|The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 10/13/2004 7:18 AM
Kuwait is located in the northeastern corner of the Arabian
Peninsula. It is bounded on the north and west by Iraq, on the south
by Saudi Arabia, and on the east by the Arabian Gulf. With an area
of about 7,780 square miles, it is slightly smaller than New Jersey.
The country is a sandy, riverless desert interspersed with small
hills. Vegetation is sparse. Kuwait's climate is typical of the
region. Summer (April-October) temperatures often exceed 120 °F,
although daytime temperatures of 110-115 °F are more common. Mean
annual rainfall is 45 inches and occurs mostly during December and
January. Short autumn and spring seasons (November, February, and
March) are delightful. During winter (December and January), clear,
sunny days are common, but it is often cold enough to require a
light winter coat in the mornings and evenings. In the early morning
the frost point is occasionally reached. Sand and dust storms occur
throughout the year, especially between March and August. Periods of
high humidity occur, but during the hottest months (June, July, and
August), humidity levels usually remain very low.
Population Last Updated: 10/13/2004 7:20 AM
Foreign nationals comprise about 60% of Kuwait’s population of
two million. The largest foreign groups are Egyptians, Pakistanis,
Bangladeshis, Indians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Filipinos. The largest
Western community is Americans (about 12,000), followed by British.
French, Germans, and Canadians are also represented. Kuwaiti
citizens include recently settled Bedouin and long-established
townspeople with antecedents in central Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. This
variety of origins is reflected in religion: about 65% of Kuwaitis
are Sunni Muslims; the remainder are Shi’ite Muslims. Although
Sunnis comprise the ruling elite, many Shi’a have acquired great
wealth and the influence money brings.
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely understood
and spoken by the younger generation of Kuwaitis. The literacy rate,
estimated at more than 60%, is one of the highest in the Arab World,
and exceeds 70% among persons under 30. Population growth is 3.5%
for Kuwaiti citizens and 2.8% for non-Kuwaitis.
Kuwait’s standard of living approaches that of the most developed
Western states in many respects. Most Kuwaiti families own a car.
Homes of wealthy Kuwaitis are large and, in some cases, palatial.
While there are pockets of relative poverty, Kuwait’s generous
system of government social programs guarantees a minimum standard
of living that is high by Third World standards.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 10/13/2004 7:46 AM
Kuwait, independent since 1961, is a Constitutional Monarchy
governed by a Hereditary Emirate. The Chief of State is the Emir,
who selects the Prime Minister in consultation with senior members
of the ruling family. Traditionally the Emir’s successor, the Crown
Prince, served as Prime Minister, but this link was abolished by
Amiri decree in 2003. The ruling family's selection of a Crown
Prince is subject to Parliamentary approval. Kuwait’s Emirs have
traditionally governed in consultation with members of several
commercially powerful families and other influential community
leaders. With the emergence of Kuwait as an economically wealthy
state, based initially on its vast oil resources and subsequently on
its overseas investments, actual power was increasingly centered in
the hands of the ruling Al-Sabah family.
Kuwait’s National Assembly, the seat of Kuwaiti legislative
power, has served both to institutionalize traditional consultative
participation with the ruling family and to act as an outlet for
popular expression. Its 50 popularly elected deputies are chosen by
an electorate composed of the about 137,000 adult male Kuwaiti
citizens who can trace their Kuwaiti ancestry back to 1920. (Kuwait
has not granted suffrage to women—the most recent effort, in 2004,
failed by 2 votes in Parliament—or to members of the Armed Forces.)
The entire Cabinet sits in the Assembly ex officio, although at
least one must be a sitting member of the Assembly. The Cabinet
approved a draft bill that would grant women political rights. The
bill is expected to come before the Assembly during the upcoming
Officially, political parties are banned. Nonetheless, political
activity finds an outlet in social clubs and religious societies as
well as through family or neighborhood fora, known as “diwaniyyas.”
A number of political “groupings,” both secular and Islamic, act as
political parties during elections and in the National Assembly.
Labor unions are permitted in several sectors but, since they are
financed by the Government, seldom act independently.
Kuwait’s democracy, albeit limited, is much more open and
participatory than are the regimes of its neighbors. In a single
generation, oil-related wealth has brought vast change to the once
poor, isolated members of the society. The large expatriate
population has also exposed Kuwaitis to numerous social and cultural
forces. Through a highly developed system of free education and
health care, housing allowances and guaranteed employment for
citizens, Kuwait has liberally distributed its vast oil wealth among
the population, giving it one of the highest per capita incomes in
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 10/13/2004 7:55 AM
A traditional Arab shaikhdom, Kuwait has a cultural life of its
own. Kuwait has several artists who work in their own homes or in
government-sponsored art studios and who give occasional public
Arab and Western music is heard on radio and TV and in public
settings in connection with special events. Western music is also
presented at various times during the year, primarily by performers
sponsored by Western embassies, cultural centers, or major
Kuwait has made great strides in its pursuit of scientific
knowledge. Most scientific subjects are offered at the undergraduate
level at Kuwait University, while research is carried on at the
Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) and in projects
funded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS),
whose general aim is to support the efforts for modernization and
scientific development within the State of Kuwait. The Scientific
Center of Kuwait is the latest KFAS project where visitors to the
Aquarium can walk through three major zones that simulate Arabian
Gulf ecosystems: Desert, Coastal Edge, Sea.
Education is free for all Kuwaiti children. Most foreign
dependents attend private schools that charge rates approved by the
Ministry of Education. At the university level, Kuwaiti nationals
attend Kuwait University free, while other nationalities pay a fee.
Scholarships are available for many students from other Islamic and
Arab countries. Kuwaitis who wish to study subjects not offered at
Kuwait University are eligible for government scholarships to study
abroad, and many other Kuwaitis do so at their own expense. During
the 2000-2001 academic year, over 16,000 students were enrolled at
Kuwait University, and about 4,000 were studying in the U.S. on
scholarship or privately funded programs.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 10/30/2004 8:12 AM
Desert nomads from Saudi Arabia founded modern Kuwait in about
1740, but archeological evidence indicates habitation for over 3,000
years. Because of its Gulf location, fishing, pearl diving, and
trading became the most important occupations. Oil was discovered in
1938, but production was insignificant until after World War II.
Since 1950, the country has developed rapidly. Today, Kuwait’s
prosperity depends on oil and income generated by oil revenues
invested primarily in the U.S. and Europe. The oil sector provides
more than 92% of Kuwait’s export earnings and a comparable
proportion of total government revenues. Many other commercial and
economic activities serve the petroleum industry and its employees.
Existing industries include water-desalination plants, oil
refineries with desulfurizing plants, an LPG plant, an ammonia
plant, a chemical fertilizer factory, a polyethylene plant, cement,
brick, and concrete block production, bottling plants, and various
Kuwait's per capita imports are among the highest in the world.
The local market reflects Kuwait’s free trade outlook. Since 1965,
the U.S. has been one of the leading exporters to Kuwait, owing to
Kuwait’s purchases of American aircraft, industrial equipment, cars,
air-conditioners, and other durable consumer goods. However, and
primarily due to the jump in international oil prices, the former
U.S. trade surplus with Kuwait had turned negative. The U.S. has
posted trade deficits with Kuwait in the amounts of USD 1994, 926,
and 1197 million in 2001, 2002, and 2003 respectively. A wide range
of products from the U.S., Europe, neighboring countries, and the
Far East are also available. Kuwaiti importers choose their goods
almost entirely by price and local demand, not by national origin.
Automobiles Last Updated: 10/17/2004 8:18 AM
Private cars are the principal means of practical and dependable
transportation in Kuwait. Driving is on the right; roads and
highways are excellent, and several major highways exist. Most
principal roads are divided highways with four to six lanes.
Excellent all-weather highways lead south and west to Saudi Arabia.
The accident rate in Kuwait is one of the world's highest, due to
excessive speed, lax enforcement, and a lack of basic training of
many drivers. Practice defensive driving to avoid accidents.
