Places of Interest
With a history of around 400 years and a rapid pace of development, which never lost sight of its heritage, Kuwait has many historical, modern, beautiful and significant tourist spots to cater to everybody’s entertainment.
Located in Kuwait City on the Arabian Gulf Street between the Seif Palace and the National Assembly (Parliament), the Kuwait National Museum was planned by Michel Ecochard. Though the architectural project and the plans of the museum were ready in 1960, actual construction started only in 1981. It was on 23 February 1983 that two of the four buildings were inaugurated; the planetarium was opened on 16 February 1986.
The museum reflects the national identity, featuring the social, economic, political and religious life of the Kuwaiti people. Stripped and burnt by the Iraqi invaders, it houses the Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah (DAI) or the Al-Sabah collection of Islamic art, one of the most comprehensive collections in the world ranging from early Islam to the 18th century. Iraq has today returned over 90 per cent of the collection. A variety of scholarly and artistic activities revolve around this collection, each requiring a broad and intensive background in Islamic history. The collection itself is organised according to both historical period and geographical region. To give viewers a comprehensive look at the artefacts, the reference library and the various publications of the Hadeeth ad-Dar (the journal associated with the collection) maintain a close conjunction with the DAI.
The visitors to National Museum can also catch a glimpse of the customs, traditions and heritage. It is designed as a traditional mud house, displaying the old life in Kuwait with all its manifestations including old souk, pearl diving and ship building, ethnographic artefacts and archaeological material from excavations on Failaka Island.
Bayt Al-Badr (Al-Badr House)
An old house located next to Al-Sadu house, Bayt Al-Badr was built between 1838 and 1848. In 1968, this house was joined to the Museum of Antiquities for displaying old Kuwaiti architecture. In 1976, it became a temporary abode for the Kuwait National Museum.
Al-Badr house is considered as a model of old Kuwaiti traditions, embodying the economical and social condition of Kuwait’s society in the past. It is also characterised by the architectural plan and the local construction materials that have been kept in good condition throughout the years.
It possesses a fine example of the famous front doors of old Kuwait. Local handicrafts are sometimes displayed here.
Kuwait’s roots are entwined with both the sea and the desert. The bedouins lived a life governed by the rhythm of the seasons. A traditional craft of major importance was Sadu weaving, characterised by geometric designs woven by hand with dyed, spun and coloured wool. Sadu weaving is still alive in the nomadic culture, which gave birth to it.
Kuwait Science Club
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.
This is the largest Aquarium to be built in the Middle East by Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of the Sciences (KFAS) in 2000.
It has three main sections: An Aquarium where visitors can focus on the natural habitats of the sea, with underground passages rich in marine life, natural habitats of the coastal edges and the desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The Discovery Cover allows children to burn off excess energy and conduct scientific experiments and the IMAX Theatre which offers a variety of science-oriented 2D and 3D movies.
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 centre in Dasman. The uppermost sphere of the largest tower (which is 187 metres high) has a revolving observation area and a restaurant with access by high speed lifts. The lower sphere rotates every half an hour, providing the visitors with a fantastic view of Kuwait. Cameras with zoom lens are forbidden. The middle tower is a water reservoir with a height of 147 metres, while the last tower controls electricity in Kuwait City with a height of 113 metres.
The Liberation Tower
The symbol of Kuwaiti liberation, the unmistakable sign of the country’s resurgence, the Liberation Tower is the fifth tallest telecommunications tower in the world.
This telecommunication tower in Kuwait City was inaugurated by the late the Amir, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on March 10, 1996. This 372-metre structure is about 40 metres 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 metres 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 centre; the revolving observation level and restaurant at 150 metres; 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 metres 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 anodised aluminium, designed to withstand Kuwait’s extreme temperatures.
Green Island is an artificial island situated in the Arabian Gulf. It includes a touristic tower of 35 metre height, a children’s castle with water filled trenches and small waterfalls. This island includes all entertaining facilities, in addition to an open Roman theatre with a capacity of 700 spectators for festivals and beauty contests for pets. The island offers a number of restaurants and a classic service centre.
