State of Kuwait
Kuwait is about 18,000 square kilometers (7,500 square miles) in area and is
situated at the top of the Arabian Gulf, in the North Eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered on the North and west by Iraq, on the South by Saudi Arabia, and on the East by the Arabian Gulf. The land is flat to slightly undulating plains, covered with short tough grass and small brushes. The soil is sandy but rather firm. The population is about 2.6 million people (2012 est.), the majority living in Kuwait City and the surrounding areas. The remaining inhabits the small towns as well as coastal towns. The people engage in commerce, industry and general trade. Main industries are petroleum, petrochemicals, water desalination, food processing, building materials and construction.
Kuwait is an independent Arab State, which became a member of the United Nations in May 1963. It is a state in which succession is confined to descendants of the Al-Sabah family. The present Amir, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, acceded in January 2006, is the fourteenth Amir of Kuwait. The Crown Prince is His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah and Prime Minister is His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.
Kuwait has both a cosmopolitan and traditional society in which the new employee will find welcoming people and a safe environment to work and live.
There is no income tax or sales tax in the State of Kuwait.
Most of Kuwait is a flat sandy land. The highest point (Salmi) is 300 meters above sea level. It has a long coastline of 290 km. There are a number of islands, mainly Bubiyan, Failaka, Warba, Umm Al-Maradem, Auha, Umm Al-Namel, QaruH and Kubbar. Bubiyan is the largest, whereas Failaka is the richest in historical sites.
Flag of Kuwait
The flag of Kuwait (Arabic: علم الكويت) was adopted on September 7, 1961, and officially hoisted November 24, 1961.
Before 1961, the flag of Kuwait, like those of other Gulf states, was red and white with the word "الكويت" in the middle. The present flag is in the Pan-Arab colours, but each colour is also significant in its own right. Black represents the defeat of the enemy, while red is the colour of blood on the Kuwaiti swords. White symbolizes purity, and green is for the fertile land.
The colours' meaning came from a poem by Safie Al-Deen Al-Hali:
- White are our deeds
- Black are our battles
- Green are our lands
- Red are our swords
Rules of hanging and flying the flag:
- Horizontally: The green stripe should be on top.
- Vertically: The black stripe should be on the left side of the flag.
Kuwait is known for its long and hot summer. Winter is short and mild.
Temperature ranges in average from 45º C in summer to 8º in winter. Rainfall is generally low. It varies drastically from year to year. Some times it rains 23 mm throughout the year, but it may rise to 350 mm the next. Although it is mainly a desert country, greenery can be seen all over Kuwait at spring.
Spring normally starts in mid February until end of April. Lovely weather, with occasional rainfalls, sand storms and hot winds and fluctuations in temperature.
Summer lasts from mid May till the end of September. This season is characterized by humidity and high temperature that may reach 50º C in July and August. The scorching heat forces most Kuwaitis to leave the country to spend the summer in cooler places. Expatriates are advised to avoid prolonged exposure to sun and wear light cotton clothes. Excessive humidity in September.
With its only one-month (November) duration, autumn is hardly noticeable. Characterized by slight drop in temperature, and nights start to feel cold.
Winter starts at the beginning of December and ends in mid February. Occasional heavy thunderstorms and cold winds may occure, with flash-floods in certain years.
Loyalty and self-reliance are important traditional virtues of the Kuwaiti society.
The official religion of the State of Kuwait is Islam, and followers are being known as Muslims. The official language is Arabic. English is widely spoken.
Islam has much in common with Christianity, but differs chiefly in that it teaches that the final Divine Revelation was given to man through the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) who was born about the year 570 A.D.
The five fundamental principles of Islam are:
There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the Messenger of God.
Prayers are held five times a day.
Giving of alms.
Observation of fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Holly month of Ramadan is a time of fasting for Muslims. During this month, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset. The non-Muslims employees should respect this solemn religious practice in public places. It is also important to remember that alcohol and pork in any form are forbidden to the Muslims by their religion at all times, and should never be offered to anyone who professes the faith.
The Fasting begins 11 days earlier each year, and is for a period of one month. This period is similar to the Christian Lent. In the interests of courtesy, expatriate employees should familiarize themselves with this and other customs of the people of Kuwait.
Diwaniyas are an indispensable feature of Kuwait’s social and political life. They take place in the evening in a special built room, which is usually separated from the rest of the owner’s house.
