Kuwait is a civilized country and everything
essential to modern comfortable living is available. Healthy
food in plenty of variety, clothing of latest design and fashion,
house hold items from furniture to electric accessories, cars,
motor boats, toys, sports goods, in short practically anything
and everything from all over the world is imported into Kuwait.
The prices are also reasonable because the import duties are
Setting up a home in Kuwait is quite easy. Practically
everything that you may need for the home is available and
shopping is quite convenient. English is spoken in all the
larger shops and communicating is not a problem.
Food & Water
Most food is imported and subject to stringent testing by
the Ministry of Public Health. Shops are inspected regularly
by the Ministry and, provided normal domestic precautions
are taken, the food in Kuwait is quite safe to eat.
Kuwait's water supply consists of distilled sea-water
and is 'soft'. Water filters, which require regular cleaning
or changing, are standard fittings in most homes because,
though the water is clean when it leaves the pumping stations,
impurities are sometimes picked up in the distribution pipes.
Water filters are commonly used to remove these impurities,
which makes the water perfectly safe for drinking and does
not need to be boiled. For the overcautious, mineral drinking
water is commonly available in 1.5 litre plastic bottles at
a cost of 150fils or so a bottle.
Furniture & Consumer Durables
The range of furniture available is vast and caters for all
tastes and price ambitions. New furniture, either fully-built
or self-assembly, is available in Shuwaikh and in the other
main shopping areas. Credit terms can be arranged. Furniture
can also be rented.
With a constant turnover of expatriates there
is plenty of second-hand furniture around for sale. This is
usually advertised by word-of-mouth or in the daily newspapers.
Used furniture can also be bought at the Friday open air markets,
and during the week at the second-hand market near the nurseries
at Al-Rai on the 4th Ring Road.
A wide range of TV's, videos, stereos, refrigerators,
micro-waves and other consumer durables are available from
all the main Japanese, Korean, American and European manufacturers
at reasonable prices.
Kuwait's TV system is on the PAL standard but
most of the TVs sold in the country are 'multi system'.
Clothing & Decorum
There is a wide variety of cloth and dress material available.
Readymade clothing in Kuwait ranges form cheap quality items
to very expensive designer couture. Styles reflect the multinational
nature of Kuwait's population.
Tailors and dressmakers abound. Materials are
plentiful and reasonably priced.
Laundry and dry-cleaning services are fairly
Though Kuwaitis are by and large liberal and
broad-minded, Islamic traditions dictate clothing decorum.
Beachwear, worn by either sex, is strictly for the beach or
home and will cause offence in the suqs and on the street.
Even without the traditional black aba (cloak), the fashionable
clothes worn by Kuwaiti ladies will not reveal shoulders and
upper arms and usually stretch down to mid-calf at least.
Formality of dress at work varies among different companies
and occupations in Kuwait, but styles are always modest.
There are over 800 mosques in Kuwait. Members of other faiths
have freedom of worship and there are quite a few Christian
churches in the country. Kuwait's Catholic cathedral is in
Watya (near the Sheraton Hotel), and next to it there is a
Coptic church, and about a block away a Presbyterian church.
There is an Orthodox Church in Co-operative Street in Salwa
(opposite the Universal American School), and in Ahmadi, a
Catholic church and an Anglican church.
Where a marriage involves a Muslim male, the couple are required
to go to the Marriage Section, in the Ministry of Justice
(opposite the Municipal Garden just off Fahd Al-Salem Street)
to legalise their marriage contract. Each of the couple must
produce proof of their capacity to marry. Other documents
required are copy of passports and civil ID cards. Two male
witnesses are required. The marriage contract is signed and
the exchange professed in front of a qadi (judge). The Marriage
Section (tel:882200) is open 8:30am to 1:30pm Saturday to
Wednesday. Stamp charges are KD1.
Christians must get married in church and then
have their marriage certificate attested at the Notary Public
Department at the Ministry of Justice in the Ministry Complex
on Soor Street. A form of civil marriage is also available
in the Notary Public Department, on Sundays and Wednesdays
only. Expatriates need to bring along two witnesses plus a
certificate from their embassy showing their capacity to marry,
or other evidence such as validated divorce certificates,
as well as their passports and civil IDs. Stamp charges are
The attested marriage contract is in Arabic.
Couples wishing to register the marriage in their own country
usually need to take the contract to a government licensed
office for translation and then to the Ministry of Justice
for authentication before taking it to their embassy for registration.
Couples married outside Kuwait must have their marriage certificates
attested by their embassy in order to use the certificate
for legal purposes.
Kuwait's shopping malls range from the most exclusive
(in price) to the ordinary. The more exclusive contain many
boutiques selling international brand names. The choice is
Most areas in Kuwait have a large supermarket
run by the Cooperative Society. These jam'eeyahs (co-ops)
usually open early until quite late at night and stock a vast
range of foods and other household items. The prices of some
food items are controlled. There are also many private supermarkets.
