Kuwait City

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 economical 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.

Kuwait City
مدينة الكويت
Madinat Al-Kuwayt
Top to bottom, from left to right: Kuwait City skyline, Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait Towers, Seif Palace, Souq Sharg port Kuwait Downtown in 2012
الديرة Ad-Dirah
Location of Kuwait City in Kuwait
Kuwait City (Persian Gulf)
Kuwait City (Arab world)
Kuwait City (West and Central Asia)
Kuwait City (Asia)
Coordinates: 29°22′11″N 47°58′42″E
  Capital city860 km2 (330 sq mi)
3 million
Time zoneUTC+03:00 (AST)

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 subdived in numerous areas. In a more narrow 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

In 1613, the town of Kuwait was founded in modern-day Kuwait City as a fishing village inhabited by fishermen. In 1716, the Bani Utubs settled in Kuwait. At the time of the arrival of the Utubs, Kuwait was still inhabited by a few fishermen and primarily functioned as a fishing village.[2] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia.[3][4] By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.[5]

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.[6] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.[6] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait.[5][7] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792.[8] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.[8] After the Persian withdrawal from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.[9]

Kuwait harbour in 1961

Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Persian Gulf region.[10][11] 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.[12][13][14] Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean.[15] Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.[16] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.[17] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution.[18] According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.[15][19][20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23][24] In popular discourse, the years between 1946 and 1982 are referred to as the "Golden Era".[23][24][25] 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.[26][27] Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports.[28] 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.[27] Kuwait University was established in 1966.[27] Kuwait's theatre industry was well-known throughout the Arab world.[23][27] 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.[29] In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[29] Many Arab writers moved to Kuwait for freedom of expression because Kuwait had greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[30][31] Kuwait was a haven for writers and journalists from all parts of the Middle East. The Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar left Iraq in the 1970s to take refuge in the more liberal environment of Kuwait.[32]

Kuwaiti society embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[33] Most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab in the 1960s and 1970s.[34][35] At Kuwait University, mini-skirts were more common than the hijab.[36]

In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price.[37]

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.[38] 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.
Red Arrows over Kuwait City

The Kuwaiti government strongly advocated Islamism throughout the 1980s.[39] At that time, the most serious threat to the continuity of Al Sabah came from home-grown secular democrats.[39] The secular Kuwaiti opposition were protesting the 1976 suspension of the parliament.[39] Al Sabah were attracted to Islamists preaching the virtues of a hierarchical order that included loyalty to the Kuwaiti monarchy.[39] In 1981, the Kuwaiti government gerrymandered electoral districts in favor of the Islamists.[39] Islamists were the government's main allies, hence Islamists were able to colonize state agencies, such as the government ministries.[39] By the mid-1980s, Kuwait was described as an autocracy.[39] 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.[40] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[41] 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.[41]

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.[42] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed.[43] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation,[44] 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.


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.[45] It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited.[46] 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-metre-long (7,808 ft) bridge.[47] The land area is considered arable[45] and sparse vegetation is found along its 499-kilometre-long (310 mi) coastline.[45]

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).[48] 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.[49] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.[50]


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.[51] 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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 29.8
Average high °C (°F) 19.5
Average low °C (°F) 8.5
Record low °C (°F) −4.0
Average rainfall mm (inches) 30.2
Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 5 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 3 19
Mean monthly sunshine hours 198.1 222.5 217.6 229.3 272.5 304.5 307.1 301.6 285.1 252.2 216.5 193.5 3,000.5
Mean daily sunshine hours 7.1 7.7 7.5 7.9 9.4 10.5 10.6 10.8 10.2 9.0 7.7 6.9 8.8
Percent possible sunshine 68 69 63 62 69 77 76 78 77 79 72 67 72
Source: World Meteorological Organization (temperature and rainfall 1994–2008);[52] NOAA (sunshine and records, 1961–1990);[53] Wundergound (2012 records)[54]


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.[55] Petroleum accounts for 43% of GDP and 70% of export earnings.[56] The Kuwait Stock Exchange is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world.



Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre.[57] Kuwait is the only Arab country in the Persian Gulf region with a theatrical tradition.[58] The Arabic theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's Arabic cultural life.[59] Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released.[60] Theatre activities are still popular today.[59]

Soap operas

Kuwaiti soap operas (المسلسلات الكويتية) are among the most-watched soap operas in the Arab world.[61] 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.[62]


The city is home to the Al Kuwait SC, which has traditionally provided Kuwait's national basketball team with key players.[63]

From 13 to 15 February 2020 it held the first Aquabike World Championship Grand Prix of Kuwait [64][65]

Notable people

  • Diana Karazon (born 1983), Kuwaiti-born Jordanian singer
  • Rania Al-Abdullah (born 1970 as Rania Al-Yassin), Kuwaiti-born queen consort of Jordan
  • Mishary Rashid Alafasy, Qari, imam, preacher and Nasheed artist
  • Abdulfattah Owainat (born 1972), Kuwaiti-born Palestinian singer and songwriter
  • Saleem Haddad (born 1983), Kuwaiti author and aid worker
  • Yasser Al-Masri (born 1970, died 2018), Kuwaiti-born Jordanian actor
  • Khaled Mazeedi (born 1986), Kuwaiti media magnate, internet entrepreneur, author, philanthropist
  • Abdulhussain Abdulredha (15 July 1939 – 11 August 2017), Kuwaiti actor
  • Nura Habib Omer (born 1988), German rapper of Eritrean and Saudi descent
  • Omar Jarun (born 1983), former footballer and currently an assistant coach for Atlanta United 2
  • Adline Castelino (born 1998), model, represented India in the Miss Universe 2020 pageant

