Kuwait

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This article is about the modern country in the Persian Gulf. For the former autonomous state in southern Arabia, see Qu'aiti.
State of Kuwait
دولة الكويت
Dawlat al-Kuwait
Flag Emblem
Anthem: "Al-Nasheed Al-Watani"
"National Anthem"
Location and extent of Kuwait (red) on the Arabian Peninsula.
Location and extent of Kuwait (red) on the Arabian Peninsula.
Capital
and largest city
Kuwait City
29°22′N 47°58′E / 29.367°N 47.967°E / 29.367; 47.967
Official languages Arabic
Ethnic groups
  • 60% Arab (31.3% Kuwaiti, 27.9% other Arabs)[1]
  • 37.8% Asian
  • 1.9% African
Demonym Kuwaiti
Government Unitary parliamentary
hereditarya
constitutional monarchyb[2]
 -  Emir Sabah al-Sabah
 -  Crown Prince Nawaf al-Sabah
 -  Prime Minister Jaber Al-Hamad al-Sabah
 -  Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim
Legislature National Assembly
Establishment
 -  Independence from the Emirate of Al Hasa 1752 
 -  Anglo-Ottoman Convention 1913 
 -  End of treaties with the United Kingdom 19 June 1961 
Area
 -  Total 17,820 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  2014 estimate 4,044,500 (140th)
 -  2005 census 2,213,403[3]
 -  Density 200.2/km2 (61st)
518.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $163.671 billion[4] (58th)
 -  Per capita $58,080[4] (5th)
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $173.240 billion[4] (52nd)
 -  Per capita $45,824[4] (8th)
HDI (2013) Decrease 0.814[5]
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
Calling code +965
ISO 3166 code KW
Internet TLD .kw
a. Nominal succession within the House of Sabah.
b. Emirate / princedom.

Kuwait Listeni/kˈwt/ (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 four million people.[6]

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kuwait was a prosperous center of trade and commerce in the Middle East.[7][8] Starting in the early 20th century, its regional economic importance declined, and by 1934 Kuwait had lost its prominence in long-distance trade.[9] Kuwait's economy was devastated by several trade blockades.[10] During World War I, the British Empire imposed a blockade against Kuwait because its ruler supported the Ottoman Empire.[11][12] Following the Kuwait–Najd War of 1919–1920, Saudi Arabia maintained a trade blockade against the country from 1923 until 1937.[10][13] In 1990, Kuwait was annexed by Iraq. The Iraqi occupation came to an end after military intervention by United States-led forces.[14]

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.[15][16][17][18] Kuwait is frequently ranked as having the freest press in the Arab world.[15] The country is currently attempting to diversify its oil-reliant economy. In recent years, the hostile relationship between the elected parliament and government[19] has prevented the implementation of economic reforms.[20][21][22]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Kuwait

Kuwait was historically the site of settlements from the Ubaid period (c. 6500 to 3800 BC).[23][24] The earliest evidence of sailing has been found in Kuwait, the world's oldest reed boat was found in Subiya in northern Kuwait.[25] The Kuwaiti island of Failaka was first inhabited by Sumerians in 2000 BC.[26] In 224 AD, Kuwait fell under the control of the Sassanid Empire.[27] In 636 AD, the Battle of Chains between the Sassanid Empire and Rashidun Caliphate was fought in Kuwait near the town of Kazma.[28][29] As a result of the Rashidun victory in the seventh century, an early Islamic settlement known as Kazima was founded in Kuwait.[29][30]

Economic prosperity[edit]

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.[31] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia.[32][33] By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.[34]

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.[35] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.[35] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait.[34][36] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792.[37] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.[37] After the Persians withdrew from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.[38]

Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.[39] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.[40] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution.[41] By 1800, it was estimated that Kuwait's sea trade reached 16 million Bombay rupees.[34] Kuwait's pre-oil population was ethnically diverse.[42] The population consisted of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Jews and Armenians.

Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Gulf region.[43] Ship vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of trade between the trade ports of India, East Africa, and Red Sea.[44][45] Boats made in Kuwait were capable of sailing up to China.[9] Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean for quality and design.[46][9] Kuwaitis also developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.[47][48][32]

In the 19th century, Kuwait became significant in the horse trade,[49] horses were regularly shipped by the way of sailing boats from Kuwait.[49] By the mid 19th century, it was estimated that Kuwait was exporting an average of 800 horses to India annually.[39] Pre-oil Kuwait was divided into three areas: Sharq, Jibla and Mirqab.[50] Sharq and Jibla were the most populated areas.[50] Jibla was inhabited by immigrants from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain. Sharq was mostly inhabited by Iranian immigrants.[50]

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.[51] In a good year, Kuwait's annual revenue actually came up to 100,000 riyals,[41] the governor of Basra considered Kuwait's annual revenue an astounding figure.[41] A Western author's account of Kuwait in 1905:[42]

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.[52] The elite were long-settled, urban, Sunni families, the majority of which claim descent from the original 30 Bani Utubi families.[52] The wealthiest families were trade merchants who acquired their wealth from long-distance commerce, shipbuilding and pearling.[52] They were a cosmopolitan elite, they traveled extensively to India, Africa and Europe.[52] The elite educated their sons abroad more than other Gulf Arab elite.[52] Western visitors noted that the Kuwaiti elite used European office systems, typewriters and followed European culture with curiosity.[52] The richest families were involved in general trade.[52] The merchant families of Al-Ghanim and Al-Hamad were estimated to be worth millions before the 1940s.[52]

Downfall of economy[edit]

In the early 20th century, Kuwait immensely declined in regional economic importance,[9] mainly due to many trade blockades and the world economic depression.[10] Before Mary Bruins Allison visited Kuwait in 1934, Kuwait lost its prominence in long distance trade.[9] During World War I, the British Empire imposed a trade blockade against Kuwait because Kuwait's ruler supported the Ottoman Empire.[11][12] The British economic blockade heavily damaged Kuwait's economy.[12]

The Great Depression negatively impacted Kuwait's economy starting in the late 1920s.[13] International trading was one of Kuwait's main sources of income before oil.[13] Kuwaiti merchants were mostly intermediary merchants.[13] 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.[13] Some Kuwaiti merchant families became rich due to gold smuggling to India.[53]

Kuwait's pearling industry also collapsed as a result of the worldwide economic depression.[53] 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.[53] During the economic depression, luxuries like pearls were in little demand.[53] The Japanese invention of cultured pearls also contributed to the collapse of Kuwait's pearling industry.[53]

Following the Kuwait–Najd War of 1919–1920, Ibn Saud imposed a trade blockade against Kuwait from the years 1923 until 1937.[10][13] The goal of the Saudi economic and military attacks on Kuwait was to annex as much of Kuwait's territory as possible.[10] At the Uqair conference in 1922, the boundaries of Kuwait and Najd were set.[10] Kuwait had no representative at the Uqair conference.[10] Ibn Saud persuaded Sir Percy Cox to give him two-thirds of Kuwait's territory.[10] More than half of Kuwait was lost due to Uqair.[10] After the Uqair conference, Kuwait was still subjected to a Saudi economic blockade and intermittent Saudi raiding.[10]

In 1937, Freya Stark wrote about the extent of poverty in Kuwait at the time:[13]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Oil fires in Kuwait in 1990, which were a result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait.

In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price.[54] 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.[55] After the war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt.[56] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[57] 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.[57]

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.[58] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed.[59] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation,[60] 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.[61]

Geography[edit]

Main article: Geography of Kuwait
Satellite image of Kuwait

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.[2] It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited.[62] 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.[63] The land area is considered arable[2] and sparse vegetation is found along its 499 km long coastline.[2]

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).[64] 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.[65] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.[66]

Climate[edit]

Main article: Climate of Kuwait

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.[67] 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.

