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Kuwait

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This article is about modern country in the Persian Gulf. For the former autonomous state in southern Arabia, see Qu'aiti.

Coordinates: 29°30′N 45°45′E / 29.500°N 45.750°E / 29.500; 45.750

State of Kuwait
  • دولة الكويت
  • Dawlat al-Kuwait
Flag Emblem
Anthem: 
Location of  Kuwait  (red)in the Arabian Peninsula  (light yellow)
Location of  Kuwait  (red)

in the Arabian Peninsula  (light yellow)

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
Religion Islam
Demonym Kuwaiti
Government Unitary constitutional monarchy[1]
 •  Emir Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah
 •  Crown Prince Nawaf Ahmad al-Sabah
 •  Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Ali al-Ghanim
 •  Prime Minister Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah
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
 •  2016 estimate 4,348,395 (140th)
 •  2005 census 2,213,403 [2]
 •  Density 200.2/km2 (61st)
518.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2016 estimate
 •  Total $301.289 billion[3] (52nd)
 •  Per capita $71,318[3] (5th)
GDP (nominal) 2016 estimate
 •  Total $148.854 billion[3] (55th)
 •  Per capita $35,235[3] (23rd)
HDI (2014) Steady 0.816[4]
very high · 48th
Currency Kuwaiti dinar (KWD)
Time zone AST (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

Kuwait Listeni/kˈwt/ (Arabic: دولة الكويت‎‎ About this sound Dawlat al-Kuwait), officially the State of Kuwait, is a 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 2014, Kuwait has a population of 4.2 million people; 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 2.9 million are expatriates.[5]

Oil reserves were discovered in 1938. From 1946 to 1982, the country underwent large-scale modernization. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. The Iraqi occupation came to an end in 1991 after military intervention by United States-led forces. At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.

Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a high income economy backed by the world's sixth largest oil reserves. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world.[6] According to the World Bank, the country has the fourth highest per capita income in the world. The constitution was promulgated in 1962, making Kuwait the most democratic country in the region.[7][8][9]

70% of the population are expatriates, while only 30% of the population are Kuwaiti citizens.[10] From 2001 to 2009, Kuwait had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the Arab world.[11][12][13][14] Kuwait ranks highly in regional metrics of gender equality,[15] as it has the region's highest Global Gender Gap ranking.[16][17][18]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Kuwait

Early history[edit]

In 1613, the town of Kuwait was founded in modern-day Kuwait City. In 1716, the Bani Utubs settled in Kuwait, which at this time was inhabited by a few fishermen and primarily functioned as a fishing village.[19] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia.[20][21] By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.[22]

During the Persian siege of Basra in 1775–79, Iraqi merchants took refuge in Kuwait and were partly instrumental in the expansion of Kuwait's boat-building and trading activities.[23] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.[23] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait.[22][24] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792.[25] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.[25] After the Persians withdrew from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.[26]

Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Persian Gulf region.[27][28] During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of trade between the ports of India, East Africa and the Red Sea.[29][30][31] Kuwaiti ships were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean.[32] Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.[33] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.[34] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants, who were fleeing Ottoman government persecution.[35] According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.[32][36][37]

The Sheikhdom of Kuwait became a British protectorate in 1899 (until 1961) after the Anglo-Kuwaiti agreement of 1899 was signed between Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah and the British government in India due to severe threats to Kuwait's independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Celebration at Seif Palace in 1944.

Following the Kuwait–Najd War of 1919–20, Ibn Saud imposed a trade blockade against Kuwait from the years 1923 until 1937.[38] 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.

The Great Depression negatively impacted Kuwait's economy starting in the late 1920s.[38] International trading was one of Kuwait's main sources of income before oil.[38] Kuwaiti merchants were mostly intermediary merchants.[38] As a result of the decline of European demand for goods from India and Africa, Kuwait's economy suffered. The decline in international trade resulted in an increase in gold smuggling by Kuwaiti ships to India.[38] Some Kuwaiti merchant families became rich due to gold smuggling to India.[39] Kuwait's pearl industry also collapsed as a result of the worldwide economic depression.[39] At its height, Kuwait's pearl industry led the world's luxury market, regularly sending out between 750 and 800 ships to meet the European elite's need for pearls.[39] During the economic depression, luxuries like pearls were in little demand.[39] The Japanese invention of cultured pearls also contributed to the collapse of Kuwait's pearl industry.[39]

