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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.
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
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
 -  Independence from the Emirate of Al Hasa 1752 
 -  Anglo-Ottoman Convention 1913 
 -  End of treaties with the United Kingdom 19 June 1961 
 -  Total 17,820 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  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 4 million people.[6]

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kuwait was a prosperous center of trade and commerce.[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 invaded 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][19][20] The country is currently attempting to diversify its oil-reliant economy. In recent years, the hostile relationship between the elected parliament and government[21] has prevented the implementation of economic reforms.[22][23][24]


Main article: History of Kuwait

Kuwait was historically the site of settlements from the Ubaid period (c. 6500 to 3800 BC).[25][26] The earliest evidence of sailing has been found in Kuwait: the world's oldest reed boat was found in Subiya in northern Kuwait.[27] In 224 AD, Kuwait fell under the control of the Sassanid Empire.[28] In 636 AD, the Battle of Chains between the Sassanid Empire and Rashidun Caliphate was fought in Kuwait near the town of Kazma.[29][30] As a result of the Rashidun victory in the seventh century, an early Islamic settlement known as Kadhima was founded in Kuwait.[30][31]

Early history

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.[32] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia.[33][34] By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.[35]

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.[36] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.[36] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait.[35][37] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792.[38] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.[38] After the Persians withdrew from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.[39]

Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Gulf region.[40][41] 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.[42][43][44] Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean.[45] Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.[46] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.[47] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution.[48] According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.[45][49][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] A Western author's account of Kuwait in 1905:[52]

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.[53] The elite were long-settled, urban, Sunni families, the majority of which claim descent from the original 30 Bani Utubi families.[53] The wealthiest families were trade merchants who acquired their wealth from long-distance commerce, shipbuilding and pearling.[53] They were a cosmopolitan elite, they traveled extensively to India, Africa and Europe.[53] The elite educated their sons abroad more than other Gulf Arab elite.[53] Western visitors noted that the Kuwaiti elite used European office systems, typewriters and followed European culture with curiosity.[53] The richest families were involved in general trade.[53] The merchant families of Al-Ghanim and Al-Hamad were estimated to be worth millions before the 1940s.[53]

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 medical doctor and missionary 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.[54] Kuwait's pearling industry also collapsed as a result of the worldwide economic depression.[54] 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.[54] During the economic depression, luxuries like pearls were in little demand.[54] The Japanese invention of cultured pearls also contributed to the collapse of Kuwait's pearling industry.[54]

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]

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)

From 1946 to 1982, Kuwait experienced a period of renowned prosperity driven by oil and its liberal political climate.[55] In popular discourse, the years between 1946 and 1982 are referred to as the "Golden Era".[55] 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.[56] Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[57] 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.[56] Kuwait was the capital of higher education, arts and culture in the Gulf region.[56] Kuwait University, established in 1966, attracted students from neighboring countries.[56] Local arts, music and theatre thrived.[55][56][58] Kuwait's local theatre industry was renowned throughout the Arab world.[55]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait's press was described as one of the freest in the world.[58] Kuwait was the pioneer in the literary renaissance in the Arab region.[59] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[59] Many Arab writers moved to Kuwait for freedom of expression because Kuwait had greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[60][61] 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.[62]

Kuwaiti society embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[63] Most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab in the 1960s and 1970s.[64][65] At Kuwait University, mini-skirts were more common than the hijab.[66]

1980s to present day

In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price.[67]

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.[68] Kuwait was a leading regional hub of science and technology in the 1960s and 1970s up until the early 1980s,[69] the scientific research sector significantly suffered due to the terror attacks.[69]

The Kuwaiti government strongly advocated Islamism throughout the 1980s.[70] At that time, the most serious threat to the continuity of Al Sabah came from home-grown secular democrats.[70] The secular Kuwaiti opposition were protesting the 1976 suspension of the parliament.[70] Al Sabah were attracted to Islamists preaching the virtues of a hierarchical order that included loyalty to the Kuwaiti monarchy.[70] In 1981, the Kuwaiti government gerrymandered electoral districts in favor of the Islamists.[70] Islamists were the government's main allies, hence Islamists were able to colonize state agencies, such as the government ministries.[70] In 1983, the parliament banned alcohol consumption.[71] By the mid 1980s, Kuwait was described as an autocracy.[70] 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.[72] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[73] 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.[73]

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.[74] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed.[75] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation,[76] 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.


