|State of Kuwait
|Anthem: Al-Nasheed Al-Watani
(and largest city)
|Official language(s)||Arabic,English spoken widely|
|Government||Constitutional hereditary emirate|
|-||Emir||Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah|
|-||Prime Minister||Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah|
|-||Bani Utbah tribe foundation||1705|
|-||Independence from the United Kingdom||19 June 1961|
|-||Total||20,000 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2009 estimate|
|-||Total||$137.450 billion (56th)|
|-||Per capita||$38,875 (11th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2009 estimate|
|-||Total||$114.878 billion (51st)|
|-||Per capita||$32,491 (17th)|
|HDI (2007)||▲ 0.916 (very high) (31st)|
|Currency||Kuwaiti dinar (
|Time zone||AST (UTC+3)|
|-||Summer (DST)||(not observed) (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||Right|
The State of Kuwait (Arabic: دولة الكويت, dawlat al-kuwayt) is a sovereign Arab emirate situated in the northeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and Iraq to the north and lies on the northwestern shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the Arabic "akwat", the plural of "kout", meaning fortress built near water. The emirate covers an area of 20,000 square kilometres (6,880 sq mi) and has a population of about 3.0 million.
Historically, the region was the site of Characene, a major Parthian port for trade between India and Mesopotamia. The Bani Utbah tribe were the first permanent Arab settlers in the region and laid the foundation of the modern emirate. By 19th century, Kuwait came under the influence of the Ottoman Empire and after the World War I, it emerged as an independent sheikhdom under the protection of the British Empire. Kuwait's large oil fields were discovered in the late 1930s. After it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1961, the nation's oil industry saw unprecedented growth. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded and annexed by neighboring Iraq. The seven month-long Iraqi occupation came to an end after a direct military intervention by United States-led forces. Nearly 773 Kuwaiti oil wells were set ablaze by the retreating Iraqi army resulting in a major environmental and economic catastrophe. Kuwait's infrastructure was badly damaged during the war and had to be rebuilt.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, with Kuwait City serving as the country's political and economic capital. The country has the world's fifth largest oil reserves and petroleum and petroleum products now account for nearly 95% of export revenues, and 80% of government income. Kuwait is the eleventh richest country in the world per capita and has the highest human development index (HDI) in the Arab world. Kuwait is classified as a high income economy by the World Bank and is designated as a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
In the 4th century B.C., the ancient Greeks colonized an island off Kuwait's coast, now known as Failaka, and named it "Ikaros". By 123 B.C., the region came under the influence of the Parthian Empire and was closely associated with the southern Mesopotamian town of Charax. In 224 A.D., the region fell under the control of Sassanid Empire and came to be known as Hajar. By 14th century, the area comprising modern-day Kuwait became a part of the Islamic caliphate.
The first permanent settlers in the region came from Bani Khalid tribe of Nejd and established the state of Kuwait. In 1756, the people elected Sabah I bin Jaber as the first Amir of Kuwait. The current ruling family of Kuwait, al-Sabah, are descendants of Sabah I. During the rule of the Al-Sabah, Kuwait progressively became a center of trade and commerce. It now served as a hub of trade between India, the horn of Africa, the Nejd, Mesopotamia and the Levant. Up until the advent of Japanese pearl farming, Kuwait had one of the largest sea fleets in the Persian Gulf region and a flourishing pearling industry. Trade consisted mainly of pearls, wood, spices, dates and horses.
By late 19th century, much of the Arabian Peninsula came under the influence of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans acknowledged the autonomy of al-Sabah dynasty but still claimed sovereignty over Kuwait. In the year 1899, Kuwait entered into a treaty with the United Kingdom that gave the British extensive control over the foreign policy of Kuwait in exchange for protection and annual subsidy. This treaty was primarily prompted by fears that the proposed Berlin-Baghdad Railway would lead to an expansion of German influence in the Persian Gulf. After the signing of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, then Amir of Kuwait, Mubarak Al-Sabah, was diplomatically recognized by both the Ottomans and British as the ruler of the autonomous caza of the city of Kuwait and the hinterlands. However, soon after the start of World War I, the British invalidated the convention and declared Kuwait an independent principality under the protection of the British Empire. The 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone, an area of about 5,180 km² adjoining Kuwait's southern border.
On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and the then Amir of Kuwait, Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah. The Gulf rupee, issued by the Reserve Bank of India, was replaced by the Kuwaiti dinar. The discovery of large oil fields, especially the Burgan field, triggered a large influx of foreign investments into Kuwait. The massive growth of the petroleum industry transformed Kuwait from a poor pearl farming community into one of the richest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and by 1952, the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Egypt and India.
