Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saudi-Arabia's Advanced Little Bro Kuwait

I recently visited Kuwait and was very surprised on how advanced they are compared to their neighbor 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 millenia 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 practises 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.

Gender segregation
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 organised tourism makes exploring what the country has to offer very difficult.

Sponsor system
Both countries still have it for foreign employees, but Kuwait has plans to abolish it in February.

Empowering women
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 Kuwaits 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 "babysteps" 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! 


IA said...

HI Laylah, I just finished reading your blog, all in one sitting, and I must ay i am very touched. You have way of making the immpossibilties of living in this city to tolerable and almost sound attractive. I am new to riyadh, 2 weeks and have come here from toronto canada. I am looking for meet like minded individuals in riyadh to make my stay here more rewarding and full of new friendships. What can you suggest about where to start, how to get involved, where to get involved. etc etc.

Vanamo said...

Salam aleikum sister,
I just wanted to thank you for this interesting post. Based on what you just wrote, I would like to visit Kuwait one day, insha Allah!

Layla said...

@ IA

welcome to my blog and thanks for your comment :))

i think you have a great attitude and for sure you will enjoy your time here :)
It depends a little bit of what your interests are, where you could get started.
have you heard of the Hashing groups? thats a good place to meet new people!
Could you email me more about yourself like where you work and how old are you etc and I will try to help you the best I can!
I will also give you the contact details for the hash harriers and some cool canadien people if you wish :)

Layla said...

aleikum salaam nadia,
I can definitely recommend a visit to Kuwait!
it was really such a pleasant surpise! I dont know why I had this image of a bombed worn out city in the middle of the desert :D

Hamid said...


nice post.

shukran for sharing.

Dentographer said...

my only point here is comparing kuwait to saudi arabia is like comparing how easily u can build a small town house to a mansion,the size of both countries definitly influenced the pace of its development.

though i agree with everything u said.

Layla said...

Thank you for your comment huh!

Huhuh-I think you might need to understand first that was a totally sarcastic comment I made regarding the abayas :))

Can you please provide a link to statistics to back up your statement about rapes because this interests me, is it really so or is this just our media that tends to exaggerate the isuue. thanks!

Intrigued said...

And what Kuwait can learn from Saudi Arabia is not to leave their country in drove during the summer (including the arm forces), and make it venerable for invading armies. :):)

Anonymous said...

Salam sister,

about the corniche thing, You clearly haven't been to Khobar or Dammam. Their corniche is imppresive, even Kuwaitis visit it. Saudi Arabia is not only Riyadh and Hajaz lol. We do exist in Khobar hahah

Saudi guy