Kuwait City

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Kuwait City
مدينة الكويت
Madinat Al Kuwayt
The Skyline of Kuwait City
The Skyline of Kuwait City
Nickname(s): مدينة
Kuwait City is located in Al- Andalus
Kuwait City
Kuwait City
Location of Kuwait in Kuwait
Coordinates: 29°22′11″N 47°58′42″E / 29.36972°N 47.97833°E / 29.36972; 47.97833Coordinates: 29°22′11″N 47°58′42″E / 29.36972°N 47.97833°E / 29.36972; 47.97833
Country Kuwait
Governorate Al Asimah
 • Metro 200 km2 (80 sq mi)
Population (2014 estimate)
 • City 637,411
 • Metro 2,380,000
Time zone AST (UTC+3)

Kuwait City (Arabic: مدينة الكويت‎ ) is the capital and largest city of Kuwait. It has a population of 4.1 million in the metropolitan area.

Kuwait City is the political, cultural and economic center of Kuwait. Kuwait City is considered a global city. Kuwait City’s trade and transportation needs are served by Kuwait International Airport, Mina Al-Shuwaik (Shuwaik Port) and Mina Al Ahmadi (Ahmadi Port).


Early history[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.[1] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia.[2][3] By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.[4]

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.[5] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.[5] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait.[4][6] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792.[7] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.[7] After the Persians withdrew from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.[8]

Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Gulf region.[9][10] 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.[11][12][13] Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean.[14] Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.[15] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.[16] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution.[17] According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.[14][18][19]

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.[20] A Western author's account of Kuwait in 1905:[21]

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.[22] The elite were long-settled, urban, Sunni families, the majority of which claim descent from the original 30 Bani Utubi families.[22] The wealthiest families were trade merchants who acquired their wealth from long-distance commerce, shipbuilding and pearling.[22] They were a cosmopolitan elite, they traveled extensively to India, Africa and Europe.[22] The elite educated their sons abroad more than other Gulf Arab elite.[22] Western visitors noted that the Kuwaiti elite used European office systems, typewriters and followed European culture with curiosity.[22] The richest families were involved in general trade.[22] The merchant families of Al-Ghanim and Al-Hamad were estimated to be worth millions before the 1940s.[22]

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

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.

Golden Era (1946–1982)[edit]

From 1946 to 1982, Kuwait experienced a period of renowned prosperity driven by oil and its liberal climate.[23] In popular discourse, the years between 1946 and 1982 are referred to as the "Golden Era".[23] In 1950, a major public-work programme began to enable Kuwaitis to enjoy a modern standard of living. By 1952, the country became the largest oil exporter in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Palestine, Egypt and India. In June 1961, Kuwait became independent with the end of the British protectorate and the sheikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah became an Emir. Under the terms of the newly drafted constitution, Kuwait held its first parliamentary elections in 1963. Kuwait was the first Gulf country to establish a constitution and parliament.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait was the most developed country in the Middle East.[24] Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[25] The Kuwait Investment Authority is the world's first sovereign wealth fund. From the 1970s onward, Kuwait scored highest of all Arab countries on the Human Development Index.[24] Kuwait was the capital of higher education, arts and culture in the Gulf region.[24] Kuwait University, established in 1966, attracted students from neighboring countries.[24] Local arts, music and theatre thrived.[23][24][26] Kuwait's local theatre industry was renowned throughout the Arab world.[23]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait's press was described as one of the freest in the world.[26] Kuwait was the pioneer in the literary renaissance in the Arab region.[27] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[27] Many Arab writers moved to Kuwait for freedom of expression because Kuwait had greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[28][29] Kuwait was a haven for writers and journalists from all parts of the Middle East. The Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar left Iraq in the 1970s to take refuge in the more liberal environment of Kuwait.[30]

Kuwaiti society embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[31] Most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab in the 1960s and 1970s.[32][33] At Kuwait University, mini-skirts were more common than the hijab.[34]

1980s to present day[edit]

In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price.[35]

