What You Need To Know
Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait, is a country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2014, Kuwait has a population of 4.2 million people; 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 2.9 million are expatriates. Oil reserves were discovered in 1938. From 1946 to 1982, the country underwent large-scale modernization. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. The Iraqi occupation came to an end in 1991 after military intervention by United States-led forces. At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure. Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a high income economy backed by the world’s sixth largest oil reserves. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world. According to the World Bank, the country has the fourth highest per capita income in the world. The constitution was promulgated in 1962, making Kuwait the most democratic country in the region. 70% of the population are expatriates, while only 30% of the population are Kuwaiti citizens. From 2001 to 2009, Kuwait had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the Arab world. Kuwait ranks highly in regional metrics of gender equality, as it has the region’s highest Global Gender Gap ranking.
Area: 17,820 km²
Population: About 4,134,960
The Dinar is the currency of Iraq. It is issued by the Central Bank of Iraq and is subdivided into 1,000 fils (فلس), although inflation has rendered the fils obsolete.
Kuwaiti popular culture, in the form of dialect poetry, film, theater, radio and television soap opera, flourishes and is even exported to neighboring states. Within the Gulf Arab states, the culture of Kuwait is the closest to the culture of Bahrain; this is evident in the close association between the two states in theatrical productions and soap operas. Kuwait is widely considered the cultural capital of the Gulf region, frequently dubbed the “Hollywood of the Gulf” due to the popularity of its Arabic television soap operas and theater.
Kuwait has a petroleum-based economy, petroleum is the main export product. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued unit of currency in the world. According to the World Bank, Kuwait is the fourth richest country in the world per capital. Kuwait is the second richest GCC country per capital (after Qatar). Petroleum accounts for half of GDP and 90% of government income. Non-petroleum industries include financial services. In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship and small business start-ups in Kuwait. The informal sector is also on the rise, mainly due to the popularity of Instagram businesses. Kuwait is a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of international development agencies. In 1974, the fund’s lending mandate was expanded to include all developing countries in the world.
Kuwait’s official language is Modern Standard Arabic, its everyday usage is limited to journalism and education. Kuwaiti Arabic is the variant of Arabic used in everyday life. Kuwaiti Sign Language is used by the deaf community. English is taught since first grade at all schools and is widely understood and often used as a business language. Beside English, French is taught as a third language for the students of humanities section at schools, but for two years only. Due to historical immigration, Persian is used among Ayam Kuwaitis. Kuwaiti Arabic is a variant of Gulf Arabic, sharing similarities with the dialects of neighboring coastal areas in Eastern Arabia. Due to immigration during its early history as well as trade, Kuwaiti Arabic borrowed a lot of words from Persian, Indian, Turkish, English and even Italian. A unique characteristic in Kuwait is the use of words and phrases by women exclusively, for example “يَا حَافِظ”, roughly translated to “Oh Saver [God]”, is rarely or never used by men. It is also different from other Arabic dialects in the way that phonological assimilation occurs to a multitude of words. The only case of full assimilation is /dˤ/ changing to /ðˤ/ in all words.
- Kuwait has a state-funded healthcare system, which provides treatment without charge to holders of a Kuwaiti passport. A public insurance scheme exists to provide reduced cost healthcare to non-citizens. Private healthcare providers also run medical facilities in the country, available to members of their insurance schemes.
Kuwaiti society is diverse and tolerant. The majority of Kuwait’s population is Sunni Muslim, with a significant minority of Shia Muslims. The country includes a native Christian community, estimated to be composed of between 259 and 400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens. Kuwait is the only GCC country besides Bahrain to have a local Christian population who hold citizenship. There is also a small number of Bahá’í Kuwaiti citizens. 2007 estimates indicate that Kuwait also has a large community of expatriate Christians, Hindus,Buddhists, and Sikhs.
- Kuwait has an extensive and modern network of highways. Roadways extended 5,749 km (3,572 mi), of which 4,887 km (3,037 mi) is paved. There are more than 2 million passenger cars, and 500,000 commercial taxis, buses, and trucks in use. On major highways the maximum speed is 120 km/h (75 mph). Since there is no railway system in the country, most people travel by automobiles. The country’s public transportation network consists almost entirely of bus routes. The state owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company was established in 1962. It runs local bus routes across Kuwait as well as longer distance services to other Gulf states. The main private bus company is CityBus, which operates about 20 routes across the country. Another private bus company, Kuwait Gulf Link Public Transport Services, was started in 2006. It runs local bus routes across Kuwait and longer distance services to neighboring Arab countries. There are two airports in Kuwait. Kuwait International Airport serves as the principal hub for international air travel. State-owned Kuwait Airways is the largest airline in the country. A portion of the airport complex is designated as Al Mubarak Air Base, which contains the headquarters of the Kuwait Air Force, as well as the Kuwait Air Force Museum. In 2004, the first private airline of Kuwait, Jazeera Airways, was launched. In 2005, the second private airline, Wataniya Airways was founded. Kuwait has one of the largest shipping industries in the region. The Kuwait Ports Public Authority manages and operates ports across Kuwait. The country’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 2007. The port is expected to handle 1.3 million TEU when operations start.
The spring season in March is warm with occasional thunderstorms. The frequent winds from the northwest are cold in winter and hot in summer. Southeasterly damp winds 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. The temperature in Kuwait during summer is above 25 °C (77 °F). The highest recorded temperature was 54.4 °C (129.9 °F), which is the highest temperature recorded in Asia. Kuwait experiences colder winters than other GCC countries because of its location in a northern position near Iraq and Iran.