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.[77] 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.[78] 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).[79] 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.[80] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.[81]


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.[82] 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.


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


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,[83] before 1938 Kuwait's local merchants enjoyed a supremacy over the Al Sabah family.[83]

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.[84]

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).[19][85] In 2013, Kuwait was ranked the freest country in press freedom in the Middle East and Arab world (#77 out of 179 countries).[86] 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.[87] 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.[88] Kuwait is the only Gulf state that is ranked "partly free", the rest of the Gulf region is "Not Free".[17][18]

Women in Kuwait are among the most emancipated women in the Middle East region. In 2014, Kuwait was ranked first among Arab countries in the Global Gender Gap Report.[89][90] In 2013, 53% of Kuwaiti women participated in the labor force,[91] Kuwait has the highest rate of local female labor participation in the Gulf region.[91] Kuwait's labor force participation rate for Kuwaiti women is much higher than the regional MENA average.[91] 46.7% of Kuwaiti women between the ages of 15 and 64 were employed in 2013.[92] In 2008-2009, the participation of Kuwaiti women in the labor force was much higher than the regional GCC average, Kuwait has the largest number of working female citizens in the Gulf region.[93] In 2011, Kuwait was ranked highest of all Arab countries in gender equality in the Human Development Report's Gender Inequality Index.[94] Like most other Arab countries, Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men cannot transmit their citizenship to their children.[95]

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, Kuwaiti women had the right to vote.[96] This right was soon removed and male suffrage was reinstalled.[96] Moves to change the male-dominated political structure culminated in the re-granting of 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.[97] In the parliamentary elections in May 2009, four female candidates won their seats and became Kuwait's first female lawmakers.[98] Female participation in the parliament remains limited because Kuwait does not have a parliamentary quota system. Most parliaments in the Arab world have quotas for women.

There have been several conflicts between the Emir, the government and the National Assembly over various policies. In 1983, the Kuwaiti Parliament banned alcohol consumption.[71] The Assembly was dissolved in May 2009, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Nasser al-Sabah and the rest of the Cabinet.[99] Nationwide elections were held on 16 May 2009.[100] 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.[101]

Human rights in Kuwait has been the subject of some controversy, particularly regarding foreign workers rights and the Bedoon. 60% of Kuwait's population is Arab (including Arab expatriates), the remaining 40% consists of non-Arab expatriates mostly immigrants from South Asia. Under the kafala system, all migrant workers must have a Kuwaiti citizen sponsoring them. The kafala system leaves foreign workers prone to exploitation. Kuwait is the only Gulf country with a minimum wage for foreign workers.

Anti-Shia sentiment is a crime in Kuwait.[102] Kuwait persistently penalizes clerics who make sectarian remarks.[103][104][105] In 2012 and 2013, several Kuwaitis were jailed for anti-Shia tweets.[102][106][107] In August 2014, the Kuwaiti government sued a local theater that insulted Shia Islam.[108][109] In September 2014, a Kuwaiti man was jailed for anti-Shia tweets.[110]


Kuwait follows the "civil law system" modeled after the French legal system,[111][112][113] Kuwait's legal system is mostly secular.[114][115][116] In Kuwait, Sharia law governs only family law for Muslim residents,[116][117] non-Muslims in Kuwait have a secular family law. For the application of family law, there are three separate court sections: Sunni, Shia and non-Muslim.[118] The court system in Kuwait is secular.[119][120] According to the United Nations, Kuwait's legal system is a mix of British common law, French civil law, Egyptian civil law and Islamic law.[121]

Foreign relations

Location of diplomatic missions of Kuwait:

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.[122] 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.[122] 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.[123] In July 1987, Kuwait refused to allow USA military bases in its territory.[124][125] As a result of the Gulf War, Kuwait currently hosts 10,000 US soldiers. Kuwait and Iran have strong political and economic relations.[126] Kuwait maintains good relations with Saudi Arabia and other GCC states.