All privately owned vehicles must be imported under the owners’
names and registered and licensed with the Kuwait Traffic
Department. Before registration, you must have third-party-liability
and personal insurance at a cost of KD 19.500 (about US$66.50) a
year for a regular 5-passenger vehicle. Comprehensive insurance is
available locally; the price varies according to vehicle, age,
value, etc. A vehicle must be mechanically and visually inspected by
Traffic Department inspectors; any mechanical problems and/or major
dents, cracked windows, missing lights, etc., must be corrected or
repaired before the vehicle can be legally registered. The
inspection covers the brakes, motor condition, lights, wipers,
windows, mirrors, and general appearance of the vehicle. Diplomatic
license tags are free; Kuwaiti license tags cost KD 10.000 (about
US$35). Diplomats pay KD 0.500 for a temporary Kuwaiti driver’s
license, and KD 1.000 per person for a permanent Kuwaiti drivers
Any employee or dependent over 18 years old residing in Kuwait
may obtain a Kuwaiti driver's license, either by presenting a valid
U.S. or European license or by taking a driving test. The latter is
a long, drawn-out, time-consuming procedure. Non-resident personnel
on TDY may obtain a 30-day temporary license on presentation of a
valid international drivers license. Four photos (1 ” x 1 ”) are
required. The Embassy handles all processing for insurance,
registration, and drivers licenses.
SUV’s and large American passenger cars are popular in Kuwait as
roads are broad and flat and gasoline is inexpensive. Luxury cars
such as Mercedes-Benz are a common sight. Toyota, Datsun, Mazda,
BMW, and other Japanese and European-made cars are also popular.
Parts and services for GM, Ford, and Chrysler products and for most
Japanese and European vehicles are available locally, but parts and
labor are expensive. Smaller neighborhood garages are less expensive
for repairs, but are not always reliable.
Please note the following Government of Kuwait (GOK) restrictions
on imported vehicles:
1). Kuwait does not allow the importation of pick-up trucks as
Personally-Owned Vehicles (POV’s). The GOK does not grant waivers to
2). Kuwait does not generally allow the importation of vehicles five
years or older. Post, however, can request an exemption from this
restriction. To request an exemption for your POV, please send a fax
to the GSO Shipping Unit, (965) 539-8241 or (965) 538-0282, at least
three weeks prior to the vehicle's shipping date. The fax should
include a copy of your passport and the make, model, year, color and
Vehicle Identification Number of the car.
3. Vehicles with glass tinted darker than international standard AS2
are generally not allowed in Kuwait. However, Post has received a
blanket waiver from the GOK to import vehicles with darker tinting.
No further documentation from you is required.
4). A vehical Title is required by the Kuwaiti inspection
If you are buying a new car for use in Kuwait, you may wish to
select one that is light in color to reflect heat and equipped with
factory-installed air conditioning.
Local purchase and installation of air conditioning is expensive
and may not be satisfactory. Air conditioning is a must during the
summer months. Try to bring a vehicle equipped with lightly tinted
glass to reduce glare, and cloth materials for the seat upholstery
to reduce interior heat. Vinyl or leather seat covers retain heat
and are uncomfortable. If you are in doubt as to what type of
vehicle to ship, contact the Embassy’s GSO Office before shipping a
Used vehicles are readily available in Kuwait at reasonable
prices. Most Japanese, European, and American (GM, Chrysler, and
Ford) companies have new car dealerships in Kuwait. Locally
purchased new cars are equipped to run on unleaded fuel and are
designed to meet specifications within the Gulf States.
Since the Embassy’s few official vehicles are heavily used for
business, ship your car at the earliest possible time as the Embassy
cannot provide you with transportation for personal use. As noted
above, you may not ship a pickup truck as your POV, as pickup trucks
are considered commercial vehicles in Kuwait and consequently can be
registered only to businesses.
Routine maintenance, such as lubrication, tune-up, and oil
change, is frequently necessary in Kuwait due to heat and dust. Both
leaded and unleaded gasoline are available in Kuwait.
State-controlled gas stations are conveniently located throughout
Kuwait City and surrounding areas. Stations sell 90 octane gasoline
at 60 fils per liter (@ $.81 per gallon) and 98 octane at 65 fils
per liter (@ $.88 per gallon). The stations will also change engine
oil and add fluids.
Lubrication and repairs are done at a garage or at a car dealer
providing maintenance service. Obtaining parts or service is
generally not a problem.
Duty of 5% of the value of the vehicle is added to the sale of
imported vehicles when sold to a person without duty-free
privileges. Vehicles depreciate in value just as in the U.S.
Four-door passenger models have the best resale value.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:40 AM
Several taxi firms may be called for pickup service. Taxis are
readily available only at the airport, hotels, and in the center of
the city. Fares are reasonable, and tipping is unnecessary. Public
buses provide cheap transportation between the central district and
most outlying areas, but poor scheduling, variations in arrival
times, and language difficulties discourage use by most Westerners.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:41 AM
For destinations outside Kuwait, air transportation is commonly
used, and adequate connections can be made to most points. Kuwait is
served by a number of international airlines (see Getting to the
Post). For travel to the U.S. from Kuwait, the traveler can connect
with American carriers in several major European cities. No train
service operates from Kuwait.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 10/18/2004 8:17
Telephone service in Kuwait, both international and local, is
generally good however it can be expensive to call the U.S. or
Europe. Local (landline) telephone calls are free. A 3-minute call
to the U.S. costs about 65 cents a minute and 48 cents for each
Calling card service through carriers such as AT&T, MCI or Sprint
is not available at present. Most businesses and hotels (certainly
all 5-star hotels) have a fax machine.
Cellular telephone service is available. Coverage throughout the
country is extensive. A cellular phone can be bought for about $100.
Global roaming (GSM) is available at a cost of about $500. A cell
phone call costs about 13 cents (US) per minute. Bills are not
Internet Last Updated: 10/18/2004 8:14 AM
There are several Internet Service Providers (ISP's) and speed
options to choose from in Kuwait. Most American employees have some
type of Internet service in the residences. Prices vary a bit from
one ISP to another but speed, service and line quality can be the
most important factors in your choice of ISP's. Signal quality and
speeds range from excellent to adequate depending on the
neighborhood due to the city's inconsistent telecom lines. A talk
with your neighbors will quickly give you good information regarding
which ISP works best for a particular area. Many employees use DSL
(high speed) connections that range in price from about 18 KD ($60)
a month for 64 Kbps service to about 110 KD ($363) a month for 1024
Kbps service. Prices are lower for three-month, six-month and annual
subscriptions. Also, dial-up Internet cards are widely available
throughout town. Prices for the cards vary and are sold according to
the number of hours or days per card, e.g., 10 KD ($33) for 222
hours of use. Dial-up connections are generally good (40-56 Kbps),
but access during certain periods, especially after midnight might
be limited. Some ISP's offer discounts to Embassy personnel. The CLO
section of the Embassy Intranet website (http://kuwait.state.gov/)
provides further information about Kuwait ISP's.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 10/13/2004 7:49 AM
Transit time for international airmail letters to and from New
York is 10 days. International surface mail takes two weeks.
American personnel assigned to the Embassy are authorized free
use of the air pouch for letter mail to other posts, but letters
from Kuwait to Washington via air pouch take 8-10 days to clear the
Department, and up to 20 days to reach their final destination.
Transit times vary based on what part of the Continental U.S.
parcels and letters are mailed to and from. The average transit time
for letters is:
Continental U.S. to Kuwait = 85% arrives by 5th day, 99% arrives
by 7th day
Kuwait to Continental U.S. = 83% arrives by 5th day, 90% arrives by
The average transit time for Priority Parcels is:
Continental U.S. to Kuwait = 97% arrive by the 10thday
Kuwait to Continental U.S. = 74% arrives by 7th day, 96% arrives by
Mail sent via international postal service should be addressed as
P.O. Box 77 Safat
Mail sent by pouch should be addressed
Department of State
6200 Kuwait Place
Mail sent by APO should be addressed as follows:
For personal mail:
PSC 1280 Box ###
APO AE 09880
For official mail:
Office ( MGT, OMC-K,B&F etc...)
PSC 1280 Box ##
APO AE 09880
As a Category “A” post with full APO services, American personnel
are required to use the APO, not the pouch, for all personal mail to
and from the United States.
Users should not indicate “American Embassy,” “AmEmbassy Kuwait,”
or any other such combination in the APO address in order to prevent
problems or delays in receiving mail from domestic vendors/addresses
in the U.S.
Federal Express, UPS, and DHL all have authorized agents in
Kuwait, providing the usual express/courier mail services.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 10/27/2004 7:29 AM
TV: KTV has been broadcasting since 1961, and began color
transmission in 1974. It is government controlled and operates on
PAL 62 lines standard. KTV currently broadcasts on two channels.