Climate data for Kuwait City
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 19.5
(67.1)
21.8
(71.2)
26.9
(80.4)
33.9
(93)
40.9
(105.6)
45.5
(113.9)
46.7
(116.1)
46.9
(116.4)
43.7
(110.7)
36.6
(97.9)
27.8
(82)
21.9
(71.4)
34.3
(93.8)
Average low °C (°F) 8.5
(47.3)
10
(50)
14
(57)
19.5
(67.1)
25.4
(77.7)
28.9
(84)
30.7
(87.3)
29.5
(85.1)
26.2
(79.2)
21.5
(70.7)
14.5
(58.1)
9.9
(49.8)
19.9
(67.8)
Precipitation mm (inches) 30.2
(1.189)
10.5
(0.413)
18.2
(0.717)
11.5
(0.453)
0.4
(0.016)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
1.4
(0.055)
18.5
(0.728)
25.5
(1.004)
116.2
(4.575)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 5 3 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 3 22
Mean monthly sunshine hours 198.4 223.2 217 228 272.8 303 306.9 300.7 285 251.1 216 192.2 2,994.3
Source #1: World Meteorological Organization[68]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory[69]

Governorates[edit]

Kuwait is divided into six governorates. The governorates are further subdivided into five electoral districts.

Governorates of Kuwait
Governorate Kuwaiti citizen population
Hawalli Governorate 213,025
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
TOTAL 1,242,499
Source: 2013 Population Census - The Public Authority for Civil Information Statistical Reports

Politics[edit]

The Bayan Palace serves as the seat of the Government of Kuwait

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,[70] before 1938 Kuwait's local merchants enjoyed a supremacy over the Al Sabah family.[70]

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.[71]

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.[15] 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).[72] In 2013, Kuwait was ranked the freest country in press freedom in the Middle East and Arab world (#77 out of 179 countries).[73][74] 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.[75] 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.[76] Kuwait is the only Gulf state that is ranked "partly free", the rest of the Gulf region is "Not Free".[17][18]

United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah in 2011.

When voting was first introduced in Kuwait in 1985, Kuwaiti women had the right to vote.[77] 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.[78] In the parliamentary elections in May 2009, four female candidates won their seats and became Kuwait's first female lawmakers.[79]

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.[80] Nationwide elections were held on 16 May 2009.[81] 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.[82]

Anti-Shia sentiment is a crime in Kuwait.[83] Kuwait persistently penalizes clerics who make sectarian remarks.[84][85][86] In 2012 and 2013, several Kuwaitis were jailed for anti-Shia tweets.[87][88][83] In August 2014, the Kuwaiti government sued a local theater that insulted Shia Islam.[89][90]

Law[edit]

Kuwait follows the "civil law system" modeled after the French legal system.[91][92] Kuwait's legal system is a mix of British common law, French civil law, Egyptian civil law and Islamic law.[93] For the application of personal status laws, there are three separate sections: Sunni, Shia and non-Muslim (secular).[94] 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."[95]

Alcohol is currently illegal in Kuwait. Before 1983, alcohol consumption was legal in Kuwait. In 1983, the Kuwaiti Parliament banned alcohol consumption.[96] However, alcohol is widely available in Kuwait through bootlegging networks.[96]

Foreign relations[edit]

Location of diplomatic missions of Kuwait:
  Kuwait
  Embassy

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.

Between 1961 and 1991, Kuwait had an uneasy relationship with the United States characterized by mistrust and hostility.[97] In July 1987, Kuwait refused to allow USA military bases in its territory.[98][99] As a result of the Gulf War, Kuwait currently hosts 10,000 US soldiers. Kuwait and Iran have strong political and economic relations.[100] Kuwait maintains good relations with Saudi Arabia and other GCC states.

Military[edit]

Main article: Military of Kuwait

The Kuwait National Guard, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior and the Kuwaiti Emiri Guard trace their 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 Forces in metropolitan and desert areas; charged with protecting outposts outside the wall of Kuwait. In founding age and historical operation, the Military of Kuwait supersedes in seniority and is older than the Hereditary Constitutional monarchy of Kuwait, the Constitution of Kuwait and the National Assembly of Kuwait[101]

Economy[edit]

Main article: Economy of Kuwait
Al Hamra Tower is the tallest sculpted tower in the world.

