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 phenomenal.
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 and perfumes.
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 countries.
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 and coops.
Traditional Open Air & Friday Suqs
Traditional markets still flourish among the modern supermarkets and malls of Kuwait.
The suq area in central Kuwait City 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 the supermarkets.
Most areas of Kuwait have a nearby suq selling fresh vegetables and fruits 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 in 1998.
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.
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 khubus Arabi (Arabic bread) or khubus tandoor (Iranian bread) is baked on the spot.