Objective: To assess the knowledge of stroke in the general public in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Background: The Arabian Gulf is a rapidly developing part of the world with major changes in the lifestyle that can increase the risk of stroke. To design effective stroke treatment and prevention strategies, an assessment of the public knowledge of stroke is required. Methods: A cross-sectional community-based survey was conducted at primary health care centers (PHCs), in urban and semi-urban areas, of the GCC countries (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman) on the level of stroke awareness in the general public. Health care workers completed 3,750 face-to-face interviews. Results: 1,089 (29.0%) were familiar with the term 'stroke', and 29.3% considered the age group 30-50 at the highest risk for stroke. The commonest risk factors identified were hypertension (23.1%) and smoking (27.3%). People who did not know the term stroke had a higher incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and had more than one risk factor (p < 0.05). The most frequently identified stroke symptoms were weakness (23%) and speech problems (21.7%). Of those who recognized stroke, blockage of blood vessels was identified as the commonest cause of stroke (22%) followed by tension/worrying (20%). Doctors and nurses were regarded as the best source of stroke information (70%). In the univariate comparison, younger age (p < 0.001), higher level of education (p < 0.001), and female gender (p = 0.008) better predicted stroke recognition. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis, the level of education, monthly income and smoking were independent variables predicting stroke knowledge. Conclusion: The majority of the patients had not even heard the term stroke. Stroke knowledge was poorest among the groups that were at the highest risk for stroke. Stroke education has to focus on the high-risk groups, particularly the younger population. The health care workers at the PHCs and hospitals will need instructions on providing stroke information to the public. The level of knowledge of stroke risk factors and symptoms emphasizes the need for stroke education efforts in the community. Copyright (c) 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel.