Twenty-five years on from Operation Desert Storm, the nation continues to thrive via its biggest asset; also a motivation for Saddam Hussein’s transgression.
But Kuwait has also evolved into a destination with luxury beach resorts and malls to cater for visitors, be they on business or holiday.
Admittedly, Kuwait has much to learn from the likes of Dubai about nurturing tourism, but it does possess the culture to balance its comforts.
Al Manshar Rotana is well equipped to provide the latter. And while general manager Imad Zaboura says much of his clientele is on business, the hotel is a good base from which to explore.
Admittedly, that’s not everyone’s desired view, but few could argue with Al Manshar Rotana’s stylish décor, calming music – including a nighttime pianist in the Library Lounge - and modern facilities. The rooftop pool, poolside Bay View dining area and the Bodylines fitness centre also give views of the ocean and Al Kout Marina.
Failaka, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, offers international variety and tasty respite from the heat and busy streets beyond.
Shops at nearby Al Kout Mall are a draw for Western visitors and the fish market is surprisingly tourist-friendly. In fact, like many market vendors we met, they invite you to take snapshots; not always popular in the Middle East.
At dusk, outside seating areas bristle with banter as locals eat beside fountain displays while at weekends the nearby beaches fill with families.
The alleyways of the souq beside the hotel make for colourful forays, but for larger mall shopping and thriving traditional souqs you must head to the capital.
Around 20 minutes by car – you can hire but Kuwait’s poor road safety record suggests a cab is the better option – gets you there.
Or, if you seek more of an adventure and to save a few Dinar, catch one of numerous regular buses. The 40-minute trip on the 103 or 999 costs about 60 pence.
Ask the driver to drop you beside the heritage walkways of Souq Al Mubarakiya, a working market where you’ll feel like a novelty.
A short walk finds the Grand Mosque. The world’s eighth largest, it is more decorative inside than its stocky exterior suggests and opens to visitors 9am-10.30am and 5pm-7pm weekdays, although best check weekend timings. The place is spacious, peaceful and comes to life as the sun sinks.
The iconic Kuwait Towers with their bauble midriffs were closed for renovation on our visit but you can photograph their distinctive shapes against the blue sky from outside. When open, the Main Tower contains dining opportunities and views along the Corniche from a rotating level.
For a better understanding of Kuwaiti heritage and recent history, try the Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Arts and Al Qurain Martyrs Museum, respectively. Both in residential neighbourhoods best reached by taxi, the former is a private collection of calligraphy, weapons and artifacts. The latter is the site of a battle fought days before the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi soldiers.
The Al Manshar Rotana concierge provided a map listing many of the things to see, including Kuwait National Museum, Modern Art Museum and regional art hub Dar Al Funoon. Sadu House celebrates the textile heritage of the Kuwaiti Bedouin while the restaurant at Liberation Tower – started before and completed after the Iraq occupation – gives an over-view of the city.
Kuwait has fixed its scars and evidently prospered, but it is yet to flourish as a tourist haven. Those happy to seek out its heritage, however, or immerse themselves in malls, would find Kuwait an intriguing addition to their passport.
Stay at the five star Al Manshar Rotana from £143 per room, per night, including breakfast, based on two adults in a Classic Room. Book and see more at www.rotana.com
FlyDubai flies direct to Kuwait from DXB. Go to www.skyscanner.net for options.
For more on Kuwait attractions visit www.kuwaittourism.com