|State of Kuwait
|Anthem: "Al-Nasheed Al-Watani"
Location and extent of Kuwait (red) on the Arabian Peninsula.
and largest city
|-||Crown Prince||Nawaf al-Sabah|
|-||Prime Minister||Jaber Al-Hamad al-Sabah|
|-||Speaker of the National Assembly||Marzouq Al-Ghanim|
|-||Independence from the Emirate of Al Hasa||1752|
|-||End of treaties with the United Kingdom||19 June 1961|
|-||Total||17,820 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
|-||2014 estimate||4,044,500 (140th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|-||Total||$163.671 billion (58th)|
|-||Per capita||$58,080 (5th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$173.240 billion (52nd)|
|-||Per capita||$45,824 (8th)|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.814
very high · 46th
|Currency||Kuwaiti dinar (KWD)|
|Time zone||AST / KSA (UTC+3)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+3)|
|Date format||dd/mm/yyyy (CE)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||KW|
|a.||Nominal succession within the House of Sabah.|
|b.||Emirate / princedom.|
Kuwait i// (Arabic: دولة الكويت), officially the State of Kuwait, is an Arab country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2013, Kuwait has a population of 4 million people.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kuwait was a prosperous center of trade and commerce. Starting in the early 20th century, its regional economic importance declined, and by 1934 Kuwait had lost its prominence in long-distance trade. Kuwait's economy was devastated by several trade blockades. During World War I, the British Empire imposed a blockade against Kuwait because its ruler supported the Ottoman Empire. Following the Kuwait–Najd War of 1919–1920, Saudi Arabia maintained a trade blockade against the country from 1923 until 1937. In 1990, Kuwait was annexed by Iraq. The Iraqi occupation came to an end after military intervention by United States-led forces.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary system. The country ranks highly in regional comparisons of national performance, including protection of civil liberties, press freedom and judicial independence. Kuwait is frequently ranked as having the freest press in the Arab world. The country is currently attempting to diversify its oil-reliant economy. In recent years, the hostile relationship between the elected parliament and government has prevented the implementation of economic reforms.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Politics
- 4 Economy
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Culture
- 7 Education
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Kuwait was historically the site of settlements from the Ubaid period (c. 6500 to 3800 BC). The earliest evidence of sailing has been found in Kuwait, the world's oldest reed boat was found in Subiya in northern Kuwait. The Kuwaiti island of Failaka was first inhabited by Sumerians in 2000 BC. In 224 AD, Kuwait fell under the control of the Sassanid Empire. In 636 AD, the Battle of Chains between the Sassanid Empire and Rashidun Caliphate was fought in Kuwait near the town of Kazma. As a result of the Rashidun victory in the seventh century, an early Islamic settlement known as Kadhima was founded in Kuwait.
In 1613, the town of Kuwait was founded in modern-day Kuwait City. In 1716, the Bani Utubs settled in Kuwait. At the time of the arrival of the Utubs, Kuwait was inhabited by a few fishermen and primarily functioned as a fishing village. In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia. By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.
During the Persian siege of Basra in 1775—1779, Iraqi merchants took refuge in Kuwait and were partly instrumental in the expansion of Kuwait's boat-building and trading activities. As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed. Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait. The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792. The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa. After the Persians withdrew from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.
Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Gulf region. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ship vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of trade between the ports of India, East Africa and the Red Sea. Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean. Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century. Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century. In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution. According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.
During the reign of Mubarak Al-Sabah, Kuwait was dubbed the "Marseilles of the Gulf" because its economic vitality attracted a large variety of people. A Western author's account of Kuwait in 1905:
|“||Kuwait was the Marseilles of the Persian Gulf. Its population was good natured, mixed, and vicious. As it was the outlet from the north to the Gulf and hence to the Indies, merchants from Bombay and Tehran, Indians, Persians, Syrians from Aleppo and Damascus, Armenians, Turks and Jews, traders from all the East, and some Europeans came to Kuwait. From Kuwait, the caravans set out for Central Arabia and for Syria.
