Kuwait (Arabic pronunciation) is a small country situated between Iraq to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and the Persian Gulf on the east. It has an area of 17,818 sq km (11,072 sq miles), roughly the size of the state of New Jersey. Kuwait’s climate is mostly dry with very hot summers, reaching up to 46.9° C (116.4° F), and short cool winters, with low temperatures between 8.5-10° C (47.3-50° F). Kuwait is a relatively flat country, with the Arabian Desert covering most of its territories, and has a peak elevation of 306 m (1004 ft) above sea level. Kuwait has nine islands, most of which are uninhabited. The vast majority of Kuwait’s population lives in Kuwait City, making Kuwait one of the world’s most urbanized countries.
Kuwait suffers from a limited supply of freshwater. As of 2017, there was an estimated 5 m³ of renewable water per inhabitant. One of the ways Kuwait obtains fresh water is through desalination of water in the Persian Gulf. According to the Water Resources Division of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, desalinated water accounts for 90% of domestic and industrial water needs and supplies 60% of all general water needs. The country has a very high consumption of water at 500 liters per person per day. Between 2005 and 2014, the country invested $5.28 billion into the water sector. While the government is implementing awareness programs, it is unlikely that the consumption will lower, with the population increasing at almost 4% annually.
When Iraq retreated from Kuwait towards the end of the First Gulf War, the Iraqi forces set fire to most of the oil wells in Kuwait. The fires resulted in one of the largest environmental catastrophes caused by mankind. According to NASA, an estimated 1 to 1.5 billion barrels of oil were flooded into the environment. At the conclusion of the fires, 25 to 40 million barrels ended up scattered across the desert, and an additional 11 million barrels ended up in the Persian Gulf. The fires burned for ten months, polluting the air. Kuwait’s agriculture has yet to recover from the Iraqi invasion of 1990, which destroyed much of the arable land. Today, less than 1% of the land is arable, which poses major problems for the food supply. In an effort to alleviate this, the government has experimented with hydroponics (growing plants using only water) and small-scale farming.
The earliest settlers in Kuwait were Mesopotamians (6,500-3,800 BCE) who lived on Failaka Island, a part of modern-day Kuwait. In the fourth century BCE, the Greeks settled on Failaka under Alexander the Great and called it Ikaros after the mythical being Icarus and a similar island in the Aegean Sea.
By 123 BCE, the Persian Characene Empire had established itself in the city of Charax in present-day Kuwait. In 224 CE, the Persian Sassanid Empire took control of Charax and ruled until 626 CE, when the Rashidun Caliphate armies defeated them. The Rashidun Caliphate ruled the region for a short time, but in 661, the Ummayad Caliphate replaced the Rashidun as rulers.The area surrounding Charax transformed into a strategic location for Muslim armies due to its proximity to the Persian Gulf; by the 9th century, it had also become a well-known trading center. The Portuguese came to the region in 1507 and conquered the area surrounding the Persian Gulf in 1521. Locals began to rise against the Portuguese shortly thereafter and, by 1660, the Portuguese were ousted and control of Kuwait was passed to the indigenous tribes.
In 1705, Kuwait was known as Guraine and was home to the Bani Utbah tribe. They founded a small fishing port named Kuwait that became very successful. Much of the port’s success was due to its proximity to the pearl banks along the Persian Gulf. The pearls made Kuwait an important stop along Ottoman trade routes that linked the Ottomans to distant markets in India. In 1775, seeking to gain a share of Ottoman wealth in the region, the Persian Empire invaded the rich agricultural region of nearby Basra in present-day Iraq. After the invasion, many wealthy merchant families escaped to Kuwait, establishing Kuwait as a prominent trading hub along the Persian Gulf. The al-Sabah clan came to Kuwait in the early 18th century and swore allegiance to the Ottoman Empire who in turn, made the family rulers of Kuwait. Their willingness to cooperate with the Ottomans gained Kuwait partial autonomy from the Empire.
