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State of Kuwait
دولة الكويت
Dawlat al-Kuwait
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Al-Nasheed Al-Watani
National anthem of Kuwait File:Kuwait.ogg
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 33.9% Kuwaiti Arabs
45.9% Other Arabs
13.5% South/East Asian
1.9% Iranian

4.8% Europeans and Americans
Demonym Kuwaiti
Government Unitary, hereditary[1] and
constitutional monarchy[2]
 -  Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
 -  Prime Minister Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah
Legislature Majlis al-Umma
 -  First settlement 1703 
 -  Anglo-Ottoman Convention 1913 
 -  Independence from the United Kingdom 19 June 1961 
 -  Total 17,820 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2010 estimate 3,566,437[3] (131st)
 -  Density 200.2/km2 (61st)
518.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $153.501 billion[4]
 -  Per capita $41,690[4]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $176.667 billion[4] (52nd)
 -  Per capita $47,982[4] (16th)
HDI (2011)Decrease 0.760[5]
Error: Invalid HDI value · 63rd
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

Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait Listeni/kˈwt/ (Arabic: دولة الكويتDawlat al-Kuwayt ), is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf and is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south (at Khafji) and Iraq to the north (at Basra). The name Kuwait is derived from the Arabic أكوات ākwāt, the plural of كوت kūt, meaning "fortress built near water".[6] The country covers an area of 17,820 square kilometers (6,880 square miles) and has a population of about 3.5 million.[3]

Historically, the region was the site of Characene, a major Parthian port for trade between Mesopotamia and India. The Bani Utbah tribe were the first permanent Arab settlers in the region, laying the foundation for the modern emirate. By the 19th century, Kuwait came under the influence of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, it emerged as an independent sheikhdom under the protection of the British Empire. Kuwait's large oil fields were discovered in the late 1930s.

After Kuwait gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1961, the state's oil industry saw unprecedented economic growth. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded and annexed by neighboring Iraq. The seven month-long Iraqi occupation came to an end after a direct military intervention by United States-led forces. Around 773 Kuwaiti oil wells were set ablaze by the retreating Iraqi army, resulting in a major environmental and economic catastrophe.[7] Kuwait's infrastructure was badly damaged during the war and had to be rebuilt.[8]

Kuwait is a constitutional emirate[2] with a parliamentary system of government. Kuwait City serves as the country's political and economic capital. The country has the world's fifth largest oil reserves[9] and petroleum products now account for nearly 95% of export revenues and 80% of government income.[2] Kuwait is the eleventh richest country in the world per capita and, in 2007, had the highest human development index (HDI) in the Arab world.[10] Kuwait is classified as a high income economy by the World Bank and is designated as a major non-NATO ally of the United States.[11]


Historic coins from Failaka Island.
Built in 1929, the Kuwait Gate surrounded Kuwait City.
A Kuwait M-84 tank during Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Kuwait continues to maintain strong relations with the Gulf War coalition states.

In the 4th century BC, the ancient Greeks colonized an island off Kuwait's coast, naming it "Ikaros". It is now known as Failaka.[12] By 123 BC, the region came under the influence of the Parthian Empire and was closely associated with the southern Mesopotamian town of Charax.[13] In 224 AD, the region fell under the control of Sassanid Empire and came to be known as Hajar.[14] By the 14th century, the area comprising modern-day Kuwait had become a part of the Islamic caliphate.[15]

The first permanent settlers in the region came from the Bani Utbah tribe of Najd, who later established the state of Kuwait.[15] In 1756, the people elected Sabah I bin Jaber as the first Emir of Kuwait.[16] The current ruling family of Kuwait, al-Sabah, are descendants of Sabah I. During the rule of the Al-Sabah, Kuwait progressively became a center of trade and commerce. It now served as a hub of trade between India, the horn of Africa, the Nejd, Mesopotamia and the Levant. Until the advent of Japanese pearl farming, Kuwait had one of the largest sea fleets in the Persian Gulf region and a flourishing pearling industry. Trade consisted mainly of pearls, wood, spices, dates and horses.

In 1899, Kuwait entered into a treaty with the United Kingdom that gave the British extensive control over the foreign policy of Kuwait in exchange for protection and annual subsidy.[17] This treaty was primarily prompted by fears that the proposed Berlin-Baghdad Railway would lead to an expansion of German influence in the Persian Gulf. After the signing of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, then Emir of Kuwait, Mubarak Al-Sabah, was diplomatically recognized by both the Ottomans and British as the ruler of the autonomous caza of the city of Kuwait and the hinterlands.[18] However, soon after the start of World War I, the British invalidated the convention and declared Kuwait an independent principality under the protection of the British Empire.[19] The 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone, an area of about 5,180 km² adjoining Kuwait's southern border.