H. C. Armstrong, Lord of Arabia
In the first decades of the twentieth century, Kuwait had a well-established elite: wealthy trading families who were linked by marriage and shared economic interests. The elite were long-settled, urban, Sunni families, the majority of which claim descent from the original 30 Bani Utubi families. The wealthiest families were trade merchants who acquired their wealth from long-distance commerce, shipbuilding and pearling. They were a cosmopolitan elite, they traveled extensively to India, Africa and Europe. The elite educated their sons abroad more than other Gulf Arab elite. Western visitors noted that the Kuwaiti elite used European office systems, typewriters and followed European culture with curiosity. The richest families were involved in general trade. The merchant families of Al-Ghanim and Al-Hamad were estimated to be worth millions before the 1940s.
Downfall of economy
In the early 20th century, Kuwait immensely declined in regional economic importance, mainly due to many trade blockades and the world economic depression. Before Mary Bruins Allison visited Kuwait in 1934, Kuwait lost its prominence in long distance trade. During World War I, the British Empire imposed a trade blockade against Kuwait because Kuwait's ruler supported the Ottoman Empire. The British economic blockade heavily damaged Kuwait's economy.
The Great Depression negatively impacted Kuwait's economy starting in the late 1920s. International trading was one of Kuwait's main sources of income before oil. Kuwaiti merchants were mostly intermediary merchants. As a result of European decline of demand for goods from India and Africa, the economy of Kuwait suffered. The decline in international trade resulted in an increase in gold smuggling by Kuwaiti ships to India. Some Kuwaiti merchant families became rich due to gold smuggling to India.
Kuwait's pearling industry also collapsed as a result of the worldwide economic depression. At its height, Kuwait's pearling industry led the world's luxury market, regularly sending out between 750 and 800 ship vessels to meet the European elite's need for pearls. During the economic depression, luxuries like pearls were in little demand. The Japanese invention of cultured pearls also contributed to the collapse of Kuwait's pearling industry.
Following the Kuwait–Najd War of 1919–1920, Ibn Saud imposed a trade blockade against Kuwait from the years 1923 until 1937. The goal of the Saudi economic and military attacks on Kuwait was to annex as much of Kuwait's territory as possible. At the Uqair conference in 1922, the boundaries of Kuwait and Najd were set. Kuwait had no representative at the Uqair conference. Ibn Saud persuaded Sir Percy Cox to give him two-thirds of Kuwait's territory. More than half of Kuwait was lost due to Uqair. After the Uqair conference, Kuwait was still subjected to a Saudi economic blockade and intermittent Saudi raiding.
|“||Poverty has settled in Kuwait more heavily since my last visit five years ago, both by sea, where the pearl trade continues to decline, and by land, where the blockade established by Saudi Arabia now harms the merchants.||”|
Some prominent merchant families left Kuwait in the early 1930s due to the prevalence of economic hardship. At the time of the discovery of oil in 1937, most of Kuwait's inhabitants were impoverished.
Discovery of oil
In 1937, the 15-year trade blockades against Kuwait were lifted and Kuwait's large oil reserves were discovered by the US-British Kuwait Oil Company. Exploration was delayed until after World War II, the use of oil only began in 1951. Between World War II and 1948, Kuwait's inhabitants were still largely impoverished. A few years following World War II, oil exploration finally began. In 1951, a major public-work programme began to enable Kuwaitis to enjoy a better standard of living. By 1952, the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from India.
Independence and beyond
On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became independent with the end of the British protectorate; the sheikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah, became an Emir, and the country joined the Arab League. Iraq laid claim that Kuwait was part of its territory, but formally recognized Kuwait's independence and its borders in October 1963. Under the terms of a newly drafted constitution, Kuwait held its first parliamentary elections in 1963. The exploitation of large oil fields improved Kuwait's economy. During the 1970s, the Kuwaiti government nationalized the Kuwait Oil Company, ending its partnership with British Petroleum.
In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price. However, the crisis was short-lived as Kuwait's oil production increased steadily to fill the gap caused by decrease in Iraq's and Iran's oil production due to the Iran–Iraq War.