Channel 1 is exclusively Arabic, but includes a few non-Arabic
programs dubbed or subtitled in Arabic. Channel 2 is almost
exclusively foreign-language programs, about 90% of which are in
English with Arabic subtitles.
Channel 1 begins transmission each day at 4 p.m. (earlier on
Thursdays and Fridays), while Channel 2 begins daily at 5 p.m. Both
channels finish transmitting at about midnight, later on Thursdays.
Each channel carries one-half hour of news nightly-at 9 p.m. in
Arabic on Channel 1 and at 8 p.m. in English on Channel 2. Many
American programs are shown on KTV, chiefly on Channel 2. They
consist mainly of cartoons, family situation comedies, police
stories, and wildlife programs. An increasing number of better
quality U.S. made-for-TV serials are also beginning to appear on KTV.
Satellite dishes and subscription services are now widely
available in Kuwait. Orbit, Star, and Showtime networks are among
the more popular English-language offerings, providing CNN, ESPN, US
and British dramas, comedies, and serials. Fees, however, can run as
high as $100 per month, although the average price is around $60 per
month. Dishes and decoders (with installation included) will usually
run about $200.
The Chancery compound is wired for satellite TV, and residents
there have access to AFRTS as well as BBC World, and CNN
International. They also recieve the local commercial channels
including Arabic news channels Al Arabia, and Al Jazeera.
Radio: Kuwait Radio broadcasts daily in English, Urdu, Persian,
and Arabic. Western rock is popular, and classical music is played
regularly on the FM station. Voice of America, BBC, AFRTS, and other
foreign radio services can be heard on FM and reception is generally
Radio listeners may wish to bring a good short-wave set to post.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
10/26/2004 8:33 AM
The Kuwaiti press has traditionally had the reputation of being
the most active and unfettered in the Arab World. Kuwait has three
English-language daily newspapers. The Kuwait Times, which caters to
the South-East Asian and Western expatriate community, The Arab
Times, which is geared toward the western expatriate, and the Daily
Star which is a same day translation of the Arabic Al Watan,
inserted in The International Herald Tribune. Five dailies and
numerous weekly, biweekly, and monthly periodicals are published in
Arabic. The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, The
Wall Street Journal (European edition), and the international
editions of Time, USA Today, Newsweek and many other western
newspapers and magazines are available.
American and British books on a variety of subjects are available
at selected bookshops at 50%-100% above publisher prices. No public
libraries carry collections in English.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 10/20/2004 7:25 AM
A Health Unit in the Embassy compound is managed by a Foreign
Service Health Practitioner (FSHP). A Regional Medical Officer (RMO)
stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is available for consultations
and makes an annual visit.
The Regional Medical Officer – Psychiatry (RMO-P) in New Delhi is
also available for consults, and will visit post annually and upon
request. Several local hospitals can provide basic emergency or
routine care. Obstetric care is very good and many embassy women
have delivered in country at a recommended private hospital.
Most medical care can be provided in Kuwait. If the care is not
available, London is the designated medevac point.
Families with infants and children may wish to bring a full
supply of preferred nutritional supplements, fluoride tablets and
vitamins, many of which are unavailable in Kuwait.
Bring an extra set of glasses or contact lenses, and have a
prescription ready for refill of glasses or contacts. If you or
family members are taking a long-standing medication, bring a
minimum 6-month supply and arrange beforehand for regular refills.
Community Health Last Updated: 10/20/2004 7:21 AM
Respiratory infections, colds, coughs, sore throats, etc., lead
the list of common complaints. Middle ear and external ear
infections, sinusitis, and bronchitis are not uncommon. Dust
aggravates the respiratory tract, complicating ordinary infections.
Allergic and asthmatic persons may also have increased problems due
to dust, and seasonal pollen (hay fever) in spring or fall
(Feb-April and Aug-Nov). May through September is hot and dry,
increasing the incidence of urinary tract infections, kidney stones,
heat stroke, and exhaustion. Common sense measures are effective in
preventing these conditions. High dry heat can cause serious
problems of dehydration if preventive measures are not undertaken.
Gastrointestinal infections are not common.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 10/20/2004 7:21 AM
Fruits and vegetables should be cleaned well before eating. Meat
should be well-cooked. Fly and insect control is rudimentary. Obtain
immunizations for typhoid, and tetanus. Have the basic series given
in the U.S. Boosters will be given at the Health Unit as needed.
Malaria suppressants are not necessary in Kuwait. No immunizations
are required, but it is recommended that childhood immunizations be
updated. Additional recommended immunizations are meningococcal and
the Hepatitis A and B series.
To prevent sunburn, bring along a strong (SPF of at least 15)
sunblock lotion. Local pharmacies carry some sunscreens, but the
complete range may not always be available. Protective clothing is
also a must, and sunglasses and a sun hat are useful during summer
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:21
An Bilateral Work Agreement between the U.S. and Kuwait was
established in May 1993. Post is seeing more job opportunities on
the economy for spouses; however, spouses must be determined and
flexible in their job searches and recognize that salaries and the
work environments will be different than in the US. Spouses with
teaching degrees usually find work at one of the American-curriculum
schools. These school also hire spouses without teaching degrees to
work as teaching aides and assistants. Other spouses have found work
as a programmer, a site manager, a human resources consultant, and a
beautician, among other professions. Several spouses have set up
their own import/export businesses or have functioned as business
consultants. Several spouses have come to post with pre-established
telecommuting jobs. Post anticipates the addition of a Local
Employment Advisor in the spring of 2005 to assist spouses with job
networking on the economy.
At present, dependent spouses are employed at the Embassy as CLO
Coordinator and CLO Assistant, Commercial Service Assistant and
Secretary, Residential Security Coordinator, APO Clerks, Consular
Assistant, and several WAE positions that assist with projects,
administrative assistant back-up, Iraq visit support and security
escorting. In addition, the Department of Defense agencies,
including the Office of Military Cooperation-Kuwait (OMC-K) and DIA
Liaison Office, have hired eligible family members as a Secretary
and a Protocol Assistant; they continue to partner with the Embassy
on advertising civilian job opportunities. Dependents are also
occasionally hired for specific limited duration, or emergency hire,
jobs at the Embassy. A Summer Hire Program is also available for
high school and college student dependents, depending upon the
availability of funds and suitable work. In the summer of 2004 post
was able to employ all interested high school and college
American Embassy - Kuwait
Post City Last Updated: 10/27/2004 7:32 AM
Greater Kuwait City extends 15 miles along the Bay of Kuwait and
a similar distance down the coast of the Arabian Gulf, where a
succession of smaller towns comprise with it a growing metropolitan
area where most Kuwaitis live. The old city outgrew its mud walls
with the advent of the country’s oil prosperity in the late 1950s,
though a few gates have been preserved as historical monuments. The
city has continued to expand along the coast, and new suburban
communities have grown up adjacent to it.
Security Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:21 AM
Kuwait is situated between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, two
environments that currently harbor some of the most dangerous and
hostile anti-American terrorist groups in the world. Kuwait's third
neighbor is Iran, a frequently hostile force that seeks to exert
influence in Kuwait through various means, including subversion of
the local Shi'a community. There have been numerous instances in the
past year of both the physical and ideological threat from these
neighbors crossing the porous land and sea borders and taking root
in particular strata of Kuwaiti society.
The primary threat to U.S. personnel in Kuwait comes from cells
and individuals with links to Al-Qaeda and regional jihadist
networks. In July 2004, Kuwaiti security forces arrested up to 20
individuals who were engaged in recruitment, training, and financing
of local youth for terrorist operations in Iraq and Kuwait. There
have been further arrests in August 2004, but some terrorist
accomplices remain at large and are believed to still be in Kuwait.
Among those arrested were individuals who conducted planning for
suicide bombing operations and armed assaults against convoys. While
their plans were primarily directed against U.S. presence in Iraq,
evidence of current plans for terrorist attacks in Kuwait was also
Known terrorist operatives have also transited to and from Saudi
Arabia across the land border with Kuwait. There is evidence that
terrorist elements in Kuwait have established ties to wider regional
networks, giving outside groups a platform from which they could
attempt to conduct terrorist operations against the substantial U.S.
presence in Kuwait.
The arrests in July and August 2004 indicate the degree to which
extremist elements have been able to develop a presence in Kuwait.
