Photos by Jessie Adrien
Kuwait used to be under British rule for quite a while. At first back in 1770 Kuwait use to deliver mail for England between the Gulf and Syria.The Amir Mubarak Al Sabah known as Mubarak , signed a pact with Britian on jan23, 1899 whereby Kuwait became a British protectorate. The British gained a stable ally in the region and handled all of Kuwaits foreign affairs, while the Kuwaitis were liberated from their fear of Turkish occupation. I think this is why the Kuwaitis like to drink tea. Kuwait made its first international shipment of oil in 1946.Prior to that they were in the pearl business, but the japanese began to flood the international pearl market with cultured pearls.Pearl diving, which had become the staple of the Kuwaiti economy was suddenly not so lucrative. And this happened on the eve of the Great Depression that plunged the entire world into poverty.Amir Abdullah Al-Salem(Abdullah III) known as the father of modern Kuwait, became ruler in 1950.On 19 June 1961, Kuwait regain full sovereignty. It ended their agreement with England.A few weeks later Iraq claimed Kuwait was Iraqi territory.The Amir asked Britiain to send a force to defend Kuwait.The League of Arab States sent a Arab security force to replace the British force to defend Kuwait.Kuwait joined the Arab Leagueon July 20 1961 and United Nations in 1963.The women where given the right to vote in 1999 but did not actually happen till 2005.The royal family Al Sabbah are the only ones that are able to rule. The Kuwaitis don't work. The citizens of Kuwait are guaranteed something like one hundred thousand dollars a year. The only people who work are all foreigners . Indians, Turkish, etc.
Kuwait was never a colony and the Kuwaitis have always been free to manage their affairs among themselves as they see fit and develop their unique cultural characteristics in their own way. The Kuwaiti of the pre-oil era survived, in the harshness of the desert or sea, through a mix of finely honed skills and highly developed social organization based on family, which provided the economic and political support necessary for survival. In return for this support, the individual gave unquestioning service and loyalty to his group. This gave rise to clan –based networks, which are still extremely strong and provide the basis of social relations between Kuwaitis today.
The Kuwaiti child was taught from an early age to serve and protect older family members and also, to ensure cooperation between clans, not to embarrass the family, The degree, which a young Kuwaiti was successful in learning his role was reflected in the amount of (face), he earned. The concept of face has the same meaning as respect and reputation in the west, except the face has intensity about it that is almost inconceivable to a westerner. But face accrues not only to the individual but also to the group, and a youth is considered mature once he view personal success as being synonymous with the success of the family or group.
Face is expressed through hospitality, generosity and loyalty to family or particular group. A Kuwaiti spends his life building his personal and social face and the sense of face lies behind many social behaviors in Kuwait.
The dewaniyah or parlour has existed in Kuwait since time immemorial. The term originally referred to the section of a Bedouin tent where the menfolk and their visitors sat apart from the family. In the old city of Kuwait it was the reception area where a man resaved his business colleagues and male guests. Today the term refers both to a reception hall and the gathering held in it, and visiting or hosting a Diwaniyah is an in dispensable feature of a Kuwaiti man’s social life.
As a social event, adiwaniyah takes place in special room or annex, which is usually, separate from the rest of man’s house. Only men are present and they sit around on soft benches or cushion, conversing casually, smoking, nibbling snacks and relaxing the evening, The host’s job is to be hospitable and entertain his guests, and the reputation of a man Diwaniyah is one of the prime ways in which he achieve’s face.
There are also more formal Diwaniyah, which specialize in particular interests, such as politics or science.
Most Kuwaitis men wear a dishdasha, a floor length robe with a center robe opening which is but on over the head. Because it is so well suited to the climate, this basic garment has changed little in the last few hundred years, though the collar, front button fastening and buttoned cuffs are 20th century innovations introduction by Indian tailor . Provided he is not corpulent, the dishdasha can at time make the wearer look quit elegant.
