Kuwait Profile and History

The State of Kuwait is a small oil-rich constitutional monarchy on the coast of the Persian Gulf, enclosed by Saudi Arabia in the south and Iraq in the north. Kuwait, or officially the State of Kuwait, was referred to by the name "Qurain" (or Grane) in the early seventeenth century.

The names "Qurain" or Kuwait are diminutive of the Arabic words Qarn and Kout. Qarn is a high hill and Kout is a fortress.In the dialect of southern Iraq and the neighboring countries, Kout means a house built in the form of a fortress adjacent to water." Kuwait, the prototypical oil-rich state, has more than ten percent of the world’s estimated oil reserves, and is a leading exporter of petroleum.

The oil-rich Persian Gulf state of Kuwait is filled with deserts and sandy beaches and has modern skyscrapers and shopping centers. Kuwait is not as popular tourist destination as United Arab Emirates, but it is a similar modern and wealthy Islamic country with multinational population, traditional values and well-managed infrastructure.

Kuwait is the fourth richest country in the world per capita, and has quickly rebuilt itself after the recent Iraqi occupation. It has some of world's largest oil reserves and some of the most sophisticated desalination facilities providing drinking water in this dry desert country. The majority of Kuwait’s inhabitants are non-nationals who have migrated to Kuwait to work, leaving actual Kuwaiti citizens to be a minority in their home country.

: Kuwait

Independence: 1961

Language: Arabic (official), and English is widely spoken.

Currency: Kuwaiti Dinar (KD)

Religion: Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi'a 30%), Christian, Hindu, Parsi, and others 15%.

Time: GMT + 3 hrs.

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz; single phase. UK-type flat three-pin plugs are used.

History of Kuwait

For a nation that has only come to the modern world’s attention since the discovery of petroleum, Kuwait has had a rich and diverse history. The importance of Kuwait in history goes back to several long decades, because of its sensitive geographical location, which represents the endings and beginnings of competing and successive empires and of continents, countries and territories of different states that made it the gateway and the starting point. That’s why it is no wonder that we find the territory of Kuwait and its coast as a “relaxation point” for Alexander the Great, while he regained his breathes along with his armies at the borders of Persia before invading the Indian sub-continent. The remains of Greek monuments in the Kuwaiti island of Failaka testify this fact. Historians mention that Alexander the Great stayed in Failaka with his soldiers.

Archeologists have discovered chipped flint tools from 10,000 years ago, indicating that Stone Age people ranged through the area. A site in Sabbiya on the north shore of Kuwait Bay has yielded evidence of the oldest proper settlement in the region, dating to 4500 BC. Pottery fragments, knives, and beads found there indicate that the site was used by Ubaid settlers, the same people who populated ancient Mesopotamia. This means that the earliest settlers of Kuwait were cousins of the Sumerians, who developed the first recorded human civilization.

Kuwait was established in the 16th century when several clans (bedouins) 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 is known as Qatar for more than 60 years before migrating over sea to settle in the Isle De Chader, where they built a small fort, or "kut".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 experience some 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. But 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 Kuwait was part of its territory. It threatened to invade Kuwait but was deterred by the British, who flew in troops.

An important period in Kuwait's political, social and economic development was the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash of 1982. This was a major crash that had widespread consequences and has endured in the public memory even decades later. After being allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War until its end in 1988 (Kuwait paid Iraq to protect it from what it perceived as a threat posed by Iran), Kuwait was invaded and annexed 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 allegedly had waged through slant drilling into oil supplies on Iraqi territories. Hussein deposed the monarchy after the annexation and installed a new Kuwaiti governor.

Authorized by the UN Security Council, an American-led coalition of 34 nations fought the Persian Gulf War to liberate Kuwait. After six weeks of fierce fighting in early 1991, the coalition forced Iraq to withdraw its troops from Kuwait on February 26, 1991; during retreat, the Iraqi Armed Forces exacted a scorched earth policy by setting fire to Kuwaiti oil wells. The fires took more than nine months to fully extinguish, and the cost of repairs to oil infrastructure exceeded $5 billion. Certain buildings and infrastructural facilities (including Kuwait International Airport) also were severely damaged during the war. Kuwait remains under the governance of the Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jabir Al-Sabah (since 29 January, 2006) as an independent state and is of strategic importance to the United States

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