Main article: Military of Kuwait

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.


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.[127] Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 94% of export revenues and government income.[21] 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.[57] 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.[128]

In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship and small business start-ups in Kuwait.[129][130] The informal sector is also on the rise,[131] mainly due to the popularity of Instagram businesses.[132][133][134] Many Kuwaiti entrepreneurs are using the Instagram-based business model.[135]

International holdings

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.[136]

Kuwait is the Arab world's largest foreign investor, with $8.4 billion in FDI outflows in 2013.[137] Kuwait consistently tops regional rankings in FDI outflows. In 2013, Kuwait almost tripled its foreign investments.[137] Over the last 10 years, Kuwait has doubled investments in the UK to more than $24 billion.[138][139] In 2014, Kuwait became the largest foreign investor in China's RMB market.[140]


Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[57] 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.[21]

Since the July 2013 election of a less combative parliament, there has been significant progress in the development of key projects.[128][141] Kuwait is currently the fastest-growing projects market in the Gulf region.[142] A record $33.4bn-worth of contracts are expected to be awarded in 2014, only $8.7bn-worth contracts were awarded in 2013.[128] According to MEED, the surge in activity is mainly due to good relations between the parliament and government.[128]

Kuwait's non-oil economic growth reached the regional GCC average in 2013.[143] There are signs that the non-oil economy is gaining momentum under the more pro-government parliament.[144] Kuwait’s non-oil growth, which accelerated notably in 2013, is expected to maintain its momentum in the next two years.[145][146]

Science and education

Main article: Education in Kuwait

Kuwait has one public university and 14 private universities.[147] Kuwait is the most popular destination for GCC students seeking education in other Gulf countries,[148] according to a report by the GCC General Secretariat.[148] 15,897 foreign GCC students are studying at Kuwaiti universities and schools.[148] The international mobility of Kuwaiti students is close to record levels.[147] According to official figures, 50,000 Kuwaiti students study at universities overseas.[149] The main push factor for Kuwaitis studying abroad is the shortage of domestic university places and the perceived prestige of overseas university credentials.[147] The Kuwaiti government's overseas scholarship program aims to transform Kuwait into a "center for IT, financial services and medical sciences".[150][151]

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait was a leading regional hub for science and technology.[152][69] 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.[150][151] 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.[151] 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.[153][154]

To date, Kuwait has registered 283 patents, the second highest figure in the Arab world.[155][156][157] Along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait has been the Arab region’s main driving force behind S&T output at the international level.[158] Among Western Asia countries, Kuwait has the highest number of patents per capita, averaging 2.71 patents for every one million persons.[159] 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.[160]

Kuwait has the highest ratio of scientific articles per capita in the Muslim world and Arab world.[161][162] Kuwaiti's participation in international scientific literature is higher than the participation of bigger Arab countries like Egypt and Morocco.[163] In 2006, Microsoft's first innovation center in the Middle East was launched in Kuwait.[164] Kuwait has a higher research publication per capita than all Middle East countries except Israel.[165]

According to the World Bank, Jordan and Kuwait are the top education reformers in the Arab world.[166] 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.[167][168] Kuwait's public school curriculum is undergoing a revamp due to a project launched in conjunction with the World Bank.[169] In April 2013, the Kuwaiti government partnered with the World Bank to launch a pilot project in 48 schools across the state.[169] The revamped curriculum is set to be implemented in the next two or three years.[169][170]

The University of Massachusetts Lowell will open a campus in Kuwait in the next seven years.[171][172]


Shoppers at "The Avenues" mall

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.[173]

Ethnic groups

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.[174] The Kuwaiti government intends to reduce the expat population.