Golden Era (1946–82)[edit]

From 1946 to 1982, Kuwait experienced a period of prosperity driven by oil and its liberal atmosphere.[40][41][42] In popular discourse, the years between 1946 and 1982 are referred to as the "Golden Era".[40][41][42][43] 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 region.[44][45][46] Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[47] 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.[46] Kuwait University was established in 1966.[46] Kuwait's theatre industry was well-known throughout the Arab world.[40][46]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait's press was described as one of the freest in the world.[48] Kuwait was the pioneer in the literary renaissance in the Arab region.[49] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[49] Many Arab writers moved to Kuwait because they enjoyed greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[50][51] The Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar left Iraq in the 1970s to take refuge in the more liberal environment of Kuwait.[52]

Kuwaiti society embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[53] Most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab in the 1960s and 70s.[54][55] and at the Kuwait University, miniskirts were more common than the hijab.[56]

1982 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.[57]

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. Kuwait was a regional hub of science and technology in the 1960s and 1970s up until the early 1980s,[58] the scientific research sector significantly suffered due to the terror attacks.[58]

Oil fires in Kuwait in 1991, 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.[59] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[60] 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.[60]

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.[61] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed.[62] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation,[63] 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.

From 2001 to 2009, Kuwait had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the Arab world.[11][12][13][14][64] In 2005, women won the right to vote and run in elections. In 2014 and 2015, Kuwait was ranked first among Arab countries in the Global Gender Gap Report.[15][17][18] Kuwaiti women outnumber men in the workforce.[16][65] In June 2015, a suicide bombing took place at a mosque. It was the largest terror attack in Kuwait's history.

Media[edit]

The 372 m tall Kuwait Telecommunications Tower (leftmost) is the main communication tower of Kuwait.

Kuwait's media is annually classified as "partly free" in the Freedom of Press survey by Freedom House.[66] Kuwait's media is the freest in the Gulf region.[8][67] Kuwait consistently ranks as having the freest media in the Arab world.[68][69][70]

Since 2005,[71] Kuwait has frequently earned the highest ranking of all Arab countries in the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.[72][73][74][75][76][77][78][79][80] In 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014, Kuwait surpassed Israel as the country with the greatest press freedom in the Middle East.[72][73][74][75][79] Kuwait is also frequently ranked as the Arab country with the greatest press freedom in Freedom House's annual Freedom of Press survey.[68][81][82][83][84][85][86]

Kuwait produces more newspapers and magazines per capita than its neighbors.[87][88] There are limits to Kuwait's press freedom; while criticism of the government and ruling family members is permitted, many people have been jailed for defaming the Emir.[89] Kuwait's constitution criminalizes criticism of the Emir.

The state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) is the largest media house in the country. The Ministry of Information regulates the media industry in Kuwait.

In 2000, there were 624 radios and 486 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2001, there were 165,000 Internet subscribers served by three service providers.[90] Kuwait has 12 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.[90] Government-funded Radio Kuwait also offers daily informative programming in several foreign languages including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and English on the AM and SW.

Politics[edit]

Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a semi-democratic political system.[9][91][92][93] The Emir is the head of state. The hybrid political system is divided between an elected parliament and appointed government.[94][95]

The Constitution of Kuwait was promulgated in 1962. Kuwait is among the Middle East's freest countries in terms of civil liberties and political rights.[7][9][96] Freedom House rates the country as "Partly Free" in the Freedom in the World survey.[97]

Human rights in Kuwait has been the subject of criticism, particularly regarding foreign workers rights. Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait's total population. The kafala system leaves foreign workers prone to exploitation. Kuwait has the most liberal labor laws in the GCC.[98][99] As a result, the International Labor Organization removed Kuwait from the list of countries violating workers rights.[100]

Political culture[edit]

Kuwait is the most democratic country in the region.[101] Regionally, Kuwait is noted for having a robust public sphere and active civil society with greater freedom for political and social organizations that are parties in all but name.[102][103][104] Professional groups like the Chamber of Commerce maintain their autonomy from the government.[103][104]

The National Assembly is the legislature and has oversight authority. The National Assembly consists of fifty elected members, who are chosen in elections held every four years. Since the parliament can conduct inquiries into government actions and pass motions of no confidence, checks and balances are robust in Kuwait.[102] The parliament can be dissolved under a set of conditions based on constitutional provisions.[105] The Constitutional Court and Emir both have the power to dissolve the parliament, although the Constitutional Court can invalidate the Emir's dissolve.

