Kuwait lies at the northwest tip of the Gulf, dwarfed by its neighbors Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. It was a British protectorate until 1961, when full independence was granted.
Geography: Terrain is low-lying desert. The lowest land is in the north. Cultivation is only possible along the coast.
Climate: Summers are very hot and dry. Winters are cooler, with some rain and occasional frost at night.
People & Society: Oil-rich monarchy, ruled by the al-Sabah family. It is a conservative Sunni Muslim society, but women are relatively free. Nonetheless, a 1999 decree giving women the vote was blocked for six years in parliament by Islamic traditionalists. Immigrant workers, from other Arab states, India, and Pakistan, now outnumber native citizens. US-led forces rescued Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi invasion, and later used it as a launch-pad for the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
The Economy: Oil and natural gas dominate the economy. Skilled workforce, raw materials, and food are imported. High standard of living. Financial services: stock market lost 40% of value in 2008.
Insight: During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq deliberately set fire to 800 of Kuwait’s 950 oil wells
Official Name: State of Kuwait
Date of Formation: 1961
Capital: Kuwait City
Population: 2.99 million
Total Area: 6880 sq. miles (17,820 sq. km)
Density: 434 people per sq. mile
Languages: Arabic*, English
Religions: Sunni Muslim 45%, Shi’a Muslim 40%, Christian, Hindu, and other 15%
Ethnic Mix: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, other 11%
Currency: Kuwaiti dinar = 1000 fils