Saudi-Arabia’s Surprising Little Bro Kuwait-Worth a Visit!
I recently visited Kuwait and was very surprised on how advanced they are compared to neighboring Saudi-Arabia. I had an image in my mind of Kuwait as being a post war-zone developing country. Although these countries share similar demographics, culture and history
, they seem to be in different millennia when it comes to civilization and progress.Although being in Kuwait seemed very similar than Saudi-Arabia, it was as if taking a step into the future. Perhaps in another 100 years KSA can catch up with this tiny but efficient and advanced Muslim country.
Kuwait is definitely more advanced in many areas, yet it has managed to preserve its culture and Islamic practices without becoming another Dubai or Bahrain.
In fact Kuwait ranks as the top Arab country in the HDI (Human Development Index). Unlike its “Big Brother”, Kuwait is categorized as a developed country and also has the highest literacy rate of the Arab world.
Here’s some things that work in Kuwait but Saudi lacks altogether or drags way behind in:
Kuwait and Saudi are barren lands surrounded by desert. However Kuwait City pleases the eye with roads enveloped in greenery, well trimmed trees and lawns. Roads and sidewalks not only exist, they are kept immaculate condition and they are clean from trash.
Public parks are everywhere and can be used by everyone. Saudi-Arabia has been catching onto this, but public parks and green scenery especially in Riyadh are very scarce. They have started many projects to improve this in Riyadh but the difference is in Kuwait you will forget you are actually in the middle of the desert.
The Kuwaiti Corniche is lined with parks, endless kilometers of boardwalk, public beaches, restaurants and entertainment areas. I wouldn’t even call the one in Jeddah a Corniche, it’s mostly dirty wasteland. Damman has a slightly more pleasant Corniche but nothing compared to the one in Kuwait.
In Saudi all public places are segregated which cause a multitude of problems because it’s against normal human nature.
Kuwaitis tend to their everyday business in a non-segregated environment, and all the problems related to harassment of women seen in Saudi are non-existent there. I did not see any men chasing women in cars, gawking and following them like they are prey in shopping malls, shouting or calling names or disturbing women in any way like they do in Saudi-Arabia.
Women are not forced to wear abayas and yet for some reason the young men are able to control themselves. Amazing! Perhaps the Saudi religious police could make a field trip to Kuwait and see how people actually manage to interact in a completely normal way without these constricting and suffocating elements they force on their people.
Tourists are welcome in Kuwait, although the industry is not very advanced there, it surely is better than Saudi. A visa can be obtained from the airport for most nationalities.
For Saudi one will need a sponsor and the visa process is frustrating and long and once in the country lack of organized tourism makes exploring what the country has to offer very difficult.
Both countries still have it for foreign employees, but Kuwait has plans to abolish it in February.
What it ultimately comes down to in my opinion is the amount of rights these two countries give their women. A country is as strong as its women are.
Women contributing to society is behind Kuwait’s success and advancement.
By allowing women to live with equal human rights in society the country has prospered after the devastating incidents of the Gulf war.
Some recent advancements in women’s rights in Kuwait:
Women can have their own passport without approval from husband which remains only a dream to Saudi women due to the slavery mahrem system.
Women are allowed to vote and in 2009 four were elected to parliament. There are female ministers in Kuwait, but there is one as deputy minister in KSA too.
In both countries education of women is seen as important and they make up 70 % of the university students, yet Kuwait is the one enabling the women to use their knowledge for the benefit of society. The employment rates for women are 42.5% vs 14.5%. Saudi women tend to find jobs mainly as teachers, of other women, so benefiting the society as a whole and being seen working in public is very rare in KSA. In Kuwait, women are visible in public and working in various places in society.
What is the factor that enables Kuwait to take these major steps, yet Saudi always seems to need “baby-steps” for any kind of progress? The answer can’t be just the size differences. Kuwait has transformed itself from a bomb stricken land fill to a flourishing and modern Arab country proud of its heritage.
Saudi-Arabia could definitely take some lessons from its Little Brother!
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