Kuwait settled its boundary disputes with Saudi Arabia and agreed on sharing equally the neutral zone's petroleum reserves, onshore and offshore. After a brief stand-off over boundary issues, Iraq formally recognized Kuwait's independence and its borders in October 1963. During the 1970s, the Kuwaiti government nationalized the Kuwait Oil Company, ending its partnership with Gulf Oil and British Petroleum.
In 1982, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price. However, the crisis was short-lived as Kuwait's oil production increased steadily to fill the gap caused by decrease in Iraq's and Iran's oil production levels following the events of the Iran–Iraq War. In 1983, a series of six bomb explosions took place in Kuwait killing five people. The attack was carried out by Shiite Dawa Party to retaliate Kuwait's financial support to Iraq during its war with Iran.
Kuwait had heavily funded Iraq's eight year-long war with Iran. After the war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt. An economic warfare between the two countries followed after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. Tensions between the two countries increased further after Iraq alleged that Kuwait was slant drilling oil from its share of the Rumaila field.
On 2 August, 1990 Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. Saddam Hussein, then President of Iraq, deposed the Amir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Sabah, and installed Ali Hassan al-Majid as the new governor of Kuwait. During the Iraqi occupation, about 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed and more than 300,000 residents fled the country. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States-led coalition of thirty-four nations fought the Persian Gulf War to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On February 26, 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces, restoring the Kuwaiti Amir to power. Kuwait paid the coalition forces US$17 billion for their war efforts.
During their retreat, the Iraqi armed forces carried out a scorched earth policy by damaging 737 oil wells in Kuwait, of which approximately 600 were set on fire. It was estimated that by the time Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation, about 5 to 6 million barrels (950,000 m3) of oil was being burned in a single day because of these fires. Oil and soot accumulation had affected the entire Persian Gulf region and large oil lakes were created holding approximately 25 to 50 million barrels (7,900,000 m3) of oil and covering 5% of Kuwait's land area. In total, about 11 million barrels (1,700,000 m3) of oil was released into the Persian Gulf and an additional 2% of Kuwait's 96 billion barrels (1.53×1010 m3) of crude oil reserves were burned by the time the oil fires were brought under control. The fires took more than nine months to extinguish fully and it took Kuwait more than 2 years and US$50 billion in infrastructure reconstruction to reach pre-invasion oil output. Kuwait has since largely recovered from the socio-economic, environmental, and public health effects of the Persian Gulf War.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy and has the oldest directly elected parliament among the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The head of state is the Emir or Sheikh, a hereditary office. A council of ministers, also known as cabinet ministers, aids the Prime Minister in his task as the head of Government of Kuwait which must contain at least one elected member of the Kuwaiti parliament, known as Majlis Al-Umma (National Assembly). The National Assembly has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister or any member of cabinet through a series of constitutional procedures. All cabinet ministers are answerable to the National Assembly.
The National Assembly consists of fifty elected members, who are chosen in elections held every four years. Government ministers are also granted membership in the parliament and can number up to sixteen excluding the fifty elected members. According to the Constitution of Kuwait, nomination of a new Emir or Crown Prince by the ruling Al-Sabah family has to be approved by the National Assembly. If the nominee does not win the votes of the majority of the assembly, the royal family must submit the names of three other candidates to the National Assembly, and the Assembly must approve one of them to hold the post. Any amendment to the constitution can be proposed by the Emir but it needs to be approved by more than two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly before being implemented.
There have been several conflicts between the Emir, the government and the National Assembly over various policies. The National Assembly was suspended from 1976 to 1981, from 1986 to 1991 and from May 1999 to July 1999 due to irresolvable conflicts between some members of the government and the Assembly. The Assembly was dissolved again in May 2009 by the Emir leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and the rest of the Cabinet. Nationwide elections were held on May 16, 2009.
More than two-thirds of those who reside in Kuwait do not hold Kuwaiti citizenship and thus cannot vote in parliamentary elections. Additionally, prior to 2005, only 15% of the Kuwaiti citizen population was allowed to vote, with all "recently naturalized" citizens (i.e. those of less than thirty years' citizenship), and members of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces excluded. On 16 May 2005, Parliament permitted women's suffrage by a 35-23 vote.
The decision raised Kuwait's eligible voter population from 139,000 to about 339,000. In 2006, Kuwaiti citizens were estimated to be more than 960,000. In 2005, the former Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah announced the appointment of the first women as a cabinet minister, Massouma Mubarak. She was designated the post of Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs. During the 2008 parliamentary elections, 27 of the 275 candidates were women. However, none of them won. In the parliamentary elections on 16 May 2009, 16 female candidates contested for 50 seats for a four-year term. Four female candidates won their seats and became Kuwait's first female lawmakers.
