Kuwait

 

History of Kuwait

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The area that became Kuwait was controlled by the main regional powers in the Gulf, principally various dynasties based in Mesopotamia and Persia. The most influential of these were the Safavids, a Persian dynasty which moved into the region around 1500 and established a commercial empire along the eastern seaboard of the Arabian peninsula. Later on in the 16th century, the northeastern corner of the Arabian peninsula became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It remained so until the latter part of the 19th century when the Al-Sabah family, which now rules Kuwait, took control of local administration and steered the country into a semi-autonomous position. However, fearing that the Turks would try to reassert their control, the Kuwaitis made an agreement with the British allowing for British control of Kuwaiti foreign affairs in exchange for military protection. This danger passed with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, although Kuwait remained a British protectorate until 1961, when the country was granted full independence.

Sheikh Abdullah assumed the position of head of state, adopting the title of Emir. The large revenues from oil production allowed independent Kuwait to build up its economic infrastructure and institute educational and social welfare programmes. Surrounded by three major Middle Eastern powers, the main threat to the country came from the renewal of Iraqi territorial claims over Kuwait which date back to Kuwaiti independence. Kuwait had been seriously threatened by Iraq in 1961, but Iraq was deterred by British military intervention. In 1990, no such assistance was available. Kuwait had given firm backing to the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq war, lending some US$40-60 billion to Baghdad. Disputes over repayment and the exploitation of oilfields which straddle the (still disputed) border region between the two countries eventually led to the Iraqi invasion on 1 August, 1990.

The country which Sheikh Jaber and his entourage – who fled into exile in Saudi Arabia – left behind was rapidly incorporated into Iraq as its ‘19th province’ and then systematically looted. Nine months later the Kuwaitis recovered their country by virtue of a US-led, UN-backed multinational military force which drove the Iraqis out. After a period of euphoria, the Kuwaitis were confronted with the aftermath of the war and the need to address a number of difficult questions. Adequate funds were available to finance the enormous task of reconstruction. The future security of the country was dealt with by the signing of defence and security pacts with the USA, the UK and Kuwait’s Gulf allies. Since then, Iraq’s persistently belligerent attitude towards Kuwait, reflected both diplomatically and through occasional border incursions, has served only to reinforce Kuwaiti caution towards its northern neighbour. However, it was one of the first countries to join Operation Iraqi Freedom following the US-led war against Iraq, and provided aid and support during Iraq's (ongoing) process of reconstruction.

On the domestic front, the Al-Sabah family faced an awkward problem after the 1991 liberation: the future of the government and their role in it. While in exile, the Emir had made a commitment to restore the 1962 constitution, which provides for the elections of a National Assembly (Majlis) and greatly limits the power of the ruling family. The Assembly had been suspended in 1976 by the Emir on the grounds that it was ‘not acting in the best interests of the state’; it was recalled in 1981 and suspended again in 1986. When the Emir returned to Kuwait in March 1991, he immediately declared a three-month period of martial law. However, in the face of concerted domestic and international pressure, he announced that elections to the Assembly would be held in October 1992.

The three elections held since then have seen majorities secured by opponents of the Emir, then supporters and at the most recent poll in July 1999, by the opposition. The outcome has little effect on policy-making, as the Majlis is still confined to a strictly consultative role, but it has proved to be a lively forum and a vital channel for popular sentiment. In 1999, it was closed down by the Emir for a third time but reopened shortly afterwards. Since then, it has clashed several times with the Emir and the Cabinet (which is still dominated by the al-Sabah family) over misuse of state funds and poor management of the all-important oil industry. Underlying these disputes is the growing impression that the ageing and increasingly infirm al-Sabah clan is no longer capable of running the country. However, they continue to dominate Kuwaiti policies.

Kuwait Provinces and Cities

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The list of Important cities of Kuwait include Ali al Salem, Safat Kuwait, Jahrah, Salmiya, Mina al Ahmadi, Al Wafrah, Al Jahrah and Kuwait City among which the later four are the largest cities of Kuwait. Kwait City, the capital of Kuwait is located at the heart of the country and is the main idustrial hub of Kuwait. Al Wafrah is one of the important Kuwait cities, known for its historical involvement in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. It was reported that the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force started attacking the Iraqi army through this route.

Kuwait Cities and Provinces

  • Al Asimah - one of the most important Kuwait provinces.
  • Al Jahra - Kuwait's principal agricultural region, produces and exports fruits and vegetables.
  • Al Farwaniyah - located to the south of Al Kuwait
  • Kuwait City - the largest city and the capital of Kuwait located at the heart of the country.
  • Ali al Salem - famous for its well known air force base
  • Salmiya - is the shoppers' paradise in Kuwait.
  • Safat - is one of the finest destinations in Kuwait
  • Jahrah - also known as Al Jahrah is the governorate city in central Kuwait.
  • Hawally - situated in the eastern part of Kuwait.
  • Al Ahmadi - famous for its oil refineries and peaceful green surroundings.

Society, Culture and Lifestyle

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Culture & Lifestyle
Modern day Kuwaitis are the descendants of several nomadic tribes and clans who ultimately settled on the coast of the Arabian Gulf during the eighteenth century to avoid the persistent drought of the desert. When they arrived at the coast, the clans built forts to protect themselves from other nomadic tribes who still traversed the desert. The name Kuwait is derived from kut, an Arabic word for "fort."

