Kuwait City

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Kuwait City
مدينة الكويت
Madinat Al-Kuwayt
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Al Hamra Tower.jpg
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From top left: Kuwait City skyline, Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait Towers, Seif Palace, Souq Sharq port Kuwait Downtown in 2012
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Kuwait City
Location of Kuwait City in Kuwait
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Kuwait City
Kuwait City (Persian Gulf)
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Kuwait City
Kuwait City (West and Central Asia)
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Kuwait City
Kuwait City (Asia)
Coordinates: 29°22′11″N47°58′42″E / 29.36972°N 47.97833°E / 29.36972; 47.97833
CountryFlag of Kuwait.svg  Kuwait
Governorate Capital
   Capital city 860 km2 (330 sq mi)
Time zone UTC+03:00 (AST)

Kuwait City (Arabic : مدينة الكويت) is the capital and largest city of Kuwait. Located at the heart of the country on the south shore of Kuwait Bay on the Persian Gulf, it is the political, cultural and economic centre of the emirate, containing Kuwait's Seif Palace, government offices, and the headquarters of most Kuwaiti corporations and banks. It is one of the hottest cities in summer on earth, with average summer high temperatures over 45 °C (113 °F) for three months of the year.


As of 2018, the metropolitan area had roughly 3 million inhabitants (more than 70% of the country's population). [1] The city itself has no administrative status. All six governorates of the country comprise parts of the urban agglomeration, which is subdivided in numerous areas. In a narrower sense, Kuwait City can also refer only to the town's historic core, which nowadays is part of the Capital Governorate and seamlessly merges with the adjacent urban areas.

Kuwait City's trade and transportation needs are served by Kuwait International Airport, Mina Al-Shuwaik (Shuwaik Port) and Mina Al Ahmadi (Ahmadi Port).


Celebration at Seif Palace in 1944 for Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Kuwait1944.jpg
Celebration at Seif Palace in 1944 for Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

In the early to mid 1700s, Kuwait City was a small fishing village. Sometime in the mid 1700s, the Bani Utubs settled in Kuwait. [2] At the time of the arrival of the Utubs, Kuwait was inhabited by a few fishermen. [3] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait gradually became a principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad, Persia, and Arabia. [4] [5] By the late 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as a trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo. [6]

During the Persian siege of Basra in 1775–1779, Iraqi merchants took refuge in Kuwait and were partly instrumental in the expansion of Kuwait's boat-building and trading activities. [7] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed. [7] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait. [6] [8] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792. [9] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa. [9] After the Persian withdrawal from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra. [10]

Kuwait harbour in 1961 Kuwait harbour 1961.jpg
Kuwait harbour in 1961

Kuwait was the centre of boat building in the Persian Gulf region. [11] [12] During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ship vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of trade between the ports of India, East Africa and the Red Sea. [13] [14] [15] Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean. [16] Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century. [17] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century. [18] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution. [19] According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf. [16] [20] [21]

During the reign of Mubarak Al-Sabah, Kuwait was dubbed the "Marseilles of the Gulf" because its economic vitality attracted a large variety of people. [22] In the first decades of the twentieth century, Kuwait had a well-established elite: wealthy trading families who were linked by marriage and shared economic interests. [23]

In 1937, Freya Stark wrote about the extent of poverty in Kuwait at the time:

Poverty has settled in Kuwait more heavily since my last visit five years ago, both by sea, where the pearl trade continues to decline, and by land, where the blockade established by Saudi Arabia now harms the merchants.

Some prominent merchant families left Kuwait in the early 1930s due to the prevalence of economic hardship. At the time of the discovery of oil in 1937, most of Kuwait's inhabitants were impoverished.

From 1946 to 1982, Kuwait experienced a period of prosperity driven by oil and its liberal atmosphere. [24] [25] In popular discourse, the years between 1946 and 1982 are referred to as the "Golden Era". [24] [25] [26] In 1950, a major public-work programme began to enable Kuwaitis to enjoy a modern standard of living. By 1952, the country became the largest oil exporter in the Persian Gulf region. In the following year, the country's annual oil income grew to $169 million. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Palestine, Egypt and India and helped finance the development of a new master plan, which the state approved in 1952. In June 1961, Kuwait became independent with the end of the British protectorate and the sheikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah became an Emir. Under the terms of the newly drafted constitution, Kuwait held its first parliamentary elections in 1963. Kuwait was the first Persian Gulf country to establish a constitution and parliament.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait was the most developed country in the region. [27] [28] Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports. [29] The Kuwait Investment Authority is the world's first sovereign wealth fund. From the 1970s onward, Kuwait scored highest of all Arab countries on the Human Development Index. [28] Kuwait University was established in 1966. [28] Kuwait's theatre industry was well-known throughout the Arab world. [24] [28] In the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwait's press was described as one of the freest in the world. Kuwait was the pioneer in the literary renaissance in the Arab region. [30] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world. [30] Many Arab writers moved to Kuwait for freedom of expression because Kuwait had greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world. [31] [32] Kuwait was a haven for writers and journalists from all parts of the Middle East, with the Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar leaving Iraq in the 1970s to take refuge in the more liberal environment of Kuwait. [33]

Kuwaiti society embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the 1960s and 1970s. [34] Most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab in the 1960s and 1970s. [35] [36] At Kuwait University, mini-skirts were more common than the hijab. [37]

In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price. [38]

The Kuwait National Assembly Building, a parliament building designed by the works of Jørn Utzon in its elements of Islamic architecture, was completed in 1982 by orders of his son Jan Utzon.

During the Iran–Iraq War, Kuwait supported Iraq. Throughout the 1980s, there were several terror attacks in Kuwait, including the 1983 Kuwait bombings, hijacking of several Kuwait Airways planes and attempted assassination of Emir Jaber in 1985. [39] Kuwait was a leading regional hub of science and technology in the 1960s and 1970s up until the early 1980s, the scientific research sector significantly suffered due to the terror attacks.

Oil fires in Kuwait in 1990, which were a result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait. BrennendeOelquellenKuwait1991.jpg
Oil fires in Kuwait in 1990, which were a result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait.
Red Arrows over Kuwait City Red Arrows Over Kuwait City.jpg
Red Arrows over Kuwait City

The Kuwaiti government strongly advocated Islamism throughout the 1980s. [40] At that time, the most serious threat to the continuity of Al Sabah came from home-grown secular democrats. [40] The secular Kuwaiti opposition were protesting the 1976 suspension of the parliament. [40] Al Sabah were attracted to Islamists preaching the virtues of a hierarchical order that included loyalty to the Kuwaiti monarchy. [40] In 1981, the Kuwaiti government gerrymandered electoral districts in favour of the Islamists. [40] Islamists were the government's main allies, hence Islamists were able to colonize state agencies, such as the government ministries. [40] By the mid-1980s, Kuwait was described as an autocracy. [40] In 1986, Emir Jaber suspended the parliament.

After the Iran–Iraq War ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt. [41] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. [42] Tensions between the two countries increased further in July 1990, after Iraq complained to OPEC claiming that Kuwait was stealing its oil from a field near the Iraq–Kuwait border by slant drilling of the Rumaila field. [42]

In August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States led a coalition to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait, in what became known as the Gulf War. On 26 February 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces. As they retreated, Iraqi forces carried out a scorched earth policy by setting oil wells on fire. [43] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed. [44] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation, [45] approximately 375 remains were found in mass graves in Iraq.

In March 2003, Kuwait became the springboard for the US-led invasion of Iraq. Upon the death of the Emir Jaber, in January 2006, Saad Al-Sabah succeeded him but was removed nine days later by the Kuwaiti parliament due to his ailing health. Sabah Al-Sabah was sworn in as Emir.


Satallite image showing the extent of Kuwait City metropolitan area ISS041-E-81348 - View of Kuwait.jpg
Satallite image showing the extent of Kuwait City metropolitan area

Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor. 90% of Kuwait's population live within the Kuwait Bay coast. The country is generally low-lying, with the highest point being 306 m (1,004 ft) above sea level. [46] It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited. [47] With an area of 860 km2 (330 sq mi), Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380-metre-long (7,808 ft) bridge. [48] The land area is considered arable [46] and sparse vegetation is found along its 499-kilometre-long (310 mi)[ dubious ] coastline. [46]

Kuwait's Burgan field has 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 (13.8 sq mi). [49] 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. [50] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources. [51]


Aerial view of Kuwait City Kuwait City, Kuwait.JPG
Aerial view of Kuwait City

Kuwait City has a hot desert climate (Köppen: BWh) with extremely hot, very prolonged summers and mild, short winters. It is one of the hottest cities in summer on Earth. [52] Average summer high temperatures are above 45 °C (113 °F) for three months of the year, and during heat waves; the daytime temperature regularly exceeds 50 °C (122 °F) with nighttime lows often remaining above 30 °C (86 °F). In winter, nighttime temperatures frequently drop below 8 °C (46 °F). Considering its coastal position and relative distance to the equator in comparison with the hot desert climates in Africa and Saudi Arabia, the heat in the city is rather extreme - being surrounded in almost every direction by the hot desert.

Sand storms occur at times during summer from the shamal wind. Sand storms can occur any time of year but occur mostly during summer, and less frequently during autumn.

Climate data for Kuwait City
Record high °C (°F)29.8
Mean daily maximum °C (°F)19.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F)8.5
Record low °C (°F)−4.0
Average rainfall mm (inches)30.2
Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm)53310000013319
Mean monthly sunshine hours 198.1222.5217.6229.3272.5304.5307.1301.6285.1252.2216.5193.53,000.5
Mean daily sunshine hours
Percent possible sunshine 68696362697776787779726772
Source: World Meteorological Organization (temperature and rainfall 1994–2008); [53] NOAA (sunshine and records, 1961–1990); [54] Wundergound (2012 records) [55]


Kuwait International Airport Kuwait airport.jpg
Kuwait International Airport
Smoke from burning Kuwait oil fields after Saddam Hussein set fire to during Gulf war. KuwaitiOilFires-STS037-152-91-(2).jpg
Smoke from burning Kuwait oil fields after Saddam Hussein set fire to during Gulf war.

Kuwait has a petroleum-based economy, petroleum and fertilizers are the main export products. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world. [56] Petroleum accounts for 43% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. [57]



Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre. [58] Kuwait is the only Arab country in the Persian Gulf region with a theatrical tradition. [59] The Arabic theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's Arabic cultural life. [60] Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released. [61] Theatre activities are still popular today. [60]

Soap operas

Kuwaiti soap operas (المسلسلات الكويتية) are among the most-watched soap operas in the Arab world. [62] Most Gulf soap operas are based in Kuwait. Although usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, some Kuwaiti soap operas were successful as far away as Tunisia. [63]


The city is home to the Al Kuwait SC, which has traditionally provided Kuwait's national basketball team with key players. [64]

From 13 to 15 February 2020 it held the first Aquabike World Championship Grand Prix of Kuwait [65] [66]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

Kuwait is a sovereign state in Western Asia located at the head of the Persian Gulf. The geographical region of Kuwait has been occupied by humans since antiquity, particularly due to its strategic location at the head of the Persian Gulf. In the pre-oil era, Kuwait was a regional trade port. In the modern era, Kuwait is best known for the Gulf War (1990–1991).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Sabah</span> The ruling dynasty of Kuwait

The House of Sabah is the ruling family of Kuwait.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Assembly (Kuwait)</span> Unicameral legislature of Kuwait

The National Assembly is the unicameral legislature of Kuwait. The National Assembly meets in Kuwait City. Because political parties are illegal in Kuwait, candidates run as independents. The National Assembly is made up of 50 elected members, then this 50 will be chosen from by the Emir and 16 direct appointed government ministers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913</span> Agreement between the Ottoman Empire and the United Kingdom

The Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, also known as the "Blue Line", was an agreement between the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Empire and the Government of the United Kingdom which defined the limits of Ottoman jurisdiction in the area of the Persian Gulf with respect to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the Shatt al-Arab. It was signed on 29 July 1913, but never ratified. The long-lasting impact of the agreement was that of the status of Kuwait; the basis for both formal independence and the frontiers of modern Kuwait were established.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah</span> Emir of Kuwait from 1977 to 2006

Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah or Jaber III was Emir of Kuwait from 31 December 1977 until his death in 2006.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arab-Persians</span> People of mixed Arab and Persian background

Arab-Persians are people who are of both mixed Arab and Persian ethnic or cultural background, which is common in Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, and to a lesser extent, Lebanon and Syria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iraqi invasion of Kuwait</span> Beginning of the 1990–1991 Gulf War

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait began on 2 August 1990 and marked the beginning of the Gulf War. After defeating the State of Kuwait on 4 August 1990, Iraq went on to militarily occupy the country for the next seven months. The invasion was condemned internationally, and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted numerous resolutions urging Iraq to withdraw from Kuwaiti territory. The Iraqi military, however, continued to occupy Kuwait and defied all orders by the UNSC. After initially establishing the "Republic of Kuwait" as a puppet state, Iraq annexed the entire country on 28 August 1990; northern Kuwait became the Saddamiyat al-Mitla' District and was merged into the existing Basra Governorate, while southern Kuwait was carved out as the all-new Kuwait Governorate. By November 1990, the adoption of UNSC Resolution 678 officially issued Iraq an ultimatum to withdraw unconditionally by 15 January 1991 or else be removed by "all necessary means" from Kuwaiti territory. In anticipation of a war with Iraq, the UNSC authorized the assembly of an American-led military coalition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arab states of the Persian Gulf</span>

The Arab states of the Persian Gulf or the Arab Gulf states refers to a group of Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf. There are seven member states of the Arab League in the region: Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Yemen is bound to the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, based on history and culture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kuwait</span> Country in West Asia

Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait, is a country in West Asia. It is situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, bordering Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south. Kuwait also shares maritime borders with Iran. Kuwait has a coastal length of approximately 500 km (311 mi). Most of the country's population reside in the urban agglomeration of the capital and largest city Kuwait City. As of 2023, Kuwait has a population of 4.82 million people of which 1.53 million are Kuwaiti citizens while the remaining 3.29 million are foreign nationals from over 100 countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eastern Arabia</span> Eastern Arabian Peninsula historical region

Eastern Arabia (Bahrain), is a region stretched from Basra to Khasab along the Persian Gulf coast and included parts of modern-day Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Eastern Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman. The entire coastal strip of Eastern Arabia was known as "Bahrain" for a millennium.

The Bani Utbah is an Arab tribal confederation in the Arabian Peninsula. The confederation is thought to have been formed when a group of clans from Najd migrated to Eastern Arabia in the late 17th century and early 18th century. Most of the Utub clans and families, such as the Al-Sabah and Al-Khalifa, trace their lineage back to Anizah tribe, with the exception of some, such as the Al Bin Ali, whose lineage goes back to the Banu Sulaym tribe. The Al Bin Ali along with the current ruling families of Bahrain and Kuwait were the rulers of the federation. The name of the confederation is found in the form Attoobee or Uttoobee in English sources up to the late 19th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kuwait–Russia relations</span> Bilateral relations

Kuwait–Russia relations is the bilateral relationship between the two countries, Kuwait and Russia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Constitution of Kuwait</span> Fundamental law of Kuwait

The Constitution of Kuwait was created by the Constitutional Assembly in 1961–1962 and signed into law on 11 November 1962 by the Emir, the Commander of the Military of Kuwait Sheikh Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iraq–Kuwait relations</span> Bilateral relations

The relations between Iraq and Kuwait are longstanding and complex, experiencing many changes throughout recent decades.

The Kuwait–Najd War erupted in the aftermath of World War I. The war occurred because Ibn Saud of Najd wanted to annex Kuwait. The sharpened conflict between Kuwait and Najd led to the death of hundreds of Kuwaitis. The war resulted in sporadic border clashes throughout 1919–1920.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sheikhdom of Kuwait</span> Middle Eastern state (1752–1961)

The Sheikhdom of Kuwait was a sheikhdom during the pre-oil era. The sheikhdom became a British protectorate between 1899 and 1961 following the Anglo-Kuwaiti agreement of 1899. This agreement was made between Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah and the British Government in India, primarily as a defensive measure against threats from the Ottoman Empire. After 1961, the sheikdom became the state of Kuwait.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">India–Kuwait relations</span> Bilateral relations

India–Kuwait relations are bilateral diplomatic relations between the Republic of India and the State of Kuwait. The two countries share friendly ties. Kuwait houses a large expatriate Indian population and is the source for 10–12% of India's oil imports while India is among the largest trade partners of Kuwait.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iran–Kuwait relations</span> Bilateral relations

Kuwait and Iran have longstanding historical ties spanning hundreds of years, particularly in the pre-oil era. Relations were negatively influenced by the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Relations improved after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The following is a timeline of the history of Kuwait City, Al Asimah Governorate, Kuwait, and its metro surroundings.

The timeline of the Gulf War details the dates of the major events of the 1990–1991 war. It began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 and ended with the Liberation of Kuwait by Coalition forces. Iraq subsequently agreed to the United Nations' demands on 28 February 1991. The ground war officially concluded with the signing of the armistice on 11 April 1991. However, the official end to Operation Desert Storm did not occur until sometime between 1996 - 1998. Major events in the aftermath include anti-Saddam Hussein uprisings in Iraq, massacres against the Kurds by the regime, Iraq formally recognizing the sovereignty of Kuwait in 1994, and eventually ending its cooperation with the United Nations Special Commission in 1998.


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