Located in the north-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land area. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait. There is little difference in the country's altitude with the highest point in the country being 306 m above sea-level. It has nine islands, all of which with the exception of Failaka Island are uninhabited. With an area of 860 km², the Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380 m long bridge. The land area is considered arable and sparse vegetation is found along its 499 km long coastline. Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor.
Kuwait has some of the world's richest oil fields with the Burgan field having a total capacity of approximately 70 billion barrels (1.1×1010 m3) of proven oil reserves. During the 1991 Kuwaiti oil fires, more than 500 oil lakes were created covering a combined surface area of about 35.7 km². The resulting soil contamination due to oil and soot accumulation had made eastern and south-eastern parts of Kuwait uninhabitable. Sand and oil residue had reduced large parts of the Kuwaiti desert to semi-asphalt surfaces. The oil spills during the Persian Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.
The spring season in March is warm and pleasant with occasional thunderstorms. The frequent winds from the northwest are cold in winter and spring and hot in summer. Southeasterly winds, usually hot and damp, 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.
|Average high °F (°C)||54
|Average low °F (°C)||36
|Precipitation inches (mm)||1.39
|Source: weather.com 2010-3-8|
The governorates are subdivided into districts.
The major cities are the capital Kuwait City and Jahrah (a thirty-minute drive northwest of Kuwait City). The main residential and commercial areas are Salmiya and Hawalli. The main industrial area is Shuwaikh within the Al Asimah Governorate. The main palace is the As-Seef Palace in the old part of Kuwait City where the Emir runs the daily matters of the country whilst the government headquarters are in the Bayan Palace and the Emir lives in Dar Salwa.
Kuwait has a GDP (PPP) of US$157.9 billion and a per capita income of US$60,800, making it the 5th richest country in the world. Kuwait's human development index (HDI) stands at 0.912, the second highest in Middle East after Israel, and the highest in the Arab world. With a GDP growth rate of 5.7%, Kuwait has one of the fastest growing economies in the region.
According to the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom, Kuwait has the second-most free economy in the Middle East. In March 2007, Kuwait's foreign exchange reserves stood at US$213 billion. The Kuwait Stock Exchange, which has about 200 firms listed, is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world with a total market capitalization of US$235 billion. In 2007, the Kuwaiti government posted a budget surplus of US$43 billion.
Kuwait has a proven crude oil reserves of 104 billion barrels (15 km³), estimated to be 10% of the world's reserves. According to the Kuwaiti constitution, all natural resources in the country and associated revenues are government property. Being a tax-free country, Kuwait's oil industry accounts for 80% of government revenue. Petroleum and petrochemicals accounts for nearly half of GDP and 95% of export revenues. Increase in oil prices since 2003 resulted in a surge in Kuwait's economy.
Kuwait's current oil production of 2.8 million bpd is expected to increase to 4 million bpd by 2020. To realize this production target, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plans to spend US$51 billion between 2007 to 2012 to upgrade and expand the country's existing refineries. However, the country's economy was badly affected by the global financial crisis of 2008. In 2009, the Central Bank of Kuwait devised a US$5.15 billion stimulus package to help boost the economy.
Other major industries include shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, construction materials and financial services. Kuwait has a well developed banking system and several banks in the country date back to the time before oil was discovered. Founded in 1952, the National Bank of Kuwait is the largest bank in the country and one of the largest in the Arab world. Other prominent financial institutions based in Kuwait include the Gulf Bank of Kuwait and Burgan Bank, which is named after the largest oilfield in the country.
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. The government is keen on decreasing Kuwait's dependence on oil to fuel its economy by transforming it into a regional trading and tourism hub. The planned US$77 billion City of Silk is the largest real estate development project in the Middle East. The Central Bank issues Kuwait’s currency, the Kuwaiti dinar. In December 2007, the dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.
In 2007, estimated exports stood at US$59.97 billion and imports were around US$17.74 billion. Petroleum, petrochemical products, fertilizers and financial services are major export commodities. Kuwait imports a wide range of products ranging from food products and textiles to machinery. Kuwait's most important trading partners are Japan, United States, India, South Korea, Singapore, China, European Union and Saudi Arabia. Japan is the largest customer of Kuwaiti oil followed by India, Singapore and South Korea.
As of 2007, Kuwait's population was estimated to be 3 to 3.5 million people, which included approximately 2 million non-nationals. Kuwaiti citizens are therefore a minority of those who reside in Kuwait. The government rarely grants citizenship to foreigners to maintain status. In 2008, 68.4% of the population consisted of expatriates. The net migration rate of the country stood at 16.01, the third highest in the world.