Executive power is executed by the government. The Emir appoints the prime minister, who in turn chooses the ministers comprising the government. According to the constitution, at least one minister has to be an elected MP from the parliament. The parliament is often rigorous in holding the government accountable, government ministers are frequently interpellated and forced to resign.[105][106] Kuwait has more government accountability and transparency than other GCC countries.[103]

The judiciary is nominally independent of the executive and the legislature, and the Constitutional Court is charged with ruling on the conformity of laws and decrees with the constitution.[105] The judiciary's independence has come under question, although the Constitutional Court is widely regarded as one of the most judicially independent courts in the Arab world.[107] The Constitutional Court has the power to dissolve the parliament and invalidate the Emir's decrees, as happened in 2013 when the dissolved 2009 parliament resumed its role.

The political participation of Kuwaiti women has been limited,[108] although Kuwaiti women are among the most emancipated women in the Middle East. In 2014 and 2015, Kuwait was ranked first among Arab countries in the Global Gender Gap Report.[15][17][18] In 2013, 53% of Kuwaiti women participated in the labor force.[65] Kuwait has higher female citizen participation in the workforce than other GCC countries.[16][65][109] Kuwaiti women outnumber men in the workforce.[16]

Political groups and parliamentary voting blocs exist, although most candidates run as independents. Once elected, many deputies form voting blocs in the National Assembly. Kuwaiti law does not recognize political parties.[110] However, numerous political groups function as de facto political parties in elections, and there are blocs in the parliament. Major de facto political parties include the National Democratic Alliance, Popular Action Bloc, Hadas (Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood), National Islamic Alliance and the Justice and Peace Alliance.

Kuwait follows the "civil law system" modeled after the French legal system,[111][112][113] Kuwait's legal system is largely secular.[114][115][116] Sharia law governs only family law for Muslim residents,[115][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] According to the United Nations, Kuwait's legal system is a mix of English common law, French civil law, Egyptian civil law and Islamic law.[119]

The court system in Kuwait is secular.[120][121] Unlike other Gulf states, Kuwait does not have Sharia courts.[121] Sections of the civil court system administer family law.[121] Kuwait has the most secular commercial law in the Gulf.[122]

Foreign relations[edit]

Location of diplomatic missions of Kuwait:
  Kuwait
  Embassy

Foreign affairs relations of Kuwait is handled at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first foreign affairs department bureau was established in 1961. 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.[123] 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.[123] In July 1987, Kuwait refused to allow U.S. military bases in its territory.[124] As a result of the Gulf War, Kuwait's relations with the U.S. have improved and currently hosts thousands of US military personnel and contractors within active U.S. facilities.

Military[edit]

The Military of Kuwait 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 forces in metropolitan areas; charged with protecting outposts outside the wall of Kuwait.

The Military of Kuwait consists of several joint defense forces. The governing bodies are the Kuwait Ministry of Defense, the Kuwait Ministry of Interior, the Kuwait National Guard and the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate. The Emir of Kuwait is the commander-in-chief of all defense forces.

Administrative divisions[edit]

Kuwait is divided into six governorates. The governorates are further subdivided into areas.

Geography[edit]

Main article: Geography of Kuwait
A satellite image of Kuwait.
A map of Kuwait.

Located in the north-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land area. Kuwait lies between latitudes 28° and 31° N, and longitudes 46° and 49° E. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait. Kuwait is generally low lying, with the highest point being 306 m (1,004 ft) above sea level.[1]

Kuwait has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited.[125] 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.[126] 0.6% of Kuwaiti land area is considered arable[1] with sparse vegetation found along its 499-kilometre (310 mi) long coastline.[1] Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor.

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).[127] 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.[128] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.[129]

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.[130] The temperature in Kuwait during summer is above 25 °C (77 °F). The highest recorded temperature was 54.4 °C (129.9 °F), which is the highest temperature recorded in Asia.[131][132] Kuwait experiences colder winters than other GCC countries because of its location in a northern position near Iraq and Iran.