On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and the then Emir of Kuwait, Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah.[18] The Gulf rupee, issued by the Reserve Bank of India, was replaced by the Kuwaiti dinar. The discovery of large oil fields, especially the Burgan field, triggered a large influx of foreign investments into Kuwait. The massive growth of the petroleum industry transformed Kuwait from a poor pearl farming community into one of the richest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and by 1952, the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Egypt and India.

Kuwait settled its boundary disputes with Saudi Arabia and agreed on sharing equally the neutral zone's petroleum reserves, onshore and offshore. After a brief stand-off over boundary issues, Iraq formally recognized Kuwait's independence and its borders in October 1963. During the 1970s, the Kuwaiti government nationalized the Kuwait Oil Company, ending its partnership with Gulf Oil and British Petroleum.

In 1982, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price.[20] However, the crisis was short-lived as Kuwait's oil production increased steadily to fill the gap caused by decrease in Iraq's and Iran's oil production levels following the events of the Iran–Iraq War. In 1983, a series of six bomb explosions took place in Kuwait killing five people. The attack was carried out by Shiite Dawa Party to retaliate Kuwait's financial support to Iraq during its war with Iran.[21]

Kuwait had heavily funded Iraq's eight year-long war with Iran. After the war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt.[22] An economic warfare between the two countries followed after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[23] Tensions between the two countries increased further after Iraq alleged that Kuwait was slant drilling oil from its share of the Rumaila field.[23]

On 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. A long-time ally of Saddam Hussein, Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh was quick to back Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.[24] Saddam Hussein, then President of Iraq, deposed the Emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Sabah, and initially propped up a puppet régime before annexing Kuwait and installing Ali Hassan al-Majid as the new governor of Kuwait.[25] During the Iraqi occupation, about 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed and more than 300,000 residents fled the country.[26] After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States-led coalition of thirty-four nations fought the Gulf War to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On 26 February 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces, restoring the Kuwaiti Emir to power.[27] Kuwait paid the coalition forces US$17 billion for their war efforts.[27]

During their retreat from the coalition, the Iraqi armed forces carried out a scorched earth policy by damaging 737 oil wells in Kuwait, of which approximately 600 were set on fire.[28] It was estimated that by the time Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation, about 5 to 6 million barrels (950,000 m3) of oil was being burned in a single day because of these fires.[29]

Oil and soot accumulation had affected the entire Persian Gulf region and large oil lakes were created holding approximately 25 to 50 million barrels (7,900,000 m3) of oil[30] and covering 5% of Kuwait's land area.[28] In total, about 11 million barrels (1,700,000 m3) of oil was released into the Persian Gulf[31] and an additional 2% of Kuwait's 96 billion barrels (1.53×1010 m3) of crude oil reserves were burned by the time the oil fires were brought under control.[32] The fires took more than nine months to extinguish fully and it took Kuwait more than 2 years and US$50 billion in infrastructure reconstruction to reach pre-invasion oil output.[33] Kuwait has since largely recovered from the socio-economic, environmental, and public health effects of the Persian Gulf War.


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. Currently the country is under the reign of the Al Sabah family. The head of state is the Emir or Sheikh, a hereditary office. A council of ministers, also known as cabinet ministers, aids the Prime Minister, and appoints and dismisses diplomats. Legislative power is vested in the Emir and the National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution. The Emir of Kuwait can dissolve the National Assembly and call a national election, or in cases of national emergency can dismiss the National Assembly outright and assume supreme authority over the country. The Emir is the commander in chief of Kuwait's armed forces. The Emir has authority to grant pardon from the death penalty or prison.

