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Anthem Kuwait00:35

Anthem Kuwait

The flag and national anthem of Kuwait.

The State of Kuwait (Arabic: دولة الكويت< Dawlat al-Kuwayt) is a small oil-rich desert nation at the head of the Persian Gulf. It has land borders with with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The name Kuwait is derived from Arabic meaning "fortress built near water".

The country became a British Protectorate in 1899 and enjoyed British rule until June 19, 1961, when it was granted status as a sovereign independent state. It is now a constitutional emirate, headed by a Prime Minister, Nasir Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah (appointed by the Amir on 3 April 2007). As an emirate the Head of Government is Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah which is a hereditary title.


  • Area: 17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.
  • Cities: Capital--Kuwait City.
  • Terrain: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point--306 m).
  • Climate: Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42o-49oC (108o-120oF); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10-30 C (50-80 F), with limited rain.


Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, fewer than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (approximately 68% of the total population is non-Kuwaiti).

  • Population (Dec. 2006 est.): 3,182,960, including approximately 1 million Kuwaiti citizens and 2 million non-Kuwaiti citizens.
  • Annual growth rate (2006 est.): 3.52%.
  • Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 35%, other Arab 22%, non-Arab (primarily Asian) 39%, stateless Arabs (bidoon) 4%.
  • Religion: Muslim estimated 80% (Sunni 70%, Shia 30% among Kuwaitis), with sizable Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Sikh communities.
  • Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.
  • Education: Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult literacy (age 15 and over)--83.5% for the overall population (male 85.1%, female 81.7%), 91.2% for Kuwaitis (male 91.4%, female 90.8%).
  • Health: Infant mortality rate (2006 est.)--9.71 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2006 est.)--76.13 yrs. male, 78.31 yrs. female.
  • Work force (official figures as of December 31, 2006): 1.963 million (76% male; 24% female; 17% Kuwaiti citizens).

Of the country's total population of 3.1 million, approximately 80% are Muslims, including nearly all of its1.023 million citizens. While the national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shia adherents, approximately 70-75 % of citizens, including the ruling family, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The remaining Kuwaiti citizens, with the exception of about 100-200 Christians and a few Baha'is, are Shi'a. The expatriate Christian population is estimated to be more than 400,000 residents. There also are communities of Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Kuwait's 83.5% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. In 2004, approximately 1,720 Kuwaitis were enrolled in U.S. universities, down 6.8% from the previous year.


Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggest that Failaka was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Saba the Great signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.

Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.

In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters."

Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses.

Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.


CIA Factbook -- Kuwait [1]

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