Till Iraqi invasion, in 1990, the tiny state of Kuwait lived an obscure oil sheikhdom. From that moment on it was in the eye of the world but recovered from the disastrous invasion.
Kuwait has an area of 24,280 km, a population of 1,5 million and Arabic and English is spoken.
It is bordered by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait is at the north-western edge of the Arabian Gulf.
In summer, temperature can reach 50C and in winter drops to a low as minus 6C. Rainfall varies from 22mm to 352mm per year. Dust storms can reduce visibility to zero.
Kuwait City had been started about 300 years ago by members of the Utbi tribe. They came from central Arabia driven out by drought. They build a fortified camp named Kuwait meaning ‘small fort’. The ruling Al-Sabah family have been in power since 1752.
Kuwait City was gradually built around its fine natural harbour. Today the city and the country’s economy are being rebuilt after the devastation caused by the Gulf War in 1991.
Before the discovery of oil, Kuwait’s asset was its fine natural harbour which made it a good stopping-over place for traders. The country’s income came from camel caravans, and fishing, especially for pearls.
Agricultural land was and is non-existent, although some wheat and vegetables are grown near the Saudi Arabian border.
The land is mostly desert and the wildlife there was – lizards, snakes and small mammals, plus flamingos, steppe eagles, cormorants and bee-eaters – were largely destroyed by the Iraq’s invasion and have not fully recovered since.
In 1930 Kuwait sunk the first oil well and it has discovered that the whole area is floating on a sea of oil.
By 1950 Kuwait was becoming enormously rich. The government spent huge sums on education, health care, building and industrial development, roads and communications.
Because of the small native population, the government encouraged foreign workers into the country but they soon outnumbered Kuwaitis.
Iraq’s invasion in 1991 was the biggest disaster in Kuwait. Allies made all the effort to get the Iraqi army out but on their retreat, they caused enormous destruction to Kuwait City and the industries. They torched most of the oil-wells which caused massive economic and ecological damage.
Kuwait and its people are steadily recovering from the war but the evidence Iraq left behind is still there. There are mines littering along the coastline, in the sea and desert.