A few are open 24 hours a day. The larger ones also sell non-food
and household items, such as toys, furniture, car accessories
In areas where expatriates from the third world
live or work, there are many small 'ethnic' supermarkets,
such as Indian, Filipino, Thai, Sri Lankan, etc, which sell
all sorts of foods and personal items imported from these
Baqalas are the convenience stores found in every
street. They sell everything from cigarettes to biscuits and
'fresh' vegetables. Prices are a bit higher than the supermarkets
Open Air & Friday Suqs
Traditional markets still flourish among the modern supermarkets
and malls of Kuwait.
The suq area in central Kuwait City is a labyrinth
of covered streets and passageways lined with stalls and shops.
The stalls are often topped with low fixed roofs even though
some of the alleyways are roofed over higher up. The City
suq is in fact the remains of about twenty different interconnecting
suqs, some removed by development, others destroyed by the
invasion in 1990. Each suq was made up of shops that specialised
in particular items, such as clothing, hardware, spices, etc,
and many of these are still open for business. In the Suq
Al-Hareem, for instance, women selling everyday items sit
with their wares on platforms running down the centre of the
street. Shopping in the City suq area is an interesting and
cheap alternative to the modern supermarkets and shopping
malls, though bargaining is essential to secure a good price.
Other traditional suqs still survive in Kuwait,
notably in Fahaheel and Jahra. There are also several suq
al-jum'a, Friday markets, which take place only on that day
of the week, when they operate from early morning until evening
selling everything from second-hand furniture and clothing
to carpeting and 'antiques', as well as various species of
livestock. The major suq al-jum'a is at al-Rai just off the
4th Ring Road.
Most of the food shops sell a mixture of chilled or frozen
produce, canned and preserved foods. Plenty of fresh fruit
and vegetables, fish and meat however is available.
The main suqs for fresh foods are in Shuwaikh
(in Canada Dry Street, on the right hand side when travelling
westwards, a block before the flyover is reached) and in Fahaheel
(on the south side near the coast). These are essentially
wholesale markets for fruit, vegetables and meat, but the
vendors welcome all buyers and prices are cheaper than at
Most areas of Kuwait have a nearby suq selling
fresh vegetables and fruit. There are also several main vegetable
suqs, such as the one near the Hawalli Immigration roundabout
in Salmiya, which sell fresh produce that has either just
been imported or harvested in local farms.
The main fish suqs are on Arabian Gulf Street,
and in Fahaheel. A splendid new Suq al-Samak (fish market)
was opened on Arabian Gulf Street just east of the Seif Palace
The rubian or prawns for which Kuwait is famous
are only sold during the official fishing season which, in
an effort to preserve stocks, is now restricted to six months
a year (September to February).
Some fresh beef is available in the main suqs
in Shuwaikh and Fahaheel but most beef is imported frozen
or chilled. Australian sheep are the cheapest, but the several
types of Arabian stock on sale are by far the tastiest.
Most neighbourhoods have fresh chicken shops
where live chickens are kept in wire cages, from which the
buyer makes his choice. Approximate cost for a whole chicken
is 500 to 600 fils a kilogram.
Many areas have small makhbaz (bakeries). The
bread, either kubous Arabi (Arabic bread) or kubous tandoor
(Iranian bread) is baked on the spot.
The quality of food, medicines and household
goods on sale in Kuwait is usually very high, though problems
do occur from time to time.
The Ministry of Public Health (MPH) is responsible
for ensuring that food is fit for human consumption. However
the Food Control Department at the Municipality (Baladeeyah)
receives complaints concerning spoiled food or food sold beyond
its expiry date. The Food Control Department has centres in
each governorate and these are usually located near the 'coop'
supermarkets. The centres are open from 7:00am to 2:00pm and
from 4:00pm to 8:00pm. To lodge a complaint, a valid civil
ID must be shown. When a complaint is lodged, a representative
from the centre will usually investigate the matter on the
spot by visiting the shop concerned. If the complaint seems
to be well founded, samples of the food item will be sent
to an MPH laboratory for testing and eventually, should tests
prove positive, the matter is referred to the Legal Affairs
Department at the MPH and the shopkeeper is prosecuted.
Pharmacies are supervised by the Drugs Registration
and Inspection Department of the MPH, to whom complaints about
the quality of medicines and medical apparatus should be addressed.
The Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MCI)
is responsible for ensuring that consumers get a fair shake.
