Kuwait Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
April 21st, 2009 – by: dektooor
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. Nearly 750 Kuwaiti oil wells were set ablaze by the retreating Iraqi army resulting in a major environmental and economic catastrophe.
Kuwait has the world's fifth largest oil reserves and is the fourth richest country in the world per capita. Kuwait's oil fields were discovered and exploited in the 1930s. After it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1961, the nation's oil industry saw unprecedented growth. Petroleum and petroleum products now account for nearly 95% of export revenues, and 80% of government income. Kuwait is regarded as the most developed country in the Arab League and a Major non-NATO ally of the United States.
Main article: History of Kuwait
In 4th century BC, the ancient Macedonians colonized an island on Kuwait's coast, now known as Failaka, and named it "Ikaros".
As the influence of the Ottoman Empire increased in the region, Kuwait was assigned the status of a caza of the Ottomans. 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. 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 kmÂ² adjoining Kuwait's southern border. Oil was first discovered in Kuwait in the 1930s and the government became more proactive in establishing internationally recognized boundaries. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was financially crippled and the invading British Indian Army invalidated the Anglo-Ottoman Convention, declaring Kuwait to be an "independent sheikdom under British protectorate".
On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and the then emir of Kuwait, Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah. The Gulf rupee, issued by the Reserve Bank of India, was replaced by the Kuwaiti dinar. The discovery of large oil fields, such as the Burgan field, triggered a large influx of foreign investments into Kuwait. The massive growth of the petroleum industry transformed Kuwait 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.
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. An economic warfare between the two countries followed after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. Tensions between the two countries increased further after Iraq alleged that Kuwait was slant drilling oil from its share of the Rumaila field.
On 2 August, 1990 Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. Saddam Hussein, then President of Iraq, deposed the emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Sabah, and installed Ali Hassan al-Majid as the new governor of Kuwait. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States-led coalition of thirty-four nations fought the Persian Gulf War to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
During their retreat, 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. 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. 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 and covering 5% of Kuwait's land area. In total, about 11 million barrels (1,700,000 m3) of oil was released into the Persian Gulf and an additional 2% of Kuwait's 96 billion barrels (1.
Main articles: Politics of Kuwait and Foreign relations of Kuwait
The Bayan Palace serves as the official residence of the Emir of Kuwait.
A Kuwait M-84 tank during Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Kuwait continues to maintain strong relations with the coalition of the Gulf War.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy and has the oldest directly elected parliament among the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
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.
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 citizen population was allowed to vote, with all "recently naturalized" citizens (i.e. those of less than thirty years' citizenship), and members of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces excluded. On 16 May 2005, Parliament permitted women's suffrage by a 35-23 vote, subject to official interpretation of Islamic law and effective for the 2006 parliamentary election. The decision raised Kuwait's eligible voter population from 139,000 to about 339,000. In 2006, Kuwaiti citizens were estimated to be more than 960,000. In 2005, the former Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah announced the appointment of the first women as a cabinet minister, Massouma Mubarak.
See also: Al-Sabah, Elections in Kuwait, and Political Issues in Kuwait
Geography and climate
Main article: Geography of Kuwait
Sandstorm over Kuwait in April, 2003
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. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait.
Kuwait has some of the world's richest oil fields with the Burgan field having a total capacity of approximately 70 billion barrels (1.1Ã—1010 m3) of proven oil reserves.
Kuwait has a hyper-arid continental climate. Summer, which lasts from May to September, is extremely hot and dry with temperatures easily crossing 45 Â°C (113 Â°F) during daytime, with temperatures usually around 52 Â°C at midday. Kuwait has a fairly high day-night temperature range. Winter, from November through February, is cool with some precipitation and average temperatures around 13 Â°C (56 Â°F) with extremes from -2 Â°C to 27 Â°C.
Main article: Governorates of Kuwait
Map of Kuwait
Kuwait is divided into six governorates (muhafazat, sing. muhafadhah):
The governorates are subdivided into districts.
The major cities are the capital Kuwait City and Jahrah (a thirty-minute drive northwest of Kuwait City). The main residential and commercial areas are Salmiya and Hawalli. The main industrial area is Shuwaikh within the Al Asimah Governorate. The main palace is the As-Seef Palace in the old part of Kuwait City where the Emir runs the daily matters of the country whilst the government headquarters are in the Bayan Palace and the Emir lives in Dar Salwa.
