Top events in Kuwait

October
01

Races start around 0700 or 0800 at Al-Atraf Camel Racing Club on a track 7km west of Al-Jahra. The camel racing season is between October and...

February
01

Month-long cultural festival celebrating the spring and marked with shopping extravaganzas.

February
25

National Day marks the foundation of Kuwait as a country in 1961. This country-wide celebration includes public meetings, a firework display and...

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Kuwait Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq miles).

Population

2.7 million (2013).

Population density

151.3 per sq km.

Capital

Kuwait City.

Government

Constitutional emirate. Gained full independence from the UK in 1961.

Head of state

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah since 2006.

Head of government

Prime Minister Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah since 2011.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style round two-pin and British-style square three-pin plugs are both used.

Kuwait consitutes a puzzling but intriguing mix of Western liberalism and strict Islam. The capital, Kuwait City, is a bustling metropolis full of the high-rise buildings and luxury hotels. Yet the country is also host to elaborate and opulent mosques and palaces, and its religion is an integral part of its affairs.

This juxtaposition perhaps stems from Kuwait's marrying of Islamism with oil-wealth, mostly traded with Western superpowers. Upon independence from Britain in 1961, Sheikh Abdullah assumed head of state, adopting the title of Emir. The large revenues from oil production allowed independent Kuwait to build up its economic infrastructure and institute educational and social welfare programmes.

In the early 1990s, the emir established a National Assembly (Majlis), which placed limits on the power of the ruling family. Since then, the national assembly has clashed several times with the emir and the cabinet (which is still dominated by the al-Sabah family) over misuse of state funds and poor management of the all-important oil industry. Underlying these disputes is the growing impression that the ageing and increasingly infirm al-Sabah clan is no longer capable of running the country. However, they continue to dominate Kuwaiti policies.

Surrounded by three major Middle Eastern powers, the main threat to the country came from the renewal of Iraqi territorial claims over Kuwait (along with the overdue repayment of some US$40-60 billion on the part of Iraq), which led to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Kuwaitis later recovered their country by virtue of a US-led, UN-backed multinational military force.

After a period of euphoria, the Kuwaitis had to address a number of difficult questions; the future security of the country was dealt with by the signing of defence and security pacts with the USA, the UK and Kuwait's Gulf allies. More recently, Kuwait was one of the first countries to join Operation Iraqi Freedom following the US-led war against Iraq, and provided aid and support during Iraq's (ongoing) process of reconstruction.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 22 April 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Protests take place regularly in Kuwait City and are usually localised and peaceful.

There is a general threat from terrorism.

Following maritime restrictions issued by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior in 2011, you should take care when sailing in Kuwaiti waters.

Take care if you plan to travel in conservative areas like Jahra and Jleeb As Shuyoukh.

Around 6,000 British nationals live in Kuwait and a further 40,000 visit each year. Most visits to Kuwait are trouble-free.

Labour disputes are common and the British Embassy can’t usually intervene.

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