About 57% of the Kuwaiti population is Arab, 39% Asian, and 4% are classified Bidoon (stateless Arabs). In 2009, more than 580,000 Indian nationals lived in Kuwait, making them the single largest expatriate community there. In 2003, there were also an estimated 260,000 Egyptians, 100,000 Syrians and 80,000 Iranians in Kuwait. After Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation, most of the 400,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait were expelled because of their government's open support for the Iraqi forces.
Majority of Kuwait's population identify themselves as Muslims. Estimates of the percentage of people in Kuwait who practise Islam vary between 85% and 95%. Despite Islam being the state religion, Kuwait has large a community of Christians (est. 300,000 to 400,000), Hindus (est. 300,000), Buddhists (est. 100,000), and Sikhs (est. 10,000). Hindus account for the largest number of expatriates in Kuwait. Members of religious groups not sanctioned in the Quran, such as Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, are not allowed to build places of worship or other religious facilities. However, these groups are allowed to worship privately in their homes and can engage in religious activities, including public marriage and other celebrations, without government interference.
The influence of Islamic and Arab culture on its architecture, music, attire, cuisine and lifestyle is prominent as well. The most distinctive characteristic of local Kuwaiti culture are dewaniyas, large reception rooms used for male social gatherings attended mostly by family members and close friends. While, unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, the Islamic dress code is not compulsory, many of the older Kuwaiti men prefer wearing dish dasha, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton while the minority of women wear abaya, black over-garment covering most parts of the body. This attire is particularly well-suited for Kuwait's hot and dry climate. Western-style clothing is also fairly popular, especially among Kuwait's youth.
Seafood has been the mainstay of the Kuwaiti diet for centuries. The Arabs in the Persian Gulf region played a crucial role in the spice trade between India and Europe and spices have remained an important ingredient of Kuwaiti cuisine. Traditional Kuwaiti cuisine includes "Machboos diyay, machboos laham, maraq diyay laham" which borrows heavily from South Asian cuisine and persian cuisine. As in other Persian Gulf states, Kuwait takes part in the tradition of Qarqe'an during the month of Ramadan.
Before the discovery of oil, pearling formed a crucial part of Kuwait's economy. Pearl fishery, known as ghaus, suffered decline after the advent of Japanese pearl farming. However, Kuwait's pearl industry laid the foundation of its rich maritime history. Dhows, large wooden ships made from teak wood imported from India, became an indistinct part of Kuwait's maritime fleet and dhow building is still practiced in this Persian Gulf state.
Kuwait's architecture is largely inspired by Islamic architecture. The most prominent landmark in country, the Kuwait Towers, were designed by Swedish architect Sune Lindström and are a unique blend of traditional minaret and modern architectural designs. The National Assembly of Kuwait, another famous landmark building, was designed by the famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1972.
Sawt is the most prominent style of Kuwaiti music and is performed by 'ud/oud (plucked lute) and mirwas (a drum), with a violin later supplementing the arrangement. The Bedouins are known for an instrument called the rubabah, while the use of oud, tanbarah (string instrument) and habban (bagpipe) are also widespread.
Kuwait has an extensive, modern and well-maintained network of highways. Roadways extended 5,749 km, of which 4,887 km is paved. In 2000, there were some 552,400 passenger cars, and 167,800 commercial taxis, trucks, and buses in use. Since there is no railway system in the country, most of the people travel by automobiles. The government plans to construct US$11 billion rail network which will include a city metro for its capital. Bus services are provided by City Bus and state-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Corporation.
There is only one civil airport 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. In 2001, the airline carried 2,084,600 passengers on domestic and international flights. In 2004, the first private airline of Kuwait, Jazeera Airways, was launched. In 2005, the second private airline, Wataniya Airways of Kuwait was founded.
Kuwait has one of the largest shipping industries in the Persian Gulf 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 2005. The port is expected to handle 1.3 million TEU when operation starts in 2008.
Kuwait has one of the most vocal and transparent media in the Arab World. In 2007, Kuwait was ranked first in the Middle East and the Arab League in the freedom of press index. Though the government funds several leading newspapers and satellite channels, Kuwaiti journalists enjoy greater freedom than their regional counterparts. State-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) is the largest media house in the country. The Ministry of Information regulates all media and communication industry in Kuwait.
In 1998, there were 15 media stations, which are 6 AM and 11 FM radio stations and 13 television stations. In 2000, there were 624 radios and 486 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2001, there were 165,000 Internet subscribers served by three service providers. Kuwait has ten satellite television channels of which four are controlled by the Ministry of Information. State-owned Kuwait Television (KTV) offered first colored broadcast in 1974 and operates five television channels. Government-funded Radio Kuwait also offers daily informative programming in four foreign languages including Persian, Urdu, Tagalog and English on the AM and SW.
