|State of Kuwait
|Anthem: "Al-Nasheed Al-Watani"
Location of Kuwait (red)
in the Arabian Peninsula (light yellow)
and largest city
|Government||Unitary constitutional monarchy|
|•||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|
|•||Independence from the Emirate of Al Hasa||1752|
|•||End of treaties with the United Kingdom||19 June 1961|
|•||Total||17,820 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
|•||2014 estimate||4,044,500 (140th)|
|•||2005 census||2,213,403 |
|GDP (PPP)||2014 estimate|
|•||Total||$283.976 billion (52nd)|
|•||Per capita||$71,020 (5th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2014 estimate|
|•||Total||$172.350 billion (55th)|
|•||Per capita||$43,103 (23rd)|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.814
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|
|ISO 3166 code||KW|
|a.||Nominal succession within the House of Sabah.|
Kuwait i// (Arabic: دولة الكويت 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 4.1 million people; 1.2 million are Kuwaitis and 2.8 million are expatriates.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kuwait was a prosperous trade port. Starting in the early 20th century, its regional economic importance declined, and by 1934 Kuwait had lost its prominence in long-distance trade. Kuwait's economy was devastated by several trade blockades, starting with the British Empire's blockade during World War I. Following the Kuwait-Najd War of 1919–20, Saudi Arabia imposed a trade blockade against the country from 1923 until 1937.
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. The country ranks highly in regional comparisons of protection of civil liberties, press freedom and constitutionalism. In recent years, political instability has hindered the country's economic diversification.
- 1 History
- 2 Politics
- 3 Geography
- 4 Economy
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Culture
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
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. 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 1775–79, 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.
Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Persian Gulf region. 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. Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean. 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. According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.
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. 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 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 1919–20, 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 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 (1946–82)
From 1946 to 1982, Kuwait experienced a period of prosperity driven by oil and its liberal atmosphere. In popular discourse, the years between 1946 and 1982 are referred to as the "Golden Era". 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. Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports. 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. Kuwait University was established in 1966. Kuwait's theatre industry was well-known throughout the Arab world.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait's press was described as one of the freest in the world. Kuwait was the pioneer in the literary renaissance in the Arab region. In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world. Many Arab writers moved to Kuwait because they enjoyed greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world. The Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar left Iraq in the 1970s to take refuge in the more liberal environment of Kuwait.
Kuwaiti society embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab in the 1960s and 1970s. At Kuwait University, mini-skirts were more common than the hijab.
1980s to present day
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, the scientific research sector significantly suffered due to the terror attacks.
After the Iran-Iraq war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt. An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. 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.
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. During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed. In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation, 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 calling for reforms. The parliament was dissolved in December 2011 due to protests against the parliament. The prime minister stepped down following protests.
In June 2015, a suicide bombing took place at a Shia mosque. It was the largest terror attack in Kuwait's history.
Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a semi-democratic political system. The Emir is the head of state. The hybrid political system is divided between an elected parliament and appointed government (dominated by the ruling family).
The Constitution of Kuwait was promulgated in 1962. Kuwait is among the Middle East's freest countries in civil liberties and political rights. Freedom House rates the country as "Partly Free" in the Freedom in the World survey. Kuwait is the only Gulf state that is ranked "partly free".
Human rights in Kuwait has been the subject of criticism, particularly regarding migrant workers rights and the Bedoon. Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait's total population. The kafala system leaves migrant workers prone to exploitation. Human rights organizations have criticized Kuwait for failing to protect foreign workers from exploitation.
Kuwait's media is annually classified as "partly free" in the Freedom of Press survey by Freedom House. Kuwait's media is the freest in the Gulf region. Kuwait consistently ranks as having the freest media in the Arab world.
Since 2005, Kuwait has frequently earned the highest ranking of all Arab countries in the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. In 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014, Kuwait surpassed Israel as the country with the greatest press freedom in the Middle East. Kuwait is also frequently ranked as the Arab country with the greatest press freedom in Freedom House's annual Freedom of Press survey.
Kuwait produces more newspapers and magazines per capita than its neighbors. There are limits to Kuwait's press freedom, criticism of the government and ruling family members is permitted but many people have been jailed for defaming the Emir. Kuwait's constitution criminalizes criticism of the Emir.
Kuwait follows the "civil law system" modeled after the French legal system, Kuwait's legal system is largely secular. Sharia law governs only family law for Muslim residents, 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. 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.
The court system in Kuwait is secular. Unlike other Gulf states, Kuwait does not have Sharia courts. Sections of the civil court system administer family law. Kuwait has the most secular commercial law in the Gulf.