In Kuwait alcohol is banned. Consequently there are no pubs or nightclubs or big music concerts. But in Kuwait, there are plenty of family entertainment options, restaurants, cinemas, cafes and private parties.

The expat community is tight-knit and makes for a very friendly way of life as you will regularly see the same people in a range of locations!

Shopping opportunities are wide-ranging and you can buy almost anything here ranging from cheap plastic gadgets at the 100 fils shops in the souks, to the high-end designer clothes in boutique stores at the Malls.

Eating out is a national past-time. Again you will find restaurants and cafes to suit at both ends of the spectrum. Locally you may find that lunch time is around 3pm with dinner around 10pm and Kuwaiti children may be awake much later than you'd expect.


Beach club membership is very popular in Kuwait. These are an ideal way to meet people and make use of swimming pools, fitness classes, gym, beach and they also have facilities for children. Also there are public beaches run by the Kuwait Touristic Enterprises Company (KTEC), Messila Beach and Egaila Beach which have facilities such as shaded areas with tables, cafes, showers, changing rooms, gardens and play areas for children.

There are many activity groups and sports for the whole family, ranging from ice-skating and water parks to water sports, cinema and ten -pin bowling. There are also many after school activities run by schools and playgroups as well as brownies, cubs and guides.

Social Stratification
There are five levels of social stratification in Kuwaiti society, and these divisions are based on wealth. At the apex of the social hierarchy is the ruling family. Below that are old Kuwaiti merchant families. In the middle of the strata are former Bedouins, Arabian Desert nomads, who settled in Kuwait with the advent of the oil industry. Next come Arabs from neighboring countries, and at the bottom of this hierarchy are foreigners. Within classes there are strong kinship bonds, which help maintain the social structure. Social stratification is perpetuated by the state, as in the legal ability to own property by cultural factors, such as marriage patterns, and by social rights, such as the provision or lack of state funded education, healthcare, and housing. Within this hierarchy there are enormous gaps between the vastly rich, the middle class, and the extraordinarily poor migrants.

Special Events
Major events celebrated are Muslim holidays, namely Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan), Rabi-ol-Avval (birthday of Mohammad), and Ghadir-é Khom (commemoration of the day the Prophet Mohammad appointed his successor).

Government
The Emir, who is selected by and from members of the ruling Al-Sabah family, holds exclusive executive power. The Emir appoints a prime minister and a Cabinet of Ministers. A unicameral National Assembly (Majlis al-Umma) with 50 elected members has a consultative role and prepares legislation (although the Emir has the power of veto). The Majlis serves a four-year term. The election in 2003 was extremely significant, since it was the first to permit adult women to vote and stand for official positions. Political parties are banned.

Economy
Kuwait has the second-most free economy in the Middle East. Apart from having world's fifth largest proven oil reserves, Kuwait is the fourth-richest country in the world in terms of per capita income. Petroleum and petroleum-products make up around 95 percent of export revenues and 80 percent of government income in Kuwait. Other major industries include shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, construction materials and financial services.

Currency

Kuwait Dinar (KD) = 1000 fils. Notes are in denominations of KD20, 10, 5 and 1, and 500 and 250 fils. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 fils.

National Identity
Kuwaitis are increasingly a minority in their own country. The fear that has arisen from this loss of dominance, compounded by the country's precarious relationship with neighboring nations such as Iraq, has led to extremist policies and practices regarding the assertion of nationality and the rights of Kuwaiti nationals.

Kuwait Weather and Climate

Kuwait Current Weather

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Climate
Kuwait shares European weather patterns but is hotter and drier. Summers (April to October) are hot and humid with very little rain. Winters (November to March) are cool with limited rain. Springs are cool and pleasant.

Public Holidays

KUWAIT Public Holidays Year 2014
Holiday Date

New Year's Day 01 January
Milad Un Nabi (The Prophet's Birthday) 13 January
Kuwait National Day 25 February
Kuwait Liberation Day 26 February
Lailat Al Miraj (The Prophet's Ascension) 23 July
Eid Al Fitr 28 - 30 July
Eid Al Adha 04 - 06 October
Al Hijra (Islamic New Year) 25 October


Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and the dates given above are approximations. During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns may be interrupted. Many restaurants are closed during the day and there are restrictions on smoking and drinking. Some disruption may continue into Eid al-Fitr itself. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha may last anything from two to 10 days, depending on the region.

Travel Advisory

Kuwaitis, like other Arab populations, have different personal boundaries than Westerners. In general, they sit, talk, and stand closer to one another. It is common for members of the same sex to touch one another during their interactions as an expression of their friendship, and men often shake hands upon greeting and departure. Socially, physical contact between men and women is not acceptable. Do not wear revealing clothes at mosques and churches. Do not say anything that might be perceived as an insult to national pride and the Kuwaiti government.

Avoid eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan or you may be fined or even go to jail.

As a visitor to Kuwait you should exercise a high degree of caution. Take care of your valuables and other personal possessions. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Kuwait is a Muslim country, you have not to forget it.