Kuwait has a GDP (PPP) of $167.9 billion[2] and a per capita income of US$81,800,[2] making Kuwait the 5th richest country in the world per capita.[2] Petroleum products and fertilizers are Kuwait's main export commodities. Kuwait's most important trading partners are Japan, United States, India, South Korea, Singapore, China, the European Union, and Saudi Arabia.[2] Japan is the largest customer of Kuwaiti oil followed by India, Singapore and South Korea.[102] Kuwait imports a wide range of products ranging from food products to machinery.

The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.[103] According to the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom, Kuwait has the second-most free economy in the Middle East.[104] In March 2007, Kuwait's foreign exchange reserves stood at US$213 billion.[105] The Kuwait Stock Exchange, which has about 200 firms listed, is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world with a total market capitalization of US$235 billion.[106]

The government is keen on decreasing Kuwait's dependence on oil to fuel its economy by transforming it into a regional trading hub. The planned US$77 billion Madinat al-Hareer (City of Silk) is the largest real estate development project in the Middle East.[105]

Petroleum industry
An oil refinery in Mina-Al-Ahmadi, Kuwait

Kuwait has proven crude oil reserves of 104 billion barrels (15 km³),[2] estimated to be 10% of the world's reserves. According to the Kuwaiti constitution, all natural resources in the country and associated revenues are government property.[107] Being a tax-free country, Kuwait's oil industry accounts for 75% of government revenue. Petroleum and petrochemicals accounts for 43% of GDP and 90% of export revenues.[108] Increase in oil prices since 2003 resulted in a surge in Kuwait's economy.[109]

Kuwait currently pumps 2.9 million bpd and its full production capacity is a little over 3 million bpd, including oil production in the neutral region that it shares with Saudi Arabia.[110] Kuwait oil production is expected to increase to 4 million bpd by 2020.[111] To realize this production target, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plans to spend US$51 billion between 2007 to 2012 to upgrade and expand the country's existing refineries.[112] However, the country's economy was badly affected by the global financial crisis of 2008.[113] In 2009, the Central Bank of Kuwait devised a US$5.15 billion stimulus package to help boost the economy.[114]

Demographics[edit]

Shoppers at "The Avenues" mall

Kuwait's 2013 population was estimated by the CIA to be 2.7 million people, which included 1.3 million non-nationals.[2] Kuwaiti's own government population estimates differ greatly, in January 2014 there were 3.9 million people nationwide, of which 1.2 million are Kuwaitis, 1.4 million Asian expatriates, 1.1 million foreign Arabs and 76,698 Africans.[115]

Ethnic groups[edit]

60% of Kuwait's population is Arab (including Arab expats).[1] 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.[116] The Kuwaiti governments intends to reduce the expat population.

Religion[edit]

Main article: Religion in Kuwait
Mosque in Kuwait

The majority of Kuwait's citizen population is Muslim; there are no official figures, but it is estimated that 60%–70% are Sunni and 30%–40% are Shias.[117]

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.[118] In 2002, the US Department of State reported that Shia Kuwaitis formed 30%-40% of Kuwait's citizen population,[119] noting there were 525,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens and 855,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total (61% Sunnis, 39% Shias).[119] In 2004, there were 600,000 Sunni Kuwaitis citizens, 300,000-350,000 Shia Kuwaiti citizens and 913,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total.[120]

Kuwait has a native Christian community, in 1999 there were 400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens.[121] There were 256 Christian Kuwaiti citizens living in Kuwait in June 2013.[122] There is also a small number of Bahá'í Kuwaiti citizens,[123] it is likely that 18 Kuwaiti citizens follow the Bahá'í religion.[122][note 1] There are 400 Bahá'ís in total in Kuwait.[123]

Kuwait also has a large community of expatriate Christians (est. 450,000), Hindus (est. 600,000), Buddhists (est. 100,000), and Sikhs (est. 10,000).[123]

Languages[edit]

Kuwait's official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Kuwaiti Arabic is Kuwait's colloquial dialect. Kuwaiti Arabic is a mixture of southern Mesopotamian dialect and Peninsular Arabic,[124] mixed with some Indian and English words. Kuwaiti Sign Language is used by the deaf community. English is widely understood and often used as a business language.

