A gleaming metropolis built on oil.
Kuwait consists of 17,818 square kilometers of desert wedged between Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and The Gulf. A local sheikh signed a protection agreement with Britain in 1899, long before oil was discovered in 1934. Petroleum production boomed after World War Two, and as the standard of living rose, the nomadic tribes put down roots. In 1961 Kuwait became fully independent, something Saddam Hussein tried to change with his 1991 invasion which backfired in a big way for him. Few scars of the 1991 war remain in Kuwait City which is again a thriving metropolis. Kuwait is surprisingly easy to visit. Visas are available at the airport and it’s perfectly safe to travel around. Although the hotels are pricy everything else is affordable. Hidden away in the souq (marketplace), adjacent to Al-Safat Square in the center of the city, are some of the best places to shop and eat. North of the market toward Kuwait Bay are several museums, including the rebuilt National Museum looted by the Iraqis in 1991. Al-Corniche, the broad seaside boulevard, leads northeast to the famous Kuwait Towers, south of which are the most popular beaches. Outside Kuwait City, the town of Al-Ahmadi is worth visiting to see the Oil Display Center and other petroleum industry facilities. Also worth seeking out is the privately-owned Tareq Rajab Museum south of the center with a fabulous collection of Islamic art. To hire an Arab dhow (traditional boat) to get out on The Gulf go to Sharq Souq, a contemporary shopping mall and fish market on Al-Corniche.