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 visited by worshipers around Kuwait City.
AMUSEMENT PARKS AND RESORTS
The government’s success in moulding 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 centres and children’s play facilities. There are also several amusement parks dedicated to keeping children actively enthralled for hours at a time.
Hawally Park: Located in Hawally area, this is a fun centre for whole family. It includes various rides, games, restaurants and large bookstore.
Al-Shaab Leisure Park: The park overlooks the Arabian Gulf street. It has numerous games and rides for the whole family. It also includes ice-skating and roller-skating rinks as well as a cinema and theatre, in addition to many fast food restaurants.
Aqua Park: A significant landmark overlooking the sea beside the Kuwait Towers with a total area of 74,000 square metres, it is distinguished by many water rides including a swimming pool, artificial waves for both children and adults, and fast spiralling water. Every Tuesday is designated for women only.
Messilah Water Village: It is considered one of the most significant touristic amusement centres with its building covered with bamboo and fireproof teakwood. It is situated at the Arabian Gulf street, in Messilah area. Here one can enjoy waterslides, Ehmedo Volcano and water theatres, considered to be the first of its kind in Kuwait.
The first and the largest amusement part established in Kuwait is situated in Al-Doha area in northern Kuwait. Badly damaged during the occupation (1990-91) when many of its facilities were looted and taken to Baghdad. The complex provides a complete range of amusements based on themes:
1. Arab World – Includes Gulf fishing boats, Sinbad the sailor, etc
2. International World – Includes African boats, Australian Gondola, European cars, cowboy arena, etc.
3. Future World – Includes the space dome, arcade gym games, desert storm, etc.
There are various fast food restaurants and cafes catering to everybody’s tastes. It is considered one of the best amusement parks in the world.
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; Ras Al-Ardh is reserved exclusively for women and children.
The Kuwait Sea Sports Club is government-owned and has facilities for all major sea sports. There are also several private sea clubs.
Yacht Club: This club is located at the Arabian Gulf Street in Salmiya. It offers boat slips and all boat maintenance related services. Exhibition on boats and marine equipment are held annually. The club also organises speed boat races and championships. It has a playground for children and a large hall for conferences.
Located in Omarrya on the Airport Road, the Kuwait Zoo covers 180,000 sq metres of parkland. Very few of the zoo’s animals survived the Iraqi occupation but through a dedicated reconstruction programme the zoo reopened in February 1993. Today it houses various species of animals, birds and reptiles, apart from other animals such as lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras, etc.
The musical fountain is the fourth of its kind in the world. It is located near the Ice Skating Rink on the 1st Ring Road. The fountain provides a unique and delightful sight for light and sound show of musical fountains. Parties and organised and children entertainment is provided.
Visitors interested in more intellectual leisure pursuits will find plenty of opportunities in modern Kuwait.
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. Visitors are welcome between 9 am and 1 pm every day except Thursday and Friday.
There are several commercial international art galleries in Kuwait, notably in Salhiya Complex and in Salmiya. SHE Art Gallery in Salmiya, near the Zahra Complex, displays art works by Jose Fernandez, a Spanish artist and art critic who has several other outlets in major capital cities. Those interested in Arabic themes executed by renowned Spanish, Italian and French artists, such as Marian Ribas, Calderon, Anthonio Arias, Suarez, etc, will find this shop interesting as all works are original and commissions can be accepted to order.
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.
Before the invasion there were at least four English language theatres in Kuwait, providing a high standard of plays, pantomimes and musicals.
Established in 1952, the Kuwait Players has resurrected itself very successfully after Liberation, and puts on nine or 10 superb shows (dramas and musicals) each season. These are advertised in the daily newspapers. Established in 1948, the Kuwait Little Theatre in Ahmadi, which produced plays professionally, was almost totally destroyed by Iraqi vandalism in 1990. In 1994, the company rebuilt itself 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 and R&B using guitar, fiddle, harmonics, etc.