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. 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. Between 1961 and 1991, Kuwait had an uneasy relationship with the United States characterized by mistrust and hostility. In July 1987, Kuwait refused to allow U.S. military bases in its territory. As a result of the Gulf War, Kuwait's relations with the U.S. have improved significantly and currently hosts thousands of US military personnel and contractors within active U.S. facilities. Kuwait is one of America's closest allies in the Middle East and the Arab World.
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.
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. It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited. 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. Only 0.6% of the land area is considered arable with sparse vegetation found along its 499-kilometre (310 mi) long coastline.
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). 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. The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.
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. 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.
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. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 94% of export revenues and government income. 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. 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.
In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship and small business start-ups in Kuwait. The informal sector is also on the rise, mainly due to the popularity of Instagram businesses. Many Kuwaiti entrepreneurs are using the Instagram-based business model.
- 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 2015, the holdings were valued at $592 billion in assets.
Kuwait is the Arab world's largest foreign investor, with $8.4 billion in FDI outflows in 2013. Kuwait consistently tops regional rankings in FDI outflows. In 2013, Kuwait almost tripled its foreign investments. Over the last 10 years, Kuwait has doubled investments in the UK to more than $24 billion. In 2014, Kuwait became the largest foreign investor in China's RMB market.
Kuwait's 2014 population was 4.1 million people, of which 1.2 million were Kuwaitis, 1.1 million Arab expatriates, 1.4 million Asian expatriates, and 76,698 Africans.
Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait's total population. 60% of Kuwait's total population is Arab (including Arab expats). Indians and Egyptians are the largest expat communities respectively.
Most of Kuwait's population is Muslim. 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). The majority of Kuwait's citizen population is Muslim; there are no official figures, but it is estimated that 70% are Sunni and 30% are Shia. Some other minor Muslim sects do exist in Kuwait's society, but in very small or rare numbers. Kuwait has a native Christian community, there are between 259-400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens. 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, it is likely that 18 Kuwaiti citizens follow the Bahá'í religion.[note 1]
Kuwait's official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Kuwaiti Arabic is Kuwait's colloquial dialect. Persian is the historic and traditional language of the Ayam people, who are the Kuwaiti citizens of Persian origins. Kuwaiti Sign Language is used by the deaf community. English is widely understood and often used as a business language.
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.
Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre. Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a theatrical tradition. The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's cultural life. Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released. Theatre activities are still popular today.
Kuwaiti soap operas (المسلسلات الكويتية) are among the most-watched soap operas in the Arab world. Although usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, they have been shown with success as far away as Tunisia.
Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula. Beginning in 1936, Kuwait was the first Gulf country to grant scholarships in the arts. The Kuwaiti artist Mojeb al-Dousari was the earliest recognized visual artist in the Gulf region. He is regarded as the founder of portrait art in the region. In 1943, al-Dousari launched Kuwait's first art gallery.
Kuwait is home to more than 20 art galleries. The Sultan Gallery was the first art gallery in the Gulf region. 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".
Kuwait was the pioneer of literary movement in the region. In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world. In the 1970s, writers moved to Kuwait where they enjoyed greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.
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Home to one of only two natural ports in the Persian Gulf, Kuwait has for hundreds of years been a commercial and cosmopolitan center.
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Kuwait became an important trading port for import and export of goods from India, Africa and Arabia.
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The port of Kuwait was then, and is still, the principal dhow-building and trading port of the Persian Gulf, though offering little trade itself.
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For owing to Basra's misfortunes, Kuwait and Zubarah became rich.
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A magazine, Al Arabi, was published in 1958 in Kuwait. It was the most popular magazine in the Arab world. It came out it in all the Arabic countries, and about a quarter million copies were published every month.
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In the 1960s and most of the '70s, men and women at Kuwait University dined and danced together, and miniskirts were more common than hijab head coverings, professors and alumni say.
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The Kuwait Legal system is based on civil law jurisdiction; it is derived from Egyptian and French laws.
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In addition, Kuwait has established a secular legal system, unique among the Gulf states.
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The court system in Kuwait is secular and tries both civil and criminal cases.
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Some Kuwaiti soap operas have become extremely popular and, although they are usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, they have been shown with success as far away as Tunisia.
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- "Khalifa Qattan, Founder of Circulism".
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- 2014 Census shows only three religion categories: "Muslim", "Christian" and "Other". Reasonably assuming majority of "Other" Kuwaiti citizens is Bahá'í.
- Abu-Hakima, Ahmad Mustafa, ed. (1983). The Modern History of Kuwait: 1750-1965. London: Luzac & Company. ISBN 9780718902599.
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