In 2009, Kuwait had seventeen newspapers companies in circulation. In 2002, the Arab Times was the most popular English daily, followed by the Kuwait Times. Al-Anabaa, with a circulation of 106,800 copies, was the most widely read Arabic daily. Currently, there are around 15 Arabic daily newspapers besides the English newspapers. A press law forbids insulting references to God and Islamic prophet Muhammad. Another law which made leading newspaper publishers eligible for hefty fines for criticizing the ruling family was lifted in 1992. Leading newspapers continue to impose self-restraint while being critical of the emir. However, no such restraint is observed while criticizing the government.
|Institute for Economics and Peace||Global Peace Index||42 out of 144|
|United Nations Development Programme||Human Development Index||31 out of 182|
|Transparency International||Corruption Perceptions Index||66 out of 180|
|World Economic Forum||Global Competitiveness Report||39 out of 133|
|Iraq||Persian Gulf • Iran|
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi Arabia||Persian Gulf|
|Government||Nominal constitutional monarchy|
|Currency||Kuwaiti dinar (KD)|
|Population||2,418,393, including 1,291,354 non-nationals (July 2006 est.)|
|Language||Arabic (official), English widely spoken|
|Religion||Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi'a 30%), Christian, Hindu, Parsi, and other 15%|
|Electricity||240V/50Hz (UK plug)|
|Time Zone||UTC +3|
The Kuwaitis trace their roots to the Al-Anisa and the Al-Utub tribe from the Najd province, in modern Saudi Arabia. They moved to Qatar and then to Al-Qurain (The word 'Kuwait' is derived from Koot, the Arabic word for fortress), which is in modern day Kuwait bay around 1710. By 1752, the long term residents of Al-Qurain decided that the instability of the region, caused by warring tribes, called for the establishment of a stable government. The Al-Sabah tribe was chosen to rule, and the first Sheikh was Sabah ibn Jaber, who ruled as Sabah I, from 1752 to 1756. The Sabah's were skillful diplomats, and weathered out religious and tribal strifes successfully. They dealt with the Ottomans, the Egyptians and the Europeans. Mubarak I signed an agreement with the British making Kuwait a British Protectorate in 1899. The British were in Kuwait for quite a while by then, and as early as the 1770's Abdullah I had a contract with the British to deliver mail for them up to Allepo in Syria. The agreement gave the British control of the Kuwaiti foreign policy in exchange for military protection. In the 20's and the 30's, the chief source of revenue was pearls. But around that time the Japanese started flooding the international market with cultured pearls and this source of income was in decline. In 1938, oil was first struck at the Burgan oil field in Kuwait, and by 1946, they started exporting it. In 1961, Kuwait nullified the treaty of 1899, and became an independent nation. Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely liberated Kuwait in four days; February 26 is celebrated as Liberation Day. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. It is currently ruled by Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad AL Jaber Al Sabah after the demise of Sheikh Jaber al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah in January 2006.
Dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters. Natural hazards : sudden cloudbursts are common from October to April; they bring heavy rain which can, in some rare cases, damage roads and houses; sandstorms and dust storms occur throughout the year, but are most common between March and August.
Flat to slightly undulating desert plain. Highest point: 306 meters high.
The nationals of 35 countries, including the US and most of Western Europe, are eligible of visas on arrival at Kuwait's airport and land borders. The on-arrival visa is valid for a single entry of up to 3 months and costs KD 3, plus KD 3 for a "stamping" fee (not required for US, UK citizens, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar and KSA). Those 35 nations include: The United States of America, The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, NewZealand, Japan, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, The Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Brunei Singapore, Malaysia, China(only HongKong SAR passport), South Korea and Poland.
All other nationals need advance visas, which require an invitation from a sponsor in Kuwait. Kuwait Airways offices and major hotels can provide invitations, but the process can take up to a week and may require a fee. The Embassy of Kuwait in Japan  has some information.
Israeli citizens are banned by the Kuwait government from entering the country, and you may also be refused entry if your passport has Israeli entry stamps.
Alcohol and pork are not legal and may not be imported into the country. Your bags will be X-rayed and/or hand-searched on arrival.