See also


  1. The World's Cities in 2018. Data Booklet (PDF), United Nations, retrieved 29 March 2021
  2. Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City: The Socio-cultural Dimensions of the Kuwait Courtyard and Diwaniyya. Mohammad Khalid A. Al-Jassar. 2009. p. 64. ISBN 9781109229349.
  3. Bell, Sir Gawain (1983). Shadows on the Sand: The Memoirs of Sir Gawain Bell. Gawain Bell. C. Hurst. p. 222. ISBN 9780905838922.
  4. ʻAlam-i Nisvāṉ – Volume 2, Issues 1–2. p. 18. Kuwait became an important trading port for import and export of goods from India, Africa and Arabia.
  5. Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City. Mohammad Khalid A. Al-Jassar. 2009. p. 66. ISBN 9781109229349.
  6. Bennis, Phyllis; Moushabeck, Michel (31 December 1990). Beyond the Storm: A Gulf Crisis Reader. Phyllis Bennis. Olive Branch Press. pp. 42. ISBN 9780940793828.
  7. Lauterpacht, E; Greenwood, C. J; Weller, Marc (1991). The Kuwait Crisis: Basic Documents. p. 4. ISBN 9780521463089.
  8. Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City. 2009. p. 67. ISBN 9781109229349.
  9. Thabit Abdullah (2001). Merchants, Mamluks, and Murder: The Political Economy of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Basra. p. 72. ISBN 9780791448076.
  10. The impact of economic activities on the social and political structures of Kuwait (1896–1946) (PDF). p. 108.
  11. Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East: Cultural depth and diversity. p. 156. The port of Kuwait was then, and is still, the principal dhow- building and trading port of the Persian Gulf, though offering little trade itself.
  12. M. Nijhoff (1974). Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, Volume 130. p. 111.
  13. Indian Foreign Affairs. 1965. p. 29.
  14. Richard Harlakenden Sanger (1970). The Arabian Peninsula. p. 150.
  15. Donaldson, Neil (2008). The Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia and the Gulf. Neil Donaldson. p. 93. ISBN 9781409209423.
  16. Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City. Mohammad Khalid A. Al-Jassar. p. 68. ISBN 9781109229349.
  17. Hasan, Mohibbul (2007). Waqai-i manazil-i Rum: Tipu Sultan's mission to Constantinople. Mohibbul Hasan. p. 18. ISBN 9788187879565. For owing to Basra's misfortunes, Kuwait and Zubarah became rich.
  18. Fattah, Hala Mundhir (1997). The Politics of Regional Trade in Iraq, Arabia, and the Gulf, 1745–1900. Hala Mundhir Fattah. p. 114. ISBN 9780791431139.
  19. Agius, Dionisius A. (2012). Seafaring in the Arabian Gulf and Oman: People of the Dhow. Dionisius A. Agius. p. 48. ISBN 9781136201820.
  20. Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. 2009. p. 321.
  21. Potter, L. (2009). The Arabian Gulf in History. Lawrence G. Potter. p. 272. ISBN 9780230618459.
  22. Crystal, Jill (1995). Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. Jill Crystal. p. 37. ISBN 9780521466356.
  23. Al Sager, Noura, ed. (2014). Acquiring Modernity: Kuwait's Modern Era Between Memory and Forgetting. National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters. p. 7. ISBN 9789990604238.
  24. Farid, Alia (2014). "Acquiring Modernity: Kuwait at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition". aliafarid.net. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015.
  25. Gonzales, Desi (November–December 2014). "Acquiring Modernity: Kuwait at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition". Art Papers. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  26. "Looking for Origins of Arab Modernism in Kuwait". Hyperallergic.
  27. "Cultural developments in Kuwait". March 2013. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  28. Chee Kong, Sam (1 March 2014). "What Can Nations Learn from Norway and Kuwait in Managing Sovereign Wealth Funds". Market Oracle.
  29. "Kuwait Literary Scene A Little Complex". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. A magazine, Al Arabi, was published in 1958 in Kuwait. It was the most popular magazine in the Arab world. It came out it in all the Arabic countries, and about a quarter million copies were published every month.
  30. Gunter, Barrie; Dickinson, Roger (6 June 2013). News Media in the Arab World: A Study of 10 Arab and Muslim Countries. p. 24. ISBN 9781441102393.
  31. Sager, Abdulaziz; Koch, Christian; Tawfiq Ibrahim, Hasanain, eds. (2008). Gulf Yearbook 2006-2007. Dubai, UAE: I. B. Tauris. p. 39. The Kuwaiti press has always enjoyed a level of freedom unparalleled in any other Arab country.
  32. Kinninmont, Jane (15 February 2013). "The Case of Kuwait: Debating Free Speech and Social Media in the Gulf". ISLAMiCommentary. Archived from the original on 14 February 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  33. Muslim Education Quarterly. Vol. 8. Islamic Academy. 1990. p. 61. Kuwait is a primary example of a Muslim society which embraced liberal and Western attitudes throughout the sixties and seventies.
  34. Rubin, Barry, ed. (2010). Guide to Islamist Movements. Vol. 1. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. p. 306. ISBN 9780765641380.
  35. Wheeler, Deborah L. (2006). The Internet In The Middle East: Global Expectations And Local Imaginations. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780791465868.
  36. Osnos, Evan (11 July 2004). "In Kuwait, conservatism a launch pad to success". Chicago Tribune. In the 1960s and most of the '70s, men and women at Kuwait University dined and danced together, and miniskirts were more common than hijab head coverings, professors and alumni say.
  37. "Kuwait's Souk al-Manakh Stock Bubble". Stock-market-crash.net. 23 June 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  38. Hunter, Shireen T. (1990). Iran and the world : continuity in a revolutionary decade. Indiana University Press. p. 117.
  39. "Frankenstein's Lament in Kuwait". November 2001.
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  41. Derek Gregory (2004). The Colonial Present: Afghanistan …. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-57718-090-6. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  42. "Iraq and Kuwait: 1972, 1990, 1991, 1997". Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change. Archived from the original on 29 April 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  43. "The Use of Terror During Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait".
  44. "Iraq and Kuwait Discuss Fate of 600 Missing Since Gulf War". Los Angeles Times. 9 January 2003.
  45. "Kuwait". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 10 April 2015.
  46. "Bubiyan (island, Kuwait)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  47. "Structurae [en]: Bubiyan Bridge (1983)". En.structurae.de. 19 October 2002. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  48. Pendick, Daniel. "Kuwaiti Oil Lakes". Encarta. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009.
  49. "The Economic and Environmental Impact of the Gulf War on Kuwait and the Persian Gulf". American.edu. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
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  51. Birch, Hayley (22 July 2015). "Where is the world's hottest city?". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
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  53. "Kuwait International Airport Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  54. "Dr. Jeff Masters' article published January 2013". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  55. "10 Most Valuable Currencies in the World". Silicon India.
  56. "Foreign Trade in Figures".
  57. "Reviving Kuwait's theatre industry". BBC News.
  58. Hammond, Andrew (2007). Popular Culture in the Arab World: Arts, Politics, and the Media. p. 277. ISBN 9789774160547.
  59. Herbert, Ian; Leclercq, Nicole; Institute, International Theatre (2000). The World of Theatre: An Account of the Theatre Seasons 1996–97, 1997–98 and 1998–99. p. 147. ISBN 9780415238663.
  60. Rubin, Don (January 1999). The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: The Arab world. ISBN 9780415059329.
  61. "Entertainment gets soapy during Ramadan in Kuwait".
  62. Kuwait: vanguard of the Gulf. p. 113. Some Kuwaiti soap operas have become extremely popular and, although they are usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, they have been shown with success as far away as Mauritania.
  63. 2015 FIBA Asia Championship – Kuwait Roster, FIBA.com, accessed 16 February 2016.
  64. "Double delight for Team Abu Dhabi riders at Kuwait Grand Prix - GulfToday". Gulftoday.ae. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  65. Forgot Username or Password (21 October 2020). "Kuwait's Abdulrazzeq wins ITU Aquabike World Championships' ..." Menafn.Com. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
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