During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait supported Iraq. Throughout the 1980s, there were several terror attacks in Kuwait, including the 1983 Kuwait bombings, hijacking of several Kuwait Airways planes and attempted assassination of Emir Jaber in 1985.[36] Kuwait was a leading regional hub of science and technology in the 1960s and 1970s up until the early 1980s,[37] the scientific research sector significantly suffered due to the terror attacks.[37]

The Kuwaiti government strongly advocated Islamism throughout the 1980s.[38] At that time, the most serious threat to the continuity of Al Sabah came from home-grown secular democrats.[38] The secular Kuwaiti opposition were protesting the 1976 suspension of the parliament.[38] Al Sabah were attracted to Islamists preaching the virtues of a hierarchical order that included loyalty to the Kuwaiti monarchy.[38] In 1981, the Kuwaiti government gerrymandered electoral districts in favor of the Islamists.[38] Islamists were the government's main allies, hence Islamists were able to colonize state agencies, such as the government ministries.[38] In 1983, the parliament banned alcohol consumption. By the mid 1980s, Kuwait was described as an autocracy.[38] In 1986, Emir Jaber suspended the parliament.

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

After the Iran-Iraq war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt.[39] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[40] Tensions between the two countries increased further in July 1990, after Iraq complained to OPEC claiming that Kuwait was stealing its oil from a field near the border by slant drilling of the Rumaila field.[40]

In 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.[41] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed.[42] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation,[43] 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 corruption.

Geography and climate[edit]

Astronaut View of Kuwait

Kuwait City has a hot desert climate (Köppen: BWh) and is one of the hottest cities in summers on earth. Summer temperatures regularly exceed 45 °C (113 °F), and temperatures over 50 °C (122 °F) are not uncommon in the summer, especially in heat waves; nighttime lows often remain above 30 °C (86 °F). In winter, nighttime temperatures frequently drop below 8 °C (46 °F).

Sand storms occur at times during summer from the shamal wind. Sand storms can occur any time of year but occur mostly during summer, and less frequently during autumn.


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

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.[46] Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 94% of export revenues and government income.[47] The Kuwait Stock Exchange is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world.

Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[25] However the country has struggled to diversify its economy since the Gulf War. In recent years, the hostile relationship between the elected parliament and government has prevented the implementation of economic reforms.[48]

In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship and small business start-ups in Kuwait.[49][50] The informal sector is also on the rise,[51] mainly due to the popularity of Instagram businesses.[52][53][54] Many Kuwaiti entrepreneurs are using the Instagram-based business model.[55]

International holdings[edit]

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 $548 billion in assets.[56]

Kuwait is the Arab world's largest foreign investor, with $8.4 billion in FDI outflows in 2013.[57] Kuwait consistently tops regional rankings in FDI outflows. In 2013, Kuwait almost tripled its foreign investments.[57] Over the last 10 years, Kuwait has doubled investments in the UK to more than $24 billion.[58][59] In 2014, Kuwait became the largest foreign investor in China's RMB market.[60]


Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[25] However the country has struggled to diversify its economy since the Gulf War. In the 2000s, the hostile relationship between the elected parliament and government prevented the implementation of economic reforms.[47]

Since the July 2013 election of a less combative parliament, there has been significant progress in the development of key projects.[48][61] Kuwait is currently the fastest-growing projects market in the Gulf region.[62] A record $33.4bn-worth of contracts are expected to be awarded in 2014, only $8.7bn-worth contracts were awarded in 2013.[48] According to MEED, the surge in activity is mainly due to good relations between the parliament and government.[48]

Science and education[edit]

Main article: Education in Kuwait

Kuwait has one public university and 14 private universities.[63] Kuwait is the most popular destination for GCC students seeking education in other Gulf countries,[64] according to a report by the GCC General Secretariat.[64] 15,897 foreign GCC students are studying at Kuwaiti universities and schools.[64] The international mobility of Kuwaiti students is close to record levels.[63] According to official figures, 50,000 Kuwaiti students study at universities overseas.[65] The main push factor for Kuwaitis studying abroad is the shortage of domestic university places and the perceived prestige of overseas university credentials.[63] The Kuwaiti government's overseas scholarship program aims to transform Kuwait into a "center for IT, financial services and medical sciences".[66][67]