Kuwait has a long tradition of story telling poetry, folk dancing and music. Traditional tales of the desert and the sea, children stories, riddles and proverbs are all found in the folklore and the music of Kuwait. Poetry, with historical and modern styles and themes, is still being written in Kuwait.
There are a number of Mosques and two Churches in Ahmadi.
Branches of the following banks are located in Ahmadi and Fahaheel:
National Bank of Kuwait
Bank of Kuwait and the Middle East
Kuwait Finance House
Al-Ahli Bank of Kuwait
Kuwait Real Estate Bank
Banks are weekly closed on Fridays & Saturdays. These banks provide all local and international banking services. A photocopy of the I.D. is the only document the bank would require to open an account. General terms of the accounts, such as interest rates, minimum balance, charges, frequency of withdrawals, vary from bank to another. One may check with each in order to find the most personally convenient account.
Kuwait has a decimal currency. The Kuwaiti Dinar (KD) is divided into 1,000 fils.
The notes comprise 1/4 Dinar, 1/2 Dinar, 1,5,10 and 20 Dinars. Coins are minted in 1,5,10,20,50 and 100-fils denomination but 1 fils coins are not commonly found in circulation. (At the time of press, one Kuwaiti Dinar was approximately equivalent to US$ 3.30).
There are no restrictions on the transfer or exchange of currencies to/from Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Dinar is freely convertible.
All major credit cards are widely used throughout the commercial activities and high-class shops and restaurants.
There is no income tax or sales tax in the State of Kuwait.
Shopping is quite easy and convenient. There are shops that cater for most of the requirements, in South Ahmadi and many more in Fahaheel, the local town 8 kilometers away. Opening hours are generally from 9 am to 10 pm Sunday to Friday inclusive. Some shops open on Saturday's afternoon.
In Kuwait City, the employee will find many international shops such as American Home Stores, British Home Stores, Marks & Spencer, Mother Care and IKEA. The main shopping area in Kuwait is at Salem Al-Mubarak St. in Salmiya, where a big concentration of elite shops that sell most internationally known brands is located. Marina Mall is a newly opened complex there for fanciful clothes sold by up-market shops.
Sooq Sharq is near the fish market and Seif Palace. All international big names have branches there. One may take days to view the widest range available of all types of goods. Many good restaurants and recreation shops there can help one spend the whole day.
Salhiya Center, is at down town Kuwait, adjacent to GW Marriot Hotel; it sells famous fashion brand names, including YSL, Bulgari, Hermes, Christian Dior, Chanel, etc…
The Avenues, located on the fifth ring road, host the widest selection of international brands in the region spread over 216 stores including Kuwait's first Carrefour hypermarket, the region's largest IKEA store, Cinescape, (a ten-screen Cinema complex), 39 restaurants and cafes. In addition to hosting a wide range of well-known brands, The Avenues introduce new fashion brands to the Kuwaiti marketplace, such as Forever 21, Banana Republic, and The White Co. The mall also includs Starbucks Cafe, Debenhams, Mothercare, Boots, Next, H&M, and Foot Locker. Other supermarkets, like City Center and Sultan Center sell almost all daily and household needs. There are also local branches of Kuwait Cooperative stores for foodstuffs located in all areas.
As well, the popular every Friday Flee Market at 4th Ring Road, provides a nice opportunity to choose among very wide varieties of household items, such carpets, furniture, curtains and almost every thing, sold in the open.
It is virtually essential to have a car in Kuwait, as public transport is limited. If the employee’s accommodation is in any of the Company’s rented apartment blocks outside Ahmadi, KOC will provide transport to and from work.
You can find in Kuwait hundreds of excellent restaurants that offer all ethnic and regional cuisines of the world, ranging from Arabic, Italian and Indian, to Persian, American, Mexican, Philippino and Chinese and many others. Arabic take-away shops can be found almost in every street. With less than half a Dinar, these offer Shaworma, falafel, cheese pies and many other snacks and delicacies. Other similar ones provide kebab, Hummus and Mutabbal at around 1-1.5 Dinar a head for whole meal. Almost all of them, including large restaurants, have free of charge home-delivery service.
American fast food restaurants, such as Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Hardee’s, Dominos Pizza and the whole bunch, have numerous branches scattered almost every where.
High-class restaurants can be found at 5 stars hotels. At prices ranging between KD 5 to 15, these offer superb food at a stylish atmosphere. Most recommended is Al-Boom, a giant dhow anchored beside Radisson–SAS Hotel, Salwa. It offers excellent seafood and many other specialties. Mais Al-Ghanem in Gulf Street is specialized in the Lebanese food, such as kebab, mezzas and other famous healthy Mediterranean food. All hotels have buffets where, at a reasonably fixed price for a head, guests may stuff themselves without any limit from a wide variety of high quality cuisines.
