Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait (Dawlat 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 country covers an area of 17,820 square kilometers (6,880 square miles) and has a population of about 3.5 million.
Kuwait is a constitutional emirate 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 reserve and petroleum products now account for nearly 95% of export revenues and 80% of government income. 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. 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.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
In the 4th century BC, the ancient Greeks colonized an island off Kuwait's coast, naming it "Ikaros". It is now known as Failaka. By 123 BC, the region came under the influence of the Parthian Empire and was closely associated with the southern Mesopotamian town of Charax. In 224 AD, the region fell under the control of Sassanid Empire and came to be known as Hajar. By the 14th century, the area comprising modern-day Kuwait had become a part of the Islamic caliphate.
The first permanent settlers in the region came from the Bani Utbah tribe of Najd, who later established the state of Kuwait. In 1756, the people elected Sabah I bin Jaber as the first Emir of Kuwait. 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.
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. Kuwait's infrastructure was badly damaged during the war and had to be rebuilt.
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.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE:
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. 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. The land area is considered arable and sparse vegetation is found along its 499 km long coastline. Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor.
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.
Kuwait has a GDP (PPP) of US$167.9 billion and a per capita income of US$81,800. According to the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom, Kuwait has the second-most free economy in the Middle East. Kuwait has proven crude oil reserves of 104 billion barrels (15 km³), 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. 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.
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 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 Central Bank issues Kuwait's currency, the Kuwaiti dinar. As of May 2012, the dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.
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. Japan is the largest customer of Kuwaiti oil followed by India, Singapore and South Korea.
About 57% of the population in Kuwait is Arab, 39% South and East Asian, and 4% are classified Bidoon ('without' – stateless Arabs). As of 2009, more than 580,000 Indian nationals were residing in Kuwait, making them the single largest expatriate community there. In 2003, there were also an estimated 250,000 Pakistanis, 260,000 Egyptians, 100,000 Syrians and 80,000 Iranians in Kuwait. 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.
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. Religion:
About 85% of the population in Kuwait identify themselves as Muslims. 75% of Muslims in Kuwait belong to the Sunni and 25% are Shi'as. The majority of the Shi'as follow the Twelvers school. Despite Islam being the state religion, 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). Hindus account for the largest number of expatriates in Kuwait. Virtually all Kuwaiti Arabs are Muslim.
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 diwaniya, 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. Western style clothing is very popular among the youth of Kuwait.
Seafood has been the mainstay of the Kuwaiti diet for centuries. 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 Qarqean 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.
Kuwait's architecture is largely inspired by Islamic architecture. The most prominent landmark in country, the Kuwait Tower's, were designed by Swedish architect Sune Lindström and are a unique blend of traditional minaret and modern architectural designs. 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.
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