The three-part headdress of the Kuwait male is also very functional. It provides shade during summer, it can be wrapped across the face during sandstorms, and it’s end can be twisted up like a turban if the wearer is doing manual work The gutra is a square piece of cloth which is folded into a triangle and then placed centrally on the head so that the ends hang down equally over the shoulders. It is held in place by an ogal, a double circlet of twisted black cord, which is placed firmly over the head. Often a gahfiah, a close fitting skull cap , is worn under the gutra to stop it from slipping .
The headdress can be worn in various ways, ranging from the stiffly formal to the downright rakish, depending on the wearer’s mode and the social occasion, In the most dignified style the gutra is centered on the head. And pulled down well cover the forehead so that tow pointed ends are arranged on each side of the face, the other at the back, and the ogal is set straight on the head just slightly tilted back from the forehead .The possible variation on this basic positioning are endless. The ogal can be pushed backwards towards the top of the head, pulled down over the forehead, tilted on the kildare side or pulled down over a raffish eye. And once the ogal has been exactly positioned, the gutra can be arranged in various symmetrical and asymmetrical ways. The ends can, for example, be folded neatly back over the shoulders to open the face, or one end can be left hanging forward while the other is folded up and draped back to the head to expose a handsome profile. Shebabs, young Kuwaiti studs, spend a lot of their time getting the lie of ogal and gutra just right.
Once his headgear is settled to his liking, all a Kuwaiti has to complete his dress is to slip on a pair of leather sandals as he goes out the door. In the old days he would properly have girded himself in a leather belt with shoulder strap to hold a sheathed saef (sword) and khanjar (dagger) with possibly a sakeen (dirk) up his sleeve, but today’s Kuwaiti has replaced these manly accessories with those modern necessities, a mobile and pager.Kuwaiti wears white or cream dishdash, with matching gutras, most months of the year.
During winter somber –coloured heavier cloths are used and the gutras is changed to a red and white check, For example, the onset of winter and spring is easily marked when the locals suddenly, within the space of a day or so, change the colour of their clothing. In winter, most Kuwaitis also wear a heavy bisht, a cloak made of traditional thick dun-coloured camel hair or of heavy modern wool, over their dishdash, though the shebab tend to favour thick leather wool-lined zipped jerkins.
On grand occasion, a semi-transparent bisht with zari, special gold braiding, is worn by the rich and powerful, The embossed look of the zari is created by the first hand-embroidering the bisht with gold threads and then hammering the threads so that they become fused.
Kuwaiti women dress in western clothes, Though they may choose from the more demure styles, the latest designs are worn, regardless of the climate or convenience. However their traditional clothing, such as the thob (a straight-sided long overdress), is still used for dancing on festive occasion.
When in public many local women cover their chic western clothing with an aba, a head-to-toe silky black cloak, Bedouin women may also wear a burga, a short black veil that covers the entire face.
The hijab, or Islamic headscarf, which conceals the hair while leaving the face unveiled is not a Kuwaiti garment but is of northern origin. It is worn by many expatriate Muslim women. The hijab is usually complemented by along-sleeved floor-length garment,often in pretty colours, and the overall more elegant than the voluminous aba.
Kuwait lies at the northwest corner of the Arabian Gulf, between latitudes 28 and 30 N and between longitudes 46 and 48 E. To the north and west it shares a border of 225 km (150 miles ) with the Republic of Iraq, and to the south and southwest it shares a border of 250 km (155 miles) with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To the east it has a coast line of 290 km on the Arabian Gulf. Kuwait's territory includes nine islands off the coast of Kuwait: Failaka, Bubiyan, Miskan, Warba, Auhha, Umm Al-Maradim, Umm Al-Naml, Kubbar and Qaruth.
Area & Topography
The total area of the State of Kuwait is 17,818 square kilometers (6,969 square miles). Most of Kuwait mainland is a flat sandy desert, gradually sloping down from the extreme west of Shigaya and Salmi (300 meters high) towards sea level in the east. It is broken by shallow depressions and low hills, such as Al-Liyah, Kura Al-Maru, Shagat Al-Jleeb, and Afrie, which form a ridge at Jal al-Zor (145 meters high), cut by the Umm Al-Ramam wadi. The area is locally known by the name ? Ghodai? meaning the ? Hill?.