National parks[edit]

At present, there are five protected areas in Kuwait recognized by the IUCN. In response to Kuwait becoming the 169th signatory of the Ramsar Convention, Bubyan island's Mubarak al-Kabeer reserve was designated as the country's first Wetland of International Importance.[133] The 50,948 ha reserve consists of small lagoons and shallow salt marshes and is important as a stop-over for migrating birds on two migration routes.[133] The reserve is home to the world's largest breeding colony of crab-plover.[133]

Biodiversity[edit]

More than 363 species of birds were recorded in Kuwait, 18 species of which breed in the country.[134] Kuwait is situated at the crossroads of several major bird migration routes and between 2 and 3 million birds pass each year.[135] The marshes in northern Kuwait and Jahra have become increasingly important as a refuge for passage migrants.[135] Kuwaiti islands are important breeding areas for four species of tern and the socotra cormorant.[135]

Kuwait's marine and littoral ecosystems contain the bulk of the country's biodiversity heritage.[135] Twenty eight species of mammal are found in Kuwait; animals such as gazelles, desert rabbits and hedgehogs are common in the wild.[135] Large carnivores, such as the wolf, caracal and jackal, are now extremely rare.[135] Among the endangered mammalian species are the red fox and wild cat.[135] Causes for wildlife extinction are habitat destruction and extensive unregulated hunting.[135] Kuwait also faced a serious destruction of its habitat during the gulf war.[136] Forty reptile species have been recorded although none are endemic to Kuwait.[135]

Water and sanitation[edit]

The Kuwait Water Towers in Kuwait City.

Kuwait does not have any permanent rivers. It does have some wadis, the most notable of which is Wadi al Batin which forms the border between Kuwait and Iraq.

Kuwait relies on water desalination as a primary source of fresh water for drinking and domestic purposes.[137][138] There are currently more than six desalination plants.[138] Kuwait was the first country in the world to use desalination to supply water for large scale domestic use. The history of desalination in Kuwait dates back to 1951 when the first distillation plant was commissioned.[137]

In 1965, the Kuwaiti government commissioned the Swedish engineering company of VBB (Sweco) to develop and implement a plan for a modern water-supply system for Kuwait City. The company built five groups of water towers, thirty one in all, designed by its chief architect Sune Lindström, called "the mushroom towers". For a sixth site, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed, wanted a more spectacular design. This last group, known as Kuwait Towers, consists of three towers, two of which also serve as water towers.[139] Water from the desalination facility is pumped up to the tower. The thirty-three towers have a standard capacity of 102,000 cubic meters of water. "The Water Towers" (Kuwait Tower and the Kuwait Water Towers) were awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (1980 Cycle).[140]

Kuwait's fresh water resources are limited to groundwater, desalinated seawater, and treated wastewater effluents.[137] There are three major municipal wastewater treatment plants.[137] Most water demand is currently satisfied through seawater desalination plants.[137][138] Sewage disposal is handled by a national sewage network that covers 98% of facilities in the country.[141]

Economy[edit]

Main article: Economy of Kuwait
A proportional representation of Kuwait's exports.
Al Hamra Tower is the tallest sculpted tower in the world.

Kuwait has a petroleum-based economy, petroleum is the main export product. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued unit of currency in the world.[6] According to the World Bank, Kuwait is the fourth richest country in the world per capita.[142] Kuwait is the second richest GCC country per capita (after Qatar).[142][143][144] Petroleum accounts for half of GDP and 90% of government income.[145] Non-petroleum industries include financial services.[145]

In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship and small business start-ups in Kuwait.[146][147] The informal sector is also on the rise,[148] mainly due to the popularity of Instagram businesses.[149][150][151]

Kuwait is a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of international development agencies. In 1974, the fund's lending mandate was expanded to include all developing countries in the world.

Petroleum[edit]

Kuwait has proven crude oil reserves of 104 billion barrels, estimated to be 10% of the world's reserves. According to the constitution, all natural resources in the country are state property. Kuwait currently pumps 2.9 million bpd and its full production capacity is a little over 3 million bpd.