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.[175]

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.[176] In 2002, the US Department of State reported that Shia Kuwaitis formed 30%–40% of Kuwait's citizen population,[177] noting there were 525,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens and 855,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total (61% Sunnis, 39% Shias).[177] In 2004, there were 600,000 Sunni Kuwaitis citizens, 300,000–350,000 Shia Kuwaiti citizens and 913,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total.[178]

Kuwait has a native Christian community, in 1999 there were 400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens.[179] There were 256 Christian Kuwaiti citizens living in Kuwait in June 2013.[180] There is also a small number of Bahá'í Kuwaiti citizens,[181] it is likely that 18 Kuwaiti citizens follow the Bahá'í religion.[180][note 1] There are 400 Bahá'ís in total in Kuwait.[181]

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).[181]


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.


Main article: Culture of Kuwait

Within the Gulf Arab states, the culture of Kuwait is the closest to the culture of Bahrain; this is evident in the close association between the two states in terms of accents, food, and clothes, in addition to the similar degrees of openness in the two societies.[182]


Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre.[183] Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a theatrical tradition.[184] The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's cultural life.[185] Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released.[186] Theatre activities are still popular today.[185]

Kuwait Towers, the country's most famous landmark.

Soap operas

Kuwaiti soap operas (المسلسلات الكويتية) are the among the most-watched soap operas in the Arab world.[187] 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.[188]


Kuwait was the pioneer of literary renaissance in the region.[189] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[59] In the 1970s, writers moved to Kuwait where they enjoyed greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[60]


Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula.[190] Beginning in 1936, Kuwait was the first Gulf country to grant scholarships in the arts.[190] The Kuwaiti artist Mojeb al-Dousari was the earliest recognized visual artist in the Gulf region.[191] He is regarded as the founder of portrait art in the region.[192] 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".[193][194] 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.[56][195] The arts scene struggled to rebuild after the Gulf War.[195] 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.[196]

Music and concerts

Kuwaitis are pioneers of contemporary Khaleeji music. The Kuwaiti musician Abdul al-Latif al-Kuwayti was the first commercial recording artist in the Gulf region.[197] Kuwait, along with Bahrain, entered the 20th-century Arabic music world much earlier than other Gulf states. Together with Bahrain, Kuwait is the birthplace of the musical genre sawt.[198]

In the pre-oil era, Kuwaiti society was known for its music because 20-30% of Kuwaitis were professional musicians.[199] Traditional Kuwaiti music is a reflection of the country's cosmopolitan seafaring heritage.[200][201] As a trading center, Kuwait attracted foreigners who left their music with the local inhabitants, while Kuwaiti merchants brought back music from East Africa and India.[201] Kuwait is the center of traditional music in the Gulf.[198]

Traditional Kuwaiti music is closely tied to the cosmopolitanism of Kuwaiti pearl divers, who spoke many languages, jammed with Zanzibaris and southwest Indians.[200] Traditional Kuwaiti music includes "Fidjeri". "Fidjeri" is a musical repertoire performed traditionally by male seafarers. "Fidjeri" was used as a means of social communication between Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti sailors of the Indian Ocean.[202] "Liwa" and "Fann at-Tanbura" are types of music performed mainly by Kuwaitis of East African ancestry. "Al Arda Al Bahariya" is a well-known Kuwaiti sailor song, as are the "al-Nahma", a class of songs that accompanied many sailing activities. By the early 1970s, most of Kuwait's traditional songs had been recorded and were housed in a national music archive. The national music archive was destroyed by Iraqi soldiers during the Gulf War.

