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Geography of Kuwait


Kuwait, or State of Kuwait, an independent Arab sheikhdom on the Arabian Peninsula, in southwestern Asia. It lies at the head of the Persian Gulf and is bordered by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait's area is 6,880 square miles (17,818 km 2 ).


Most of Kuwait is low-lying, nearly flat desert. Much of the land is sandy. The highest point is in the far west and rises almost 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level.

There are several oases in the desert, salt marshes along the coast, and islands and reefs offshore. Bubiyan is the largest island; only Faylaka is inhabited.

Summers are long and extremely hot. Temperatures often rise above 100° F. (38° C). Winters are relatively mild and bring a small amount of rain and occasional sand and dust storms.

Before World War II Kuwait was a little-known desert region where people lived by nomadic herding, offshore fishing and pearling, and coastal trading.

Oil was discovered in 1938, but production was insignificant until the 1950's. By the 1960's Kuwait had become one of the world's leading oil-producing countries; it contains an estimated one-tenth of the world's known petroleum reserves.

In 1991, during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, more than 500 oil wells were set on fire---some deliberately, by the retreating Iraqis, others accidentally. The fires caused major environmental damage.

Manufacturing consists chiefly of petroleum refining and the making of petrochemicals and fertilizers, mostly for export. Cement, bricks, and concrete blocks are among other goods produced. Huge desalting plants near the sea yield most of the nation's water.

There is virtually no agriculture because of the desert conditions. Commercial fishing offshore and in distant Indian Ocean waters is becoming increasingly important.

Kuwait has an adequate system of hard-surfaced roads but no railways. The main general cargo port and international airport are near Al Kuwait's the chief city and capital.

Facts in brief about Kuwait

Capital: Kuwait.

Official language: Arabic.

Official name: Dowlat al Kuwait (State of Kuwait).

Area: 6,880 mi2 (17,818 km2), including offshore islands. Greatest distances—east-west, 95 mi (153 km); north-south, 90 mi (145 km). Coastline—120 mi (193 km).

Population: Current estimate—2,895,000; density, 421 per mi2 (162 per km2); distribution, 96 percent urban, 4 percent rural.

Chief products: Petroleum, natural gas.

Flag: Kuwait's flag has three horizontal stripes, green, white, and red (top to bottom). A black vertical stripe is at the left of the flag.

Money: Basic unit—Kuwaiti dinar. One thousand fils equal one dinar.

The People

Nearly all the people live in or near Al Kuwait. Its most populous suburbs are Salmiya and Hawalli.

Islam is the official religion. About 70 per cent of the people are Sunnite Muslims; most of the remainder are Shiite Muslims.

Arabic is the official language. Education is free through college.

Primary school begins at age six and lasts four years, followed by intermediate school (four years) and secondary school (four years).

Kuwait University (opened in 1966) is one of the major institutions of higher learning in the Middle East. The literacy rate is about 70 per cent.

Kuwait has one of the most comprehensive health and social-welfare systems in the world. All medical facilities are free. There are no income taxes.