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For the capital city with the same name, see Kuwait City.

The State of Kuwait is a small oil-rich monarchy on the coast of the Persian Gulf, enclosed by Saudi Arabia in the south and Iraq in the north. Kuwait is located in the Middle East.

دولة الكويت
(Dawlat al Kuwayt)
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: For Kuwait
Official language Arabic
Capital Kuwait City
Emir Jaber Al-Sabah
Crown Prince Saad Al Sabah
Prime minister Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 153rd
17,818 km²
 - Total (2005)
 - Density
Ranked 137th
Independence June 19, 1961 from the United Kingdom
Currency Kuwaiti Dinar
Time zone UTC +3
National anthem Al-Nasheed Al-Watani
National Flower Rhanterium epapposum
Locally called Arfaj
Internet TLD .kw
Calling Code 965



For more details on this topic, see History of Kuwait.

Kuwait was established in the 16th century when several clans from the Al Aniza tribe migrated to the northern shore of the Persian Gulf from the Najd, their famine-stricken homeland in central Arabia. They settled in what is now known as Qatar for more than sixty years before migrating over sea to settle in the Isle De Chader, where they built a small fort, or “kut”. Kuwait was incorporated within the Ottoman Empire, evidenced by Sheik Mubarak's flying the Ottoman flag over his palace and fully realizing Ottoman authority over his lands. The current rulers of the country are descended from Sabah I, who was chosen by the community, which was composed mainly of traders. They were tasked with administering the affairs of the State, including foreign affairs and taxation/duties. This is unlike most other Arab emirates of the Persian Gulf where the rulers seized and maintained authority by force.

The 17th century saw the Arabian Peninsula in tumultuous times. The area that is now Kuwait was occupied by tribes and used for spice trading from India. By the 18th century, most of the local people made a living selling pearls. However, as pearl farming developed in Japan during the 1930s, Kuwait became impoverished. In 1899, growing British influence led to Kuwait becoming a British protectorate. Oil transformed Kuwait into one of the richest countries in the Arab peninsula; in 1953 the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf. This massive growth attracted many immigrant laborers who were rarely granted citizenship. Kuwait, having amassed great wealth, was the first of the Persian Gulf-Arab states to declare independence on June 19, 1961. Iraq challenged this declaration, claiming that Kuwait was part of its territory. It threatened to invade Kuwait, but was deterred by the Egyptians.

An important period in Kuwait's political, social and economic development was the Souk Al-Manakh Crisis of 1982. This was a major stock market crash that had widespread consequences and has endured in the public memory twenty years later as a result.

After being allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War until its end in 1988 (largely due to the desire for Iraqi protection from Shiite Iran), Kuwait was invaded by Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) on August 2, 1990. Hussein's primary justifications included a charge that Kuwaiti territory was in fact an Iraqi province, and that annexation was retaliation for "economic warfare" Kuwait had allegedly waged through slant drilling into oil supplies that were in disputed territories. The monarchy was deposed after annexation, and a new Kuwaiti governor was installed by Saddam Hussein.

Authorized by the UN Security Council, an American-led coalition of 34 nations fought the Persian Gulf War to reinstate the Kuwaiti Emir. After 6 weeks of fierce fighting in the early 1991, Iraq was forced to withdraw its troops from Kuwait on February 26, 1991; during retreat, the Iraqi Armed Forces practiced a scorched earth policy by setting fire to Kuwaiti oil wells, fires which were once the subject of a now-disproven ecological doomsday scenario advocated by Carl Sagan. The fires took over nine months to fully extinguish, and the cost of repairs to oil infrastructure exceeded US $5,000,000,000. Certain buildings and infrastructural facilities (including Kuwait International Airport) were also severely damaged during the war . Kuwait now remains under the governance of the Amir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah as an independent state and is of strategic importance.


For more details on this topic, see Politics of Kuwait.

Chief of state is the Emir, a semi-hereditary title. The emir appoints the prime minister, who until recently was also the crown prince. A council of ministers aids the prime minister in his task as head of government. The parliament known as the Majlis Al-Umma (National Assembly), consists of 50 members, who are chosen in elections held every four years. Government ministers, according to the Constitution of the State, are given automatic membership in the parliament.

Prior to 2005, only 15% of the Kuwaiti citizen population was allowed to vote, with all women, "recently naturalised" citizens (less than 30 years of citizenship), and members of the armed forces excluded. On May 16, 2005, Parliament permitted women's suffrage by a 35-23 vote, subject to Islamic law and effective for the 2007 Parliamentary Election; formerly, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were the only remaining Middle Eastern democratic countries without women's suffrage. It is unclear what terms will be imposed upon female voters through the decision's requirement of them to abide by Islamic law, such as whether it will require conservative dress and separate polling places. The decision could raise Kuwait's voter rolls from 139,000 to as many as 339,000 if all eligible women register; the total number of Kuwaitis is estimated at more than 960,000. Recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah announced the appointment of Dr Massouma Mubarak as planning minister and minister of state for administrative development affairs. The appointment of a woman as a cabinet minister was a big breakthrough in Kuwaiti political system and it makes Kuwait the third country in the conservative Gulf Arab region to have a woman cabinet minister.

See also: al-Sabah Ruling Family


Map of Kuwait
Map of Kuwait
Main article: Governorates of Kuwait

Kuwait is divided into 6 governorates or provinces (Arabic: muhafazat, singular - muhafadhah). The Kuwaiti government prefers to use the term governorate over province:

The major cities are the capital Kuwait, and Jahrah (further in the north-west, 30-minute drive from the capital). The main residential and business areas are Salmiya and Hawalli. The main industrial area is Shuwaikh which resides within the Al Asimah Governorate.