As the British expanded their influence in the Persian Gulf during the 1800s, they looked to incorporate the affluent trading center of Kuwait into the British Empire. The British reached an agreement with the ruling al-Sabah family in 1897, which designated Kuwait and the surrounding desert as a British protectorate. A protectorate is a state that is ruled and protected by another state. A protectorate state retains authority on most of its internal affairs but still recognizes ultimate authority to the protector state. Two years later, the country’s leader, Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah, signed another agreement that gave the British complete control over Kuwait’s foreign policy. Kuwait continued to drift farther from Ottoman influence and closer to the British in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The British and Ottomans agreed to designate Kuwait as an autonomous region within the Ottoman Empire in 1913; although, the British continued to administer Kuwait as a protectorate. After the defeat of the Ottomans in World War I, the British separated Kuwait from the newly created Iraq mandate and drew Kuwait’s present-day borders.
Following Great Britain’s loss of control of its Indian colony in 1947 and the Suez Canal in 1956, there were few benefits in directly administering Kuwait’s development as a protectorate. Britain withdrew its influence from the Persian Gulf in the early 1960s. On June 19, 1961, Britain officially declared the independence of Kuwait and named Emir Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah the monarch. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim contested Kuwait’s independence and claimed sovereignty over the country due to Kuwait’s past incorporation into the Ottoman Empire. By late June 1961, a military confrontation seemed imminent; however, the Iraqi military refrained from invading due to the significant military support Kuwait received from Saudi Arabia and Britain. After a violent overthrow of Iraqi Prime Minister Qasim in 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwait’s independence. Kuwait was the first Gulf State to gain its independence from the British, with the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain to follow a decade later. Kuwait has maintained a special relationship with the British since its independence, maintaining the guaranteed protection of their country by the British forces, and in turn, investing heavily in the UK.
The next two decades of Kuwait’s history saw significant development of its petroleum economy and the decline in the production of pearls, Kuwait’s traditional export. The oil found in 1938 was later discovered to be 10% of world oil reserves. Emir Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah presided over much of the oil industry’s development from November 1965 until his death in 1977. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in September 1980 threatened the entire Gulf oil economy, although Kuwait was particularly vulnerable due to its close proximity to the conflict. In response to the war, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman established an economic and security alliance known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC, a collection of majority Sunni states, feared the spread of Shia Islam from the new Islamic Republic of Iran. The GCC gave billions in support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. In response, Iran began attacking oil tankers in the Gulf in an effort to persuade the GCC nations to abandon their support of Saddam Hussein. In order to prevent a collapse of the Gulf oil market, the United States initiated a program called Operation Earnest Will, which provided naval escorts for Kuwaiti ships under Iranian fire.
Kuwait escaped the conflict with its economy and infrastructure mostly intact. To offset some of Iraq’s losses, Saddam Hussein annexed and invaded Kuwait in August 1990. His military seized Kuwait’s oil fields and removed Emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah from power. In response, the United Nations authorized a U.S.-led coalition force to expel Hussein and reinstate the Emir. The result was Operation Desert Storm, an aerial bombardment campaign and ground invasion which fully expelled the Iraqi army by the end of February 1991. During the retreat, the Iraqis set fire to over 700 oil wells throughout Kuwait, which resulted in $1.5 billion in damage to Kuwait’s economy and widespread pollution. In addition, the war affected Kuwaiti-Palestinian relations, as Kuwait expelled nearly all of its 200,000 Palestinian citizens due to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s support for Saddam Hussein during the invasion.
In the 1990s, Kuwait’s oil economy rebounded from the invasion with the monetary support of the United States and the other GCC countries. In return, Kuwait provided a critical staging point for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which ended the regime of Saddam Hussein. The country housed over 100,000 troops in preparation for the invasion and maintained bases along the border with Iraq. The U.S. Navy also utilized Kuwait’s waters to launch airstrikes and bombing campaigns in the lead-up to the initial invasion.
Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah became monarch of Kuwait in 2006. In 2008, parliament refused to work with the government citing widespread corruption, and Emir Al-Sabah dissolved parliament in response. Three years later, the Arab Spring protests began, increasing conflict throughout Kuwait’s government. These protests occurred following a move by the Emir to refuse a free food grant to the stateless Bedouin people in Kuwait. (Many of these people were born in Kuwait; however, their ancestors did not file for citizenship in 1960, therefore preventing Kuwaiti citizenship.) As protests spread over corruption and the lack of citizen status for these groups, Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah resigned, and the Emir dissolved parliament on December 6, 2011. The country held new parliamentary elections on December 1, 2012, but many cited unfair changes in Kuwait’s electoral laws and protested the results. In June 2013, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court ordered another dissolution of parliament, and Kuwait again elected a new parliament in July 2013. In 2016, the Emir once more dissolved parliament after an emergency government meeting. During the November elections, opposition groups and their allies from a Muslim Brotherhood-linked group and Salafists won nearly half parliament’s 50 seats, raising fears of fresh political wrangling. The move to dissolve parliament for the 4th time since February 2012 was widely seen as linked to disputes between government and parliament over austerity measures including a sharp hike in state-subsidized petrol prices.
Kuwait’s agriculture has yet to recover from the Iraqi invasion of 1990, which destroyed much of the arable land. Today, less than 1% of the land is arable, which poses major problems for the food supply. To alleviate this, the government has experimented with hydroponics (growing plants using only water), and small-scale farming.
In February 2018, More than 50,000 U.S. troops arrived in Kuwait, with thousands more scheduled to arrive later in the year. Situated on Iraq’s southeast border, Kuwait would be the main launching pad for a U.S.-led invasion. The U.S. military maintains ten bases around the tiny Emirate, including a command headquarters, a logistics center, and two Air Force bases.
The government of Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate, a type of monarchy. An Emirate is ruled by an Emir, a monarch or ruler in Muslim culture. The Kuwaiti Emir comes from the ruling Al-Sabah family, which has controlled Kuwait since the mid-1700s. The country follows a constitution written upon its independence from Britain in 1962. The constitution created an appointed executive branch (the Al-Sabah family), an appointed judiciary, and an elected parliament. The Emir heads the executive branch. He serves as the head of state and the commander of the military. The Emir also appoints the prime minister, who is in charge of appointing the cabinet of ministers. The Kuwaiti Constitution stipulates that the Emir must be a direct descendant of Mubarak Al-Sabah, the seventh Emir of Kuwait who died in 1915. Traditionally, the appointment of the Emirs follows an alternating pattern between heirs of two of Mubarak Al-Sabah’s sons, Jabar and Salem. The Emir would choose his successor by naming him the crown prince. Until 2006, the crown prince would serve the role of prime minister until the passing of the current Emir. In 2006, the Kuwaiti parliament, the National Assembly, voted to abdicate the throne of Emir, Saad Al-Abdullah, due to his weaning health. The National Assembly named Sabah Al-Ahmed to replace. Al-Ahmed then named someone from his own family line to be crown prince; while naming his own nephew to the role of prime minister. This interrupted the traditional alternating succession between the Jabar and Salem line, leading to political strife in the royal factions. The Emir also can dismiss the National Assembly at any time, with elections usually held within the following two months.
As mentioned above, the legislative branch of Kuwait is its parliament, the National Assembly. There are 50 National Assembly MPs, who are voted to four-year terms. Members of the cabinet can preside in parliament as deputies. The cabinet is appointed by the prime minister, but cabinet members serve an important legislative role as well. Cabinet members can vote on laws just as MPs, but they cannot serve on legislative committees. The National Assembly does yield significant influence in Kuwaiti politics, as demonstrated by their forced abdication of Saad Al-Abdullah in 2006. The National Assembly is considered by many analysts to be one “strongest” parliaments in the entire Middle East. Parliament is still significantly weaker than the Emir, as he can dissolve the National Assembly at any time, as long as he provides reasoning for this dissolution. However, the Emir cannot dissolve parliament for any reason more than once, providing the National Assembly with some leeway.