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 ruling Al-Sabah family has to be approved by the National Assembly. If the nominee does not win the votes of the Assembly, and the Assembly must approve one of them to hold the post. Any amendment to the constitution can be proposed by the Emir but it needs to be approved by more than two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly before being implemented.[34]

There have been several conflicts between the Emir, the government and the National Assembly over various policies. The National Assembly was suspended from 1976 to 1981, from 1986 to 1991 and from May 1999 to July 1999, due to irresolvable conflicts between some members of the government and the Assembly.[35] The Assembly was dissolved again in May 2009 by the Emir leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and the rest of the Cabinet.[36] Nationwide elections were held on 16 May 2009.[37]

More than two-thirds of those who reside in Kuwait do not hold Kuwaiti citizenship and thus cannot vote in parliamentary elections. Additionally, prior to 2005, only 15% of the Kuwaiti population were allowed to vote, with all "recently naturalized" citizens (i.e., less than thirty years of citizenship) and members of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces excluded. On 16 May 2005, Parliament permitted women's suffrage by a 35–23 vote.

The decision raised Kuwait's eligible voter population from 139,000 to about 339,000. In 2006, the number of Kuwaiti citizens was estimated to be more than 960,000. In 2005, the former Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber 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.[38] During the 2008 parliamentary elections, 27 of the 275 candidates were women. However, none of them won.[39] In the parliamentary elections on 16 May 2009, 16 female candidates contested for 50 seats for a four-year term. Four female candidates won their seats and became Kuwait's first female lawmakers.[40]

In April 2010, Kuwait's government, unhappy about possible democratic change in Egypt by Mohamed ElBaradei's National Association for Change, deported 17 Egyptians for trying to organize a local chapter of the Association in Kuwait.[41]

On 7 October 2012, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah dissolved parliament. He is calling for the second elections in 2012 that could lean in favor of opposition groups led by Islamist factions.[42]


Emir (prince): Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Crown Prince: Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Prime Minister: Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah

Speaker of the National Assembly: Voting for new members of National Assembly will be held in December of 2012.

Foreign relations and military

Location of diplomatic missions of Kuwait:

The State of Kuwait became the 111th member state of the United Nations on 14 May 1963. It is a long-standing member of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It is also a key member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), along with Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Having modeled the GCC on the European Union, member states enjoy free trade and citizens of GCC member states can travel to other GCC countries with their civil identification, not requiring visas.

Kuwait's relationship with its neighbors has been influenced by the Sunni-Shia conflict. After the Iranian revolution of 1979, Sunni-majority Kuwait began supporting the Sunni regime of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in its subsequent eight-year war with the hardline Shia regime of Iran. Despite prior tensions, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia provided considerable financial support to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Kuwait's ties with Iraq remained severed after the 1991 Gulf War, until the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Kuwait enjoys a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, which provided considerable support for the deposed royal family of Kuwait. Although fairly cordial, Kuwait's relations with Iran remain hinged on the stability of the Shia-Sunni conflict and rival goals for the control of the Persian Gulf. Kuwait's ties with states that supported Saddam Hussein's invasion, such as Yemen and the Palestine Liberation Organization, remain testy, although Kuwait has always refused to establish ties with Israel.

Kuwait enjoys a strong relationship with the United States, playing host to major U.S. military bases. Following U.S. leadership in the effort to liberate Kuwait, both nations have forged close political and economic relations. Although most Arab nations expressed opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kuwait supported it and provided its territory as a launching pad for the invasion.

The State of Kuwait spends close to US$ 5 billion for defense. Its military consists of the Kuwaiti Army, with an estimated strength of 15,000 personnel, the Kuwaiti Navy, with 2,000 naval personnel and 400 coast guards, and the Kuwaiti Air Force, with an estimated strength of 2,500 personnel. The Kuwaiti National Guard is the main internal security force. Owing to its demographics and small population, Kuwait has not been able to build a sizeably large military and therefore collaborates extensively with foreign nations to preserve its security. After liberation from Iraq, Kuwait signed long-term defense cooperation agreements with the United States, Britain and France, and purchased military equipment from Egypt, Russia and the People's Republic of China as well.

Geography and climate

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. It lies between latitudes 28° and 31° N, and longitudes 46° and 49° E. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait. 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.[43] 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.[44] The land area is considered arable[2] and sparse vegetation is found along its 499 km long coastline.[2] Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor.

Kuwait has some of the world's richest oil fields with the 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).[45] 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.[29] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.[46]

The spring season in March is warm and pleasant with occasional thunderstorms. The frequent winds from the northwest are cold in winter and spring and hot in summer. Southeasterly winds, usually hot and damp, 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.[47]

Climate data for Kuwait
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 18
Average low °C (°F) 7
Precipitation mm (inches) 25.4


Kuwait is divided into 6 governorates (muhafazah). The governorates are further subdivided into districts.

