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 in Southwest Asia.
Main article: 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 now known as Qatar for more than sixty years and then traveled the sea to settle in the Isle De Chader, where a small fort “kut” was there. Kuwait has never been a part of the Abbasid empire (8th century) since it didn’t exist at that time. Kuwait was incorporated within the Ottoman Empire, evidence is that Sheik Mubarak had the Ottoman flag over his palace and fully realized Ottoman authoriy over his lands. The current rulers of the country are descended from Sabah I that was chosen by the community made up 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 took and maintained authority by force.
The 17th century saw the Arabian Peninsula in tumultuous times. What is now Kuwait was land occupied by tribes being used for spice trades in India. In the 18th century, most locals 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 turned 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, attracting 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 in June 19th 1961. This declaration was challenged by Iraq until 1963.
After being allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (largely due to desiring Iraqi protection from Islamic Iran), Kuwait was invaded and annexed by Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) in August 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 waged through slant drilling into Iraq's oil supplies. The monarchy was deposed after annexation, and an Iraqi governor installed.
Though initially ambiguous toward a potential annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, US President George H.W. Bush ultimately condemned Hussein's actions, and moved to drive out Iraqi forces. Authorized by the UN Security Council, an American-led coalition of 34 nations fought the Persian Gulf War to reinstate the Kuwaiti Emir. Kuwait is today an independent state, one of strategic importance from both military (proximity to Iraq) and economic (oil reserves) perspectives.
Main article: 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 parliment 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. Only 15% of the Kuwaiti population can vote, with all women, recently naturalised citizens and members of the armed forces excluded. See also: al-Sabah Ruling Family
Main article: Governorates of Kuwait
Kuwait is divided into 6 governorates (muhafazat):
Main article: Geography of Kuwait
Kuwait consists mostly of desert, with little altitude difference. 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:
- Auhah Island
- Failaka Island
- Kubbar Island
- Qaruh Island
- Umm al Maradim Island
- Umm an Namil Island
- Warbah Island
Kuwait is considered to be one of the fifteen lands that comprise the "Cradle of Humanity".
Kuwait's climate is dry and hot in the summer, and cold in the winter.
The major cities are the capital Kuwait, and Al-Jahrah (further in the north, 30-minute drive from the capital). The main residential and business areas are Salmiya (with US-style shopping malls) and Hawalli.
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 $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.
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 Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, 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 Shii Muslims. A relatively large percentage of Kuwaitis belonging to Islam's Shii sect is due to Kuwait's close proximity to Iran and Iraq.
Main article: Culture of Kuwait
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