This small city-state has put its violent recent past behind it to become one of the Gulf's most surprising and rewarding destinations
Kuwait has come a long way since February 1991. When Allied forces liberated a battered city shrouded in acrid, black smoke from oil wells set alight by retreating Iraqi troops. Now glitzy hotels, shiny malls and four-lane highways abound, and the white sand beaches look perfect, with every grain of sand is in its place.
Kuwait City offers visitors the greatest rewards. The new Scientific Center boasts the biggest (and most impressive) aquarium in the Middle East, as well as an IMAX cinema and a dhow harbour where the Fateh al-Khair, the last surviving dhow of the pre-oil era, is moored. The Tareq Rajab Museum is an astonishing ethnographic museum, which escaped being plundered by Iraqi invaders because the owner bricked up the entrance door and strewed the way with rubbish. The immaculate corniche comes alive at sunset as people flock to the sea to catch a breeze and dine at the restaurants and coffee shops that line it.
If you find yourself in town between November and April, don't miss out on the opportunity to take in the camel races at the Al-Atraf Camel Racing Club. Races are held most Thursday and Fridays.
- Kuwait Towers – designed by Swedes, built by Yugoslavs and left relatively unscathed by the Iraqi invasion. These spherical towers have become the unofficial symbol of Kuwait, and offer great views over the city at sunset.
- Al-Qurain Martyrs' Museum – a sobering insight into the impact the Iraqi invasion had on ordinary Kuwaiti families.
- The aquarium at the Scientific Center – a wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling shark tank competes with fluorescent jellyfish and black-spotted sweetlips to get your attention.
- Failaka Island – an atmospheric port with old dhows and archaeological sites, including an impressive Greek temple nearby. Take the KPTC ferry from near the scientific centre.
- Kazmah desert cliffs – they offer good views of the bay, but watch out for young Kuwaitis in their jeeps and quads, tearing up the desert.
Kuwait – Vital Statistics
- Capital of Kuwait: Kuwait
- Population of Kuwait: 2.7 million
- Languages in Kuwait: Arabic, English
- Time in Kuwait: GMT +3
- International dialling code in Kuwait: +965
- Voltage in Kuwait: 240V 50Hz
- Visa information for Kuwait: Visa information
- Money in Kuwait: Kuwaiti dinars (KD) Larger banks will exchange travellers cheques. Many places will accept payment by credit card.
- Kuwait travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Kuwait tourist board: Kuwait