Kuwait enjoys quite a modern road system. There are two main highways stretch from Kuwait City in the north and Al-Ahmadi in the south; King Fahad (40) and King Abdul Aziz (30), with seven ring roads inter-cross these two highways. Such makes movement throughout Kuwait very easy. Speed Limit on King Fahad, King Abdul Aziz and Airport highways is 120 km per hour, which is reduced to 100 and 80 km/h upon approaching Kuwait city. Some roads have minimum speed of 50 or 70 km/h. Speed limit is 45 km/h in urban areas. Signs are in English & Arabic. Driving is on the right side, and seat belts are compulsory. Children under 10 years of age are not allowed to sit at the front seat.
Driving in excess of the speed limit and violation of red light will add up 4 points to the count. The License is suspended for 3 months when the tally becomes 14 points for the first time, six months for 12 points for the second time and will be permanently annulled if reached 6 points for the fifth. In addition to the points, monetary fines, ranging between KD 20 and KD 50, shall be paid for each violation. Recklessness or driving under alcohol, even if not involved in an accident, further leads to jail penalties.
Cars, Car Registration, and Driving License
Employees with families, and most bachelors, find it almost essential to buy a car
soon after they arrive in Kuwait. For this purpose, the employee is advised to transfer sufficient funds to cove the purchase at least of a second hand car. The Company gives no loan facility. Considerable ranges of new and second-hand cars are available, including American, Japanese, European and Korean makes. Air-conditioning is regarded as a necessity rather than a luxury.
All vehicles must be registered annually with the Local Traffic Department. The fee for this is nominal, but the vehicle must at least have a third party insurance and must pass a technical inspection.
Gasoline in Kuwait is one of the cheapest in the world. It is sold at 60 fils per liter for unleaded premium and 65 fils for super premium. The vast majority of petrol stations are open 24-hours, self-service and conveniently distributed all-over Kuwait. All are government owned.
All new arrivals in Kuwait who have home driving licenses are required to pass a driving test and associated eye test before they are issued a Kuwaiti Driving License. This can be done only after the employee has the Residence Permit stamped in his/her passport. Cost of license is KD 30. Generally, Westerners can obtain a Kuwaiti Driving License without a driving Test. Non-Westerners are required to undertake a test.
Leisure and Recreation
Kuwait has many attractions to spend joyful times. Aqua-Park, Entertainment
City (Tel. 24879545), Showbiz (Tel. 25714094), Al-Shaab (Tel. 25613777), Fahaheel Marine Club, and others, offer a wide range of amusements for the whole family. Al-Khiran Resort (Tel. 23951122) is 80 km south of Al-Ahmadi. It includes chalets and flats, with a wide variety of facilities, such as marina, swimming pools, yachting, sports and children areas.
Opportunity is available all-year around for water sports fans. Swimming, fishing, surfing and boating can be enjoyed off most beaches. Kuwait is rich in coral reefs that give the scuba divers rare opportunities to practice their hobbies and marvel the sea bottom scenery. Such trips can be made from Fahaheel area. Horse riding, camel-racing, ice-skating and many other local and international sports can be enjoyed in Kuwait.
A number of centers are available. The National Museum (Tel. 22451195) houses Islamic Arts collections and artifacts from Alexander the Great era collected from Failaka Island.
Tareq Rajab Museum (Tel. 22318060) holds a large collection of Islamic arts, jewelry, manuscripts and artifacts.
The Scientific Center (Tel. 1848888) has the largest Aquarium in the Middle East, together with IMAX Cinema and Children’s Discovery Place.
Kuwait Zoo (Tel. 24733389), a nice place for the family with its wide variety of animals and birds.
Weights and Measurements
Kuwait uses the international metric measurement system: meter is the unit for length, kilogram for weight, liter for liquid and centigrade for temperature. However, technical sections in KOC use inch, pound and gallon.
The electric supply is A/C 220 volts 50 cycles in Kuwait.<
Water is distilled from the sea by desalination plants. The water from the tab is perfectly safe for drinking. Locally bottled water, however, is available and is sold at 90 fils per bottle. Imported, bottle of water, like Evian from France, can be found at 300 fils.
Kuwait timing is +3:00 GMT. There is no summer save timing.