Culture[edit]

Main article: Culture of Kuwait
Maritime Museum in Kuwait City.
Kuwait Towers, the country's most famous landmark.

A distinctive characteristic of Kuwaiti culture is diwaniya, which involves male social gatherings attended by family members and close friends.[125] "Fijiri" and "Sawt" are the most prominent types of Kuwaiti music.

Seafood has been the mainstay of the Kuwaiti diet for centuries.[126] The Arabs in the Persian Gulf region played a crucial role in the spice trade between India and Europe, and spices have remained an important ingredient of Kuwaiti cuisine. Traditional Kuwaiti cuisine borrows heavily from South Asian cuisine and Arab cuisine. Kuwait takes part in the annual tradition of Qarqe'an during the month of Ramadan.

Before the discovery of oil, pearling formed a crucial part of Kuwait's economy. Pearl fishery, known as ghaus, suffered decline after the advent of Japanese pearl farming.[127] However, Kuwait's pearl industry laid the foundation of its rich maritime history. "Dhows", large wooden ships made from teak wood imported from India,[127] became an indistinct part of Kuwait's maritime fleet and dhow building is still practiced in Kuwait.[128]

The most prominent landmark in country, the Kuwait Towers, were designed by Swedish architect Sune Lindström and are a unique blend of traditional minaret and modern architectural designs. The National Assembly of Kuwait, another famous landmark building, was designed by the famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1982.

Dress[edit]

The traditional male attire is the "dishdasha", an ankle-length garment. The traditional male headdress involves the "ghutrah" and "agal" circlet. The traditional female attire is a colourful dress known as "dara'aa". Kuwaiti women usually wear the "dara'aa" during festive occasions (mostly Qarqe'an festivities during Ramadan).

Western style clothing is popular among Kuwaitis.[129]

Media[edit]

Kuwait has one of the most vocal and transparent media in the Middle East.[14] Kuwaiti journalists enjoy greater freedom than their regional counterparts. The state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) is the largest media house in the country. The Ministry of Information regulates media and communication industry in Kuwait.[130]

In Kuwait TV broadcasting was launched in 1957.[131] In 1998, there were 15 media stations, which are 6 am and 11 FM radio stations and 13 television stations. In 2000, there were 624 radios and 486 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2011, there were 514,700 land telephone line and 4.935 million mobile telephone subscribers. In 2009, there were 1.1 million Internet subscribers served by three service providers.[132] Kuwait has ten satellite television channels of which four are controlled by the Ministry of Information. State-owned Kuwait Television (KTV) offered first colored broadcast in 1974 and operates five television channels.[133] Government-funded Radio Kuwait also offers daily informative programming in four foreign languages including Arabic, Urdu, Tagalog and English on the AM and SW.

In 2009, Kuwait had seventeen newspaper companies in circulation. Kuwait is represented by three English dailies: Kuwait Times, Arab Times and Al-Watan Daily. There are 16 Arabic daily newspapers besides the English newspapers. A press law forbids insulting references to God and Prophet Muhammad. Leading newspapers impose self-restraint when criticizing the emir.[134] However, Kuwaiti media can freely criticize the Kuwaiti government and parliament.[133]

Education[edit]

Main article: Education in Kuwait

The adult literacy rate in 2008 was 93.9%.[135] According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are Kuwait University (2068th worldwide), the College of Technological Studies (2730th) and Gulf University for Science & Technology (7922nd).[136]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Kuwait". CIA World Factbook. 
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  1. ^ 2013 Census shows only three religion categories: "Muslim", "Christian" and "Other". Reasonably assuming majority of "Other" Kuwaiti citizens is Bahá'í.

External links[edit]