The main centre for the MCI's consumer protection department
is the Commercial Control Sector in the capital but there
are 14 offices throughout the country. These offices, which
are usually located near 'coop' supermarkets, are open to
receive complaints about fraud, substandard goods, financial
cheating, etc, from 7:00am to 2pm and 3:00pm to 10:00pm. The
complainant's civil ID must be shown, as well as either the
defective item or a receipt for it. The complaint is usually
investigated immediately and eventually, if it seems that
the shopkeeper has a case to answer, both parties are summoned
for a hearing at the commercial prosecution office in the
Ministry of Justice.
HOT LINE: 4820281
There are several gold suqs in the country and
most general shopping areas also contain at least one gold
shop. Following the depredations of the Iraqi invasion, the
old gold suq in Kuwait City centre was shifted to a purpose-built
building nearby called suq al-dahab al-markazi (the central
gold market). This building contains the government assay
office where gold can be checked for its purity and conformity
with its hallmark.
All gold sold from a shop must be hallmarked and the gold
shops are closely monitored by government inspectors. By law
the shopkeeper must give a buyer an official receipt that
shows clearly the purity and weight of the gold. A buyer should
always demand this receipt and then any doubts later as to
the gold content and weight can be resolved at the government
Most gold is sold as 21 or 22 carat jewellery.
Jewellery styles are mainly Arabic, Indian and Italian. The
price of the gold content of a piece of jewellery fluctuates
daily in line with the world market price for gold.
Twenty four carat gold (99.99% pure) can be bought
in bar form, i.e., in 10 gram, tola (a traditional weight
somewhat more than 10 gram), 100 gram and in Kilogram bars,
hallmarked accordingly. In some countries gold bars are classified
GOLD ASSAY OFFICE
2nd Floor, Suq al-Dahab al-Markazi
(Central Gold Market)
Kuwait City Centre
Tel: 243 6049
For a country with a population of only 2.3 million,
many of whom are indigent labourers, Kuwait has an extraordinary
array of super-modern shopping malls where most internationally
known branded goods can be bought at fairly reasonable prices.
Kuwait's prime shopping area is Salem Al Mubarak Street which
runs parallel to Arabian Gulf Street, just one block in from
the sea. The area includes the Sultan Centre (a large supermarket),
several international fast-food outlets, and Kuwait's biggest
concentration of up-market shopping malls. Most shops open
from 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 9:30pm on weekdays. A few are
open on Fridays as well.
Zahra Complex has 54 shops on three floors of
upscale shopping environment, offering high-quality fashionwear,
accessories, cosmetics, perfumes, gifts, and antiques. The
complex includes two cafes.
Al-Fanar Complex has 86 shops on three floors
selling mainly international designer clothing and personal
items. Each floor has a cafe and there is a bank with an ATM
on the ground floor. A fourth floor contains an internet cafe
and a cinema.
Two other up-market shopping centres in this
area are Al-Bustan and Laila Galleria. The area also contains
the somewhat more down-market Tala Centre, and Wataniya and
In the City there are three shopping complexes worth a visit.
Salhiya Centre, behind JW Marriott Hotel, is a concentration
of boutiques selling branded goods such as Hermes, Bulgari,
and Valentino. Salhiya also makes for pleasant strolling and
browsing. Al-Muthanna Complex, opposite JW Marriott Hotel,
is a favourite shopping centre for middle-class Kuwaitis and
expatriates. With underground parking, the complex's three
shopping floors contain almost everything: fashionwear, luggage,
electronic appliances, perfumes, silverware, materials, opticians,
photography and art supplies. Several shops specialise in
toys for kids and teenagers, and the basement contains what
is probably the best bookshop in Kuwait.
Al-Watya Suq, at the back of the Sheraton Hotel,
is a bit of a down-scale place. But it does contain a large
number of Kuwait's famous gold and jewellery shops, as well
some good sports shops.
Hawalli contains only one shopping centre of note, Al-Othman
Complex, recognisable by its red brick exterior. The complex
has a range of clothing shops. Regular special offers announced
via FM radio ensure that this complex is a good place for
all sorts of designer stuff at reasonable prices. Underground
parking is available from behind the complex.
In 1998 a new shopping area was opened on the waterfront in
Sharq. Built around a marina and recognisable by its unique
square-pillar architectural style, Sharq Market is the biggest
shopping complex in Kuwait both in size and the variety of
shops, boutiques and supermarkets it contains and it seems
that every international brand name has an outlet there. The
area includes a fresh fish market, several cafes, restaurants
and cinemas, as well as a sea-promenade, a yacht club, and
a health spa. Exploration requires a full day out.
New Marina Project expected to be completed by
mid-November 2002 will be the Marina Mall Commercial Center,
which is the Fifth Stage Waterfront Project. This project
is divided into two parts, a land project that includes the
the commercial center, and a water area that includes the
Marina, a hotel, restaurants and aquatic services. These are
joined together by a 100 meter long bridge over the Gulf road.