The judicial system of Kuwait is not an independent institution. According to the UN, the Kuwaiti legal system is a combination of English common law, French and Egyptian civil law, and Islamic law. Sharia law only governs family law and is only applied to Muslims. There are Sunni, Shia, and non-Muslim courts for the application of family law. The rest of the Kuwaiti legal system is secular, boasting the most secular commercial legal system amongst the Gulf states. Judges are appointed by the Emir. Many judges are not Kuwaiti citizens. Many of them are Egyptians who come to serve in Kuwait on one to three-year contracts. Kuwait’s top court is its Constitutional Court, the court that interprets the constitution and also debates the legality of proposed laws in terms of the constitution.
Political parties are illegal in Kuwait, yet a few political factions exist. Three main factions exist: the Liberal faction, a secular bloc of lawmakers, the Shaabi (populist) faction, a bloc of populists focused on policies and concerns of the middle class, and the Islamist faction, a bloc of Sunni Islamists. Women gained the right to vote in 2005, and in the 2009 National Assembly election, four women were elected. Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, and Kuwait’s constitution recognizes Kuwait as an “Arab” nation. The constitution guarantees Kuwaiti citizens freedom of expression, equality before the law, due process, and establishes a wide array of social benefits and welfare. There is also a well-funded public education system in Kuwait. These rights are only granted to Kuwaiti citizens. Others have limited access to public education, healthcare, and other public amenities provided to citizens.
INTERNATIONAL & REGIONAL ISSUES
Kuwait has few ongoing international disputes. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia maintain a strong political border and an open economic border. Together the two countries share hydrocarbon manufacturing profits. Due to the importance of hydrocarbons to both countries’ economies, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait periodically negotiate deals over profit sharing and land usage agreements. This has led to a few political strifes between the states, yet due to constant communication and a shared level of understanding, the sides have avoided conflict. Together with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait continues to negotiate the maritime boundaries with Iran, which remain unsettled. Since the conclusion of the Gulf War, however, Kuwait has made efforts to secure and maintain allies throughout the world. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been made with Russia, the United Kingdom, and France. Kuwait is one of the United States’ most important allies outside of NATO due to its proximity to the Middle East, and strategic location in the Persian Gulf.
Within the region, Kuwait is a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a multinational council of politically and economically connected Gulf states. Kuwait maintains a strong relationship with the GCC. Kuwait plays a mediatory role within the council and is a key mediator in the rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, attempting to help reconcile the two states after a nearly four-year blockade of Qatar. At the same time, Kuwait is trying to expand its trade network and establish its own bilateral relationships with states outside of the GCC. Kuwait has increased its economic and political relationship with China over the past few years as a result of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. Kuwait is the first Gulf country to partner with China in this goal. In partnering with China, Kuwait hopes to diversify its economy and expand its bilateral relations with new nations. Kuwait is partnering with China to build itself into a financial hub, with the development of a modern commercial and tourist-driven city, “Silk City” and the development of Kuwait’s largely uninhabited five islands.
Kuwait’s economy is largely dependent on trade. Imports and exports make up around 99% of the total GDP. Like the other Gulf states, Kuwait is in need of diversifying its economy. Currently, petroleum accounts for over half of GDP, 92% of export revenues, and 90% of government income, making Kuwait one of the region’s most oil-dependent countries. As the global demand for oil and other fossil fuels drops with the emergence of new energy sources, Kuwait’s economic outlook falls into a more perilous position. Kuwait’s stock exchange was privatized in 2016. Over half of Kuwait’s budget is spent on paying government employees salaries, increasing the need to diversify its economy and build a strong private sector. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted Kuwait, leading to a contraction of its economy in 2020, and also contributing to a collapse in the small and medium-sized private businesses in the country.