During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait supported Iraq. In the 1980s, there were many terror attacks in Kuwait, including the 1983 Kuwait bombings, hijacking of several Kuwait Airways planes and attempted assassination of Emir Jaber in 1985. After the war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt. An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. Tensions between the two countries increased further in July 1990, after Iraq complained to OPEC that Kuwait was stealing its oil from a field near the border by slant drilling of the Rumaila field.
On 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States led a coalition to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait, in what became known as the Gulf War. On 26 February 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces. As they retreated, Iraqi forces carried out a scorched earth policy by setting oil wells on fire. During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed. In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation, approximately 375 remains were found in mass graves in Iraq.
In March 2003, Kuwait became the springboard for the US-led invasion of Iraq. Upon the death of the Emir Jaber, in January 2006, Saad Al-Sabah succeeded him but was removed nine days later by the Kuwaiti parliament due to his ailing health. Sabah Al-Sabah was sworn in as Emir. In 2011–2012, there were protests inspired by the Arab Spring. The parliament was dissolved in December 2011 due to protests against the parliament. The prime minister stepped down following protests and allegations of high-level corruption.
Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land area. Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor. 90% of Kuwait's population live within the Kuwait Bay coast. The country is generally low lying, with the highest point being 306 m (1,004 ft) above sea-level. It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited. With an area of 860 km2 (330 sq mi), the Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380 m (7,808 ft) long bridge. The land area is considered arable and sparse vegetation is found along its 499 km long coastline.
Kuwait's Burgan field having a total capacity of approximately 70 billion barrels (1.1×1010 m3) of proven oil reserves. During the 1991 Kuwaiti oil fires, more than 500 oil lakes were created covering a combined surface area of about 35.7 km2 (13.8 sq mi). The resulting soil contamination due to oil and soot accumulation had made eastern and south-eastern parts of Kuwait uninhabitable. Sand and oil residue had reduced large parts of the Kuwaiti desert to semi-asphalt surfaces. The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.
The spring season in March is warm with occasional thunderstorms. The frequent winds from the northwest are cold in winter and hot in summer. Southeasterly damp winds spring up between July and October; hot and dry south winds prevail in spring and early summer. The shamal, a northwesterly wind common during June and July, causes dramatic sandstorms. The temperature in Kuwait during summer is above 25 (77 F). The highest recorded temperature was 54.4 (129.9 F) which is the highest of any Middle Eastern country.
|Governorate||Kuwaiti citizen population|
|Al Asimah Governoratea (Capital)||232,727|
|Al Farwaniyah Governorate||224,535|
|Al Jahra Governorateb||167,404|
|Al Ahmadi Governorate||262,178|
|Mubarak Al-Kabeer Governorate||142,374|
|Source: 2013 Population Census – The Public Authority for Civil Information Statistical Reports|
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy and has the oldest directly elected parliament among the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The Al Sabah family has been Kuwait's dynastic monarchy since 1938, before 1938 Kuwait's local merchants enjoyed a supremacy over the Al Sabah family.
Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly parliament and Emir in accordance with the Constitution of Kuwait. The appointment of a new Emir needs the approval of the Kuwaiti parliament (per article 3 of the Constitution), therefore the parliament has the authority to remove an Emir from his post. The parliament effectively removed Saad al-Sabah from his post in 2006 due to his illness. The judicially independent Constitutional Court and the Emir both have the authority to dissolve the National Assembly but must subsequently call a national election. A cabinet of ministers aid the Prime Minister.
The National Assembly consists of fifty elected members, who are chosen in elections held every four years. Government ministers are also granted membership in the parliament and can number up to sixteen excluding the fifty elected members. According to the Constitution of Kuwait, nomination of a new Emir or Crown Prince by the Al-Sabah family has to be approved by the National Assembly. Any amendment to the Constitution can be proposed by the Emir but it needs to be approved by more than two-thirds of the elected members of the National Assembly before being implemented.