There are nine islands off the coast of Kuwait: Failaka, Bubiyan, Miskan, Warba, Auhha, Umm Al-Maradim, Umm Al-Naml, Kubbar and Qaruth.
Bubiyan : Located in the northwest of the Arabian Gulf it is the largest island in area (863 Km2), and is linked to the mainland by a prestressed concrete bridge.
Failaka, considered as the most beautiful island was a residential island and had a special beach resort comprising a number of chalets and leisure facilities before the Iraqi invasion, lies deserted now. However Kuwait plans to transform Failaka into a touristic and recreational destination. It will also be linked with the mainland by a 30 km long causeway.
The State's Higher Committee for Urban Planning and Major Projects is considering developmental projects in Failaka and Bubiyan islands.
The private sector would be invited to present offers for the Bubyan and Failaka island projects on the basis of 'BOT' (build-operate-transfer) system.
There has always been a strong link between Kuwait and the sea, and it is this which shaped the distinctive character of today's Kuwaitis and constituted the Kuwaitis main source of income in olden times. Today the picture is different, with the urban expansion and rapid modernization. The link with the sea is still to the Kuwaitis a cherished memory of the past.
The 290 kilometers coast can be divided into two main parts : one extends along the Arabian Gulf and the other lies around Kuwait Bay and Khor Subiya. The two areas are basically different. Most of the first area is characterized by sandy beaches, while the second area, 70 km in length, is characterized by mudflats, especially in the shallow northern area in the Bay of Kuwait, where the maximum wave height is 16 cm. opposite Kuwait City.
Flora, Fauna & MarineLife
Being a desert land with little water and extremes of temperatures and high salinity, Kuwait is rather an inhospitable place for plants and animal life. Still there are some 400 species of plants and flowers growing in Kuwait. In spring some parts of desert transform into green medows and carpet of yellow camomile. In the northern part of the country and at Jal al-Zor there are numerous plants like Arfaj (phanterium epapposum) and Awsaj (lycium arbicumL.Shawi) both eaten by camels. There is heliotropium ramosissimum plant whose dry leaves are used by the bedouins to make a drink like tea, and a poultice to cure venomous snake bites. Cistanche lutea with its large flowers is an impressive plant found in Kuwait.
The best months to see and study Kuwait's flora are January, February and March when desert comes alive with colourful plants.
Wild life prior to the Iraqi invasion of August 1990 include many species of reptiles; lizards and snakes. Rabbits, wolf and various types of desert gazelle are near extinction due to unrestricted hunting and urban expansion. Native birds are limited to few species, mostly larks, but the country lies on the migration route for many bird species such as flamingoes, steppe eagles, Cormorants and Bee Eaters.
The Arabian Gulf is highly saline and seawater temperatures range from 12oC to 36oC. More than 200 species of fish inhabit local waters, as well as 5 species of sea-snakes, along with dolphins, porpoises and whales. Innumerable types of molluscs and other sea-shells are found on the shores.
Kuwait has few natural resources other than oil, a gigantic natural harbour, fisheries, and a few sparse water supplies.
Oil is Kuwait's prime natural resource on which its economy depends. The country is reckoned to have reserves of 94.8 billion barrels, about 9.6% of the world's total. This ranks it third in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq. At current levels of production, Kuwait has enough oil to last for more than 100 years.
Kuwait bay is a generously sized natural harbour and has always been a prime access point for trade entering and leaving the hinterland of northeast Arabia and Iraq. Before oil was discovered, it was the country's most valuable natural resource and today, as the location of Kuwait's main commercial port, its economic importance continues.
Fifty years ago Kuwait was self-sufficient in marine foods and, despite a 20-fold increase in population, fishing still provides 50% of the country's seafood requirements. But stocks are being depleted through overfishing and the breeding grounds are being polluted by increased sediment due to marsh-draining in southern Iraq.
Kuwait's only reserves of pure drinking water are in the northern areas of Ar-Rawdatain and Umm Al-Aish. The rest of its naturally occuring water, which is found in Sulaibiya, Shigaya, Abdali, Wafra and Umm Qdair, is brackish and can only be used, in its natural state, for irrigation.