In the past year, many concerts were held in Kuwait including The Wanted,[203] Mika Singh,[204][205] MYMP,[206][207] Nikki Gil,[208][209] Daler Mehndi,[210][211] Aegis,[212] Shefali Alvares,[213] Arjit Singh,[214][215] Freestyle,[216] Yara, Benny Dayal,[217][218] Shibani Kashyap,[219][220] Udit Narayan,[221] Sharib Sabri,[222][223] Neha Kakkar,[224] Myriam Fares, Shatha Hassoun, Najwa Karam,[225] Diana Haddad, Ahlam, Gladys Guevarra,[226] Anju Panta,[227] Osang, Filligar,[228][229] Julie Anne San Jose,[226] Balqees Ahmed Fathi, Elissa, Thaikkudam Bridge,[230][231][232] Kamikazee,[233] Sugandha Mishra,[234] Himesh Reshammiya,[235] Palak Muchhal,[236] Mohammad Irfan Ali,[236] Amr Diab, Aditya Narayan,[221] Vina Morales,[237][238] Saad Lamjarred, Nader al-Atat[239] and Majid al-Muhandis. Ne-Yo did several concerts in Kuwait in 2011.[240][241] Kim Kardashian visited Kuwait in October 2012 to launch the opening of Millions of Milkshakes.

The annual Hala February Music Festival features many Arab popstars, including Jannat, Abdallah Al Rowaished, Nancy Ajram, Nawal El Kuwaitia, Amr Diab, Elissa, Mohammed Abdo, Rabeh Sager, Ahlam, Majid al-Muhandis, Balqees Ahmed Fathi and Najwa Karam.[242] The annual Kuwait Jazz Music Festival features internationally renowned jazz musicians and local Kuwaiti musicians. Kuwait also hosts the International Music Festival.[243][244] Since 2012, the National Council for Culture and Arts (NCCAL) has hosted "Aswat", a music and dance show mixing traditional Kuwaiti music and hip hop music.[245][246] At the 2014 Futsal Contintental Cup, many Arab popstars including Yara performed.[247][248][249]

R&B music is very popular among the Kuwaiti youth. There are several prominent Kuwaiti R&B artists, most notably Sons of Yusuf [250][251] and Dhari Al Dhulaei (Big D).[252][253]

There are many educational institutions specializing in music and dance, most notably the Kuwait Music Academy, Higher Institute for Musical Arts, British School of Dance, Loyac Academy of Performing Arts, Kuwait School of Dance and the Institute of Academic Art and Musical Sciences. The Kuwaiti government has created a university-level music school. In October 2014, "Spraybox" opened in Kuwait, it is the Middle East's first graffiti park.[254][255] The park hosts monthly R&B dance contests.[256] Bayt Lothan hosts numerous concerts throughout the year, including the Blend Music Festival and Fête De La Musique festival. In 2014, the Contemporary Art Platform began hosting monthly music concerts by local artists, known as "Jam" which is described as a "live music project" featuring artists from all music genres (mostly mainstream pop and R&B). Many Khaleeji popstars do concerts in Kuwait throughout the year for events and openings.[257][258]

Kuwait has a thriving indie music scene. Zahed Sultan was the first Gulf Arab artist to be featured in a globally renowned music compilation.[259][260] In 2014, Zahed Sultan did several concerts throughout Kuwait including a live audio-visual performance in 3D.[261][262][263]


Kuwait has approximately 40 museums.

National dress

The traditional male attire is the "dishdasha" and the traditional 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.[264]


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. TV broadcasting was launched in 1957.[265][266]

Kuwait has been described as the media capital of the Gulf region,[267] Kuwait produces far more newspapers and magazines than any of its neighbors.[268] The three most prominent English dailies in Kuwait are Kuwait Times, Arab Times and Al-Watan Daily. There are limits to Kuwait's press freedom. People have been jailed for "insulting" the Emir[269] which has been described as Lèse-majesté.

