Kuwait City Introduction Walking Tour, Kuwait City

Kuwait City Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Kuwait City

Gently washed by the azure waters of the Persian Bay in the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait City, the capital of Kuwait, is an enchanting fusion of time-honored heritage and resplendent modernity.

The precursor of Kuwait City was established as a fishing village, in the early 17th century, by the Bani Utub tribe, led by Sheikh Sabah I. The settlement grew and became an important commercial hub, known primarily for its pearl diving and trade activities. By the mid-18th century, the Al-Sabah family consolidated their rule over the region, and the city's prominence as a center of trade continued to flourish.

The name "Kuwait" is derived from the Arabic word "kut," which means "fort." It is believed to refer to the fortress-like appearance of the city's original settlement. Over time, "Kut" evolved into "Kuwait," and the name stuck as both the city's and the country's official names.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Kuwait City faced various challenges, including territorial disputes, conflicts with neighboring powers, and the eventual decline of the pearl trade. However, the city's fortunes took a sharp turn in the 1930s with the discovery of oil in Kuwait, which transformed the nation's economy and catapulted Kuwait City into a modern metropolis.

A history full of trials and triumphs has left Kuwait City with a variety of landmarks. One such is the Kuwait National Assembly Building, whose dignified allure makes it a true architectural marvel.

Within the confines of the National Museum, the beauty of Kuwait's yesteryears is lovingly curated, unveiling an opulent tapestry of customs, artifacts, and treasures that unravel the epic journey of the nation steeped in valor and sagacity.

In the heart of the city, the Grand Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Kabir) beckons the faithful and the curious alike, while the Mubarakiya Old Market (Souq Al Mubarakeya) offers a glimpse of Kuwait's trading heritage.

As the sun sets and twilight bathes the city in hues of amber and rose, Liberation Tower soars over the gleaming skyline as an emblem of the country's indomitable spirit.

In Kuwait City, opulence and tradition entwine in a mesmerizing pas de deux, where the enchantment of the past gracefully leads the waltz with the vibrancy of the future. The dynamic capital beckons you to venture beyond the horizon of wonder. If you wish to immerse yourself in the exquisite tapestry of history and modernity that awaits within its embrace, take this self-guided introductory walk.
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Kuwait City Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Kuwait City Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Kuwait » Kuwait City (See other walking tours in Kuwait City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Kuwait National Assembly Building
  • National Museum
  • Sadu House
  • Seif Palace
  • Al-Masjid Al-Kabir (Kuwait's Grand Mosque)
  • Souq Al Mubarakeya (Mubarakiya Old Market)
  • Liberation Tower
Kuwait National Assembly Building

1) Kuwait National Assembly Building

The Kuwait National Assembly Building is an iconic legislative structure that serves as the headquarters for the National Assembly of Kuwait. Designed by the renowned Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1972, the building was eventually completed in 1982, under the supervision of Utzon's son, Jan.

Utzon's design for the National Assembly Building demonstrates his deep understanding and appreciation of Islamic architecture. The concept was inspired by a walled miniature city, featuring various departments organized around courtyards and interconnected through a central hall, reminiscent of a traditional souk. The central hall served as a passage leading to a ceremonial entrance, situated next to a covered square that faced the sea. Together, these elements formed the corners of an incomplete rectangle, with the covered square acting as a focal point.

The architectural complex comprised several key components. Firstly, there was a parliamentary chamber, which served as the primary legislative space. Additionally, a large conference hall was included, providing a venue for important gatherings and meetings. Both of these structures featured sag roofs, adding a distinctive aesthetic element to the design. Lastly, a separate, freestanding mosque with a flat roof was incorporated into the complex, accommodating the religious needs of the occupants. This arrangement ensured the National Assembly Building met legislative needs while reflecting Kuwait's cultural context.

In February 1991, during the Gulf War, the National Assembly Building suffered severe damage when retreating Iraqi troops set it on fire. However, following the conflict, extensive restoration efforts were undertaken to bring the structure back to its former glory. These restoration endeavors aimed to preserve Utzon's original vision while implementing necessary repairs and improvements.

Today, the Kuwait National Assembly Building stands as a symbol of Kuwait's democratic governance and architectural excellence. Its unique fusion of Danish design principles and Islamic architectural influences has made it an iconic landmark in Kuwait City.
National Museum

2) National Museum

The Kuwait National Museum was established in 1983 with the aim of preserving and showcasing Kuwaiti heritage. Through its exhibitions, the museum provides insights into the rich history, traditions, and way of life of the Kuwaiti people. Located in close proximity to the National Assembly, the museum building itself is a remarkable architectural creation designed by the renowned French architect Michel Ecochard.

Ecochard's vision for the Kuwait National Museum involved a design that paid homage to the traditional Arab mudhouse architecture. The building complex consists of five interconnected structures arranged around a central courtyard. This layout is reminiscent of the vernacular Arab mudhouse, creating a harmonious blend of traditional and contemporary design elements. The courtyard serves as a gathering space and focal point, reflecting the importance of communal life in Kuwaiti culture.