Finance[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 2015, the holdings were valued at $592 billion in assets.[152] It is the 5th largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

Kuwait has a leading position in the financial industry in the GCC; the abyss that separates Kuwait from its Gulf neighbors in terms of tourism, transport, and other measures of diversification is absent in the financial sector.[153] The Emir has promoted the idea that Kuwait should focus its energies, in terms of economic development, on the financial industry.[153]

The historical preeminence of Kuwait (among the Gulf monarchies) in finance dates back to the founding of the National Bank of Kuwait in 1952.[153] The bank was the first local publicly traded corporation in the Gulf.[153] In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an alternative stock market, trading in shares of Gulf companies, emerged in Kuwait, the Souk Al-Manakh.[153] At its peak, its market capitalization was the third highest in the world, behind only the U.S. and Japan, and ahead of the UK and France.[153]

Kuwait has a large wealth-management industry that stands out in the region.[153] Kuwaiti investment companies administer more assets than those of any other GCC country, save the much larger Saudi Arabia.[153] The Kuwait Financial Centre, in a rough calculation, estimated that Kuwaiti firms accounted for over one-third of the total assets under management in the GCC.[153] The relative strength of Kuwait in the financial industry extends to its stock market.[153] For many years, the total valuation of all companies listed on the Kuwaiti exchange far exceeded the value of those on any other GCC bourse, except Saudi Arabia.[153] In 2011, financial and banking companies made up more than half of the market capitalization of the Kuwaiti bourse; among all the Gulf states, the market capitalization of Kuwaiti financial-sector firms was, in total, behind only that of Saudi Arabia.[153]

In recent years, Kuwaiti investment companies have invested large percentages of their assets abroad, and their foreign assets have become substantially larger than their domestic assets.[153]

Tourism[edit]

Tourism accounts for 1.5 percent of the GDP.[154][155] In 2015, the tourism industry generated nearly $500 million in revenue.[156] Most tourists are citizens of GCC countries. Yachting is a popular activity, Kuwait is the largest leisure boat market in the Gulf region.[157][158][159] The modest level of tourism is partly attributable to difficult visa conditions and alcohol ban.

The annual "Hala Febrayer" festival attracts many tourists from neighboring GCC countries,[160] and includes a variety of events including music concerts, parades, and carnivals.[160][161][162][163] The festival is a month-long commemoration of the liberation of Kuwait, and runs from February 1 to February 28.

Transport[edit]

Main article: Transport in Kuwait
A highway in Kuwait City

Kuwait has an extensive and modern network of highways. Roadways extended 5,749 km (3,572 mi), of which 4,887 km (3,037 mi) is paved. There are more than 2 million passenger cars, and 500,000 commercial taxis, buses, and trucks in use. On major highways the maximum speed is 120 km/h (75 mph). Since there is no railway system in the country, most people travel by automobiles.

The country's public transportation network consists almost entirely of bus routes. The state owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company was established in 1962. It runs local bus routes across Kuwait as well as longer distance services to other Gulf states.[164] The main private bus company is CityBus, which operates about 20 routes across the country. Another private bus company, Kuwait Gulf Link Public Transport Services, was started in 2006. It runs local bus routes across Kuwait and longer distance services to neighbouring Arab countries.[165]

There are two airports in Kuwait. Kuwait International Airport serves as the principal hub for international air travel. State-owned Kuwait Airways is the largest airline in the country. A portion of the airport complex is designated as Al Mubarak Air Base, which contains the headquarters of the Kuwait Air Force, as well as the Kuwait Air Force Museum. In 2004, the first private airline of Kuwait, Jazeera Airways, was launched.[166] In 2005, the second private airline, Wataniya Airways was founded.

Kuwait has one of the largest shipping industries in the region. The Kuwait Ports Public Authority manages and operates ports across Kuwait. The country’s principal commercial seaports are Shuwaikh and Shuaiba which handled combined cargo of 753,334 TEU in 2006.[167] Mina Al-Ahmadi, the largest port in the country, handles most of Kuwait's oil exports.[168] Construction of another major port located in Bubiyan island started in 2007. The port is expected to handle 1.3 million TEU when operations start.

Science and technology[edit]

Kuwait has a flourishing scientific research sector.[169] To date, Kuwait has registered 384 patents, the second highest figure in the Arab world.[170][171][172] Along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait has been the Arab region's main driving force behind S&T output at the international level.[173] Kuwait produces the largest number of patents per capita in the Arab world and OIC.[169][174][175][176] The government has implemented various programs to foster innovation resulting in patent rights.[169][177] Between 2010 and 2015, Kuwait registered the highest growth in patents in the Arab world.[172][169][177]

The largest university is Kuwait University which has over 2,000 faculty members and 30,000 students. There are also a number of private universities such as American University of Kuwait and Gulf University for Science and Technology. The Kuwaiti government sends many citizens to universities in United States, United Kingdom, Germany and other countries. The international mobility of Kuwaiti students is close to record levels.[178][179] The main push factor is the shortage of domestic university places and perceived prestige of overseas university credentials.[178] The overseas scholarship program aims to transform Kuwait into a center for IT, financial services and medical sciences.[180][181]