Trade has always been the main factor in the existance of Kuwait. Before the Suez canal was opened in 1868, Kuwait Bay was one of the two good natural harbours in the Gulf, the other being in Bahrain. Due to these geographical advantages and its stable administration, early Kuwait became the centre of much of the transit trade from India, Africa and China to Europe.
Kuwaiti merchants would sail to distant locations in locally built sailing dhows. Many were involved in pearl diving, boat building and general trading. Fishing provided an essential food for the locals. Pearling was a major source of wealth.
Kuwait In Pre-history
Very little is known of Kuwait in early times. Tools, dating from about 8,000 BC, found in Burgan and Wafra, indicate a human presence in the area during the mesolithic period, though strangely there are no signs of a later neolithic culture.
Archaeological finds dating as far back as 2000 BC suggest that Failaka, the most famous of Kuwaits islands, was a trading centre. It was an outpost of the Dilmun trading empire. The island of Failaka lies 20 km north east of Kuwait city. It is 12 km long, 6 km wide. It is this island which combines the ancient history of Kuwait, dating back to the early stone age; and the recorded history of Kuwait, when the early ?Utubs? settled in after their long journey, prior to their settlement on Kuwait's main land in the late seventeenth century.
Kuwait has a history of over 250 years of existence as an independent political entity.
The real history of Kuwait dates back to 1672 when Kuwait was just a small village where the Sheikh of the Bani Khalid built his ?Kout? (small fortress),. The establishment of Kuwait proper was in 1711 with the arrival of the ?Utub? tribe in Kuwait. The ?Utub? were originally related to the ?Anaza? tribe in Najd.
In the 17th century the Bani Khalid were the rulers of Eastern Arabian peninsula and their domain stretched from Kuwait down to Qatar.
In the middle of the 17th century the 'Utub' tribe comprising of several major tribe of Anaza, such as Al-Sabah, Al-Khalifa, Al-Zayed, Al-Jalahima and Al-Muawida migrated from Najd, a place in central Arabian peninsula due to a drought sweeping the peninsula at that time.
Disputes over succession after the death of Saidun bin Muhammed bin Oraier Al-Hamad in 1722 gave the Utab some form of local government. In 1756 Sabah bin Jaber was chosen by the inhabitants of Kuwait to administer justice and the affairs of the town.
Kuwait, The Capital :
The first wall around the City was built in the 1760s, the second in 1814, and the last in 1920. This was demolished in 1957 but its five gates were left standing as monuments to the past.
The City of Kuwait itself still retains its five original districts - Sharq, Dasman, Mirqab, Salhya and Qibla, although today it has spread beyond the boundary of the old surrounding wall. In 1760 Kuwait covered an area of 11 hectares, i.e. 110,000 sq. meters. Now after astounding urban expansion it encompasses 16 modern suburbs with a total area of 17,818 sq. Km.
Old Kuwait City almost disappeared under the massive surge of constructional activity with all the accoutrements of the twentieth century - modern residential complexes, modern roads, multi-storey buildings, plentiful water,etc.
The Origins Of The Population
When the Utub tribe arrived in Kuwait there were some families of other tribes already living in the area, and these families joined the new Utbi trading settlement. Other families from the Anaza, were attracted by Kuwait's stability and in 1831 the population was about 4,000. Throughout the 19th century there was continuous slow immigration from Arabia, southern Mesopotamia, and Persia and in 1863 the population was nearly 15,000. Thousands more arrived during the time of Sheikh Mubarak the Great, attracted by his orderly administration and Kuwait's commercial activity. In 1946 the population was about 90,000.
Social & Political Formation
Because of its location at the head of the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait was an important entrepot on the trade routes between the West and the East. In the early 18th century, the Utub, the ancestors of many of today's premier Kuwaiti families, arrived in the area where they founded a settlement of traders. At that time the area from Qatar to Kuwait was ruled by the Beni Khalid, a tribal federation of nomads and settled clans who controlled trade along the Gulf coast. Due to a weakening of the Beni Khalid by internal dissention and general political turbulence in the area, the Utub were able to assert their independence gradually. This independence became absolute in the mid-18th century.