The national airline, Kuwait Airways , serves New York City,London,Paris,Frankfurt,Geneva,Rome,Kuala Lumpur as well as several other European, Asian, African and Middle Eastern destinations, but is best avoided: a government monopoly of the worst kind, its planes are old, delays are frequent and the staff couldn't care less. For regional flights, semi-low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways  or premium airline Wataniya Airways  provides a welcome alternative. Alternatives for long-haul flights include British Airways from London, United Airlines from Washington, D.C., Lufthansa from Frankfurt, KLM from Amsterdam, Singapore Airlines from Singapore, Thai Air from Bangkok and Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, plus connections through other large Gulf hubs (Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, etc) are accessible through Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airlines, Gulf Air and many other airlines, There are also some airlines that operate seasonal flights to Kuwait including Malaysia Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Bulgaria Air and Czech Airlines.
If you need a visa on arrival at the airport, do not head down to Arrivals, instead look for the "Visa Issuing" desks. Fill out a form, queue up once to submit and pay (dollars, euros, pounds and GCC currencies accepted), then pick up your stamped passport at the other end. As of January 2009, the visa issue desks now have signs indicating that payment is only accepted in Kuwati dinars (3 dinars for a tourist visa). You can exchange currencies at several places in the arrival terminal; the best rates appear to be for U.S. dollars and Euros. You'll also get an A4-sized sheet entirely in Arabic, which you must keep -- this is your visa! You can now proceed straight through immigration without queuing, just show your visa form and they'll let you through.
Taxis can be found outside arrivals, with the fare to most points in the city being KD 5. Most hotels can arrange a transfer for the same price, which is probably a more comfortable option.
Kuwait shares its borders with only 2 nations - Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The political situation in Iraq is volatile currently, so it's advisable not to use that route. There are long-distance bus services to Dammam and other points in Saudi, but you will of course need to have a valid Saudi visa.
Kuwait National Public Transport Company operates a nationwide service which is both reliable and inexpensive and there are City Bus and KGL which which are private companies.
KPTC had last year changed all their buses to new ones. KGL like KPTC has good buses.Citybus launched 175 new Yutong buses last month which meet all standard critierias. These new buses has CCTV facility to ensure extra saftey to the passangers. the customer care service is also excellent in Citybus. KGL buses are better and the only disadvantage with KGL is they don't have buses on all the routes and are less frequent.
Scheduled ferries to and from Iran are handled by Kuwait-Iran Shipping Company, phone +965 2410498, fax +965 2429508. The ferries go three times a week from Ash Shuwayk in Kuwait to Bushehr in Iran. One-way tickets from KD37.
Speedboats also go between Ash Shuwayk and Manama in Bahrain. A ticket is KD45.
Ports and harbors:
Kuwait has a good road system. All signs are in English and Arabic.
Public Transport: Kuwait's public transport is adequate with three companies (KPTC, City Bus and KGL) running dozens of routes in every major city. Waiting times for buses range from one minute for most frequent routes to fifteen minutes for less used routes. All buses are equipped with air-conditioners and usually one can find a seat without much trouble. Although, during peak hours (7-9AM, 2-4PM, 8-9PM)most routes are packed and public transport should be avoided for those seeking comfortable traveling. It must also be noted that although areas with expatriates majority are covered with many routes, Kuwaiti residence areas are scarcely connected with public transport buses and are reachable mostly by taxis only.
Taxi: These are recognizable by orange license plates and may be hired by the day, in which case fares should be agreed beforehand. Most taxis are metered although one has to inform the driver in advance if one wishes to pay by the meter as drivers. For those who are familiar with local rates and distances, it is more advisable to negotiate the fare in advance. Share-taxis are also available. Hailing taxis from the road is the most practical approach. However some sources have reported it was not advisable, particularly for females, and they recommend that taxis are booked in advance by telephone from a reputable taxi company.
A standard rate is applicable in most taxis, but those at hotel ranks are more expensive. Tipping is not expected, however you should negotiate fares before boarding the taxi.
Car hire: Self-drive is available. If you produce an International Driving Permit, the rental company will, at the customer's expense, be able to arrange the statutory temporary insurance, which is drawn on the driver's visa. If you arrive at Kuwait International Airport, you will find the car hiring companies located at your left after you exit from the baggage claiming area. You can find international companies such as AVIS and BUDGET among others.
However, it should be noted that driving in Kuwait, especially when new to driving in the country, can be extremely chaotic and frightening. Turn signals and lane divisions are effectively optional, speeding and aggressive driving is commonplace, and there is little active enforcement of traffic laws. Recently a law was passed to disallow the use of cell phones while driving (including but not limited to voice calls and text messaging or SMS.)
Arabic (official). Although in schools the classical version of Arabic is taught; and just like everywhere in the Arab world, Kuwaiti’s use the Kuwaiti dialect in everyday conversation. English is widely used and spoken. Most of the traffic signs in Kuwait are bilingual. English is taught as a second language in schools in Kuwait beginning at the first grade. Many Kuwaiti's speak English fluently as there are lots of private English and American schools and universities where all subject are taught in English and Arabic is taken as a subject. A lot of Kuwaitis are enrolling their children in these schools.
