The name Kuwait, which is derived from Kout (fort), came about when the sheik of the house of Khaled, Barrak, built a fort in al-Qurain in the latter part of the 17 th century as a summer house. By the late nineteenth century, however, fears of growing Ottoman influence led Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah or “Mubarak the Great” (r.1896-1915) to enter into an agreement with Great Britain, which effectively established Kuwait as an autonomous British protectorate.
Under the 1899 agreement, Kuwait maintained control over its internal affairs, while Great Britain assumed responsibility for the country’s security and foreign relations. The British also provided advisers to staff the country’s nascent modern bureaucracy. Another British legacy is Kuwait’s borders, which were established in agreements in 1913 and 1922
In the mid-1930s work began on the development of Kuwait’s petroleum industry, the basis of the country’s modern prosperity. Oil was first struck in Kuwait in 1938, but the development of the industry was interrupted by World War II. By 1945, drilling had resumed on a large scale, and the commercial export of crude oil began in June 1946. Oil production and revenues grew rapidly, fueling a dramatic expansion of the entire economy. By the 1960s Kuwait enjoyed a level of economic development that made it one of the richest states in the world on a per capita basis.
On June 19, 1961 Kuwait gained full independence from Britain. In 1963 Kuwait became a member of the United Nations
Ten percent of oil revenues are, by law, put into a trust, called Future Generations Fund, to prepare for the day that Kuwait’s massive oil reserves dry up.
Summer temperatures may reach 55 °C. Consequently, the sea in the Gulf is high in salinity with water temperatures ranging from 12 to 36 degrees C. The heat is very dry, except for October where there is usually a few weeks of humidity
Air-conditioners are fitted in all apartments, schools, offices and shopping malls!
The rest of the year is very pleasant, and in fact becomes quite cold from late November to January
TAXI AND TRANSPORT
Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced in Kuwait. A trip to the local supermarket will cost 1KD each way. If you make a quick stop on the way, you will usually be charged 1KD extra. If you stop to shop, expect to pay more
Public transport (bus) is available, however these tend not to be used by expats
Most Kuwaiti men wear a dishdasha, a floor length robe with a center robe opening which is put on over the head.Kuwaiti women dress in western clothes, although they may choose from the more demure styles, the latest designs are worn.
BUYING OR LEASING A CAR
If you have an international drivers license, you can lease a car short-term on arrival in Kuwait
Once you obtain your Civil ID you cay buy or long-term lease a vehicle. Fuel is very cheap.
Quality second-hand cars are cheap compared to other countries
Leasing is popular because it includes maintenance, insurance and roadside assistance
ROADS AND HIGHWAYS
The road system in Kuwait is highly advanced. The main highways throughout Kuwait are very good
Smaller streets tend to have speed bumps at regular intervals, which can be a challenge for the sports-car style of vehicle
All vehicles are left hand drive, and travel on the right hand side of the road
Out of hours Internet Cafes are available in some locations.
You can also purchase an Internet Access card to use with you PC or laptop at home. These are available for various amounts; the card gives you an ID and password and lasts for a month or longer. This is regardless of the number of connections or downloads you make.
Visa, visa Electron, Mastercard, Cirrus and other cash cards which have international access can be used at ATM’s
Bank telegraphic transfers back to South Africa usually take about 48 hours
It’s important to check on the hours of opening with your local bank as they can vary
The Kuwaiti dinar (KD) is linked to the US$ and is therefore susceptible to the ups and downs of that currency.
The Kuwaiti dinar (KD) is divided into 1,000 fils. Coins are of 10, 20, 50 and 100 fils, notes in denominations of KD0.25, 0.5, 1, 5, 10 and 20. $1 = KD0.3058
It’s wise to have some local currency when you arrive to cover small purchases and taxi fares, although you might well be met at the airport by your sponsor’s staff or your new colleagues.
Currency exchanges and banking facilities are available at most major airports and many are open 24 hours a day. Exchange rates, however, are unlikely to be favourable at these outlets. More competitive rates can be obtained from city-centre financial establishments. You should avoid changing money at your hotel, as hotel rates are probably the worst on offer.
Western-style shopping centres are common throughout Kuwait city.
Large supermarkets are open 24hrs, and retail shopping malls are open from about 10am – 9pm.
International foods and western branded clothing and household items are readily available
Markets and small shops are plentiful
CALL TO PRAYER
Those who haven’t experienced Islamic culture, should be aware of some of the religious customs that take place every day.
Throughout the day you will hear the ‘call to prayer’ from the loudspeakers on the minarets at the mosques
People also take time for prayer throughout the day