The country invests heavily abroad, particularly in the UK, and encourages foreign direct investment, approved by the government of Kuwait, into their own country as well. Kuwait also signed an economic agreement with China, increasing Chinese direct investment into the country, particularly with developing a new commercial center in the “Silk City” and developing Kuwait’s five islands. Kuwait is also an emerging player in space exploration, launching its first satellite into space in June 2021. Tourism is also an emerging industry in Kuwait. In 2021, Kuwait invested $6.1B into its tourism sector in hopes of attracting visitors from around the globe. The Kuwaiti government subsidizes several basic services for its citizens, including the cost of water, food, fuel, and healthcare. Often, this has resulted in overuse and waste of products within Kuwait. When the subsidies have been cut, as was the case for fuel subsidies in 2015, there has been widespread outrage among the public and National Assembly, leading to strikes and even the dissolving of the National Assembly by the Emir. Kuwait is currently trying to create more sustainable development and industries to offset future resource shortages.
People and Language
Kuwait has a population of over 4 million people, and the largest ethnic group in Kuwait is Arabs. Kuwaiti Arabs make up 31.3% of the population, and other non-Kuwaiti Arabs constitute 27.9%. Asians and other ethnic groups make up the remainder of the population, with Asians representing roughly 37%. Kuwait’s population is increasing at a rate of 2.32%, a steep increase from previous years compared with most other Middle Eastern nations. Kuwait was a destination for Palestinian refugees who moved to Kuwait for employment in various industries. Some 80,000 Palestinian refugees are in Kuwait, but there were upwards of 400,000 before the Gulf War; many fled due to the negative backlash caused by the PLO’s support of Saddam Hussein in the conflict.
Demographics in Kuwait
Kuwait’s constitution states that education is a fundamental right of every citizen. Schools in Kuwait consist of four levels: kindergarten (2 years), primary (5 years), intermediate (4 years), and secondary (3 years). The primary and intermediate levels are compulsory, so school is mandatory for children 6-14 years old. The government encourages students to continue education after their secondary year and students have the option of going to vocational school or university. Kuwait University is a public university established in 1966. Originally, it only had two colleges: a college of science, arts, and education, and a college for women. There are now 16 different colleges as well as graduate programs. The Australian College of Kuwait was Kuwait’s first private technical college and offers courses in vocational skills. In addition, the government sponsors citizens studying abroad, offering scholarships and stipends, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. Consequently, there is a large population of Kuwaitis who study in America, and elsewhere, and then return to Kuwait.
The literacy rate in Kuwait is 96.3%. Men are slightly more literate than women (96.5% vs. 95.8%), although men spend less time in school than women (13 years vs. 15 years). The Kuwaiti government provides free state-run education for all children. This free education includes food at school, clothing, transportation, and books. Schools below the university level are typically segregated by gender but offer the same programs.
On the Human Development Index, Kuwait ranks 64th but has steadily grown each year since 1990. Most Kuwaiti nationals are employed by the government and enjoy short working days and early retirement.
Literacy Rate in Kuwait ( Men)
Literacy Rate in Kuwait ( Women)
Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, and nearly 77% of the population is Muslim. Of that amount, 70% are Sunni, and 30% are Shia. Christians make up 17.3%. The remaining population practices other religions such as Hinduism or Parsi. Parsi adherents are generally descendants of Persian followers of Zoroastrianism who fled from religious persecution. Zoroastrianism is based on the philosophy of Zoroaster who in the 6th century BCE, reduced the traditionally many Persian gods into two feuding spirits: Ahura Mazda (illuminating wisdom) and Angra Mainyu (destructive spirit).
The government has strict laws concerning non-Muslim religions: they must be recognized by the Quran to be legal in Kuwait. Adherents of a legal religion can apply for permits to build places of worship; although, the government limits the number of clergy allowed.
In the Arab world, Kuwait is known as the “Hollywood of the Gulf” because it produces popular television shows and theatre productions that are distributed and enjoyed throughout the Gulf. Kuwait is well known for its tradition of theatre. It is the only Gulf country with this distinction. The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country’s cultural life. Abdulhussain Abdulredha is one of the most prominent actors from Kuwait.
Seafood is a staple in the Kuwaiti diet and has been for centuries. The most famous Kuwaiti dish may be Machboos, a dish of rice and meat (usually lamb, chicken, or fish) served with a homemade tomato sauce called daqqus. The meat is seasoned with an assortment of spices. Iranian khubz is a large, specially baked flatbread served in Kuwait. Kuwait has a strong local presence of bakeries, and Iranian bakers are common.
The majority of Kuwait’s food is imported from other nations, due to the low availability of arable land. Because of this, processed foods are oftentimes imported from far away, thus increasing Kuwait’s high prevalence of obesity and diabetes.
Most Kuwaiti men wear a dishdasha, a long-sleeved, floor-length garment. In the summer, they will typically wear white. Gray, beige, or blue is commonly worn in the winter. Long or short white cotton pants are worn under the dishdasha.
The Kuwaiti male headdress consists of a gahfiya, (a close-fitting knit white cap) the gutra (the main cloth). The gutra is a square piece of cloth that is placed so that the ends hang down equally over the shoulders. The gutra is usually white in the summer and red and white in the winter.
There is much more variety in clothing when it comes to women in Kuwait. The traditional Kuwaiti woman wears a long-sleeved, loose, floor-length dress, or daraa’. On festive occasions, it is often covered with a sheer, sequined, or embroidered dress called a thobe. For everyday activities, the abaya is popular, as with neighboring Gulf states. Muslim women in Kuwait wear a hijab.
Women of Bedouin origin often cover their face more fully, wearing a burqa or a bushiya (a semi-transparent veil that covers the entire face).
Traditionally, art in Kuwait has focused on calligraphy based on Quranic writings or abstract art conveying Islamic beliefs. The representation of people in art is seen by some religious authorities as a form of idolatry for Muslims. However, there is a vibrant contemporary art movement taking place in the country. ArtKuwait.org is a blog that monitors the arts scene there with information on museums and galleries, exhibits, initiatives, and feature artists. The website features the Abolish 153 Initiative, which seeks to remove article 153 from Kuwait’s penal code. Article 153 effectively gives men regulatory, judicial, and executive power over their female kin in cases where alleged sexual misconduct is accused; men who kill female relatives are charged with misdemeanors. The movement is bringing attention to gender inequality and violence through arts and other creative channels.
Folk arts are also popular in Kuwait. Bedouin women weave camel hair, goat hair, and wool into long strips called qatas. These strips are woven into rugs or curtains used to divide a tent. The Kuwaiti Society of Formative Artists; the National Council of Culture, Arts, and Literature; and the Free Art Studio all promote visual art in Kuwait and are active in assisting local artists by displaying their work or granting them scholarships.
The Kuwait National Museum was the original home of Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, an organization founded to create an exhibition from the collection of Sheikh and Sheikha al-Sabah in 1983. The collection contains many objects from the history of Islam. In 1990, the museum was looted by the Iraqi forces, and everything was taken. Most of the collection has since been recovered, although many objects have been damaged.
Literature & Film
Kuwait is known as the “Hollywood of the Gulf,” as mentioned previously. This reputation stems from its tradition of theatre, but in modern times Kuwait is perhaps most known for its numerous soap operas, which are aired all over the Gulf. In fact, most Gulf television dramas are filmed in Kuwait and the country is home to the most-watched soap operas in the Gulf region. In 2016, Kuwait opened the Sheikh Jabar Al Ahmed Cultural Center, the largest cultural center and opera house in the region.
