Madinat Al Kuwayt
Skyline of Kuwait City
|• Metro||200 km2 (80 sq mi)|
|Population (2005 estimate)|
|• City||151,060 (2,008)|
|Time zone||AST (UTC+3)|
Kuwait City (Arabic: مدينة الكويت, translation: Madīnat al-Kuwayt) is the capital and largest city of Kuwait. It has a population of 2.38 million in the metropolitan area. Located at the heart of the country on the shore of the Persian Gulf, and containing Kuwait's parliament (Majlis Al-Umma), most governmental offices, the headquarters of most Kuwaiti corporations and banks, it is the political, cultural and economic center of Kuwait. Kuwait City is considered a Beta - 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) 50 kilometres (31 miles) to the south, on the Persian Gulf coast. Kuwait City is ranked as one among the 25 largest GDP cities in the world along with New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Mumbai and other financial hubs including Singapore and Dubai.
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. The flight of many of Basra's leading merchants to Kuwait continued to play a significant role in Basra's commercial stagnation well into the 1850s.
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. By 1800, it was estimated that Kuwait's sea trade reached 16 million Bombay rupees. Kuwait's pre-oil population was ethnically diverse. The population consisted of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Jews and Armenians.
Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Gulf region. Ship vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of international trade between the trade ports of India, East Africa, and Red Sea. Boats made in Kuwait were capable of sailing up to China. Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean for quality and design. Kuwaitis also developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.
Kuwait was a central part of the trade in frankincense from Oman, textiles from China, and Indian spices, all destined for lucrative European markets. Kuwait was also significant in the horse trade, horses were regularly shipped by the way of sailing boats from Kuwait. In the mid 19th century, it was estimated that Kuwait was exporting an average of 800 horses to India annually. Kuwait was divided into three areas: Sharq, Jibla and Mirqab. Sharq and Jibla were the most populated areas. Jibla was inhabited by immigrants from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain. Sharq was mostly inhabited by Persians (Ajam).
In the early 20th century, Kuwait was dubbed the "Marseilles of the Gulf" because its economic vitality attracted a large variety of people. In a good year, Kuwait's annual revenue actually came up to 100,000 riyals, the governor of Basra considered Kuwait's annual revenue an astounding figure. 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 luxuries 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 after the end of 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 III 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. Kuwait settled its boundary disputes with Saudi Arabia and agreed on sharing equally the Saudi–Kuwaiti neutral zone's petroleum reserves. 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. This prompted the Emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to recall the National Assembly in 1981. 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. The National Assembly was dissolved again in 1986.
Geography and climate
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). Winters, however, frequently see nighttime temperatures drop below 8 °C (46 °F).
Summer rainfall is very rare, and normally non-existent. The wettest month is January, typically with only five days of any rain. Rain may occur in the spring and its frequency increases around November. On average, Kuwait City sees about 22 wet days, and 343 dry days.
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.
|Climate data for Kuwait City|
|Average high °C (°F)||19.5
|Daily mean °C (°F)||12.5
|Average low °C (°F)||8.5
|Rainfall mm (inches)||30.2
|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 (1994-2008), Hong Kong Observatory (1961-1990; mean temperatures, rainy days, sunshine)|
|Source #2: Climate Charts (humidity), Voodoo Skies (records)|
Although the districts below are not usually recognized as suburbs, the following is a list of a few areas surrounding Kuwait city:
|This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (May 2014)|
Kuwait’s booming economy has allowed many international hotel chains to enter agreements to open hotels in the country. According to the Kuwait Hotel Owners Association, over twenty-five new hotels are planned or in construction, including the following:
- Hotel Missoni Kuwait
- Golden Tulip Kuwait
- Hilton Olympia Kuwait
- Ibis Sharq
- Jumeirah Messilah Beach Kuwait
- InterContinental Kuwait Downtown – opening early 2015
- InterContinental Kuwait at The White
- The Square Capital Tower – on hold
- Novotel Mina Abdullah Resort
- Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait at The Gate of Kuwait – plans are in motion to open within the next few years.
By 2012, over 3,000 rooms are expected to be added to Kuwait’s current hotel inventory.
The city is also home to a large variety of shopping malls, which serve as the basis of Kuwaiti social life. Famous malls such as the Avenues, Marina World and the 360 Mall house many internationally renowned retail and food/beverage brands, as well as provide sheltered, indoor areas to relax. Several more, such as the Mall of Kuwait, the Al Hamra Center and Symphony Centre are expected to enter service within the next five years.
