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When most people envision the Persian Gulf, they picture
extremely hot, dry inhabitable land; they picture a region that has been struck
by warfare and they visualize women cloaked and oppressed in black garb. But
what most people fail to recognize is that the Persian Gulf is populated mostly
by expatriates; that it contains the world’s largest oil reserves and the women
contribute to the overall economy by actively participating in the work force.
One such Gulf nation that represents this kind of diversity is Kuwait, which is
one of the seven Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

The State of Kuwait is sandwiched by Iraq and Saudi Arabia
in Western Asia and is situated at the tip of the Persian Gulf. The capital is
named Kuwait City and the main ethnic groups that inhabit the country include
Arabs (Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti), Asians and Africans. There is a population of
over 4 million with over 1 million Kuwaitis and almost 3 million expatriates
(with Indians and Egyptians being the largest expatriate population).
Historically, Kuwait has always been a city of fisherman and nomadic tent
dwellers. In fact, the Arabic root word of Kuwait is “kut” which means “fort”. The
country’s national language is Arabic and the religion practiced by the
majority is Islam. There is a community of Christians which hold Kuwaiti
citizenship (which is uncommon in Gulf countries) and also a small population
of Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. The English language is used for business
function and French is taught in schools. Persian is also spoken among a small
minority of Kuwaitis that are of Iranian origin (Wikipedia). Furthermore, Kuwait’s
political framework is considered a constitutional monarchy, which is a
semi-democratic system. They are the first Arab state of the Persian Gulf to
have an elected Parliament in office (Constitutional Net).

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Due to its key geographic positioning near the Gulf, Kuwait
became a popular trade route. In the 18th century, the Ottoman and
Persian war forced the British East India Company’s trading path to be rerouted
through Kuwait and as a result, Kuwait became a major trading center. Many
Iraqi merchants who sought refuge there during this time facilitated in its
boat building industry. Slowly, international trade became the country’s main
source of financial stability. By the 19th century, the British
established control over Kuwait which took a major toll on their economy. But by
the mid 20th century, the country became independent of British rule
and was in its “golden era”. During this time, Kuwait became the largest oil
exporter in the Persian Gulf and was considered the most developed country in
the region. With a booming economy, a vibrant theatre industry and free press, many
neighboring countries retreated in its liberal society. By the late 20th
century, Kuwait was in major economic crisis as the oil price dropped, their
stock market crashed and the Gulf War started. As a result, much of Kuwait’s
societal progress came to a halt. Since then, Kuwait has seen major political
reforms as women have won the right to vote, run in parliamentary elections and
win seats in office. (Wikipedia)  

Kuwait has an oil based economy
and is the 4th richest nation and the Kuwaiti dinar is considered
the highest unit of currency in the world (Wikipedia). Every Kuwaiti Dinar is
equivalent to $3.33 US Dollars. According to the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom,
Kuwait receives an overall score of 65.1. This takes into consideration how
much control every human has over the following categories: property rights,
judicial effectiveness, government integrity, tax burden, government spending,
fiscal health, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade
freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom. It is important to note
that this data is collected for 180 countries and they are categorized as
follows: free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree and repressed. Hong
Kong ranks the 1st on the Index and is considered most free, the
UAE, (a Gulf country) is categorized as mostly free, the United States is also
considered mostly free, and Kuwait is considered moderately free. It is also
important to note that Kuwait’s GDP is $288 billion and per capital income is
$35,490 (Trading Economics). It is considered a highly developed country
according to Human Development Index (HDI) which takes into consideration life
expectancy, education received and standard of living. Furthermore, according
to the World Health Organization, Kuwait’s standards for healthcare are high
and are considered the best in the region. They are comparable to European
standards and since their independence in 1961, they have offered generous
welfare to all their citizens.

The culture of
Kuwait is very much influenced by its dominant language and religion- Arabic
and Islam. For this reason, you will see many Kuwaitis offer their 5 daily
prayers and since Friday is the Muslim holy day, all businesses are closed.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk so they are
required to work only a few hours per day. The expatriates are asked not to
eat, drink or smoke in public. Since Islamic traditions encourage modesty, it
is rare to find both genders socializing in the same vicinity. Men will
socialize with other men and women with other women and both genders are
expected to dress modestly (Commisceo Global). Kuwaiti culture is also
distinguished by its delicious cuisine. It is an infusion of many different
ethnicities including Mediterranean, Persian and Indian and since it is a
coastal country, seafood is a staple in a Kuwaiti household. Kuwait is also the
birthplace of a popular musical genre called sawt. Sawt is the popular music in
the Gulf and performed with a lute, violin and drum (Wikipedia).

            Kuwait
is a diverse Arab state influenced by its complex history, strategic geographic
position and modest Islamic traditions. They are a key contributor to the world
economy as one of the main exporters of oils. Kuwait’s standards of healthcare
are modern and up to date and offered to every single person in the country.
Kuwait’s semi-democratic political framework takes care of their citizens by
encouraging education in both women and men. Even with modest Islamic
traditions, Kuwait is considered a modern country that is hospitable to locals
and expatriates alike.

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