State of Kuwait

Dawlat al-Kuwayt

CAPITAL : Kuwait (Al-Kuwayt)

FLAG : The flag, adopted in 1961, is a rectangle divided equally into green, white, and red horizontal stripes, with a black trapezoid whose longer base is against the staff and is equal to the breadth of the flag, and whose shorter base is equal to the breadth of the white stripe.

ANTHEM : National Anthem, melody only; no words.

MONETARY UNIT : The Kuwaiti dinar ( KD ) has 1,000 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 fils, and notes of 250 and 500 fils and of 1, 5, 10, and 20 Kuwaiti dinars. KD 1 = $3.344 (or $1 = KD 0.299) as of May 2003.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system is the legal standard, but imperial weights and measures also are in use, and some US measures are recognized.

HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; Emir's Accession Day, 25 February. Movable religious holidays include Muslim New Year (1st of Muharram); Laylat al-Miraj; Milad an-Nabi; 'Id al-Fitr; and 'Id al-'Adha'.

TIME : 3 PM = noon GMT.


Kuwait consists almost entirely of flat rolling desert and mud flats. There is a 1137-m (450-ft) ridge at Mina' al-Ahmadi and a 290-m (951-ft) prominence in the southwest corner. There are no streams.


Ethnic Kuwaitis are mostly descendants of the tribes of Najd (central Arabia) but some descend from Iraqi Arabs. Still others are of Iranian origin. The number of non-Kuwaitis are divided roughly in half between Arabs and non-Arabs such as Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos. In 1999, 45% of the population was Kuwaiti, 35% other Arab, 9% South Asian, 4% Iranian, and 7% other.


Arabic is the official language. The Arabic spoken in Kuwait is closer to classical Arabic than to the colloquial Arabic spoken in many other parts of the Middle East. English is used generally by business people, employees of oil companies, foreign residents, and students, and it is the second language taught in the schools.


Islam is the state religion. According 2002 figures, Muslims comprise about 71% of the total population, with a majority believed to be Sunni Muslim. About 35% of Muslim citizens are of the Shi'a branch. Other religious groups are present, primarily among foreign worker groups. These include Christians (mostly Roman Catholics and Anglicans), Hindus, Parsis, Baha'is, Sikhs, and others.


There are five governorates (Ahmadi, Al Jahrah, Al Kuwayt, Hawalli, and Al Farwaniyah), but political authority is highly centralized in the capital. A tradition of diwaniyya , or family or tribal gatherings, serves as a forum for debate in society, largely oriented around the proceedings of parliament.


Kuwait was admitted to UN membership on 14 May 1963 and is a member of ESCWA and all the nonregional specialized agencies. It belongs to the Arab League, G-77, OPEC, and OAPEC; in 1981, it was a leader in forming the GCC with Sa'udi Arabia and four other Gulf states. Kuwait is a signatory of the Law of the Sea and a member of the WTO.


There are no natural forests in Kuwait. The government's afforestation projects cover an area of about 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres). Imports of forest products totaled $97.7 million in 2000.


Customs duties are generally 4% ad valorem, but many goods are admitted duty-free. The tariff on cigarettes was reduced to 70% (from 100%) as of July 1997. Imports of liquor are prohibited by law. Protective tariffs may be levied at up to 25%.


Kuwait has no territories or colonies.


Assiri, Abdul-Reda. Kuwait's Foreign Policy: City-state in World Politics. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990.

Cordesman, Anthony H. Kuwait: Recovery and Security After the Gulf War. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

Crystal, Jill. Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992.

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock (ed.). Remembering Childhood in the Middle East: Memoirs from a Century of Change. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Finnie, David H. Shifting Lines in the Sand: Kuwait's Elusive Frontier with Iraq. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Isiorho, S. A. Kuwait. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Khadduri, Majid. War in the Gulf, 1990-91: >The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and its Implications . New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Marcovitz, Hal. Kuwait. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.

Slot, B. The Origins of Kuwait. New York: E.J. Brill, 1991.

Tétreault, Mary Ann. Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

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