Main article: Economy of Kuwait
Kuwait City, the main economic hub of the country.
An oil refinery in Mina-Al-Ahmadi, Kuwait.
Kuwait has a GDP (PPP) of US$138.6 billion and a per capita income of US$60,800, making it the fourth richest country in the world.
Kuwait has a proven crude oil reserves of 104 billion barrels (15 kmÂ³), estimated to be 10% of the world's reserves.
The headquarters of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) in Kuwait City.
Other major industries include shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, construction materials and financial services. 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. Other prominent financial institutions based in Kuwait include the Gulf Bank 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.
In 2007, estimated exports stood at US$59.97 billion and imports were around US$17.74 billion. 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.
Main article: Demographics of Kuwait
Shoppers at 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. Kuwaiti citizens are therefore a minority of those who reside in Kuwait. The government rarely grants citizenship to foreigners to maintain status quo.
About 57% of the Kuwaiti population is Arab, 39% Asian, and 4% are classified Bidoon. Bidoons are a group of stateless Arab residents of Kuwait. In 2008, 68.4% of the population consisted of expatriates most of whom are from other Arab nations and South Asia. In 2009, more than 580,000 Indian nationals lived in Kuwait, making them the single largest expatriate community there.
Kuwait's official language is Arabic, though English is widely spoken. Other important languages include Persian, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Filipino.
About 85% of Kuwait's population practises Islam. Of the Muslims in Kuwait, 85% are Sunni and 15% are Shia Muslims. Despite Islam being the state religion, Kuwait has large communities of Christians (est.
Main article: Culture of Kuwait
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. The most distinctive characteristic of local Kuwaiti culture are the diwaniyas, a large reception room used for social gatherings attended mostly by close family members. While the Islamic dress code is not compulsory, unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, many of the older Kuwaiti men prefer wearing thawb, 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.
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. However, Kuwait's pearl industry laid the foundation of its rich maritime history.
See also: Music of Kuwait and Cinema of Kuwait
Main article: Transport in Kuwait
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. In 2000, there were some 552,400 passenger cars, and 167,800 commercial taxis, trucks, and buses in use. Since there is no railway system in the country, most of the people travel by automobiles. The government plans to construct US$11 billion rail network which will include a city metro for its capital. Bus services are provided by City Bus and state-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Corporation.
There are a total of seven airports in the country, of which four have paved runways.
Kuwait has one of the largest shipping industries in the Persian Gulf region. The Kuwait Ports Public Authority manages and operates ports across Kuwait. The countryâ€™s principal commercial seaports are Shuwaikh and Shuaiba which handled combined cargo of 753,334 TEU in 2006. Mina Al-Ahmadi, the largest port in the country, handles most of Kuwait's oil exports. Construction of another major port located in Bubiyan island started in 2005.
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. In 2007, Kuwait was ranked second in the Middle East after Israel in the freedom of press index. Though the government funds several leading newspapers and satellite channels, Kuwaiti journalists enjoy greater freedom than their regional counterparts. 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.
In 1998, there were 15 media stations, which are 6 AM and 11 FM radio stations and 13 television stations.
In 2009, Kuwait had seventeen newspapers companies in circulation. In 2002, the Arab Times was the most popular English daily, followed by the Kuwait Times. Al-Anabaa, with a circulation of 106,800 copies, was the most widely read Arabic daily.
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^ Shireen T. Hunter, Iran and the World: Continuity in a Revolutionary Decade, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), p.117
^ Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait; 1990
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^ Kuwait (country) - MSN Encarta
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^ Kuwait Energy Data, Statistics and Analysis - Oil, Gas, Electricity, Coal
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^ Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
^ BBC NEWS Middle East | Abbas apology to Kuwait over Iraq
^ Armenian General Benevolent Union. "The Armenians of Kuwait: Rebuilding after the Gulf War". Retrieved 2007-10-07.
^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/325644/Kuwait/248533/Languages "Hindi, Urdu, Persian (Farsi), and other languages also spoken"
^ U.S. Department of State. "Kuwait: International Religious Freedom Report 2006".
^ Religions in Kuwait: How expatriates worship
^ Kuwait Culture
^ Kuwaiti Food
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^ About Kuwait- Media
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