See also


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  223. ^ "‘Gutthi’ fame Sunil Grover to Entertain at ‘Indian Carnival 2014’ along with Sharib Sabri & Toshi Sabri and Neha Takkar.". 
  224. ^ "Neha Kakkar's message to Kuwait". 
  225. ^ "نجوى كرم أشرقت في مهرجان "هلا فبراير"". 
  226. ^ a b "Julie Anne San Jose, Gladys Guevarra to perform for Kapuso fans in Kuwait". 
  227. ^ "Al Mulla Exchange stages Musical Extravaganza". 
  228. ^ "Filligar Rocks Kuwait Music Scene". 
  229. ^ "American band ‘Filligar’ taking part in Al-Qurain Festival". 
  230. ^ "Thaikkudam Bridge music band Mesmerized Kuwait at NAFO 11th Anniversary". 
  231. ^ "Desert Rain". 
  232. ^ "NAFO-Kuwait presents Live in concert – ‘Desert Rain'". 
  233. ^ "Kamikazee Live in Kuwait". 
  234. ^ "Sugandha Mishra, an entertainer extraordinaire". 
  235. ^ "India’s high ranking music director Himesh Reshammiya to perform live in Kuwait". 
  236. ^ a b ""Aashiq Banaya Aaapne" Music concert by ICS - in Kuwait". 
  237. ^ "Vina Morales in live concert in Kuwait". 
  238. ^ "Arab Times Online". 
  239. ^ "Nader Al-Atat live in Kuwait". 
  240. ^ "Wataniya Telecom brings Ne-Yo to Kuwait". 
  241. ^ "Ne-Yo at the Avenues Mall". 
  242. ^ "Hala February Music Festival in Kuwait Is On Fire with The Best Arabic Stars". 
  243. ^ "The 16th International Music Festival concludes in Kuwait". 
  244. ^ "Video – 17th International Music Festival 2014". 
  245. ^ "Aswat: Music and Dance Show Debuting in Kuwait Tonight". 
  246. ^ "Aswat - 2". 
  247. ^ "يارا تفتتح كأس القارات لكرة قدم الصالات في الكويت". 
  248. ^ "شعيل ويارا ودشتي أضاءوا حفل بطولة القارات". 
  249. ^ "يارا تفتتح كأس القارات لكرة قدم الصالات في الكويت". 
  250. ^ "Sons of Yusuf: Mideast duo introduces Kuwaiti culture through rap and hip-hop". 
  251. ^ "The Base – Sons of Yusuf". 
  252. ^ "Big D". 
  253. ^ "Kuwaiti Rapper Promotes Positive Message". 
  254. ^ "Spraybox Opening". 
  255. ^ "Cozmo Spraybox". 
  256. ^ "All Styles Dance Battle Finals". 
  257. ^ "مسرح السالمية احتضن تكريم مبدعي "الخليجي" والرويشد والسعيد والجوهر وعبدالستار افتتحوه ... طرباً". 
  258. ^ "سهرة خليجية أسطورية على مسرح السالمية". 
  259. ^ "Haha-ka-tha: Kuwait’s Zahed Sultan Laughs his Way to Stardom". 
  260. ^ "Kuwaiti Artist Zahed Sultan Releases "Revolutionary" New Song & Music Video". 
  261. ^ "Zahed Sultan Live in 3D". 
  262. ^ "Zahed Sultan LIVE in 3D X 248AM". 
  263. ^ "Eye Am Sound – Zahed Sultan LIVE in 3D". 
  264. ^ "Kuwait Government Online – Traditional Customs". Government of Kuwait. 
  265. ^ Barrie Gunter; Roger Dickinson (6 June 2013). News Media in the Arab World: A Study of 10 Arab and Muslim Countries. A&C Black. p. 33. ISBN 1-4411-0239-6. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  266. ^ "Kuwait – The World Factbook". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  267. ^ Social Semiotics of Arabic Satellite Television: Beyond the Glamour. p. 120. 
  268. ^ Women and Media in the Middle East: Power Through Self-Expression. p. 122. 
  269. ^ "Kuwait ex-MPs get jail terms for insulting H H Amir". 
  1. ^ 2013 Census shows only three religion categories: "Muslim", "Christian" and "Other". Reasonably assuming majority of "Other" Kuwaiti citizens is Bahá'í.

External links