Demographics[edit]

Kuwaiti youth celebrating Kuwait's independence and liberation, 2011

Kuwait's 2014 population was 4.1 million people, of which 1.2 million were Kuwaitis, 1.1 million are Arab, 1.4 million Asian expatriates, and 76,698 Africans.[182]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait's total population. 60% of Kuwait's total population is Arab (including Arab expats).[1] Indians and Egyptians are the largest expat communities respectively.[183]

Religion[edit]

Main article: Religion in Kuwait
Religion statistics (as at 31 Dec 2015)[184]
Muslim Kuwaiti
  
99.98%
non-Kuwaiti
  
64.1%
Christian Kuwaiti
  
0.02%
non-Kuwaiti
  
26.4%
Other Kuwaiti
  
0%
non-Kuwaiti
  
9.5%

Kuwaiti society is diverse and tolerant.[185] The majority of Kuwait's population is Sunni Muslim,[186] with a significant minority of Shia Muslims.[187] The country includes a native Christian community, estimated to be composed of between 259 and 400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens.[188] Kuwait is the only GCC country besides Bahrain to have a local Christian population who hold citizenship. There is also a small number of Bahá'í Kuwaiti citizens.[189][190] 2007 estimates indicate that Kuwait also has a large community of expatriate Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs.[189]

Languages[edit]

Kuwait's official language is Modern Standard Arabic, but its everyday usage is limited to journalism and education. Kuwaiti Arabic is the variant of Arabic used in everyday life.[191] Kuwaiti Sign Language is used by the deaf community. English is taught since first grade at all schools and is widely understood and often used as a business language. Beside English, French is taught as a third language for the students of humanities section at schools, but for two years only. Due to historical immigration, Persian is used among Ayam Kuwaitis.[192]

Kuwaiti Arabic is a variant of Gulf Arabic, sharing similarities with the dialects of neighboring coastal areas in Eastern Arabia.[193] Due to immigration during its early history as well as trade, Kuwaiti Arabic borrowed a lot of words from Persian, Indian, Turkish, English and even Italian.[194]

A unique characteristic in Kuwait is the use of words and phrases by women exclusively, for example "يَا حَافِظ", roughly translated to "Oh Saver [God]", is rarely or never used by men.[195] It is also different from other Arabic dialects in the way that phonological assimilation occurs to a multitude of words. The only case of full assimilation is /dˤ/ changing to /ðˤ/ in all words.

Culture[edit]

Main article: Culture of Kuwait

Kuwaiti popular culture, in the form of dialect poetry, film, theatre, radio and television soap opera, flourishes and is even exported to neighboring states.[196][197] 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 theatrical productions and soap operas.[198] Kuwait is widely considered the cultural capital of the Gulf region,[199][200] frequently dubbed the "Hollywood of the Gulf" due to the popularity of its Arabic television soap operas and theatre.[201][202][203][204][205][206][207][208][209][210][211][212][213][214][215][216][217][218]

Kuwait Towers, the country's most famous landmark

Soap operas[edit]

Kuwaiti soap operas are the most-watched soap operas in the Gulf region.[219][220] Most Gulf soap operas are based in Kuwait.[221][222] Although usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, they have been shown with success as far away as Tunisia.[223] Soap operas have become important national pastimes in Kuwait. They are most popular during the time of Ramadan, when families gather to break their fast. Darb El Zalag, Khalti Gmasha, and Ruqayya wa Sabika are among the most important television productions in the Gulf region.[224]

Theatre[edit]

Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre.[225] Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a theatrical tradition.[226] The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's cultural life.[227] Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released.[228] Theatre activities are still popular today.[227] Abdulhussain Abdulredha is the most prominent actor. Bye Bye London and Saif al Arab are among the most important theatrical productions in the region.

In 1975, the Higher Institute of Theatrical Arts was founded by the government to provide higher education in theatrical arts.[229] The institute has several divisions. Many actors have graduated from the institute, such as Souad Abdullah, Mohammed Khalifa, Mansour Al-Mansour, along with a number of prominent critics such as Ismail Fahd Ismail.