In 2002 and 2003, small local cells or individuals were able to
conduct lethal attacks against U.S. military and civilian
contractors in Kuwait. While there have been no lethal attacks in
the past twelve months, post assessment is that the conditions in
Iraq and the well-known presence in Kuwait of significant numbers of
U.S. military and contractor personnel in support of Operation Iraqi
Freedom, have attracted more terrorist recruits in country and have
motivated some regional jihadist groups to expand operations in
Kuwait. Consequently, the threat of terrorist activity in Kuwait has
increased since pre-2002.
Other known terrorist groups have an operational presence in
Kuwait, including Hizballah. Kuwait has come under severe criticism
from governments in the region and from extremist groups for
allowing a large U.S. military presence on its soil and for
providing crucial support to ongoing military operations in Iraq.
The prospect of these groups conducting operations against U.S.
personnel in Kuwait is high.
In conducting official duties, post personnel are frequently
required to visit locations outside Kuwait City where U.S. military
units operate. Transit to these locations involves movement along
the same routes that U.S. military convoys follow. In some cases,
daily visits for official purposes to these locations exposes post
personnel to the same risks as USG personnel assigned permanently to
Similarly, official duties require that certain employees visit
the border region and border crossing points between Iraq and
Kuwait. During July and August 2004 there have been confrontations
between Kuwaiti and Iraqi border patrols along the demarcated
border. Both sides are attempting to construct barriers and
facilities within meters of the physical border, significantly
increasing the risks of small-scale armed confrontations. U.S. and
Kuwaiti military personnel have reported significant smuggling and
criminal activity along the border, included carjackings and
shootings. The post has placed the border region and other high-risk
locations outside Kuwait City off-limits for non-official purposes.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:35 AM
The American Embassy Kuwait is located in Bayan, a residential
suburb to the south of Kuwait City. The Embassy compound, completed
in 1996, was built on land donated by the Government of Kuwait in
appreciation of the United States' role in the 1991 Liberation of
Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The compound encompasses the Chancery
and Maintenance/Warehouse buildings as well as the Ambassador’s
residence, Marine Security Guard Residence with an exercise
equipment room, two tennis courts, a swimming and a toddler's wading
pool, and a playground. The new basketball court and a volleyball
court should be completed before 2005. A courtyard adjacent to the
Chancery is surrounded by a large multi-purpose room, a cafeteria,
the CLO Library and offices, the Health Unit, a small community
room, and locker rooms. The American Embassy Welfare Association
occupies a separate building with a bar, gift sales shop, alcohol
sales shop, warehouse, and community patio. There are also 24
housing units on the compound.
The Embassy has a resident Ambassador, DCM, and Economic,
Political, Political/Military, Consular, Public Affairs, Regional
Security, and Administrative Sections. USFCS, the Office of Military
Cooperation Kuwait (OMC-K), and the additional DOD agencies
associated with it, U.S. Customs Service, and IBB/VOA round out the
U.S. Embassy Mission in Kuwait. Total staffing consists of over 180
Americans and 330 FSN/PSC/PSA employees.
The Office of Military Cooperation—Kuwait (OMC-K) is USCENTCOM's
principal military representative and advising agency to Kuwait and
the U.S. Ambassador. OMC-K’s goals are to promote U.S. defense
interests through coordination and planning of U.S./Kuwait military
exercises and exchanges, and to provide in-country management of
Kuwait’s $5 billion-plus FMS program. The exercise program is one of
the most ambitious in the world and the Government of Kuwait is the
third largest U.S. foreign military sales customer. The primary
weapons systems supported are the F/ A-18 aircraft, the MIA2 tank,
and the Patriot Air Defense System. The OMC-K team, which also
includes the DIA Liaison Office, two Foreign Affairs Officers, the
M1A2 tank TAFT, the Kuwait Armor Modernization Office, an element of
the Army's Aviation and Missile Command, and the Kuwait Office of
the Defense Contract Management, is composed of 70 military members
(all services are represented) and 20 civilians.
The U.S. Commercial Service (CS) of the Department of Commerce is
a key link between U.S. and Kuwaiti companies. CS offers a wide
range of programs and services such as customized market research,
representation identification, contact lists, conferences, seminars,
trade missions, and delegations to major U.S. trade shows to assist
U.S. companies in doing business in or with Kuwait. The Commercial
Service, in coordination with other Embassy offices, advocates on
behalf of American companies with Kuwaiti Government officials, as
well as with private sector firms on government tenders, major
projects, and trade disputes, among other activities. The office web
site is: www.buyusa.gov/kuwait
The International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), in accordance with a
cooperative broadcasting agreement signed on August 2, 1992 between
the Governments of the United States and the State of Kuwait,
maintains and operates a transmitting station just 40 miles north of
Kuwait City. The basic mission of the Station is to broadcast U.S.
Government sponsored radio programs to the north using high powered
transmitters tuned to frequencies in the medium and short wave
frequency bands. Operations and all transmissions are conducted in
strict accordance with U.S. and State of Kuwait Government
regulations and in compliance with policy established with the
International Telecommunications Union in Geneva. The Station
utilizes two high powered medium wave transmitters broadcasting
Voice of America(VOA), RFE/RL and Radio SAWA programs on frequencies
1548 KHz and 1593 KHz respectfully. Languages of programs broadcast
include English and Special English, Arabic and Persian. The Station
also uses three highpowered short wave transmitters to broadcast VOA
Dari and Pashto, English language programs to Afghanistan.
Frequencies broadcast by these transmitters vary on a seasonal basis
through out the broadcast year. Two FM transmitters located in
Kuwait City, provide local coverage of VOA and Radio SAWA in the
greater Kuwait City metropolitan area. One transmitter broadcasts
Radio SAWA Gulf in Arabic on 95.7 MHz. and the other broadcasts VOA
programs on 96.9 MHz in English. Both transmitters operate 24 hours
daily. The Station also receives and uplinks feeds of Al-Hurra
television and Radio SAWA to the AsiaSat, ArabSat and Indian Ocean
Relay satellites using frequencies in both the Ku and C bands. These
feeds are utilized by Embassies, IBB Affiliate FM Stations and other
IBB Stations throughout the Middle East region. The Station employs
a staff of 21 FSN/PSC technicians with specialized expertise in the
administrative and technical area. The Station is managed by two
American Foreign Service specialists.
Office hours for the Embassy are 8 am to 4:30 p.m. with a
half-hour lunch, Saturday through Wednesday. The “weekend” is
Thursday and Friday. Some OMC-K employees keep a 6-day workweek in
accordance with Kuwait Government regulations. A Marine Security
Guard is always on duty, and a duty officer is on standby during
off-duty hours and weekends.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 10/27/2004 7:32 AM
In most cases, personnel are assigned housing prior to arrival at
post and move directly into permanent quarters in Kuwait. If
permanent housing is not ready upon arrival, new personnel may stay
at good hotels in Kuwait City.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:58 AM
Housing in Kuwait is good and livable, but rental rates are high
(US$4,135 per month for a three-bedroom apartment in a good area).
All State, DIA, and FCS personnel are provided government-leased or
government-owned quarters; KAMO, FAO and IBB personnel are provided
government-leased quarters only. The Government of Kuwait provides
furnished housing for OMC-K. The Chancery compound has 24
townhouses, in addition to the Ambassador's residence and the Marine
House. The townhouses on the compound consist of 6 one-bedroom
units, 16 three-bedroom units, and 2 five-bedroom units (all units
have a separate den with full bath that may be used as an extra
bedroom or as a maid's room). Other personnel live in townhouses and
apartments. Most consist of three or four bedrooms, two bathrooms,
separate living/dining room area, kitchen, washing facilities, and
parking space. Very few have any type of outdoor area such as a yard
or garden, although a few have balconies. There is a great deal of
space for wall hangings and rugs. Personnel are assigned housing
commensurate with family size in accordance with the housing
standards of 6 FAM 700. DOD employees are provided comparable
quarters and furnishings by the Government of Kuwait.
Storage space is normally more limited than it is in the U.S. No
additional government or commercial storage space is available for
excess household effects (HHE), nor can the Embassy warehouse
accommodate excess HHE.
Furnishings Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:47 AM
All quarters have basic furnishings, including a stove,
refrigerator, microwave, vacuum cleaner, freezer, automatic clothes
washer and dryer; carpeting is provided. Each residence has one
phone; you may bring or purchase extra ones. Living rooms have
several tables, and entertainment centers or TV stands are provided.
