Kuwait City (Arabic: مدينة الكويت, translation: Madīnat al-Kuwayt) is the capital and largest city of Kuwait. It has a population of 2.38 million in the metropolitan area. Located at the heart of the country on the shore of the Persian Gulf, and containing Kuwait’s parliament (Majlis Al-Umma), most governmental offices, the headquarters of most Kuwaiti corporations and banks, it is the political, cultural and economic center of the emirate. Kuwait city is considered a Gamma + Global city.
Kuwait City’s trade and transportation needs are served by Kuwait International Airport, Mina Al-Shuwaik (Shuwaik Port) and Mina Al Ahmadi (Ahmadi Port) 50 kilometres (31 miles) to the south, on the Persian Gulf coast. Kuwait City is ranked as one among the 25 largest GDP cities in the world along with New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Mumbai and other financial hubs including Singapore and Dubai.
Kuwait City’s name may have derived from an earlier abandoned fort located there, called „Kūt“ (كوت) – Arabic for a fortress by the sea. Kuwait City was first permanently settled in the early 18th century by the Al-Sabāh clan, later the monarchy of Kuwait.
Because of its geographical position, Kuwait became an important trading center from the time of its establishment. By 1760, in addition to pearling and fishing, a fleet of over 800 dhows traded out of Kuwait. Vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of trade from India to the Red Sea and Mediterranean ports.
During the Persian invasion of Basra in 1775, many of Basra’s leading merchant families moved to Kuwait and most trade at Basra was diverted to Kuwait. The East India Company shifted its office, stores and employees to Kuwait following the Persian invasion of Basra. In addition, several Persian merchant families from Basra also moved in Kuwait. Under the Ottoman Empire, Kuwait played a pivotal role in the overland trade to the Mediterranean and India. In 1780, the community in Kuwait was diverse. It was mostly merchant traders who run the ships and caravans from the trade route between Baghdad and Damascus. In 1793 a wall surrounding the city was built on the orders of Sheikh Abdullah bin Sabah to protect it from Wahhabi attacks.
After the Persians withdrew from Basra, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra, due to Kuwait City’s relative security, autonomy and relative low customs duties. The flight of many of Basra’s leading merchants to Kuwait continued to play a major role in the commercial stagnation of the city’s trade well into the 1850s.
Kuwait was part of the Ottoman Empire and was nominally governed by Basra, and as a result, tensions occasionally broke out between the sheikdom and the empire. These tensions peaked when, in 1896, Sheikh Mubārak Al Sabāh assassinated his brother, the emir Muhammad Al Sabāh, over British intervention and Mubārak’s deep suspicion that the Ottoman Empire was willing to annex Kuwait.
In exchange for British naval protection, Mubārak was not to negotiate or give territory to any other foreign power without British consent. With the discovery of oil in 1936, the city’s standard of living improved dramatically, including health and education services.
On 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait and seized the city. On August 8, Iraq annexed the emirate. The city was extensively damaged during the occupation and many buildings were destroyed after it, including the Kuwait National Museum. When U.S.-led United Nations (UN) forces expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait in February 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, foreign investors and the Kuwaiti government were actively involved in modernizing the city and turning it into a world-class business hub. Many hotels, shopping malls and offices were built in the city indicating the economic growth since the war.
On 14-16 April 1993, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush was visiting the city to celebrate a coalition’s victory over Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. However, a day before the visit, agents of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) smuggled a car bomb into Kuwait in intent of killing Bush during his visit to that city. The plan was foiled and Kuwaiti officials arrested 17 people suspected of carry out the plot after a car bomb was found. Later, Saddam’s agents admitted carrying out the attack under the direction from the IIS.
Geography and climate
Astronaut View of Kuwait
Kuwait City has a hot desert climate (Köppen: BWh) and is one of the hottest cities in summers on earth. Its winters are warm with very little rainfall. Sand storm are quite frequent in mid-year.
Summer temperatures regularly exceed 45 °C (113 °F), and temperatures over 50 °C (122 °F) are not uncommon in the summer, especially in heat waves; nighttime lows often remain above 30 °C (86 °F). Winters, however, frequently see nighttime temperatures drop below 8 °C (46 °F).
Summer rainfall is very rare, and normally non-existent. The wettest month is January, typically with only five days of any rain. Rain may occur in the spring and its frequency increases around November. On average, Kuwait City sees about 22 wet days, and 343 dry days.
Sand storms occur at times during summer from the shamal wind. Sand storms can occur anytime of year but occur mostly during summer, and less frequently during autumn.
Kuwait’s booming economy has allowed many international hotel chains to enter agreements to open hotels in the country. According to the Kuwait Hotel Owners Association, over twenty-five new hotels are planned or in construction, including the following:
Hotel Missoni Kuwait – now open
Golden Tulip Kuwait – opening late 2011
Hilton Olympia Kuwait – opening late 2011
Ibis Sharq – now open
Jumeirah Messilah Beach Kuwait – opening mid-2011
InterContinental Kuwait Downtown – opening late 2010
InterContinental Kuwait at The White – opening early 2013
The Square Capital Tower – opening late 2011
Novotel Mina Abdullah Resort – opening late 2011
Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait at The Gate of Kuwait – plans are in motion to open within the next few years.
By 2012, over 3,000 rooms are expected to be added to Kuwait’s current hotel inventory.
The city is also home to a large variety of shopping malls, which serve as the basis of Kuwaiti social life. Famous malls such as the Avenues, Marina World and the 360 Mall house many internationally-renowned retail and food/beverage brands, as well as provide sheltered, indoor areas to relax. Several more, such as the Mall of Kuwait, the Al Hamra Center and Symphony Centre are expected to enter service within the next five years.
In 2008, a railway network connecting Arab states of the Persian Gulf was proposed, although work is yet to start. A metro network was designed, with four lines and stations across the entire city and suburbs. Although it has faced considerable delays, the project is expected to commence construction sometime in 2011 and open parts of the first two lines by July 2016.
Kuwait International Airport is the primary airport for the country serving a wide variety of local and international destinations.