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait was a leading regional hub for science and technology.[68][37] Kuwait's research sector has not fully recovered from the Gulf War. The Kuwaiti government has targeted education as a key sector in bringing Kuwait back to its former glory as the region’s leader of social and economic development.[66][67] In 2012-2013, Kuwait became a top 25 sending country to US universities with a total of 5,100 Kuwaiti students enrolled in USA universities.[67] Kuwait is the only country in the top 25 with a local population of only 1.2 million, the other countries in the top 25 have population sizes exceeding 20 million.[69][70]

To date, Kuwait has registered 283 patents, the second highest figure in the Arab world.[71][72][73] Along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait has been the Arab region’s main driving force behind S&T output at the international level.[74] Among Western Asia countries, Kuwait has the highest number of patents per capita, averaging 2.71 patents for every one million persons.[75] In 2013, Kuwaiti inventors achieved the country's highest rate of annual growth in patents, obtaining more than double the number of patents in 2013 than in 2012.[76][77]

Kuwait has the highest ratio of scientific articles per capita in the Muslim world and Arab world.[78][79] Kuwaiti's participation in international scientific literature is higher than the participation of bigger Arab countries like Egypt and Morocco.[80] In 2006, Microsoft's first innovation center in the Middle East was launched in Kuwait.[81] Kuwait has a higher research publication per capita than all Middle East countries except Israel.[82]

According to the World Bank, Jordan and Kuwait are the top education reformers in the Arab world.[83] 30% of Kuwaitis attend private schools, due to a recent shift in public opinion in favor of a Western curriculum and instruction in the English language.[84][85] Kuwait's public school curriculum is undergoing a revamp due to a project launched in conjunction with the World Bank.[86] In April 2013, the Kuwaiti government partnered with the World Bank to launch a pilot project in 48 schools across the state.[86] The revamped curriculum is set to be implemented in the next two or three years.[86][87]

The University of Massachusetts Lowell will open a campus in Kuwait in the next seven years.[88][89]


Main article: Culture of Kuwait

Kuwaiti culture has been influenced by the cultures of Arabia, Persia, India and Britain.[90]


Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre.[91] Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a theatrical tradition.[92] The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's cultural life.[93] Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released.[94] Theatre activities are still popular today.[93]

Kuwait Towers, the country's most famous landmark.

Soap operas[edit]

Kuwaiti soap operas (المسلسلات الكويتية) are the among the most-watched soap operas in the Arab world.[95] Most Khaleeji soap operas are based in Kuwait.

Some Kuwaiti soap operas have become extremely popular throughout the Arab world, although they are usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, they have been shown with success as far away as Tunisia.[96]


Kuwait was the pioneer of literary renaissance in the region.[97] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[27] In the 1970s, writers moved to Kuwait where they enjoyed greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[28]


Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula.[98] Beginning in 1936, Kuwait was the first Gulf country to grant scholarships in the arts.[98] The Kuwaiti artist Mojeb al-Dousari was the earliest recognized visual artist in the Gulf region.[99] He is regarded as the founder of portrait art in the region.[100] In 1943, al-Dousari launched Kuwait's first art gallery.

Khalifa Al-Qattan was the first Kuwaiti artist to hold a single artist art exhibition in Kuwait. He founded a new art theory in the early 1960s known as "circulism".[101][102] The most prominent female Kuwaiti artists are Thuraya Al-Baqsami and Suzan Bushnaq. Kuwait is home to more than 20 art galleries.

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait was the capital of arts and culture in the Gulf region.[24][103] The arts scene struggled to rebuild after the Gulf War.[103] In recent years, there has been a revival in the arts scene. Kuwait is currently regarded as having the second most lively arts scene in the Gulf, second to Dubai.[104]


Kuwait has approximately 40 museums.

Twin towns — sister cities[edit]

Kuwait City is twinned with:


See also[edit]


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