Governorates of Kuwait
Subdivision Capital Area
of 2005
Al Ahmadi1) Al Ahmadi 5 120 393 861 1946 from Al Asimah
Al Asimah (Al Kuwayt)2) Al Kuwait 200 261 013 original Governorate
Al Farwaniyah Al Farwaniyah 190 622 123 1988 from Al Asimah
Al Jahra3) Al Jahra 12 130 272 373 1979 from Al Asimah
Hawalli Hawalli District 84 487 514 original Governorate
Mubarak Al-Kabeer Mubarak Al-Kabeer 94 176 519 November 1999 from Hawalli
TOTAL 17 818 2 213 403  
1) The Neutral Zone was dissolved on 18 December 1969,
and the northern part with 2590 km² was added to Al Ahmadi (with small part in the northwest added to Al Jahra)
2) including the islands of Failaka, Miskan, and Auhah
3) including the islands of Warbah and Bubiyan


Kuwait City, the main economic hub of the country
An oil refinery in Mina-Al-Ahmadi, Kuwait
Graphical depiction of Kuwait's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

Kuwait has a GDP (PPP) of US$167.9 billion[49] and a per capita income of US$81,800,[49] making it the 5th richest country in the world, per capita.[10]

According to the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom, Kuwait has the second-most free economy in the Middle East.[50] In March 2007, Kuwait's foreign exchange reserves stood at US$213 billion.[51] The Kuwait Stock Exchange, which has about 200 firms listed, is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world with a total market capitalization of US$235 billion.[52] In 2007, the Kuwaiti government posted a budget surplus of US$43 billion.[53]

Kuwait has proven crude oil reserves of 104 billion barrels (15 km³),[49] estimated to be 10% of the world's reserves. According to the Kuwaiti constitution, all natural resources in the country and associated revenues are government property.[54] Being a tax-free country, Kuwait's oil industry accounts for 80% of government revenue. Petroleum and petrochemicals accounts for nearly half of GDP and 95% of export revenues. Increase in oil prices since 2003 resulted in a surge in Kuwait's economy.[55]

Kuwait currently pumps 2.9 million bpd and its full production capacity is a little over 3 million bpd, including oil production in the neutral region that it shares with Saudi Arabia.[56] Kuwait oil production is expected to increase to 4 million bpd by 2020.[57] To realize this production target, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plans to spend US$51 billion between 2007 to 2012 to upgrade and expand the country's existing refineries.[58] However, the country's economy was badly affected by the global financial crisis of 2008.[59] In 2009, the Central Bank of Kuwait devised a US$5.15 billion stimulus package to help boost the economy.[60]

Other major industries include shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, construction materials and financial services.[49] Kuwait has a well developed banking system and several banks in the country date back to the time before oil was discovered. Founded in 1952, the National Bank of Kuwait is the largest bank in the country and one of the largest in the Arab world.[61] Other prominent financial institutions based in Kuwait include the Gulf Bank of Kuwait and Burgan Bank, which is named after the largest oilfield in the country.

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. The government is keen on decreasing Kuwait's dependence on oil to fuel its economy by transforming it into a regional trading and tourism hub. The planned US$77 billion Madinat al-Hareer (City of Silk) is the largest real estate development project in the Middle East.[51] The Central Bank issues Kuwait's currency, the Kuwaiti dinar. As of May 2012, the dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.[62]

In 2011, estimated exports stood at US$94.47 billion and imports were around US$22.41 billion.[63] Petroleum, petrochemical products, fertilizers and financial services are major export commodities. Kuwait imports a wide range of products ranging from food products and textiles to machinery. Kuwait's most important trading partners are Japan, United States, India, South Korea, Singapore, China, European Union and Saudi Arabia.[49] Japan is the largest customer of Kuwaiti oil followed by India, Singapore and South Korea.[64]

On 5 January 2010, Kuwait has started the construction of Salmiya Park in Salmiya. The Heads said "it would take at least 4 years to complete Salmiya Park"


The State of Kuwait is directing its attention towards Inclusive Education, which provides opportunity to all children, irrespective of their social class, including children with special needs. Kuwait education system is marked by several achievements in recent years. As of 2005/06 Kuwait allocates 13 percent of all public expenditure to education, which is comparable to the allocation of public funds to education in many OECD countries but lower than other Arab countries. For the same years the public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP was 3.9 percent in 2005/12 which is well below the percentage of GDP spent by OECD countries on education.

