Kuwait for a young woman

Old Sep 7, 05, 8:57 am
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Kuwait for a young woman

I'm planning to be in Kuwait this fall for an academic conference. I have never been to the Middle East before and am not sure what to expect. I understand Kuwait is fairly modern and my elementary Arabic probably won't be needed at all, but does anyone have advice for a young, very American-looking woman traveling by herself? I will only be there a few days so I'm not particularly worried, but are there any issues that I should be aware of? I'd appreciate any advice or insight you all might have.
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Old Sep 8, 05, 1:57 am
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Originally Posted by amarain
I'm planning to be in Kuwait this fall for an academic conference. I have never been to the Middle East before and am not sure what to expect. I understand Kuwait is fairly modern and my elementary Arabic probably won't be needed at all, but does anyone have advice for a young, very American-looking woman traveling by herself? I will only be there a few days so I'm not particularly worried, but are there any issues that I should be aware of? I'd appreciate any advice or insight you all might have.
Although the Kuwaitis are very friendly to foreigners, respecting a few rules will bring you a long way:
- Wear dresses or at least wide trousers, so as not to reveal too much of your shapes. No matter how good looking you are.
- Wear long sleeves at all times
- Keep a head scarve handy, particularily good when shopping, besides, will keep the dust out of your hair.
- Don't wear too loud colours
- Don't show cleavage
- Don't look at men too directly.
- Don't speak too loud
- Better not drive
If you feel like having to stop to drink a coffee or whatever, do not go into the small coffee shops where only men go.
Otherwise just be yourself but never too outspoken. Be patient, don't expect being served first, but on the other hand Kuwaitis can be extremely gallant...
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Old Sep 8, 05, 12:16 pm
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Magexpect's advice is perfect and comprehensive. To put it another way, don't be ostentatious. But do enjoy yourself. There are plenty of interesting cafe's and restaurants that host foreigners, men and women alike. And if you drink, look at this as a short vacation from alcohol.

I look very American as well, but I have never had a problem in the middle east.
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Old Sep 8, 05, 5:48 pm
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The above advice is excellent. I have been to Kuwait several times - often alone. I am blonde with blue eyes - very noticeable on the street. Men would stare but few would approach me or say anything. I have been shopping and sightseeing alone and never had any problems. If it is possible, try to stay with a group of people, especially at night. There are women walking alone on the street, but they are few and far between. One gal I work with was stopped by police and sent back to the hotel when she went out for dinner alone. Knowing her, she may have been inappropriately dressed. Definitely wear long sleeves and long pants or a skirt past your knees. Do not wear anything tight or revealing. However, within the confines of the hotel, you can get away with a lot more. I would head to the hotel breakfast in a loose t-shirt and sweatpants and used the hotel pool (although I did wear a one-piece bathing suit and covered up for walking in the public areas of the hotel).

There are a LOT of American military personnel - they were much more likely to approach me. I felt that it wasn't always the best idea to hang out with them or get into extended conversations. Best just to mind your own business. There are definitely mixed feelings among the locals about the military presence.

Overall, I truly enjoyed my trips to KWI and hope to return. Excellent shopping - especially for gold! The hotel staff helped me with shopping and sightseeing and I never felt unsafe. Service was always wonderful and the restaurants were delicious and relatively inexpensive.
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Old Sep 12, 05, 4:22 am
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Not sure exactly when you will be heading to Kuwait, but please keep in mind that Ramadan (the Holy month of fasting), is scheduled to begin around the 5th/6th of October and will last for a month. Most people will be fasting from sunrise until sunset, so please be mindful of that when walking around the city during that time. Enjoy your stay in Kuwait City.
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Old Sep 14, 05, 7:25 pm
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If you have any free time, then I recommend the Marina Mall, it has a large branch of Virgin Megastore, with a nice coffee shop. The mall is very family orientated and lots of places to eat as well.

There is also a small mall attached to the JW Marriott hotel in town, which has a Starbucks and a nice Marriott Cafe.

Whilst all the recommedations on clothing are accurate.. let it be said that lighter fabrics are best ! I try to avoid walking anywhere, and rely on hotel cars, which although cost more, means air-conditioned comfort.
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Old Sep 15, 05, 9:18 am
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Thanks for the great tips! I'm getting really excited about the trip now. I won't be there until late November, so I will not be there during Ramadan. What will the weather be like in mid to late November? Although I've studied some about the history and the culture, I admit I know very little about the practical aspects of visiting at this point.
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Old Sep 16, 05, 12:39 pm
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Weather in November, if it's anything like further down the Gulf, will be great. But be prepared for the odd spot of rain.
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Old Sep 27, 05, 10:27 pm
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Originally Posted by amarain
I'm planning to be in Kuwait this fall for an academic conference. I have never been to the Middle East before and am not sure what to expect. I understand Kuwait is fairly modern and my elementary Arabic probably won't be needed at all, but does anyone have advice for a young, very American-looking woman traveling by herself? I will only be there a few days so I'm not particularly worried, but are there any issues that I should be aware of? I'd appreciate any advice or insight you all might have.
I traveled to Kuwait to produce a series of television reports. I noticed that whenever a female colleague of mine would ask a question of a government official, the official would reply to her cameraMAN.

She also felt very uncomfortable dressed in a casual manner in our hotel lobby (short sleeves, slacks). Although it was nothing revealing, she got so many long stares she quickly changed into long sleeves and a covering for her head.

If you can adjust to the difference in culture, it should be a fascinating time. Good luck!
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Old Oct 2, 05, 5:41 pm
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Visiting Kuwait

Being a local myself, its always interesting to read how people see us from an outsiders perspective! While most of the comments raised here seemed pretty reasonable, I do have a couple of comments to share from a local perspective if I may:

1) I sometimes get this odd feeling when some foreigners get a bit too overly wary when referring to the culture in our region (and in Kuwait in particular) for example about such things as" "do's and don'ts", ways to dress, manners etc. (it seems to me like those myths you somtiems find in many "visitor guidebooks") I have heard so much of these warnings, I can only imagine how visitors must think we must be a terribly complicated and uptight crowd! We really aren't that complicated, and overall I think people are much more laid back about these things than many outsiders may think :-)

2) Sure not all Kuwaitis are angels, everywhere in the world you will find good people and bad people, but some posts that seemed to imply that Kuwaiti males are more likely to be on the chauvinistic side seemed a little to harsh and unfair (at least to this Kuwaiti male!) There is nothing worse than stereotypes, and I think such things always get in the way of what could lead to menaingul interactions with people.

Anyhow, these are my two cents on this, I hope I didn't stray way too off-topic. Hope you enjoy your trip to Kuwait, even though it may not be the most exciting place in the world. But I hope it will be an opportunity for you to see a new culture and new perspective, so don't be afraid to interact with the locals just as you would if you were visiting any other part of the world, trust me we won't pouce on you and we don't bite ! :-)
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Old Oct 3, 05, 1:15 am
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Well said Swoon. Thanks for posting. ^
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