technical help and professional instruction to students and its full time artists have their studios on the premises on Arabian Gulf Street.
There are several commercial international art galleries in Kuwait, which displays art works for local and international artists.
Theatres and Musical Societies
The first amateur plays were performed in Kuwait in 1922. In 1945, the first group of Kuwaiti drama students went to study at the Egyptian Higher Institute for Acting. When they returned, they formed the nucleus of the Acting Society. This in turn became the foundation of an extremely popular form of entertainment, playing in theatres in Kaifan, Shamiya and Dasma. In 1959, the Institute of Theatre Studies was founded in Kuwait. In the 1960s a number of theatrical troupes, such as the Arab Theatre and the Popular Theatre were founded. Today, the continuing popularity of Arab theatre in Kuwait is impressive in view of the strong competition from videos.
The Kuwait Players Association was established in 1952. Kuwait Little Theatre was established in 1948 at Ahmadi zone, which produced plays professionally. This theatre was almost totally destroyed but was rebuilt and now, with its premises refurbished, is in a position to produce musicals and dramas throughout the year, as well as its traditional year-end pantomime. The Kuwait Singers is composed of a group of music lovers. With at least a dozen different nationalities in the group at any one time, they perform a series of shows per year, and are always interested in welcoming more singers.
With a small core of active musicians, the Kuwait Folk Club welcomes newcomers. Music played is mainly acoustic European folk music using guitar, fiddle, harmonics, etc.
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