Within the museum, visitors can explore a diverse collection that spans different periods of Kuwait's history. Notable artifacts include discoveries from Failika Island, showcasing the ancient maritime heritage of Kuwait. The collection also features animal fossils, offering insights into prehistoric life in the region. Bronze coins from the Bronze and Hellenistic periods provide glimpses into the economic and cultural exchanges of the time. Additionally, the museum showcases examples of daily life in Kuwait, allowing visitors to delve into the traditions, crafts, and customs of Kuwaiti society throughout the ages.

Unfortunately, during the Gulf War, the museum suffered losses as some of its artifacts were damaged or destroyed. However, following the conflict, significant efforts were made to restore and reopen the museum, ensuring the preservation of Kuwait's cultural treasures. The restoration process aimed to revive the museum's exhibits and recreate the immersive experience for visitors, showcasing the resilience and commitment to heritage preservation.
Sadu House

3) Sadu House

Sadu House is a unique artistic house and museum that holds great cultural significance. It was established in 1980 by the Al Sadu Society, with the primary goal of safeguarding the interests of the Bedouin community and preserving their ethnic handicrafts, particularly Sadu weaving.

The traditional craft of Sadu weaving involves hand-weaving geometric shapes and patterns, creating intricate and vibrant designs. This embroidery form has been practiced by Bedouin people for generations, serving as a significant aspect of their cultural heritage. Sadu House serves as a sanctuary for this craft, promoting its preservation and providing a platform for Bedouin artisans to showcase their skills.

The original Sadu House structure was a mud building that existed in the early twentieth century. However, it was unfortunately destroyed during the devastating 1936 Kuwaiti floods. Undeterred by this setback, the Al Sadu Society rebuilt the house, creating a space dedicated to celebrating and sharing the art of Sadu weaving.

Since its establishment, Sadu House has played a vital role in the preservation and promotion of Sadu weaving. The Al Sadu Society registered around 300 Bedouin women by 1984, fostering a thriving community of artisans who produced approximately seventy Sadu weaving items every week. The dedication and talent of these weavers have contributed to the preservation of this unique art form.

Sadu House has become a popular tourist attraction in Kuwait City, drawing visitors from around the world. The house comprises several chambers, each adorned with decorative motifs representing elements of Kuwaiti culture such as houses and mosques. These chambers provide a captivating glimpse into the traditional lifestyle and aesthetics of the Bedouin community.
Seif Palace

4) Seif Palace

Seif Palace stands as a captivating historic palace and one of the most renowned landmarks in Kuwait City. The palace's central and easily accessible location has been home to various structures since 1896. Construction of the current palace began in 1904 under the guidance of Sheikh Mubarak, and it has undergone three renovations throughout its history.

Situated opposite the Grand Mosque of Kuwait, Seif Palace served as the original seat of the Government of Kuwait since the late 19th century. The construction materials used in the palace reflect the local resources found in the country, including clay, rocks, limestone, wood, and metals. One of the palace's most recognizable features is the watchtower, adorned with blue tiles, while the roof is covered in pure gold, exemplifying the exquisite Islamic architectural style. The palace is adorned with original Islamic mosaic tile works, showcasing the craftsmanship and attention to detail of the era.

Only three years after the initial completion of the palace, Sheikh Mubarak decided to expand it by adding another wing, adhering to the same architectural style. This expansion was completed in 1910, making it the first building in Kuwait to have electricity when it was officially connected to the power grid in 1913. With an expansive area of approximately 16,000 square meters (172,223 square feet), the palace compound includes ten surrounding buildings, an artificial lake, a helicopter landing field, a yacht dock, a museum, an art gallery, and, notably, office spaces.

Following the first Gulf War, the tower of Seif Palace suffered significant damage from an incoming missile, which also destroyed the dial room. The Smith of Derby Group, an esteemed company, was entrusted with replacing the iconic clock. Notably, they were the only non-US company awarded a contract during the reconstruction period of the country. Despite these challenges, Seif Palace remains a major tourist attraction, captivating visitors with its alluring Islamic architecture.
Al-Masjid Al-Kabir (Kuwait's Grand Mosque)

5) Al-Masjid Al-Kabir (Kuwait's Grand Mosque) (must see)

Kuwait's Grand Mosque is an awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece that showcases the beauty of traditional Islamic design. The mosque combines elements of Islamic architecture with exquisite Moroccan tiles, ceramics, and a courtyard adorned with stone imported from India. Particularly at night, the mosque's illumination enhances its grandeur, creating a truly breathtaking sight.

As the largest and official mosque in Kuwait, the Grand Mosque occupies an expansive area of 45,000 square meters (480,000 square feet). The main prayer hall is a remarkable 72 meters (236 feet) wide on all sides, boasting 21 teakwood doors and illuminated by 144 windows. The mosque's dome, measuring 26 meters (85 feet) in diameter and 43 meters (141 feet) in height, is adorned with the Asma al-hosna, the 99 names of God.