Personnel must provide their own kitchenware, china, silverware,
glassware, table and bed linens, towels, pillows, blankets, hanging
pictures and decorations, ashtrays, shower curtains, ironing boards,
waste baskets, coat hangers, small throw rugs, and other personal
items. Two or three transformers are provided to each residence.
The Embassy will provide a Welcome Kit consisting of kitchen,
bedroom, bathroom, and ironing items, plus a small TV until receipt
of your HHE. A few baby cribs are available as part of the Welcome
Kit. If you have small children, you may wish to bring small
furniture, such as bookcase, chair, bed, etc. These items are not
furnished by the Embassy and are expensive locally. A separate
layette shipment is authorized.
The Embassy also provides cell phones to spouses.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:56 AM
All quarters have hot and cold running water. All housing has
both heat and air-conditioning and is equipped with various security
upgrades (smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, etc.).
Electric current in Kuwait is 220v-240v; 50-cycle, 3-phase, AC.
Stepdown transformers (220v-240v input and 110v-120v output) are
required for American type appliances using 110v-120v/60-cycle
current. Stepdown transformers do not change the megahertz. Since
the Embassy has a limited supply of transformers, bring additional
transformers if you will need them. Irons, hand mixers, blenders,
and other small appliances are plentiful in Kuwait and may be
purchased at reasonable prices. It is advisable to purchase phones,
answering machines, and other small appliances here as the
locally-sold products are designed for the power fluctuations common
In leased units, plugs and outlets are the 3-pronged square
British variety. Adapters to convert American-type flat blade plugs
for local use are available. Lamps require no transformers, just new
bulbs, which can be bought at all major stores in Kuwait. On the
compound, plugs and outlets are “U.S. 220v.” Adapters for these
types of plugs are not available on the local market but GSO will
provide you with several power strips and transformers to convert
both your American 110v and European 220v appliances. Kuwaiti phone
jacks are a different size, but you can easily find all the supplies
you need to convert U.S. jacks here should you choose to bring your
own phone or answering machine.
American-made TV sets will not work in Kuwait. TV sets and
videocassette recorders ranging from three systems (PAL/SECAM/SC) to
14 systems are sold in Kuwait for worldwide use. Prices are
reasonable. The electrical power system is regular, with power
failures not a problem. Power surges do occur regularly and
regulators (to keep electrical output at a steady level) are
necessary for expensive stereo and computer equipment.
Food Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:40 AM
Subject to seasonal variations and occasional shortages, a wide
variety of local and imported foods are readily available in Kuwait.
The post’s cost-of-living allowance helps offset high costs. Good
fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables are available on the local
market. Canned and frozen vegetables from the U.S., Europe, and
Australia are sold. Frozen meat and poultry are imported from
Denmark, New Zealand, the U.S, or Australia. Many American packaged
products, eg cereals, are available. Pork products are forbidden in
Islamic society, but pork substitutes such as beef bacon, and turkey
dogs are readily available. The Kuwait Danish Dairy offers a large
selection of ice cream, yogurt, cream, sour cream, and milk with
different degrees of fat content. All items are reconstituted and
quality is good. Soft drinks are available.
Each district of Kuwait has grocery stores and a larger
cooperative shopping center complex. A couple of American-type
supermarket also exists. The Embassy does not have a commissary or
cooperative buying system, but the U.S. military maintains a small
PX (primarily snack foods, electronics, and paper products) about 45
minutes drive outside Kuwait City, in Camp Doha. Camp Arifjan, about
40 minutes south of the Embassy, also has a PX. Some food products
that are not available on the economy can be found at the PX.
The sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in Kuwait.
Importation of alcohol by Embassies and/or diplomatic personnel is
also prohibited. This regulation is strictly enforced by customs
personnel, when inspecting HHE shipments.
Clothing Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:46 AM
General. Although summers are long and hot in Kuwait, winters are
chilly and occasionally rainy. Summer clothing is worn for about 7
months of the year. You will need more than the usual amount of
summer clothing necessary in the U.S. During November-March, cold
weather clothing is worn, although a warm jacket is usually enough
A wide variety of fabrics are available at reasonable cost, and a
limited variety of notions are available. Good tailors and
dressmakers are available. Prices are reasonable. Some can work with
patterns, but most can work without them.
Many Embassy employees and family members rely on Internet
shopping for their clothing needs.
Men Last Updated: 10/25/2004 7:03 AM
Lightweight summer suits for office and evening wear, and slacks
and sport shirts for casual wear, will meet summer dress
requirements. Acceptable dry cleaners can be found. Occasional
formal dances, including the annual Marine Ball, are held each year.
Tails and morning dress are not worn in Kuwait. Medium to
lightweight American fall, spring, and winter suits are appropriate
for cooler months. English and continental men’s shoes, underwear,
shirts, neckties, socks, and readymade suits are available, but they
can be expensive; the selection of sizes, styles, and quality
Women Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:51 AM
Conservative dress is the rule. Bring summer cotton dresses,
slacks, skirts and blouses, and pantsuits for all occasions. Shorts
are not worn publicly but can worn at poolside or on private
beaches. Sleeveless dresses or blouses are not suitable for street
wear; wear short jackets or shawls to cover bare shoulders. For
evening wear, cocktail dresses with sleeves are appropriate.
Sleeveless dress is okay for events on the Embassy compound.
Kuwaiti women are fashion conscious, and London and Paris designs
will be seen at most evening parties. In winter, pantsuits, slacks,
dress skirt, blouses, and coats are worn. A floor length dress can
be worn to the Marine Corps ball but is not essential. Stores
selling women’s clothing offer a variety of European-made dresses,
skirts, and suits at medium to high prices. Many women have had
clothing made locally.
Lingerie: some American-made is available at reasonable prices,
but selection is limited. U.K. brands are prevalent. Nylons are
available at reasonable prices. Formal hats and gloves are seldom
worn. European shoes are available at varying prices, but most women
bring all the shoes they will need with them, supplementing with
mail orders. Dress or casual sandals do not last long, but
reasonable local replacements are available. Large shoe sizes are
difficult to find.
Open-toed shoes are worn for at least seven months of the year.
Children Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:48 AM
Clothing for children and babies is available at reasonable
prices. Shoes for children are available but are extremely expensive
and tend to be of inferior quality. Some sizes are almost impossible
to find, and shoe repair is substandard. Winter coats, jackets, or
Windbreakers are needed. Mandatory school uniforms for ASK (navy
blue slacks or skirts with white pullover shirts) can be purchased
locally. No slipovers or T-shirts can be worn in Kuwaiti schools.
Navy blue cardigan sweaters are accepted for in-class wear during
cooler months. For outdoors a lightweight, flannel-lined windbreaker
for fall and spring and a heavier jacket of your choice for winter
is sufficient through the year. Physical education uniforms are blue
shorts and plain white T-shirts for boys, and navy blue shorts with
white T-shirts for girls. These items may be purchased locally or in
the U.S., and are worn for gym only. The English School sells its
Office Attire Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:54 AM
Office attire varies from casual to professional depending on the
Employees who have frequent contact with Kuwaiti government
officials or business people will want to present a professional
appearance. These employees who are men should wear ties and
jackets. Women should wear dresses, suits, or dressier pants
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 10/30/2004 7:27 AM
It is said that everything is available in Kuwait, if you look
long and hard enough, but supplies are often limited, and particular
items may be out of stock at any given time. Despite minimal import
duties, prices are high, as overhead and profit margins are large
and transportation costs great. Adequate stocks of toiletries,
cosmetics, shaving supplies, medicines, and household entertainment
needs are available.
Most common brands of American and British cigarettes and some
American brands of cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories are
available at prices lower than in the U.S. Readymade table linens
are difficult to find at reasonable prices. Linen and damask fabrics
are available locally. Prices are usually 30% or more above U.S.
retail prices for a quality product.
Bring an initial supply of hobbies, games, books, and toys for
children. A small supply of gifts for birthday parties is useful
since most toys and children’s gifts are two to three times their
stateside price. Several local bookstores are patronized, but prices
are 50%- 100% higher than those in the U.S. and selection may not be
good. If possible, arrange for periodic shipment of paperbacks from
The following items are sometimes hard to find, so bring them
from the U.S.: disposable baby bottles and liners, hair coloring
products, makeup for medium-to-light complexions and suede cleaner.
Baby furniture is not up to current American standards (beds, cribs,
playpens, car seats, highchairs, etc…).
Basic Services Last Updated: 11/2/2004 7:57 AM
Several satisfactory women’s beauty shops exist. A shampoo and
set costs $20 and up. Women’s haircuts range from KD10 ($34 US) to
KD15 ($51 US). There are several American-style nail bars; a
manicure and pedicure costs $25 and up. There are also several spas
that offer massages and facials; treatments are expensive, beginning
An AEWA sponsored barber is available at the embassy once a week
for men and children. The charge is KD 1.500 (about $5.00).
Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:53 AM
Most Embassy employees hire a domestic employee on at least a
part-time basis. Many families employ a single full-time maid, whose
duties include cleaning, laundry, cooking, and child- or pet-care.
Most of these maids live in the family’s residence. Houses on the
economy provide adequate quarters for a maid; however, it is
difficult to house a maid in the newer apartments on the economy and
in the housing units on the Embassy compound. Full-time maids,
whether they live in or not, make an average of $365 per month and
work 5 to 6 days per week. Employers pay for food and personal care
items for live-in maids. Employers who act as sponsors also pay a
small annual fee for health insurance. There are no taxes or social
security benefits to pay for an employee. Part-time maids and
gardeners make an average of $6.50/hr.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:58 AM
Protestant and Catholic services are held at the US Embassy every
Friday. There are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Gospel, and Latter
Day Saints services held at Camps Doha and Arifjan. The Church of
Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints has its own facility in a
Kuwait City suburb for its Friday services. In downtown Kuwait City
there is a large Catholic Cathedral that offers daily mass. There
are also National Evangelic and Episcopal services at locations in
the outlying suburbs.
Dependent Education Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:56 AM
At Post Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:51 AM
Most Embassy children attend the American School of Kuwait (ASK).
ASK is a privately owned, American-curriculum school, offering
Pre-kindergarten though Grade 12. ASK has a policy of accepting all
US Embassy dependents who can be served by its programs.
The school is accredited by the Middle States Association of
Colleges and Schools. The high school curriculum is
college-preparatory and offers 14 Advanced Placement courses.
French, Spanish and Arabic are offered. Arabic is mandatory for
elementary students; but, it is not available to all high school
students. Most teachers are American or American-trained educators.
School facilities include two libraries, an auditorium, a swimming
pool, and two gymnasiums.
The majority of students are Kuwaiti; approximately one third of
the students are Americans. ASK has a dress code with standardized
shirts and navy blue pants or skirts. The school website is
Approximately one-third of the Embassy children attend The
English School (TES). TES offers Pre-kindergarten through Year 8
(the equivalent of Grade 7 in the American system). The curriculum
is British based. TES has been open to accepting American students;
however, its mission is to serve the British expatriate community
and has strong ties to the UK Embassy. Parents are encouraged to
apply early; there is no guarantee of acceptance for American
students. Students are required to wear standardized uniforms. The
school website is www.tes.edu.kw
The Embassy contracts for bus service to ASK and TES.
Away From Post Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:52 AM
Award From Post Education Allowance (boarding school allowance) is
approved for Grades 9-12.
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:54 AM
The Fawzia Sultan International School is an American-curriculum
school for children with mild to moderate learning difficulties and
other educational challenges. The school accepts children ages 4-19.
Children are assigned to a class based on age. An Individual
Education Plan determines the instruction for the individual
student. High school graduates receive American high school
diplomas. The new, modern school facility includes several computer
labs, a library, a gymnasium, an exercise room, and a swimming pool.
The Embassy contracts for bus service for Mission children who
attend Fawzia. The school website is http://www.fsis.org.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 11/2/2004 6:57 AM
The American University of Kuwait opened its doors Fall 2004. AUK
is comprised of a College of Arts and Sciences, a School of
Management and Business Administration, and a Continuing Education
Center. It has an agreement with Dartmouth College for curriculum
development. It is actively recruiting graduates of the American
School of Kuwait. AUK is located in a renovated building in shopping
area often frequented by foreigners. Classes are segregated by
gender. The university website is http://www.auk.edu.kw.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 10/25/2004 5:40 AM
Soccer and basketball are the only major sports in which Kuwaitis
participate regularly. Competition in soccer is between Kuwaiti and
other national teams, and is not open to U.S. employees and their
families. Ice hockey teams have been formed and include skaters from
the U.S., Sweden, and Canada. U.S. personnel enjoy swimming, scuba
diving, fishing, snorkeling, tennis, bowling, horseshoes, softball,
squash, jet skiing, running, golf, water skiing, and sailing,
although care must still be taken in water sports due to polluted
water within the cities limits. Many people play tennis, even in
midsummer. The Embassy offers a swimming pool, wading pool, tennis
courts, and newly constructed basketball and volleyball areas. The
Marine house has a gym that includes a large assortment of aerobic
and muscular fitness equipment, and is available to all Embassy
employees. For other sports, you must go outside the Embassy
community. An ice skating rink is available, and horseback riding is
If foreigners are discreet, photographs can be taken in Kuwait.
Some Kuwaitis, especially women, object to being photographed. Local
police might warn against picture taking in the souk (market). In
certain areas, including military compounds and ports, photography
is prohibited, and in a few cases, film has been confiscated.
Muslims regard all things pertaining to their religion as sacred;
this applies to mosques, and you should therefore seek permission to
enter or take photos of Kuwait’s many mosques. No objections arise
when photographing at private parties or outings where only friends
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 10/25/2004 5:47 AM
Many touring and outdoor activities were curtailed after the Gulf
War because of the presence of unexploded ordnance throughout the
country. Desert camping is not recommended to U.S. Personnel.
There are several museums that offer a look at Kuwaiti arts and
culture. The Tareq Rajab collection is privately owned and open to
the public at the Rajab Museum in Jabriya. This collection is
Islamic with emphasis on ceramics, early Korans and historical
documents, and the tracing of the trade routes through jewelry. The
Bedouin Jewelry Collection (mainly silver) is one of the most
extensive in the world.
One of the most unique cultural places in Kuwait is the Sadu
House, the center for traditional Kuwaiti Bedouin weavings. On
certain days visitors can watch the women weave. The house also
offers a short film on the history of Bedouin weaving, a research
lab, and a number of exhibition rooms.
Green Island, enclosing a large lagoon, is constructed out into
the sea. A fun place to bring children, it features an observation
point, paddleboats, and a scaled-down ruined castle surrounded by a
moat. Another fun place for children is the small but pleasant
The Kempinski Resort, lies about 45 minutes outside of Kuwait
City. A newly built beach resort, it offers bungalows and villas for
rent, a large swimming pool, a playground, a restaurant, and
beachfront recreation areas.
The Kuwait Towers, Kuwait’s most identifiable landmark, serve as
an excellent vantage point overlooking the rest of the city. The top
sphere has a snack bar with a revolving observation area; there is
also a fancy (non-revolving) restaurant.
Three of Kuwait City’s gates and a section of the mud wall remain
as a reminder of the Wahhabi and Saudi invasion of Kuwait over 65
years ago. The wall, constructed in 1920, remained standing until
Al Jahra lies about 78 miles west of Kuwait City and was the
scene of a famous 1920 battle between Kuwait and Bedouin forces. On
Fridays a large and active camel market is held in the center of
town. Nearby is the Red Palace, an old fortress of the village.
Another popular Friday activity is the Friday souk (which is also
open on Thursday!), a Kuwaiti-style flea market with a traditional
open market flavor.
Entertainment City is a theme park that has a variety of
well-maintained rides, including a large carousel, roller coaster,
and water log ride.
Indoor gardening is a satisfying outlet for apartment dwellers.
Most have found that anything that will grow and flourish in the
ground can be coaxed to thrive indoors as well. Nurseries and flower
shops are abundant. Potting soil is expensive. Prudent care and
programming can assure continuous enjoyment of some kind of
flowering plant year round. Limits to indoor gardening are dictated
only by light available within a given area and your imagination and
perseverance. Outdoor gardening is practical during winter since the
weather is cooler and damper.
Although the above activities are interesting and diverting, they
provide no relief from Kuwait’s climate. For this reason, Kuwait has
been designated an R&R post. This means that most personnel will
have their fares paid to and from London or New York once in a
2-year tour. Egypt has been a consistently favored vacation spot for
Embassy personnel in recent years, but many apply their London
round-trip R&R fare to trips elsewhere in the Mediterranean, the
U.S., or Europe. Many U.S. Personnel take extended weekend trips to
relatively closer locations, such as United Arab Emirates, Bahrain,
Entertainment Last Updated: 11/2/2004 8:01 AM
Kuwait has few indigenous cultural activities accessible to
non-Arabic speakers. Musical and artistic groups periodically come
to give performances to residents of all nationalities. Public
lectures in English are provided occasionally by guest lecturers at
Kuwait University. Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyah houses the valuable
collection of Al-Sabah Islamic Art, one of the most comprehensive in
the world. It holds frequent seminars and invites world-renowned
scholars to give lectures on a wide range of topics. These lectures
are advertised and open to the public, though often not in English.
Most cultural activities are do-it-yourself. An amateur theater
group performs about four times a year; an amateur choir meets
weekly and performs occasional concerts.
Kuwait has no professional orchestra. Bring recordings and record
catalogs to post since supply is limited. Many public movie houses
in Kuwait show mostly Indian and edited English-language films.
Bridge is a popular pastime.
Eating out is also a popular form of recreation and entertainment
in Kuwait. Restaurants generally are expensive. All 5-star
international hotels (Sheraton, Safir, Crowne Plaza, Radisson/SAS
Hotel, and Meridien) have dining rooms plus coffee shops. These
establishments regularly offer specials on food from foreign
countries. In addition to up-scale restaurants in hotels, there is a
vast range of reasonably priced restaurants offering varied cuisine.
Indian, Lebanese, Turkish and Chinese restaurants are inexpensive.
Many people find that various fast food places (Kentucky Fried
Chicken, Baskin-Robbins, Hardee’s, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger
King) are excellent and maintain good food and health standards.
Kuwait also has many “franchise” restaurants: Chili's, Fuddruckers,
TGIFridays, Applebby’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, Johnny Rockets, to name a
few, which are quite popular.
Many Embassy members pursue personal hobbies, such as quilting,
painting, textiles, model building, and playing the piano or other
musical instruments. Those with a creative bent and a willingness to
draw on their own resources for entertainment will find many in the
community eager to reciprocate. Mahjong and bridge players will find
many opportunities to play.
Shopping seems to be a national pastime in Kuwait. Oriental
carpets and gold jewelry are a few of the things that can be found
in Kuwait at reasonable prices.
Among Americans Last Updated: 11/2/2004 8:12 AM
The Embassy swimming pool and tennis courts are utilized by many
Embassy personnel and their families year round. A new basketball
court and vollyball court will be completed in the Fall of 2004.
The American Embassy Welfare Association (AEWA) offers membership
of its services and facilities to employees and dependant of all
agencies, including military personel, who are perminantly assigned
to the American Embassy Kuwait. In addition to sponsoring weekly
Happy Hours, the association also sponsors parties, recreational
activities, and special events. AEWA operates a full service
cafeteria that offers Breakfast and Lunch. There is also an AEWA
concession shop that offers a variety of Embassy gift items as well
as a dry cleaning service, and a growing DVD library.
The American Women’s League is an association of women who are
U.S. citizens or are married to U.S. citizens. Social in nature,
since fundraising for charitable causes is not deemed necessary by
the Kuwaiti Government, the league holds monthly meetings throughout
fall, winter, and spring and features general-interest programs.
Occasionally, it organizes barbecues, outings, fashion shows, and
other similar activities.
The Embassy compound serves as a center for recreation for
children and adults throughout the year. Parents are urged to
include in their shipments a good supply of hobby equipment for
their children, as these tend to be expensive and in limited supply.
Kuwait is an excellent place to begin or continue tennis
instruction; prices are comparable to those in the U.S. Bike riding
is limited because paved areas on the compound are minimal, and
traffic is hazardous on public roads. Since the birthday party
circuit is heavy and toys are expensive, a supply of suitable gifts
is a good investment.
Younger children have few adjustment problems in Kuwait, even
though the range of activities for them is limited. There is,
however, an active Little League, which begins with T-Ball. The
school provides a variety of social, athletic, and extracurricular
outlets. On weekends and evenings, social life is limited to
shopping, movies, video, TV, and swimming (in season).
Older children find that Kuwait offers fewer activities than the
US, although there are numerous "gatherings" on the weekends. Teens
tend to go out in large mixed groups to eat, smoke shisha, see
movies, or gather in one of their homes. There are numerous taxis
that cater to the teens are are safe for them to use to get around.
Satellite TV is readily available. Expect to pay around $60 per
month for a subscription package that includes some regional Arabic
stations, a news station rotating coverage among NBC, CBS and ABC,
CNN, a channel with U.S. soaps and series, Cartoon Network,
Discovery Channel, ESPN and CNN, BBC, and several movie channels.
DVDs are are sold on the economy. AEWA has a DVD rental shop.
International Contacts Last Updated: 11/8/2004 6:46 AM
Social life is an integral part of a Kuwait tour. In a small
community where public entertainment is limited, the social pace can
become frenetic. Those whose jobs do not involve them in official
functions still find their calendars full, as entertaining is
Most entertaining is informal. Buffets are the most common form
of dinner party. Sitdown dinners are a hazard unless you know your
guests, as Arabs are casual about accepting invitations or sending
regrets. The formally set table frequently may have several empty
places—or may be squeezed to add two more—by the time dinner is
served. Cocktail buffets are a common way of handling large groups.
Kuwait’s traditionally family-oriented, cosmopolitan society
offers opportunities to form excellent professional and personal
relationships. In addition, both Arab and other expatriate
communities are active socially, and Embassy personnel often find
friends among them. The diplomatic community is large, active, and
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 11/8/2004 6:46 AM
Most formal functions given by Kuwaiti Government officials or
the diplomatic community are either receptions or buffet dinners.
Dark suits for men are the usual dress. Informal entertaining takes
place in the evening, at official or private residences. Dress on
these occasions is a suit and tie for men and cocktail-length
dresses for women.
Evening social gatherings known as diwaniyas are an integral part
of Kuwaiti social life, and are fairly unique to Kuwait. These are
usually weekly gatherings, hosted by an individual, family or group
of friends. They are generally not mixed-gender, but in some of the
more progressive diwaniyas, women are welcome. Diwaniyas can be an
important place to meet people, catch up on the talk of the day,
debate political ideas and more.
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 11/8/2004 6:47 AM
Social calling is limited, except during the month of Ramadan and
the two major Islamic Eid celebrations. Incoming personnel may find
it useful to call on their diplomatic counterparts and on
individuals with whom they will have business dealings. Calling
cards are rarely used. Officers will find a business card
(preferably in Arabic and English) essential. Printing is available
Special Information Last Updated: 11/8/2004 6:47 AM
Kuwait is a modern, progressive, and in many ways a
Western-appearing country. The rules of common sense and politeness
will enable a visitor to enjoy Kuwait. The religious heritage of
Islam forms an integral part of Kuwaiti society.
Hospitality is the basic rule of life in the desert, and this
custom has been carried forward. Avoid overly admiring or praising
the private belongings of your host, or the host may feel compelled
by the dictates of his culture to make a gift of the object you
admire. You should not refuse an offer of food or drink unless it is
necessary. Shopkeepers sometimes offer tea or coffee to shoppers
while they are browsing.
Males should not inquire or appear curious about women members of
an Arab family. Western women should dress modestly and be discreet
whenever they go outside their homes.
During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from all food
and drink from sunrise to sunset. During the day, it is not
permissible for anyone—including non-Muslims—to eat, drink, or smoke
in public (which includes while driving your own car).
Related Internet Sites Last Updated: 11/2/2004 8:13 AM
Kuwait Pocket Guide www.kuwaitpocketguide.com
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 10/17/2004 8:22 AM
Travel to Kuwait is usually by air. There are direct, nonstop
flights to Kuwait on most days of the week from London and Paris,
with less frequent flights to Bangkok, Rome, Amsterdam, Frankfurt,
Athens, Geneva, New Delhi, and Mumbai. Some of the more popular
international airlines serving Kuwait are Lufthansa, British
Airways, KLM, Kuwait Airways, Emirates Air, Air India, Gulf Air, and
Olympic Airways. The most direct route from the U.S. east coast to
Kuwait is via the Atlantic with connections made at any of the
European cities serving Kuwait. This is the safest and surest way of
You can drive by car from Europe and other points in the region,
but do not use public overland transportation. Personnel travelling
by car must show proof of vehicle ownership and possession of an
international driver’s license. Visas are required at border points.
When they are issued in Washington, few, if any, problems are
encountered. The process may be more difficult or time-consuming
when issued elsewhere, since Kuwaiti Embassies must request approval
from the home government, in Kuwait. Other documentation may be
required at border points. If you must travel by car, inform the
post well in advance, giving the proposed route, arrival time, and
detailed information about your vehicle.
All personnel arriving at the airport are met by a member of
their section and/or an expeditor. If the contact is missed, call
the Embassy's Post One at 539-5307/8 x2355. No airport bus or
limousine service exists.
In most cases, arriving personnel will be taken directly to
permanent quarters. An Embassy Welcome Kit is available until your
effects arrive. Complete kits may not be available during the height
of the summer transfer season, so you will want your airfreight as
soon as possible. Ship it early, as typical transit and customs
clearance time takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks.
Newly arrived personnel will spend the first day completing
check-in formalities. A courtesy call upon the Ambassador and DCM
should be made at that time or as soon thereafter as possible.
Shipping Information. Customs does not routinely inspect the HHE
and airfreight shipments of Embassy personnel. However, it is
essential that prohibited items (pork products, alcohol, materials
that might be deemed pornographic, firearms, and ammunition) not be
included in these shipments.
Markings and consignment for airfreight, HHE, and privately owned
vehicles should read as follows:
Kuwait, State of Kuwait
(For: Employee’s Name in Full)
Airfreight and HHE must be declared as used personal effects for
personal use on all Airway Bills (AWB) and Bills of Lading. Packing
lists must be attached, along with the AWB or Bill of Lading.
Contents may be described in general terms. To facilitate Government
of Kuwait clearance prior to arrival of any shipment, send the
Airway Bill number (for airfreight) and bill of lading number (for
HHE) by fax to GSO Shipping at (965) 539-8241 or (965) 538-0282.
Forward the original and two copies of the bill of lading to:
General Services Officer
American Embassy Kuwait
Al Masjid Al Aqsa Street
Plot 14, Block 6
The bill of lading for HHE should include a copy of the itemized
packing list. The bill of lading for a vehicle should include the
following information: make, model, color, and chassis number. The
Embassy cannot over emphasize the need for accurate information on
shipping documents. If the chassis number is inaccurate by one digit
in the bill of lading, clearance of the vehicle may be delayed up to
two weeks as a revised bill of lading must be issued.
Some shipping lines entering Kuwait use containers for vehicles
and other bulky goods. No limitation is placed on the size of lift
vans that can be handled in Kuwait. Although pilferage and breakage
in shipments have been minimal in the past, obtain marine insurance.
Before you start packing and making arrangements for shipping, cable
the Embassy for shipping instructions as provided in 6 FAM 161.24,
since Government of Kuwait customs regulations change periodically.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 10/17/2004 8:23 AM
All diplomatic personnel have duty-free privileges during their
entire tour of duty on Kuwait. Non-diplomatic personnel are accorded
free entry of their airfreight, HHE, and vehicle within their first
six months of arrival at post. No restrictions are placed on
importing and/or exporting currencies, traveler's checks, or other
Passage Last Updated: 10/11/2004 6:18 AM
All personnel arriving in Kuwait must have Kuwaiti visas.
Beginning the summer of 2004, assigned personnel and tourists can
now obtain a single-entry visa at the airport, valid for 30 days.
Personnel may still request a single entry, or multiple entry visa
in advance at a Kuwait Embassy. A multiple entry visa is helpful for
individuals who anticipate traveling to another country within the
first week after arriving in Kuwait. After arrival, the Embassy will
obtain a residence permit.
Pets Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:39 AM
Pets may be brought to post, but obtain a veterinarian's
certificate of good health and rabies vaccination before the animal
is sent and have them with you when your pet arrives. You or your
sponsor should arrange for an import license before the animal
arrives in Kuwait. To obtain an import license, your sponsor will
need a copy of your passport and information about the pet, as well
as a fee of KD 2.000 (@$6.50).
If you plan to bring a pet to Kuwait from Bangladesh, Pakistan,
India or Sri Lanka, inform GSO six months in advance.
No restrictions are placed on entry of pets and no quarantine is
required. The climate is severe for pets. If you plan to bring a
pet, inform the post in advance. Veterinary services in country are
limited, so have your U.S. veterinarian recommend medications that
your pet may need. Since pet supplies and toys are limited, bring a
good supply with you. Pet food and kitty litter, however, are
readily available. A pet must have a valid government ID card for
presentation when the owner wishes to take the pet out of Kuwait.
Veterinarians can provide such identification documents.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 10/17/2004 6:57 AM
Because of burdensome and time-consuming import and registration
procedures, no firearms and/or ammunition may be brought into the
country. For hunting enthusiasts, Kuwait affords no real hunting of
game, and the deserts are no longer safe for sporting activities.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
10/17/2004 7:16 AM
The unit of currency is the Kuwaiti dinar (KD), which is issued
in notes of 20, 10, 5, 1, 1/2, 1/4 KD. The Kuwaiti dinar is divided
into 1,000 fils and currently is equivalent to about US$ 3.39.
Foreign banks are not permitted in Kuwait. The Embassy has an
agreement with International Financial Line whereby an employee will
come every day to exchange money. Traveler’s checks can be cashed
Kuwait uses the metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline
is sold by liters, temperature is cited in degrees centigrade;
distances are measured in kilometers
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 10/17/2004 7:17
No taxes or excise duties affect Embassy personnel in Kuwait.
Mandatory automobile insurance (third-party and personal) is in
effect, and non-diplomatic personnel must pay a small fee for car
registration and drivers licenses.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 10/30/2004 6:23 AM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Gordon Robison, Paul Greenway. Lonely Planet: Bahrain, Kuwait, &
Qatar, Lonely Planet Publications: Hawthorn, 2000
Abu Hakima, Ahmad. The Modern History of Kuwait 1795-1965. Luzacs:
Al-Naqeeb Khaldoun Hassan, Society and State in the Gulf and the
Arab Peninsula: A Different Perspective, Routledge: New York, 1990.
American University. Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States. U.S.
Government Printing Office: Washington D.C. 1985.
Atkinson, Rick, Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War,
Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1992.
Cordesman, Anthony: Kuwait: Recovery and Security After the Gulf
War, Westview Press: Denver, 1997.
Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gutr.. Rulers and Merchants
in Kuwait and Qatar. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1990.
Dickson, Violet. 40 Years in Kuwait. Allen and Unwin: London, 197 1.
Graz, Liesl. The Turbulent Gulf. St. Martin’s Press: New York, 1990.
Hewins, Ralph. A Golden Dream — The Miracle of Kuwait. W.H. Allen &
Ismael, Jacqualine, Kuwait Social Change in Historical Perspective.
Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, 1982.
Ismael, Jacqueline S., Kuwait: Dependency and Class in a Rentier
State, 2nd Ed., University Press of Florida, 1993.
Joyce, Miriam, Kuwait: 1945-1996: An Anglo-American Perspective.
Frank Cass and Co: Ilford, 1998.
Kaplan, Marion. Twilight of the Arab Dhow. National Geographic
Magazine. September 1974.
Kuwaiti Documents Project. Kuwait: State-hood and Boundaries. Kuwait
Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences: Kuwait, 1992.
Levins, John, Days of Fear: The Inside Story of the Iraqi Invasion
and Occupation of Kuwait. 1997
Rush, Alan, Al-Sabah: History and Genealogy. Ithaca Press: London,
Schofield, Richard. Kuwait and Iraq: Historical Claims and
Territorial Disputes. Royal Institute of International Affairs:
Slot, II.J. The Origins of Kuwait. E.J. Brill: Leiden, The
Woodward, Bob, The Commanders. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1991.
Following are some suggested websites for further information on
Kuwait. These sites are provided as a general indication of the
material available on the web. The addresses were current as of
December 15, 2000, but may been changed since that time. The
Department of State does not endorse unofficial websites.
American Embassy Kuwait
Economics and Commerce
Kuwaiti Missing and POWs
News Site in English
News Sites in Arabic
Local Holidays Last Updated: 11/8/2004 6:27 AM
For 2005, local holidays are as follows (American holidays are
also observed, with Monday holidays observed on Saturday).
Kuwait National Day Feb 25
Kuwait Liberation Day Feb 26
Eid AI-Adha* Jan 22-24
Islamic New Year* Feb 10
Prophet’s Birthday* April 22
Ascension Day* Sept 1
Eid AI-Fitr* Nov 3-6
Approximate dates, since these religious holidays are based on
the lunar month. These dates also advance about 11 days each year.