Survey Ranks ‘World’s Most Unfriendliest’ Countries

Have you ever been to a country that just seems to give tourists the cold shoulder? Now, there are some figures behind those unwelcome feelings; the World Economic Forum has put together a report that ranks countries based on how friendly they are to tourists.

The extensive analyses ranks 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. But one category, “attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” stands out.

According the data, Bolivia (pictured above) ranked as the most unfriendly country, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7).

Next on the list were Venezuela and the Russian Federation, followed by Kuwait, Latvia and Iran (perhaps when visiting one of these countries, you should try your best to not look like a tourist?).

On the opposite side of the scale were Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, which were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors.

Tourism infrastructure, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and cultural resources were some of the key factors in the rankings. Data was compiled from an opinion survey, as well as hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the World Bank/International Finance Corporation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others.

The report also emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector, pointing out that the industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.

All of the results of the survey can be found after the jump.

Attitude of population toward foreign visitors
(1 = very unwelcome; 7 = very welcome)

Friendliest

1. Iceland 6.8
2. New Zealand 6.8
3. Morocco 6.7
4. Macedonia, FYR 6.7
5. Austria 6.7
6. Senegal 6.7
7. Portugal 6.6
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 6.6
9. Ireland 6.6
10. Burkina Faso 6.6

Unfriendliest

1. Bolivia 4.1
2. Venezuela 4.5
3. Russian Federation 5.0
4. Kuwait 5.2
5. Latvia 5.2
6. Iran 5.2
7. Pakistan 5.3
8. Slovak Republic 5.5
9. Bulgaria 5.5
10. Mongolia 5.5

Have you ever visited somewhere where they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat? Alternatively, have you visited somewhere on the “unfriendly” list and had a great, welcoming experience? Let us know how your travel experiences compare with the survey’s ranking in the comments below.

[via CNN]

[Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons]

Dust Storms Descend On The Middle East

A spate of dust storms caused massive disruptions and several fatalities in the Middle East this week. In Pakistan, winds reaching up to 68mph struck the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, destroying roofs, uprooting trees, upending billboards, and reducing visibility to under 100 meters. Flights out of Islamabad International Airport were delayed, and at least fifteen fatalities were recorded.

Elsewhere, in Kuwait, heavy dust storms shut down the Basra ports, paralyzing tankers and costing the country some 1,000,000 barrels a day in exports. Flights out of Kuwait International Airport were continuing with normal, albeit limited service. This follows a late May dust storm that shut down Baghdad’s airport only days before a critical nuclear talk. And a dust storm near Mecca raised temperatures to 113 degrees before giving way to a rainstorm – possibly the hottest rainfall on record at 109 degrees F.

Dust storms can seriously impact travel in the Middle East, and visitors are cautioned against the dangers of going out into a storm without proper preparation. The gallery below documents some of the biggest storms in the region to date.

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Not to Forget: the Kuwaiti Museum of Saddam Hussain Regime Crimes

Not to Forget: the Kuwaiti Museum of Saddam Hussain Regime CrimesWalk past the miniature brick house with a Smart Car-sized bomb sticking out of it, stroll right by the gift shop selling t-shirts of WWE wrestlers and Pocahantas, and plop yourself down in the sofa-lined reception hall of the Memorial Museum. Here a docent will eventually arrive and encourage you to relax a bit, have a smoke and, oh by the way, would you like a cup of tea?

This isn’t any normal museum in any normal city. This is Kuwait City, capital of the wealthy diminutive desert state that most Americans know thanks to the first Gulf War in 1991, in which the US-led team reversed Saddam Hussain’s invasion of the country.


Which is the topic of the Memorial Museum, a name the belies the not-so-subtle message. The sign at the front is less innocuous: Not to Forget Museum: Saddam Hussain Regime Crimes.

You might be wondering: So? (to summarize former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney when recently reminded that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–thus killing any original justification for the 2003 war). Ask the docent why you shouldn’t forget the Not to Forget Museum and you’ll likely be told there are a couple good reasons: Kuwait is currently celebrating two major anniversaries. The 50th year of independence (from the British) and the 20th year since the end of Iraq’s short occupation of their country. The previous day from the “lookout sphere” atop the Kuwaiti Tower, a photo exhibition showed some of the Iraqi-led destruction of the area. One photo of some concrete rubble was captioned: “Even the air conditioning control center was harmed by the barbaric invaders.” When you’re attacking a country in 120-degree heat, the first thing you apparently attempt to take out is the air conditioning.

Not to forget about the Not to Forget Museum, after relaxing few minutes in the reception hall, I (along with a small group) was taken into a darkened room. I had no idea what was in store for us. That is, until a voiceover narrator began retelling the recent history of Kuwait, culminating in this gem of a line: “The discovery of black gold was a gift from god to this good people.”

The docent ushered us forward through a long, wide hall. The room was still dark until a diorama was lit up, complete with GI Joe-like figures and strobe lighting to create a miniature theater of war (see this video for an example of this fine show/exhibition). Sound effects in the form of crashes and booms assaulted our ears and the voiceover put it all into context, saying things like “As is the Kuwaiti habit, the leaders tried to solve the conflict through friendship and brotherhood.”