With a capacity to accommodate up to 10,000 men in the main prayer hall and up to 950 women in a separate designated area, the Grand Mosque ensures a welcoming and inclusive environment for worshippers. The mosque also houses a library spanning an area of 350 square meters (3,800 square feet), featuring a vast collection of Islamic reference books and documents.

Recognizing the need to accommodate the numerous vehicles of worshippers, the Grand Mosque includes a five-level underground car park beneath the eastern courtyard, capable of holding up to 550 cars. This thoughtful addition facilitates convenient access for visitors and ensures a seamless experience.

Construction on the Grand Mosque commenced in 1979, and it was completed in 1986. The meticulous attention to detail, combined with the use of quality materials and the integration of stunning Islamic design elements, has made the Grand Mosque a cherished landmark in Kuwait City. It stands as a testament to the country's rich cultural heritage and serves as a center for prayer, reflection, and community gathering for thousands of worshippers.
Souq Al Mubarakeya (Mubarakiya Old Market)

6) Souq Al Mubarakeya (Mubarakiya Old Market) (must see)

Mubarakiya Old Market is a historic and popular traditional market that has been a cornerstone of Kuwaiti trade for over 200 years. It holds a significant place in Kuwait's cultural heritage as one of the oldest souqs in the country, serving as the thriving center of commerce long before the discovery of oil.

Situated between Abdullah Al-Mubarak, Abdullah Al-Salem, and Palestine Streets, Mubarakiya Old Market underwent renovation following the damage it suffered during the Iraqi invasion in 1990. The restoration efforts aimed to revive its traditional charm, ensuring that the market maintained its authentic atmosphere.

Visitors to Mubarakiya Old Market can spend hours exploring its labyrinthine alleys, discovering a plethora of heritage goods. The market offers an array of fascinating items, including Persian silk carpets, genuine Arab antiques, exquisite perfumes like musk and oud, and traditional costumes. Bargain hunters will appreciate the reasonable prices found here, making it an ideal destination for souvenir shopping and preserving the cultural heritage of Kuwait.

Al-Mubarakiya features an extensive range of shops catering to various needs. Visitors can explore stalls offering dates, honey, spices, sweets, vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish. Additionally, the market showcases a diverse selection of accessories, including gold and silver jewelry, providing an opportunity to indulge in Kuwait's traditional craftsmanship.

Within Mubarakiya Old Market, visitors can also immerse themselves in Kuwait's rich history through two mini museums. The Sheikh Mubarak Kiosk offers insights into the country's cultural heritage, while the first Islamic pharmacy in Kuwait provides a glimpse into the development of traditional medicine. Admission to these museums is free, allowing visitors to deepen their understanding of Kuwait's past.

The market offers more than just shopping opportunities. Near the Al-Bahar or Sea Mosque, visitors can discover a courtyard brimming with traditional cafes. Here, tea is brewed over coals, creating an authentic and aromatic experience. Several small restaurants line up, offering a range of authentic Arabic, Indian, and Persian dishes to be savored in the open air.
Liberation Tower

7) Liberation Tower

The Liberation Tower is an iconic structure that should not be missed during a visit to Kuwait. As one of the city's prominent towers, it stands as a symbol of Kuwait's prosperity and progress. With its striking presence, the Liberation Tower is the second tallest structure in Kuwait, showcasing the city's impressive skyline.

Construction of the tower began before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, under the name The Kuwait Telecommunications Tower. However, due to the invasion, construction was temporarily halted when the tower was nearly halfway completed. Despite the challenging circumstances, the Liberation Tower miraculously remained unharmed during the conflict, which led to its renaming.

Following the expulsion of Saddam Hussein's forces on February 27, 1991, construction of the tower resumed. Upon its completion in 1993, it was aptly renamed the Liberation Tower, symbolizing Kuwait's triumph over the invasion and its subsequent liberation. The tower stands as a powerful testament to the resilience and determination of the Kuwaiti people.

While the tower itself is not open to the public, the complex houses offices where locals can be seen going about their work. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the amenities offered within the tower, including restaurants and an observation deck. The observation deck provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Kuwait City, allowing visitors to take in the city's stunning skyline and surrounding areas.

Climbing to the top of the Liberation Tower or experiencing the observation deck offers a unique perspective and memorable experience. From this vantage point, visitors can appreciate the growth and development of Kuwait, marvel at the city's architectural wonders, and enjoy the bustling activity below.

Walking Tours in Kuwait City, Kuwait

Create Your Own Walk in Kuwait City

Create Your Own Walk in Kuwait City

Creating your own self-guided walk in Kuwait City is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Salmiya Walking Tour

Salmiya Walking Tour

Some twelve kilometers southeast of the center of Kuwait City lies the vibrant and popular district of Salmiya. Replete with a kaleidoscope of cultural wonders and architectural marvels, this bustling and cosmopolitan area is an indulgent sanctuary for the senses. Whether you're interested in shopping, cultural experiences, or simply relaxing by the sea, it has something to offer for...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles