Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait (Arabic : دولة الكويت Dawlat al-Kuwayt), is an Arab country in Western Asia. Situated in the northeastern edge of the Arabian peninsula at the tip of the Arabian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south. The name "Kuwait" is the diminutive of Arabic كوت kūt, meaning "fortress". The country covers an area of 17,820 square kilometers (6,880 square miles) and according to CIA has a population of 2.6 million as of 2012.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kuwait was a successful center of trade and commerce. Kuwait rivaled Basra as an entrepôt for trade between India and the Middle East. In the early 20th century, Kuwait declined in regional economic importance and by 1934, Kuwait had lost its prominence in long-distance trade. Kuwait's economy was devastated by several trade blockades; before these blockades Kuwait was prosperous.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Kuwait City serves as the country's political and economic capital. Kuwait is often described as the most liberal country in the region. The country has the world's fifth largest oil reserves. Kuwait is the eighth richest country in the world per capita. 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.
Kuwait was historically the site of settlements from the Mesopotamian Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC). The earliest evidence of sailing has been found in Kuwait, the world's oldest reed boat was found in Subiya in northern Kuwait. The Kuwaiti island of Failaka was first inhabited by Mesopotamians in 2000 BC. In 224 AD, Kuwait fell under the control of the Sassanid Empire. In 636 AD, the Battle of Chains between the Sassanid Empire and Rashidun Caliphate was fought in Kuwait near the town of Kazma. As a result of the Rashidun victory in the seventh century, an early Islamic settlement known as Kazima was founded in Kuwait, Kuwait was known as Kazima for many centuries. Kuwait was a famous trading station in the 9th century.
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. It lies between latitudes 28° and 31° N, and longitudes 46° and 49° E. The flat, sandy Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait. The country is generally low lying, with the highest point being 306 m (1,004 ft) above sea-level. It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited. With an area of 860 km2 (330 sq mi), the Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380 m (7,808 ft) 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 (13.8 sq mi). 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 Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.
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 diwaniya, which involve large reception rooms used for male social gatherings attended mostly by family members and close friends.
Seafood has been the mainstay of the Kuwaiti diet for centuries. The Arabs in the Arabian 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, and maraq diyay laham, which borrow heavily from South Asian cuisine and Arab cuisine. Imawash is another popular dish. As in other Arab states of the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait takes part in the tradition of Qarqe'an during the month of Ramadan. According to Forbes magazine, 74.2% of Kuwait's total population have an unhealthy weight.
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 Arabian 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 1982.
Sawt is the most prominent style of Kuwaiti music and is performed by 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 a GDP (PPP) of US$167.9 billion and a per capita income of US$81,800, making it the 5th richest country in the world, per capita. In 2011, estimated exports stood at US$94.47 billion and imports were around US$22.41 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, the European Union, and Saudi Arabia. Japan is the largest customer of Kuwaiti oil followed by India, Singapore and South Korea. Kuwait city is ranked as one among the 25 largest GDP cities in the world along with New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Chennai and other financial hubs including Singapore and Dubai.
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.
Non-petroleum industries include shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, construction materials and financial services. Kuwait has a well developed banking system. 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.
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 Madinat al-Hareer (City of Silk) is the largest real estate development project in the Middle East. The Central Bank issues Kuwait's currency, the Kuwaiti dinar. As of May 2012, the dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.
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. The temperature in Kuwait during summer is above 25 (77 F). The highest recorded temperature was 54.4 (129.9 F) which is the highest of any Middle Eastern country.
Kuwait has 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 75% of government revenue. Petroleum and petrochemicals accounts for 43% of GDP and 90% of export revenues. Increase in oil prices since 2003 resulted in a surge in Kuwait's economy.
Kuwait currently pumps 2.9 million bpd and its full production capacity is a little over 3 million bpd, including oil production in the neutral region that it shares with Saudi Arabia. Kuwait oil production 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.
As of 2013, Kuwait's population was estimated by the CIA to be 2.7 million people, which included 1.3 million non-nationals. According to the CIA, 55% of Kuwait's population are Kuwaiti citizens. Kuwaiti's own government population estimates differ greatly, in January 2014 there were 3.9 million people nationwide, of which 1.2 million are Kuwaiti