Our Beloved Kuwait
A small emirate nestled between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait is situated in a section of one of the driest, least-hospitable deserts on Earth. Its shore, however, includes Kuwait Bay, a deep harbour on the Persian Gulf. There, in the 18th century, Bedouin from the interior founded a trading post. The name Kuwait is derived from the Arabic diminutive of the Hindustani kūt (“fort”). Since the emirate’s ruling family, the Āl Ṣabāḥ, formally established a sheikhdom in 1756, the country’s fortunes have been linked to foreign commerce. In time and with accumulated wealth, the small fort grew to become Kuwait city, a modern metropolis mingling skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and mosques. Kuwait city has most of the country’s population, which makes Kuwait one of the world’s most-urbanized countries.
The tiny country, which was a British protectorate from 1899 until 1961, drew world attention in 1990 when Iraqi forces invaded and attempted to annex it. A United Nations coalition led by the United States drove Iraq’s army out of Kuwait within days of launching an offensive in February 1991, but the retreating invaders looted the country and set fire to most of its oil wells (see Persian Gulf War). Kuwait has largely recovered from the effects of the war and again has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Its generally conservative government continues to provide generous material benefits for Kuwaiti citizens, and, though conservative elements in its society resisted such reforms as women’s suffrage (women were not enfranchised until 2005), it has remained relatively stable. It has been called an “oasis” of peace and safety amid an otherwise turbulent region.