Arts[edit]

Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula.[230] Beginning in 1936, Kuwait was the first Gulf country to grant scholarships in the arts.[230] The Kuwaiti artist Mojeb al-Dousari was the earliest recognized visual artist in the Gulf region.[231] He is regarded as the founder of portrait art in the region.[232] In 1943, al-Dousari launched Kuwait's first art gallery.

Kuwait is home to more than 20 art galleries. Kuwait has the second most lively gallery scene in the Gulf, after Dubai.[233][234][235] The Sultan Gallery was the first professional Arab art gallery in the Gulf.[236][237] Khalifa Al-Qattan was the first Kuwaiti artist to hold a solo artist exhibition in Kuwait. He founded a new art theory in the early 1960s known as "circulism".[238][239] Other notable Kuwaiti artists include Sami Mohammad, Thuraya Al-Baqsami and Suzan Bushnaq.

Ismail Fahd Ismail was one of the first Kuwaiti writers to achieve success in the Arab world. Taleb al-Refai, Laila al-Othman, A. H. Almaas, Taibah Al-Ibrahim, Najma Idrees, and Fatimah Yousif al-Ali are also among the pioneer writers.

Music[edit]

Within the GCC, Kuwait is a frontrunner when it comes to the music industry.[234] Kuwaiti music has considerably influenced music culture in other GCC countries.[234] Over the last decade of satellite television stations, many Kuwaitis have become household names in other Arab countries. Abdallah Al Rowaished, Nawal El Kuwaiti, Abdul Kareem Abdul-Qader, and Nabeel Shoail are the most popular contemporary artists.

In 2002, the Higher Institute of Musical Arts was founded by the government to provide higher education in music. The institute has several divisions. Many prominent musicians have graduated from the institute. Kuwait has several music festivals, including the International Music Festival hosted by the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL).[240][241] Kuwait's annual Gulf Music Festival features internationally renowned jazz musicians and local musicians.[242][243]

Traditional Kuwaiti music is a reflection of the country's seafaring heritage,[244][245] which is known for songs such as "fidjeri".[246][247] Kuwaiti music contains musical influences from many cultures,[246] including India and East Africa. Saleh and Daoud Al-Kuwaity were prominent Kuwaiti musicians who wrote over 650 songs, many of which are considered traditional and still played daily on radio stations both in Kuwait and the rest of the Arab world.[248][249] Kuwait pioneered contemporary music in the Gulf,[250][251][252] Kuwaitis were the first commercial recording artists in the Gulf region.[250][251][252]

Sport[edit]

Jaber Stadium is the largest stadium in Kuwait

Football is the most popular sport in Kuwait. The Kuwait Football Association (KFA) is the governing body of football in Kuwait. The KFA organises the men's, women's, and futsal national teams. The Kuwaiti Premier League is the top league of Kuwaiti football, featuring eighteen teams. They have been the champions of the 1980 AFC Asian Cup, runners-up of the 1976 AFC Asian Cup, and have taken third place of the 1984 AFC Asian Cup. Kuwait has also been to one FIFA World Cup, in 1982, but tied 1-1 with Czechoslovakia on the first round. Kuwait is home to many football clubs including Al-Arabi, Al-Fahaheel, Al-Jahra, Al-Kuwait, Al-Naser, Al-Salmiya, Al-Shabab, Al Qadsia, Al-Yarmouk, Kazma, Khaitan, Sulaibikhat, Sahel, and Tadamon. The biggest football rivalry in Kuwait is between Al-Arabi and Al Qadsia.

Basketball is one of the country's most popular sports.[253] The Kuwait national basketball team is governed by the Kuwait Basketball Association (KBA). Kuwait made its international debut in 1959. The national team has been to the FIBA Asian Championship in basketball eleven times. The Kuwaiti Division I Basketball League is the highest professional basketball league in Kuwait. Cricket in Kuwait is governed by the Kuwait Cricket Association. Other growing sports include rugby union.

The Kuwait national handball team is controlled by the Kuwait Handball Association. The sport is widely considered to be the national icon of Kuwait, although football is more popular among the overall population. Kuwait is also the founding member of the Asian Handball Federation, the Asian Championship and Club Champions League.

Hockey in Kuwait is governed by the Kuwait Ice Hockey Association. Kuwait first joined the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1985, but was expelled in 1992 due to a lack of ice hockey activity.[254] Kuwait was re-admitted into the IIHF in May 2009.[255] In 2015, Kuwait won the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia.[256][257]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]