The Kuwaiti government kept examples and records of music throughout its history. Unfortunately, most of these records were destroyed during the Iraqi invasion in the early 1990s. Women, mostly in private settings, perform traditional music in Kuwait which sets it apart from the other Gulf States.
The following are a selection of the most important folk songs and dances:
Al-Fann: Al-Fann is usually performed at weddings.
Al-Khamary: One dancer performs Al-Khamary wearing a cloak that covers part of her face.
Al-Sameri: It is a song accompanied by a dance, which is usually performed at weddings. The performing band is divided into two groups. The first group beat the tambourines while the second sing. The dancer wears a “thoub” and covers half of her face with it.
Al-Fareesa: This dance is performed on national and religious feasts by a special band.
Al-Arda Al-Bahariya: It is one of the most famous Kuwaiti sailors’ songs that are known for its charming and distinct melodies. The song is performed when the ship comes close to the shore after weeks of sailing on the high sea. The sailors beat drums and tambourines to celebrate their safe arrival.
Al-Arda Al-Barriya: This song and dance are about war and peace. Men perform this dance as they walk in a circle holding their swords demonstrating their use and skill with the sword. They are accompanied by the rhythm of drums and the singing of a special band.
Al-Nahma: The “Nahham” performs this song on the ship deck. Other types for Al-Nahma are performed accompanying each activity performed by sailors.
Al-Sout: It is performed accompanied by a lute and a small drum called the “merwas”. Two men perform “Zaffan”, which is the dance accompanying the song. When Al-Sout is performed at night gatherings of men, it is called “Samra”, which means chatting by night
Khaliji is traditional Arabic music native to the Persian Gulf countries, played with an oud and tabl (drum). Abdallah Al Rowaished is a khaliji performer in Kuwait. Rowaished has been playing since 1983, and has released over 30 albums and toured throughout the world. Nawal El Kuwaitia is another popular khaliji artist from Kuwait. She released her first album in 1983 and still records music today.
Kuwait is home to ruins from ancient civilizations. Failaka Island houses the barest remnants of Dilmun culture, which date back to the third century BCE. There are ongoing archaeological digs on the island; a few of the sites are Al-Khidir, Al-Quraniya, and Al-Qusur. These digs have revealed the foundations of various structures and some pottery.
Sweco, a water distribution company in Kuwait, built the Kuwait Towers, a popular tourist attraction that contains a mixture of contemporary western and traditional Islamic architecture. The combination of the two separate worlds is seen as a sign of the progressive nature of Kuwaiti society. There are three different towers, two of them being water towers. The tallest holds 4,500 cubic meters of water and has a restaurant at the top. The middle tower is just a water tower, holding the same amount of water as the tallest, and the third and shortest tower houses electrical equipment for the other two towers.
The most popular sport in Kuwait is football (U.S. soccer). The national team, “The Blue,” has had some success competing in the Asian League. They won the championship in 1980, were runner-ups in 1976, and took third place in 1984. The Kuwait Football Association was banned from international play by FIFA in October 2015. The suspension was reconfirmed in May 2017 and it is unclear when the ban will be lifted.
Kuwait also has an active men’s basketball team. They won the Gulf Cup in 1981, 1983, and 1986. Kuwait has made 12 appearances at the Summer Olympics and has won two bronze medals, one in 2000 and one in 2012. Fehaid Al-Deehani won both of them in the shooting event men’s trap and men’s double trap. Recently, Kuwait has been sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee for government meddling in official proceedings. For the 2016 Olympic games Kuwait was not allowed to compete, but Kuwaiti athletes were able to participate by competing under the Olympic flag as Independent Olympic Athletes. Fehaid Al-Deehani won a gold medal in men’s double trap and Abdullah Al-Rashidi won a bronze medal in men’s skeet.
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