As of 2005, the literacy rate of Kuwait is 93.3 percent. Kuwait is facing challenges in improving the quality of education at all levels and to build capacities of students' from a young age. The Ministry of Education is also making efforts to incorporate women into the educated workforce through various programs, for instance the 1989 initiative to establish daytime literacy clinics for women. The Kuwaiti government also offers scholarships to students accepted in universities in United States, United Kingdom and other foreign institutes.

There is also higher education, which has improved drastically in the past years. The largest university is Kuwait University which is free for Kuwaitis and has over 1,500 faculty members and approximately 30,000 students. There are also a number of private institutions such asThe Arab Open University (AOU), American University of Kuwait, Gulf University for Science and Technology, Australian College of Kuwait, The American University of The Middle East, Box Hill College Kuwait and Kuwait Maastricht Business School. A new project called "Sabah Al Ahmed University City" is also being initiated and is expected to be completed in a few more years.

Kuwait has the highest literacy rate among the Arab world with 94%, up from 93.3% in 2005 (as stated above).[citation needed]


Shoppers at "The Avenues", a local mall

As of 2007, Kuwait's population was estimated to be 3 to 3.5 million people, which included approximately 2 million non-nationals.[65] Kuwaiti citizens are therefore a minority of those who reside in Kuwait. The government rarely grants citizenship to foreigners to maintain status quo.[66] In 2008, 68.4% of the population consisted of expatriates,[67] making the country the 4th highest ratio of expatriates of the world.[68] The net migration rate of the country stood at 16.01, the third highest in the world.[69] The Central Statistical Bureau is the official agency who is obliged to meet the needs of data users through the collection and compilation of the statistical data and the production in a numeric and updated information and reflects the characteristics of the society and its activities in various ways of life with a high degree of accuracy and reliability according to the international standards in force alongside with transparency and dissemination of appropriate periods.[70]

Ethnic groups

About 57% of the population in Kuwait is Arab, 39% South and East Asian, and 4% are classified Bidoon ('without' – stateless Arabs).[18] As of 2009, more than 580,000 Indian nationals were residing in Kuwait, making them the single largest expatriate community there.[71][72] In 2003, there were also an estimated 250,000 Pakistanis, 260,000 Egyptians, 100,000 Syrians and 80,000 Iranians in Kuwait.[73] After Kuwait was liberated from the Iraqi invasion and occupation by coalition forces led by The United States of America, most of the 400,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait were expelled because of their government's open support for the Iraqi Forces.[74]


Kuwait's official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Kuwaiti Arabic, a Gulf Arabic sub-dialect, is Kuwait's colloquial dialect. English is widely understood and often used as a business language.


About 85% of the population in Kuwait identify themselves as Muslims.[75] 75% of Muslims in Kuwait belong to the Sunni and 25% are Shi'as.[76] The majority of the Shi'as follow the Twelvers school. Despite Islam being the state religion,[77] among the non-Kuwaiti citizens, the country has a large community of Christians (est. 300,000 to 400,000), Hindus (est. 300,000), Buddhists (est. 100,000), and Sikhs (est. 10,000).[78] Hindus account for the largest number of expatriates in Kuwait.[79] Virtually all Kuwaiti Arabs are Muslim.

Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists are allowed to build places of worship or other religious facilities. The main Christian church of Kuwait is located in Kuwait City.[80] These groups are allowed to practice and can engage in religious activities, including public marriage and other celebrations, without Kuwaiti government interference.[81]


Kuwait Towers, one of the country's most famous landmarks.

The influence of Islamic and Arab Culture on its architecture, music, attire, cuisine and lifestyle is prominent as well.[82] The most distinctive characteristic of local Kuwaiti culture are diwaniya that is explained below. Briefly, it involves large reception rooms used for male social gatherings attended mostly by family members and close friends.

While, unlike neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the Islamic dress code is not compulsory, many of the older Kuwaiti men prefer wearing dish dasha, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton while the minority of women wear abaya, black over-garment covering most parts of the body. This attire is particularly well-suited for Kuwait's hot and dry climate.[83] Western style clothing is very popular among the youth of Kuwait.