Main article: Geography of Kuwait

Kuwait consists mostly of desert, with little altitude difference. Kuwait is the only country in the world with no natural lake or water reservoir. It has nine islands, the largest one being the Bubiyan, which is linked to the mainland by a concrete bridge (after the liberation in 1991 the island was converted into a military base and currently no civilians are allowed in). The islands are:

Kuwait from space
Kuwait from space

Kuwait is considered to be one of the fifteen lands that comprise the "Cradle of Humanity".

Kuwait enjoys a variable continental climate. Summers (April to October) are extremely hot and dry with temperatures reaching above 51°C in Kuwait City. Winters (November to February) are cool with limited precipitation and temperature level dropping below 21°C (70°F). The spring season is cool and pleasant.


Kuwait City is the capital of Kuwait and is one of the busiest financial and trade centres in the Persian Gulf. Two water-storage tanks, left, designed to resemble minarets, or mosque towers, hold potable water.
Kuwait City is the capital of Kuwait and is one of the busiest financial and trade centres in the Persian Gulf. Two water-storage tanks, left, designed to resemble minarets, or mosque towers, hold potable water.
Main article: Economy of Kuwait

Kuwait is a small, rich, relatively open economy with proved crude oil reserves of 94 billion barrels (15 km³) - 10% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP, 90% of export revenues, and 75% of government income. Kuwait's climate limits agricultural development. Consequently, with the exception of fish, it depends almost wholly on food imports. About 75% of potable water must be distilled or imported. Higher oil prices put the FY99/00 budget into a €1.7 billion ($2 billion) surplus. The FY00/01 budget covers only nine months because of a change in the fiscal year. The budget for FY01/02 envisioned higher expenditures for salaries, construction, and other general categories. Kuwait continues its discussions with foreign oil companies to develop fields in the northern part of the country. By 1990 the country earned more from foreign investment than from oil exports. The expenses of the Iraqi invasion and postwar reconstruction placed a heavy economic burden on the country, but by the mid-1990s Kuwait had resumed its preinvasion prosperity. Gross domestic product (GDP) for 2003 was €34.6 billion ($41.7 billion), giving Kuwait a per capita GDP of $17,420 (€14,166). The labor force totals 1,073,115 people, only about one-quarter of whom are Kuwaiti citizens.[1]

The Central Bank of Kuwait in the capital city issues Kuwait’s currency, the Kuwaiti dinar. The dinar is valued at 0.351676 KWD per 1EUR and at 0.292010 KWD per 1USD, making it the highest-valued currency in the world.

Oil Industry

During the first Gulf War, most of Kuwait's oil wells were set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces.  It took several months before the fire could be controlled.
During the first Gulf War, most of Kuwait's oil wells were set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces. It took several months before the fire could be controlled.

Because the government owns the oil industry, it controls most of the economy—in all, about 75 percent of the GDP. Kuwait’s oil exports vary depending on internal needs (almost all of Kuwait’s energy is derived from oil), international demand and prices, and production quotas fixed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Kuwait is a member. OPEC’s quotas, however, are difficult to enforce, and Kuwait and other countries have been accused of violating them. In 2002 oil production was 692 million barrels.

The chief oil companies are -

  • Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) - A crude oil exploration and devolpment company
  • Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) - Runs Oil Refineries across Kuwait
  • Petrochemicals Industries Company (PIC) - Petrochemical & Fertilizers manufacturer
  • Kuwait Petroleum Intl. Limited (KPIL - Q8) - Runs refining and marketing business in Europe
  • Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploraton Company (KUFPEC) - Intl. Oil Exploration Company
  • Equate - A Petrochemical company formed by PIC and Dow Chemical


Main article: Demographics of Kuwait

About 80% of the Kuwaiti population is Arab; the non-Kuwaiti Arabs contain a large group of Egyptians and also stateless Arabs, locally known as Bidoon (an Arabic word meaning "without" and different from Bedouin). Other large groups of immigrants include Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Egyptians and Filipinos. Kuwait formerly had a large Palestinian population, though most of them were forced out of the country after PLO leader Yassir Arafat's support of Iraq during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

The official language is Arabic, although English is generally understood. Some immigrants also speak their own local languages. About 85% of Kuwait's population are Muslims, mostly Sunni.

Of Kuwait's Muslims, it is estimated that around 70% of them are Sunni, and around 30% or slightly more are Shia Muslims.


The skyline of Kuwait City. At 372 m, the Liberation Tower (seen in background) is the world's 13th tallest free-standing structure.
The skyline of Kuwait City. At 372 m, the Liberation Tower (seen in background) is the world's 13th tallest free-standing structure.

Kuwait's infrastructure took a considerable beating during the 1st Gulf War. Hundreds of oil wells were put on fire and the country's oil production had come to standstill. Much has changed since the end of the Gulf War. The Kuwaiti government has poured billions of dollars to construct an eloborate roadway system and in 2003, the telecommunication industry achieved an incredible growth rate. Kuwait City boasts more than a dozen 5-star hotels and resorts and several skyscrapers dominate the city's skyline. Kuwait Infrastructure Maintaince Management System ovelooks the oil-rich country's infrastructure. Kuwait's energy sector is the main source for 47% of the country's annual income.


Kuwait’s transportation system is modern and efficient, with a road system that is well developed by regional standards. Roads total 4,450 km (2,765 mi), of which 81 % are paved and 350 km are freeways, with most people traveling by automobile. The network consists of over 250 bridges. There is no railway system in Kuwait although public and private bus systems are operated. An international airport is located in the southern outskirts of the Kuwait city metropolitan area and Kuwait Airways is the national airline owned by the government. The country has three modern seaports, one of which specializes in oil exports.


Main article: Culture of Kuwait

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC)

مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربية

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Bahrain | Kuwait | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates

Countries in Southwest Asia
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Countries and territories in the Middle East
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