Kuwait ranks among the Middle East's freest countries in civil liberties and political rights. Kuwait consistently ranks as having the freest media in the Arab world, in both Reporters Without Borders' and Freedom House's indices of press freedom. In 2011–2012, Reporters without Borders ranked Kuwait the freest Middle East country in freedom of press (#78 out of 179 countries in Press Freedom Index). In 2013, Kuwait was ranked the freest country in press freedom in the Middle East and Arab world (#77 out of 179 countries). In 2014, Kuwait was ranked #91 of 180 by Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom index, thus Kuwait was again the freest country in press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2009–2014, Freedom House ranked the country as "Partly Free" in the Freedom in the World survey, which measures civil liberties and political rights. Kuwait is the only Gulf state that is ranked "partly free", the rest of the Gulf region is "Not Free".
When voting was first introduced in Kuwait in 1985, Kuwaiti women had the right to vote. Moves to change the male-dominated political structure culminated in the re-granting of full political rights to women in 2005. In May 2005, the Parliament gave women the right to vote and stand as candidates in elections. In 2005, the former Prime Minister Sabah Al-Sabah announced the appointment of the first female cabinet minister, Massouma Mubarak. She was designated Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs. In the parliamentary elections in May 2009, four female candidates won their seats and became Kuwait's first female lawmakers.
There have been several conflicts between the Emir, the government and the National Assembly over various policies. The Assembly was dissolved in May 2009, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Nasser al-Sabah and the rest of the Cabinet. Nationwide elections were held on 16 May 2009. The Constitutional Court annulled the February 2012 elections and later the Emir made changes to the election law, changing the number for votes given from a person from four to one. This prompted a largely opposition boycott of the new elections in December 2012.
Anti-Shia sentiment is a crime in Kuwait. Kuwait persistently penalizes clerics who make sectarian remarks. In 2012 and 2013, several Kuwaitis were jailed for anti-Shia tweets. In August 2014, the Kuwaiti government sued a local theater that insulted Shia Islam. In September 2014, a Kuwaiti man was jailed for anti-Shia tweets.
Kuwait follows the "civil law system" modeled after the French legal system. Kuwait's legal system is a mix of British common law, French civil law, Egyptian civil law and Islamic law. For the application of personal status laws, there are three separate sections: Sunni, Shia and non-Muslim (secular). According to the United Nations, Kuwait's legal system is an "amalgam of British common law, French civil law, Islamic legal principles, and Egyptian law."
Alcohol is currently illegal in Kuwait. Before 1983, alcohol consumption was legal in Kuwait. In 1983, the Kuwaiti Parliament banned alcohol consumption. However, alcohol is widely available in Kuwait through bootlegging networks.
Kuwait became the 111th member state of the United Nations in May 1963. It is a long-standing member of the Arab League and Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
Before the Gulf War, Kuwait was the only "pro-Soviet" state in the Gulf. Kuwait acted as a conduit for the Soviets to the other Gulf states and Kuwait was used to demonstrate the benefits of a pro-Soviet stance. Kuwait currently has close relations with Russia.
Between 1961 and 1991, Kuwait had an uneasy relationship with the United States characterized by mistrust and hostility. In July 1987, Kuwait refused to allow USA military bases in its territory. As a result of the Gulf War, Kuwait currently hosts 10,000 US soldiers. Kuwait and Iran have strong political and economic relations. Kuwait maintains good relations with Saudi Arabia and other GCC states.
The Kuwaiti military traces its original roots to the Kuwaiti cavalrymen and infantrymen that used to protect Kuwait and its wall since the early 1900s. These cavalrymen and infantrymen formed the defense and security sources in metropolitan areas; charged with protecting outposts outside the wall of Kuwait.
Kuwait has a petroleum-based economy, petroleum and fertilizers are the main export products. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world. The Kuwait Stock Exchange is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 95% of export revenues and government income.
In recent years, Kuwait has done little to diversify its economy due to positive fiscal situation and hostile relationship between the parliament and government, which has prevented the implementation of economic reforms.
Japan is the largest customer of Kuwaiti oil followed by India, China, Singapore and South Korea.
The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) is Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund specializing in foreign investment. The KIA is the world's oldest sovereign wealth fund. Since 1953, the Kuwaiti government has directed investments into Europe, United States and Asia Pacific. As of 2014, the holdings were valued at $410 billion in assets.
