At the beginning of my teaching career, I accepted an offer to teach at an American School in Kuwait. I was excited and ready for a new adventure. I didn’t really know too much about Kuwait and I did some research so that I will become more acquainted about my new home. However, I wasn’t very successful. So, I went, I saw, I taught, I used Kuwait as my base to backpack around the Middle East, and over the years I have come to learn and experience so many wonderful and weird things about Kuwait.
Here is a list of 40 random things I’ve learned about Kuwait. I hope it will be helpful to those planning on traveling or moving to Kuwait in the future.
Drunk driving is VERY and DISTURBINGLY common!
Alcohol is completely illegal everywhere. Kuwait is officially 100% dry.
You can find ancient ruins on Failaka Island that date back to the time of Alexander the Great. They are off limits to visitors to the Island.
Pregnancy before marriage is illegal along with pre-marital relations between men and women.
Women are sent to a special hospital and are heavily guarded until they give birth. Then they are charged and sentenced to jail time before they are eventually deported to their home country.
Kuwait holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest firework display, which took place on November 10th 2012, costing a whopping $15 million dollars. It was meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Kuwait’s constitution and parliament.
Flipping the finger to any individual is an illegal offence, which could lead you to court.
You can order just about any take-out meals online using Talabat.com with the option of paying with cash upon delivery or online debit. This can either be a dream come true or a nightmare costing you your money and weight.
Taxis never use the meter despite recent enforcements. They charge depending on which area they are driving to or depending on your nationality. Asians pay the cheapest, Arabs second cheapest, and Western expats the most, because we’re made out of money. A taxi tried to charge me five times the amount to get home. Tried!
Kuwait has a men’s national ice hockey team and is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation! They are known as the Falcons.
It is illegal to insult Islam and the Emir of Kuwait. I knew a person who posted some pretty insulting things on his Facebook wall and was told to leave the country the next day before he would face some serious charges.
All pork products are illegal. Somehow they still make their way into the country.
Independence is celebrated on February 25th as Kuwait was once a British Protectorate. However, the original date of independence is June 19th, 1961. The date was later changed in 1963 to escape the extreme heat during the summer. Streets are usually crowded with cars filled with people spraying each other with water guns, so watch out! They used to use foam, until it was made illegal to use.
Witchcraft is real…in Kuwait. Casting a love spell can land you in jail!
Kuwait has the strongest currency in the world.
There are no nightclubs, because, well, nightclubs are dens of depravity. But there are tons of private parties that look like nightclubs; DJs, alcohol, and disco lights and all. The film Zero Dark Thirty deceived us all!
During the pre-oil days, pearl diving was one of the country’s main sources of income. Nowadays, these pearl diving expeditions are conducted as a way to preserve this cultural tradition and stay connected to past.
Heavy censorship is instilled. Any media that mentions or displays anything considered immoral such as intimate scenes, nudity, religious slander, homosexuality, and countries not recognized by the state are banned.
Co-habitation of unmarried couples is illegal.
There are over 300,000 people registered as non-Kuwaitis. They are stateless or also known as Bedoons. These “illegal residents” were born in Kuwait to bedoon parents or to a Kuwaiti mother and bedoon father are denied citizenship, because they did not register as nationals during Kuwait’s independence in 1961 and/or they are not an original Kuwaiti, but a national of other states such as Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Most live in shanty towns near Jahra and suffer from social, educational, economic, and political discrimination.
They celebrate Halloween! Well, no, they celebrate Gargee’an, which is like Halloween without witch and zombie costumes. It is celebrated on the 15th night of Ramadan and children dress up usually in traditional clothes and go trick-or-treating for candy and they sing special songs.
Diwaniya is life! Diwaniya is a gathering place for men only. They get together, once a week, twice a week, or even seven days a week to basically chill, play videos games, chat, eat, drink tea and/or coffee and discuss all sorts of matters. Only men servants are allowed within this place.
Wearing bikinis is usually not allowed on public beaches or in some private fitness center pools.
The U.S. led liberation from the Iraqi occupation in 1990 is celebrated on February 26th. Again, watch out for those water guns.
There are no fresh water resources throughout the country. Therefore, water is desalinized at treatment plants.
As of 2016 Kuwait rank the 41st happiest country out of 157 countries in the world.
By law expats are not allowed to purchase pick-up trucks. These vehicles could be used to transport prohibited products or used to illegally transport people in and out and around the country.
The labor law prohibits laborers from working outdoors when the temperature reaches 50 degrees celsius (122F).
Begging is prohibited.
The black, green, white, and red colors of the flag all have meaning: black; represents the defeat of the country’s enemies, green; the fertility of the land, white; the country’s purity, and red; which represents the blood of the country’s enemies.
Eating, drinking, chewing gum, smoking, dancing, playing music in public are all prohibited during the holy month of Ramadan. If you are caught, you will be booked.
You cannot wear shorts within a police department and any other government building.
Wasta is all about connections and who you know to get you what you want that is usually impossible or hard to get. Wasta can be used to get just about anything; a license, that job you really wanted, higher grades, airport privileges, alcohol, drugs.
When you are handing something to anyone like coffee, tea, food, money, make sure you use your right hand, because the left hand is considered unclean.
In 2013 it was proposed to set up a sort of “Gaydar” machine at the airport to prevent homosexuals from entering the country. Homosexuality and their acts could land you in jail for a long time.
On September 9, 2014 the Amir of Kuwait, Shiekh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah was recognized for his humanitarian leadership in the Middle East and Africa by the United Nations, despite rampant human rights abuse accusations and cases in Kuwait.
It is Kuwaiti tradition to celebrate a child’s first tooth or first steps by throwing candy from the roof of a house by a mother. Make it rain!
Rumor has it that somewhere in Kuwait is a mountain of coffins. When Kuwaitis die abroad, they are transported back to their country in a coffin, but are buried in a white shroud according to Islamic tradition.
Dress code for women is not as strict as it is in Saudi Arabia; women do not have to wear an abaya and hijab. Your normal everyday clothing is fine; skinny jeans, skirts/dresses (as long as they are not too short), and t-shirts are fine to wear. Ladies, just remember where you are and dress modestly.
On June 25, 2015, a suicide bomber entered a Shia mosque during Friday prayers and killed 27 and injured 227 people. This monstrous act carried out by ISIS was meant to create a resentful rift between the Shias and Sunnis in Kuwait, but their efforts had failed. Instead, it brought Kuwaitis from both sects closer to the point where they prayed together in the same mosque, showing that religious differences cannot break their bond; a real victory against ISIS.