Seafood has been the mainstay of the Kuwaiti diet for centuries.[84] The Arabs in the Persian Gulf region played a crucial role in the spice trade between India and Europe and spices have remained an important ingredient of Kuwaiti cuisine. Traditional Kuwaiti cuisine includes machboos diyay, machboos laham, maraq diyay laham which borrows heavily from South Asian cuisine and Arab cuisine. Imawash is another popular dish. As in other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait takes part in the tradition of Qarqe'an during the month of Ramadan. About 74.2% of adults aged 15 and over are overweight in Kuwait, making the country the eighth fattest in the world.[85]

Before the discovery of oil, pearling formed a crucial part of Kuwait's economy. Pearl fishery, known as ghaus, suffered decline after the advent of Japanese pearl farming.[86] However, Kuwait's pearl industry laid the foundation of its rich maritime history. Dhows, large wooden ships made from teak wood imported from India,[86] became an indistinct part of Kuwait's maritime fleet and dhow building is still practiced in this Persian Gulf state.[87]

Kuwait's architecture is largely inspired by Islamic architecture. The most prominent landmark in country, the Kuwait Towers, were designed by Swedish architect Sune Lindström and are a unique blend of traditional minaret and modern architectural designs. The National Assembly of Kuwait, another famous landmark building, was designed by the famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1982.

Sawt is the most prominent style of Kuwaiti music and is performed by oud (plucked lute) and mirwas (a drum), with a violin later supplementing the arrangement. The Bedouins are known for an instrument called the rubabah, while the use of oud, tanbarah (string instrument) and habban (bagpipe) are also widespread.[88]


A highway in Kuwait City.

Kuwait has an extensive, modern and well-maintained network of highways. Roadways extended 5,749 km, of which 4,887 km is paved.[2] In 2000, there were some 552,400 passenger cars, and 167,800 commercial taxis, trucks, and buses in use. On major highways the maximum speed is 120 km/h. Since there is no railway system in the country, most of the people travel by automobiles.[89] The government plans to construct US$11 billion rail network which will include the Kuwait Metropolitan Rapid Transit System Project for its capital.[90][91] Bus services are provided by private company Citybus and state-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Corporation.[92][93]

Kuwait has speed cameras in all highways and main roads and traffic lights, which captures the cars that speed or cross a red light, the Kuwaiti government spent over 450 million USD on these speed cameras in cooperation with the traffic Police. There is only one civil airport in Kuwait.[94] Kuwait International Airport serves as the principal hub for international air travel. State-owned Kuwait Airways is the largest airline in the country. In 2001, the airline carried 2,084,600 passengers on domestic and international flights.[89] In 2004, the first private airline of Kuwait, Jazeera Airways, was launched.[95] Another private airline, Wataniya Airways of Kuwait was founded in 2005 and ceased operations in March 2011.[96]

Kuwait has one of the largest shipping industries in the Persian Gulf region. The Kuwait Ports Public Authority manages and operates ports across Kuwait.[97] The country’s principal commercial seaports are Shuwaikh and Shuaiba which handled combined cargo of 753,334 TEU in 2006.[98] Mina Al-Ahmadi, the largest port in the country, handles most of Kuwait's oil exports.[99] Construction of another major port located in Bubiyan island started in 2005. The port is expected to handle 1.3 million TEU when operation starts in 2008.[100]


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

Kuwait has one of the most vocal and transparent media in the Arab World.[8] In 2007, Kuwait was ranked first in the Middle East and the Arab League by Reporters Without Borders in the freedom of press index.[101] Though the government funds several leading newspapers and satellite channels,[102] Kuwaiti journalists enjoy greater freedom than their regional counterparts. The state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) is the largest media house in the country. The Ministry of Information regulates all media and communication industry in Kuwait.[103]

In 1998, there were 15 media stations, which are 6 am and 11 FM radio stations and 13 television stations. 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.[104] Kuwait has ten 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.[104] Government-funded Radio Kuwait also offers daily informative programming in four foreign languages including Arabic, Urdu, Tagalog and English on the AM and SW.

In 2009, Kuwait had seventeen newspaper companies in circulation. Kuwait is represented by three English dailies: Kuwait Times, Arab Times and Al-Watan Daily. There are 16 Arabic daily newspapers besides the English newspapers.

A press law forbids insulting references to God and Islamic prophet Muhammad. Another law which made leading newspaper publishers eligible for hefty fines for criticizing the ruling family was lifted in 1992. Leading newspapers continue to impose self-restraint while remaining uncritical of the emir.[105] However, no such restraint is observed while criticizing the government.[104]


Each year, the people of Kuwait celebrate 25 and 26 February, as the national and liberation day, respectively.

See also

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  1. Nominal succession within the House of Sabah.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 CIA – The World Factbook – Kuwait
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Public Authority for Civil Information".
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Kuwait". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
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