Kuwait is the Arab world's largest foreign investor, with $8.4 billion in FDI outflows in 2013. Kuwait consistently tops regional rankings in FDI outflows. In 2013, Kuwait almost tripled its foreign investments. Over the last 10 years, Kuwait has doubled investments in the UK to more than $24 billion. In 2014, Kuwait became the largest foreign investor in China's RMB market.
Kuwait's 2013 population was 3.9 million people, of which 1.2 million were Kuwaitis, 1.1 million Arab expatriates, 1.4 million Asian expatriates, and 76,698 Africans.
60% of Kuwait's population is Arab (including Arab expats). In 2013, there were 700,000 Indians, 500,000 Egyptians, 200,000 Bangladeshis, 160,000 Filipinos, 140,000 Syrians and 120,000 Pakistanis living in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government intends to reduce the expat population.
In 2001, there were 525,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens, 300,000 Shia Kuwaiti citizens and 820,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total thus Sunnis formed 64% and Shias formed 36.5% of the Kuwaiti citizen population. In 2002, the US Department of State reported that Shia Kuwaitis formed 30%–40% of Kuwait's citizen population, noting there were 525,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens and 855,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total (61% Sunnis, 39% Shias). In 2004, there were 600,000 Sunni Kuwaitis citizens, 300,000–350,000 Shia Kuwaiti citizens and 913,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total.
Kuwait has a native Christian community, in 1999 there were 400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens. There were 256 Christian Kuwaiti citizens living in Kuwait in June 2013. There is also a small number of Bahá'í Kuwaiti citizens, it is likely that 18 Kuwaiti citizens follow the Bahá'í religion.[note 1] There are 400 Bahá'ís in total in Kuwait.
Kuwait's official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Kuwaiti Arabic is Kuwait's colloquial dialect. Kuwaiti Sign Language is used by the deaf community. English is widely understood and often used as a business language.
Kuwaiti culture has been influenced by the cultures of Arabia, Persia, India and Britain.  The traditional male attire is the "dishdasha" and the traditional male headdress involves the "ghutrah" and "agal" circlet. The traditional female attire is a colourful dress known as "dara'aa". Western style clothing is popular among Kuwaitis.
Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre. Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a theatrical tradition. The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's cultural life. Theatre activities are still popular today. Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released.
Kuwait has one of the most vocal and transparent media in the Middle East. Kuwaiti journalists enjoy greater freedom than their regional counterparts. The state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) is the largest media house in the country.
Kuwait produces far more newspapers and magazines than any of its neighbors. TV broadcasting was launched in 1957. The three most prominent English dailies in Kuwait are Kuwait Times, Arab Times and Al-Watan Daily. While some authors have stated that unlike other Gulf states, Kuwait's publishing law does not forbid criticism of the head of state (Emir), this has been disputed by multiple sources including the Human Rights Watch and foreign governments, like Canada. People have been jailed for "insulting" the Emir and British Comedian John Oliver also made remarks about several monarchs, including the Emir of Kuwait, in a more general context of Lèse-majesté laws.
Kuwait has approximately 40 museums and art galleries.
Kuwait has one public university and 14 private universities and colleges. Kuwait University is the country's sole public university. In 2014, Kuwait's first private medical school opened. The adult literacy rate in 2008 was 93.9%.
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- US-Kuwaiti Relations, 1961–1992: An Uneasy Relationship.
- "Kuwait Says It Won't Provide Bases for U.S.". LA Times. July 20, 1987.
- "No Military Bases for U.S., Kuwait Says". LA Times. July 21, 1987.
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- "The New Middle East, Turkey, and the Search for Regional Stability". Strategic Studies Institute. April 2008. p. 93. "Shiites comprise 60 percent of the population in Bahrain, 40 percent in Kuwait, 14 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 35 percent in Lebanon."
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- "National adult literacy rates (15+), youth literacy rates (15–24) and elderly literacy rates (65+)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
- 2013 Census shows only three religion categories: "Muslim", "Christian" and "Other". Reasonably assuming majority of "Other" Kuwaiti citizens is Bahá'í.
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