See Kuwait City for listings of attractions in the city.
A port with many old dhows, Failaka Island can be reached by regular ferry services. There are also some Bronze Age and Greek archaeological sites well worth viewing, including the island's Greek temple. Failaka Island was named Ikarus by the Greeks who, under Alexander the Great, established an outpost in the island. Traditional-style boums and sambuks (boats) are still built in Al Jahrah, although, nowadays, vessels are destined to work as pleasure boats rather than pearl fishing or trading vessels. Mina Al Ahmadi, lying 19km (12 miles) south of Kuwait City, is an oil port with immense jetties for supertanker traffic. The Oil Display Centre pays homage to the work of the Kuwait Oil Company.
Many of Kuwait's sea clubs offer a wide variety of facilities and activities such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, beaches, tennis courts, gymnasiums, bowling and even karate.
Sailing and scuba diving are available. Powerboating is a Kuwaiti passion. Contact any of the hotels located on the beach and they can arrange a trip for you. The best beach front hotels are the Hilton Resort, Movenpick Resort, Marina Hotel and the Radisson SAS. The Radisson SAS also houses the largest wooden ship in the world the AL-Hashemi II which is a real beauty. Next to the ship is a museum for the history of ship-building in Kuwait.
Horse riding clubs flourish in the winter. The Hunting and Equestrian Club is on the 6th ring road near Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah Armed Forces Hospital.
The Equestrian Club is located near Kuwait's new golf club,the Sahara Club, which also houses a five star restaurant and spa.
The largest mall in Kuwait is The Avenues part of which is still under construction as of March 2008. It is one of the largest malls in whole middle-east and offers the best cinematic experience in Kuwait with VIP theatres with massaging reclining seats and a personal butler. Other popular malls include Marina Mall (Salmiya), Souq Sharq (Sharq) 360 mall (jinoob al surra) and Al-Kout Mall (Fahaheel) which is famous for its orchestra musical fountains.
Kuwait Towers are also an icon in Kuwait. One of the towers has a 360 degree rotating restaurant and a viewing deck from which you can view the spectacular cityscape of Kuwait City and the Gulf.
The national currency is the Kuwaiti dinar (KD, KWD). At around US$3.50 to one dinar (January 2009), the dinar is the highest valued currency unit in the world, and prices can thus take some getting used to: a 50-dinar hotel room comes out to almost US$200/night.
The dinar is divided into 1000 fils. Notes are available in denominations of KD 20, 10, 5, 1, ½ and ¼, while 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 fils coins are also available. While notes have Latin numerals on one side, the coins are entirely in Arabic.
Notes issued before 1994, many of which were stolen during the Iraqi occupation, are not considered legal tender. You're unlikely to see these in Kuwait (the designs are clearly different), but unscrupulous dealers elsewhere have been known to try to pass them off. See the Central Bank of Kuwait  for pictures.
Exchanging money can be difficult and exchanging travelers cheques even more so. Stick to ATMs, which are ubiquitous and work fine. Higher-end establishments accept credit cards.
Although Kuwait is a tax haven 0% VAT and 0% income tax It would be hard to manage on under US$80 per day, and you can very easily spend US$200 just on an ordinary hotel room.
Tipping is generally not necessary. A 12% service charge is tacked onto your bill in expensive hotels and restaurants, but if you want some of the money to actually go to the staff, leave a little extra.
Prices on common expenses (January 2009):
Petrol prices are one of the cheapest in the world and most of the time are cheaper than water, literally!
Don't forget to retain your exit fee of KWD 2 (a little more than USD 7). Retain the two "KD" in Kuwaiti currency as you don't want to go to the currency exchange just for that on your way out of the country.
Kuwait is a tax free country. Custom-made items, imported items, and shipping out of the country can be expensive, so shop wisely.
There is a huge array of restaurants in Kuwait. Because the nightlife is non-existant, people go out to restaurants and malls. Almost every cuisine is available in high-end restaurants. Kuwait is known for its culinary specialties and catering services. Restaurants can be found in food courts in malls, and alternatively many international restaurants are grouped together in certain areas in Kuwait, namely: Behind the Roman Catholic Church in Kuwait City Outside the Movenpick Resort in Salmiya In the Marina Crescent Just ask any local where the "Restaurants Road" is and they will guide you to a road in Salmiya packed end-to-end with local restaurants serving a wide array of specialty sandwiches, juices and snacks. There are few restaurants that serve traditional Kuwaiti food. Al-Marsa restaurant in Le Meridien Hotel (Bneid Al Gar location) has some traditional Kuwaiti seafood but with a relatively high price tag. A better option is the quaint Shati Alwatia restaurant at the Behbehani Villa compound in the Qibla area of Kuwait City (behind the Mosques)and another Kuwaiti restaurant is Ferij Suwailih in salmiya area.
