Top tourism attractions in Kuwait city
June 8, 2015 | 1:12 PM
by Amitabh Jha
kuwait city

Long off the tourist radar, Kuwait has plans to change the status quo. In its effort to do so Kuwait Airways, the country's flagship carrier, which also happens to be one of the oldest in the region, along with its tourism arm KU Holidays, recently organised a three day familiarisation trip for journalists in Oman.

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The audacity of the choice, Oman being a tourism power house recognised globally, was striking and a pointer to serious intent. A pointed question from Kuwait Airways Chief Commercial Officer Philip Saunders revealed that only 15 per cent of the select group of journalists, often known to be a peripatetic tribe, had ever been to Kuwait.

By the end of the three-day trip, during which the group visited the main tourism attractions in and around the capital and sampled some delectable culinary delights, were left asking for more. Rightly so, since they had not been to the striking beaches till then, informed Alfio Bernadini, General Manager of Symphony Style Hotel.

The hotel which was launched in 2011 as Hotel Missoni Kuwait itself is no less striking. Set on a 12,000sqm of prime location of Symphony Center on Arabian Gulf Road in Salmiya, the famous shopping district of the town, 169 uniquely designed rooms and suites by Rosita Missoni and the famous Italian designer Mattheo Thun embody the simplicity, elegance, and warmth of the hotel's graceful surrounds. All the rooms and suites are having stunning views overlooking the Arabian Gulf Road.

There you can have an authentic Italian dining experience at "Cucina" savour chocolate and coffee beverages combined with sweet and savoury fresh dishes at "Choco Cafe" or go to the lively Luna Restaurant & Sushi Bar on the 18th floor which offers stunning views overlooking the gulf.

The estate showcases not only the new lifestyle hotel but also high end shopping boutiques and exclusive offices, world renowned Six Senses Spa, Missoni wedding experience and endless sunshine throughout the year, says Bassel Nassif who took us on a quick tour of the hotel including the royal suite.

On the second day of the visit Hani Elrazzaz, head of KU Holidays had arranged a tour of the city for us which was conducted by Hemanta Suranga from Kuwait Tourism Services and took us first to the dhow harbour where lines of fishing dhows stood tethered to the shore. Incidentally, Kuwait is home to the Al-Hashemi II, inaugurated in 2000, and registered in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the biggest wooden dhow (boat) ever built, which however, has never been put to sea.

On the coast of the harbour stands the fish market, notable as much for its cleanliness as offerings. Besides local catch, fishes from places like Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan and many other places are available, says Rejaul Islam from Bangladesh, who runs a shop here and pays KD450 monthly rent for it.

Fathy Rahi, a chicken seller from Egypt who has been in the business here for decades says "We are self-sufficient in poultry production," with a proud smile that shows his stained teeth.

His has his own reasons to be proud of Kuwait. "Like Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis are all Hindi, Egyptians, Kuwaitis, Emiratis and all other Arabs are one nationality," he asserts in a long half-English, half Arabic discourse.

Our next stop is the Kuwait Towers located on Arabian Gulf Road in the heart of Kuwait City, which is a group of three towers described as an urban monument symbolising an economically progressive Kuwait.

The main tower stands 187m tall and houses restaurants, cafés and halls, on its Ground Floor, Main Sphere. The viewing sphere which rotates once every 30 minutes allows visitors to experience from a glass enclosed pavilion at a height of 123m above sea level, a panoramic view of Kuwait City and the serene blue waters of the Arabian Gulf. There is a souvenir store and a quick snack cafeteria as well.

The Middle Tower is 147 metres tall and houses a one million gallon reservoir in its sphere which supplies water to the entire Kuwait Towers complex while the pointed small tower is 113 metres tall and has the electrical and lighting systems for the complex.

Our next stop was the Kuwait National Museum where we had a peep into life in the country before the advent of oil. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the customs, traditions and heritage of Kuwait. Designed as a mud house, it displays old Kuwaiti life in all its manifestations including old souq, pearl diving, ship building, ethnographic artefacts and archaeological material. The Kuwait National Museum planetarium where visitors can find space related objects and enjoy a view of the Milky Way Galaxy in the 15 metre sky theatre.

Among the other museums in the country are the Al-Qrain Museum which has artefacts displayed in three main halls including the Martyrs Gallery Hall which has pictures of the Almessela group of martyrs, their weapons and clothes, a movie theatre hall that screens documentaries about the Iraqi invasion in Arabic and English. The third hall, the Iraqi invasion hall has documents as well as cars belonging to the Iraqi detectives besides a library of books on the invasion.

The Kuwait Traditional Museum has displays reflecting the social, political, economic and religious life of the Kuwaiti people as well as the interaction of the marine, Bedouin as well as urban and rural elements that shaped life in the country.

The historic 19th century Dickson House which was the office and residence of the British Political agents houses a cultural centre after its renovation under the supervision of the National Council for Culture Arts and Letters is a living landmark and a symbol of a historic ties between Kuwait and Britain.

We also had a chance to visit the The Grand Mosque which overlooks the Arabian Gulf Road and is situated opposite the Seif Place, the government headquarter. The opulent structure inaugurated in 1986 cost 14 million Kuwaiti dinars and is said to be eighth among the world's ten biggest mosques. The 72 square metre hall accommodates 10,000 people while the daily prayer hall holds 500 people and the ladies prayer hall has a capacity of 950. Taking the courtyards into account there is accommodation for 50,000 people, according to a Kuwaiti Ministry of Islamic Affairs brochure.

With its umpteen high-end malls Kuwait also offers visitors a great shopping experience. Among the notable malls are the Marina Mall, the 360 Mall and the Avenues Mall. Located on the beach front in the exclusive shopping district of Salmiya, the malls central plaza has several well known shops and brands which are surrounded by restaurants and cafes. The Plaza's centerpiece is a large spectacular glass fountain and the area is topped by one of the largest glass domes in the Middle East equipped with a sail that automatically moves according to the sun's direction.

The 360 Mall showcases the best of international, regional and local retailers to create a delightful experience for visitors of all ages. Its shopping, entertainment and leisure components are of top quality.

The Avenues Mall is the largest mall in Kuwait. It includes some of the world's most popular fashion chains as well as restaurants, coffee shops, a hypermarket, entertainment venues and an 11-screen Cineplex.

Not to be missed is the Aqua Park, the first in the Arab region and one of the biggest in the region. Spread over a total surface area of 60,000 cubic metres, it is situated on the Arab Gulf Road adjacent to the Kuwait Towers.

The scientific centre serves as a centre for environmental education of the Gulf region. It has an aquarium with a 1.5 million litre capacity that houses different kinds of fishes, corals and sharks. It also has visual representations of the nature of the Kuwaiti desert coastline, wildlife and marine life.

The 372 metre Liberation Tower completed in 1993, was originally meant to be called The Kuwait Telecommunications Tower. The construction which began in 1991 was halted during the Iraqi invasion and on completion it was renamed Liberation Tower, symbolising Kuwait's liberation from Iraq. The second tallest structure in Kuwait, it houses a revolving restaurant and an observation platform besides radio and other telecommunications offices.

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