But as we know, when it comes to our desire for “black gold,” friendship and brotherhood hardly proves effective for preventing war. Case in point: after being taken through a dozen or so Iraqi-occupation-themed dioramas that could rival a junior high science fair in its level of sophistication, we were ushered into a room showing graphic photos of Kuwaiti war injuries, and, eventually, a room whose centerpiece was a giant bust of Mr. Hussain himself, which the docent proudly said was donated by US troops after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

At the end of the 30-minute tour, I was back in the reception hall, its walls painted with images of emirs and princes past and present.

The docent put an ashtray in front of me and handed me another cup of tea. Which I sipped slowly before finally wandering out into the oppressive Kuwaiti heat again.

The Search for Kuwaiti Cuisine … in Kuwait

The Search for Kuwaiti Cuisine ... in KuwaitPeople don’t come to Kuwait to drink alcohol. Nor do they come to eat pork. They also don’t arrive expecting to see pitbulls, to smoke marijuana, to watch Michael’s Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, or to look at any sort of pornography. It’s all banned in Kuwait (with harsh penalties for lawbreakers).

For tourists who hate being around other tourists, this desert country is an oasis: there are no tourists traps because, well, there really are no tourists here. Every place is an off-the-radar local spot.

It’s not surprise, then, that another aspect that’s not pulling people to Kuwait is the food. That’s because if you ask a local, as I did during a recent visit to this conservative and diminutive Middle Eastern state on the Gulf of Arabia, your question about the local cuisine will be greeted with a shrug. That is, until a Lebanese friend who lives in Kuwait City (one of the initial shruggers) called her boyfriend who called another friend who recommended one of the small handful of Kuwaiti restaurants in town.


In most countries, there are ethnic restaurants and then there are restaurants serving the default local cuisine. Here in Kuwait, however, it’s the other way around. One has to seek out a Kuwaiti restaurant; otherwise, you end up at a Lebanese place (which is the best of the best when it comes to eating in the Middle East), as I did at the excellent at Burj Al Hamam or Italian or Spanish (I had very good versions of both at the in-house restaurants in the new Hotel Missoni). Or perhaps one of the many unfortunate American chain restaurants (Applbee’s, TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday) that have set up shop here.
The entrance to Freej Swaileh is around the back from bustling Salem al Mubarak Street. Descend the broken escalator to the darkened basement to find a dining room separated by private booths. Dining privacy is important, especially if you’re a burqa-clad woman, so you can eat without the hassle of the burqa getting in the way.

The servers knock on the door before each visit. And when my waiter came to take my order, I just pointed to various items, not sure what any of it was. About 15 minutes later, my juice mocktail almost drained, the server knocked and entered with several plates. There was chicken majboos (see photo), a biryani-like recipe with a tender half chicken set atop rice and a tomato-based sauce on the side; markookh, a stewy lamb-laden dish with eggplant; and jireesh, a mash of spelt with lamb mixed in.

It turns out, Kuwaiti cuisine is really just an amalgamation of other cuisines: Persian, Indian, Lebanese, for example. According to Abdul Fatah Marafie, who comes from one of the richest families in the country, Kuwaiti cuisine began with the date trade. “The dates came from Iraq,” he said when I somewhat randomly met him and expressed my bewilderment with the lack of local cuisine. “Then they came here to Kuwait where we transported them to places like India and Iran and Arabia. We came back with spices and added them to our cuisine.”

Which is why these dishes all tasted familiar. And why it wasn’t a surprise when the waiter knocked one last time and brought in a try full of gulab jamun, fried syrup-laden dough balls from India….er I mean…legaimat, as they’re called in Kuwait.

New luxury hotel to open in Kuwait

Hotel Missoni announced it will launch its newest luxury property in Kuwait this fall. The hotel, set to open September 2010, will be succeeded by Hotel Missoni openings in South Africa (2011), Brazil (2012) and Oman (2012).

The Hotel Missoni Kuwait is the second property and the first resort to be launched under the new hotel brand. Hotel Missoni is part of the designer-turned-hotelier trend we’ve witnessed in the industry. The hotel group focuses on the style of the iconic fashion and interiors label, spearheaded by Hotel Missoni Creative Director Rosita Missoni.

The new Kuwait hotel will be located near the main shopping area of Kuwait City, overlooking the Arabian Sea. The hotel is part of a new development that also houses a large shopping mall, apartments and offices.

Hotel Missoni Kuwait will have a total of 169 rooms and suites, all of which have sea views. Each guest room has an in-suite bathroom complete with custom-scented Missoni bath amenities. The 63 suites range from 805 square feet to the 2,260-square-foot Presidential Suite, which also boasts a 970-square-foot outdoor terrace.

The Hotel Missoni Kuwait will also host a swimming pool with mosaic floor in a signature Missoni stripe; 13,000-square-foot Six Senses Spa; Rosita Missoni’s family recipes at Cucina restaurant; 18th floor bar with Arabian Sea views and private access to a mixed-use luxury retail development, which will include a Missoni boutique.