Alcohol is strictly illegal in Kuwait: it may not be imported, manufactured or served. However, some expat-geared restaurants have been known to offer "special" tea, and newspapers regularly report busts of illegal distilleries. Unlike neighbouring states; Bahrain, Qatar and UAE Alcohol cannot be even served at hotels or permit holders
Tap water is drinkable, although most of it is desalinated and not particularly tasty, and in summertime, you may have a hard time telling apart the hot and cold taps. Bottled water is available everywhere for a few hundred fils.
Hotels in Kuwait are expensive, but major Western chains are well represented. See Kuwait City for hotel listings. Light sleepers should bring ear plugs as public announced prayers are broadcast at 4:30AM, again at 5:00AM and several times during the day.
Chalets and other weekend accommodation can be rented in many places along the southern part of the coast.
IO Centers  is the only premium serviced office provider in the country. They offer flexible terms and all business related services and are located in two locations: on the 28th and 29th floors of the Arraya Center in the same tower as the Marriott Courtyard hotel and in the new Dar Alawadi Center.
The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Violent crimes against foreigners are rare, but do occur. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems. Kuwaiti drivers can also be quite reckless.
The festival of Eid ul-Fitr is held after the end of Ramadan and may last several days. Exact dates depend on astronomical observations and may vary from country to country.
Kuwait adopts a live-and-let-live policy for clothing, and you'll see a wide range of styles: women wear anything ranging from daring designer fashions to head-to-toe black abayas with headscarves and veils, while men can be seen both in T-shirts and shorts or the traditional dazzling white dishdashah. To avoid unnecessary attention, though, women will want to steer clear of short skirts or low necklines. Bikinis are fine at the hotel pool, but not on public beaches.
Do not eat in public during the holy month of Ramadan or you may be fined or even go to jail. The fine is 100 KD or about US$350.
Do not get into conversations concerning the Emir of Kuwait. Although Kuwait is a relatively democratic country with one of the best freedom of speech laws in the Middle East, the topic of the Emir is beyond the red line.
Do not take pictures of people, governmental buildings, or near the Iraq border fence.
Alcohol is prohibited in Kuwait, and possessing alcohol will get you into a lot of trouble. Also, never drink and drive.
Public health is entirely supported by the government at local clinics and hospitals, with a 5KD fee paid by foreigners visiting Kuwait and 2KD for expats with a resident visa. Private non-governmental clinics are available as well, but charge much more at 30KD and upwards. You will be entitled for free treatment in case of an accident or an emergency. In case of an emergency, call 777 or 112.
The country code for Kuwait is 965. Local phone numbers are 8 digits long. The numbering system is as follows: Numbers starting with 2 are landline telephones. Numbers starting with 5 are mobile telephones for the VIVA Mobile Operator. Numbers starting with 6 are mobile telephones for the WATANIYA Mobile Operator. Numbers starting with 9 are mobile telephones for the ZAIN Mobile Operator. Numbers starting with 1 are service numbers. To dial outside the country from Kuwait, prefix the country code with 00. E.g a US number would be dialed as 00-1-555-555-5555.
Kuwait uses GSM and mobile phones are widely available. Major operators include Zain, Wataniya Telecom, and Viva. As roaming charges can be very steep, it makes sense to get a local SIM card: prepaid starter kits are available for around KD 5, including some call time.
Internet kiosks are everywhere. The biggest ISPs in Kuwait are QualityNet and KEMS. High speed internet is available via DSL subscription (upto 4Mbps) although prices are higher than usual. A 512k DSL connection costs about 34KD for monthly subscription. ISPs are forced to censor internet access by the government, but this is easily bypassed by using either a proxy or a VPN service.
Kuwait has high international call rates. Although calling overseas is also very cheap if you use the many booths that advertise 'Net2Phone' service, which is illegal. Basically it is calling over the Internet. For home usage, Phoneserve cards are available (mostly in Hawally) that can be used for cheap calls worldwide. Users with credit cards use Skype and Yahoo Voice for communication as well, but skype website was banned now.
Some traditional corner-shops commonly referred to as "Bakalat" sell an international calling card called Big Boss which offers good rates to Europe but only when calling landlines. For the rest of continents the rates are decent even when calling mobile phones.
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Declension of Kuwait (type risti)