In 2008, a railway network connecting Arab states of the Persian Gulf was proposed, although work is yet to start. A metro network was designed, with four lines and stations across the entire city and suburbs. Although it has faced considerable delays, the project is expected to commence construction sometime in 2011 and open parts of the first two lines by July 2016.
Kuwait International Airport is the primary airport for the country serving a wide variety of local and international destinations.
Twin towns — sister cities
Kuwait City is twinned with:
Built in 1979, the Kuwait Towers are the most famous landmark in Kuwait City.
Kuwait City as seen from Shuwaikh
Aqua Park, water-theme park
- Violet Dickson
- H. R. P. Dickson
- JW Marriott Hotel
- Madinat al-Hareer
- List of diplomatic missions in Kuwait
- Tourism in Kuwait
- "World's 25 major cities and economic growth"
- "Shadows on the Sand: The Memoirs of Sir Gawain Bell". Gawain Bell. 1983. p. 222.
- ʻAlam-i Nisvāṉ - Volume 2, Issues 1-2. p. 18. "Kuwait became an important trading port for import and export of goods from India, Africa and Arabia."
- "Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City". Mohammad Khalid A. Al-Jassar. 2009. p. 66.
- "Beyond the Storm: A Gulf Crisis Reader". Phyllis Bennis. p. 42.
- The Kuwait Crisis: Basic Documents. 1991. p. 4.
- Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City. 2009. p. 67.
- Thabit Abdullah. Merchants, Mamluks, and Murder: The Political Economy of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Basra. p. 72.
- "Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City". Mohammad Khalid A. Al-Jassar. p. 68.
- "Waqai-i manazil-i Rum: Tipu Sultan's mission to Constantinople". Mohibbul Hasan. 2007. p. 18. "For owing to Basra's misfortunes, Kuwait and Zubarah became rich."
- "The Politics of Regional Trade in Iraq, Arabia, and the Gulf, 1745-1900". Hala Mundhir Fattah. 1997. p. 114.
- "Lord of Arabia". H. C. Armstrong. 1905. pp. 18–19.
- The impact of economic activities on the social and political structures of Kuwait (1896-1946). p. 108.
- Kuwait Today: A Welfare State. 1963. p. 89.
- The Arabian Peninsula. 1970. p. 150.
- M. Nijhoff (1974). Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, Volume 130. p. 111.
- Mary Bruins Allison (1994). Doctor Mary in Arabia: Memoirs. p. 1.
- "The Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia and the Gulf". Neil Donaldson. 2008. p. 93.
- "Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire". 2009. p. 321.
- "Seafaring in the Arabian Gulf and Oman: People of the Dhow". Dionisius A. Agius. 2012. p. 48.
- "Kuwait: A Trading City". Eleanor Archer. 2013.
- "The Politics of Regional Trade in Iraq, Arabia, and the Gulf, 1745-1900". Hala Mundhir Fattah. 1997. p. 181.
- Two ethnicities, three generations: Phonological variation and change in Kuwait (PhD). Newcastle University. p. 13-14.
- "The Persian Gulf in History". Lawrence G. Potter. 2009. p. 272.
- "Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar". Jill Crystal. 1995. p. 37.
- Mary Ann Tétreault (1995). The Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and the Economics of the New World Order. pp. 2–3.
- David Lea (2001). A Political Chronology of the Middle East. p. 142.
- Lewis R. Scudder (1998). The Arabian Mission's Story: In Search of Abraham's Other Son. p. 104.
- Mohammad Khalid A. Al-Jassar (2009). Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City: The Socio-cultural Dimensions of the Kuwait Courtyard and Diwaniyya. p. 80.
- "The History of Kuwait". Michael S. Casey. 2007. p. 57.
- "Kuwait’s Souk al-Manakh Stock Bubble". Stock-market-crash.net. 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
- "World Weather Information Service - Kuwait City". World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
- "Climatological Normals of Kuwait". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
- "Kuwait Int'l, Kuwait Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data". Retrieved 2014-02-19.
- "Kuwait City, Kuwait". Voodoo Skies. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
- Railway Gazette International January 2009 p21 with map
- "Acuerdo de Hermandad abrirá horizontes de colaboración". El Universal (Mexico City).
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