The new trading settlement in Kuwait elected Sabah bin Jabir bin Adhbi as its first Sheikh. About 1764, Sabah was succeeded by his younger son Abd Allah who was also elected by the Utbi merchants. In the 19th century the Sabah consolidated their position as the ruling clan when the method of succession changed. Instead of being elected by the merchants, the head of the Sabah was selected by the family and this person became Amir when the merchants pledged their allegiance to him. The Amir and his immediate family were expected to cease trading on their own account to devote themselves to government, and in return they were allowed to levy a small duty on imports.
The Amirs were not absolute rulers and consulted the merchants at regular diwaniyahs, meetings which they hosted. According to al-Rushaid, a Kuwaiti historian, the Amir's role was seen as being to 'protect the rights of the merchant community against the greed of foreigners', and real authority rested with the merchants.
Early Kuwait was a small closely-knit political entity. The consensual nature of its governance enabled it to adjust rapidly to threats and opportunities, whether commercial or political. Whenever the Beni Khalid, in the early days, appeared to reassert their sovereignty, the merchants would decamp with their stock-in-trade for Faylaka Island, wait until the nomadic Khalidis grew bored and left, and then move back to Kuwait. Later, during the first century or so of its existence, Kuwait relied on ad hoc alliances with neighbouring powers to preserve its independence and free-booting mercantilism.
When Sheikh Mubarak the Great, considered the founder of modern Kuwait, rose to power in 1896, he was concerned with foreign policy as his small and prosperous trading town came under continual threat from outsiders, particularly the Ottoman Turks. On 23rd January 1899, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabahand the British government signed an agreement, under which the British would provide a measure of protection, but Mubarak was not allowed to receive a representative of any country without the concent of the British, nor could any Kuwaiti territory be sold to any foreign national or government without their concent. Mubarak is portrayed as a highly competent ruler who managed tribal affairs very well. Mubarak died in 1915. It is recorded that in 1914 the population of town was 35,000 people. The town consisted of 3,000 houses, 500 shops and three schools. There were around 500 boats engaged in pearl-fishing and 30 to 40 larger vessels sailing to India and Africa. By 1922 the total number of Kuwaiti pearl diving boats reached 800 and there were over 10,000 people involved in the profession. There were as many as 300 boat builders, the timber came mainly from India.
During the 1920s and 1930s Kuwait's consensual form of governance, in which views were traditionally expressed openly in the Sheikh's diwaniyah, became more formal and several experiments were made with elected advisory and legislative councils. In 1930 Kuwait Municipality was established.
On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became independent of the British protection by an agreement signed between the Kuwaiti prince Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem and the then resident British diplomat. By the end of 1962 the Kuwaiti constitution was established and the first election for the National Assembly was held in 1963.
Iraqi Invasion And Liberation
The gruesome and unprovoked cruel aggression of Iraq invading Kuwait on August 2, 1990 makes an unforgettable event of the recent history of Kuwait. The seven month occupation by Iraq brutalised the entire population.
During the Iraqi occupation more than 400 Kuwaitis were martyred. Hundreds of Kuwaitis and expatriates were tortured, women raped, properties looted and damaged.
Thousands of Westerners trapped in Kuwait were arrested and forcibly used as human shields on key military and industrial installations in Iraq and Kuwait, and others, to avoid such a fate, had to go into hiding.
The UN condemned the invasion and authorised the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait. The USA, led by President George Bush, created an Arabic-Western coalition of 35 countries which freed Kuwait on 26th February 1991. But before liberation more than 70% of the country's suqs and shopping malls were looted. Warehouses, factories, hosp-itals, offices and buildings were stripped, museums and cultural centres were emptied, and the environment was almost destroyed by the Iraqi dictator's last attrocity of firing Kuwaiti oil wells to destroy Kuwait.
The retreating Iraqis blew up oil installations and set 727 oil wells (about 80% of the total) on fire, causing oil-related losses of about US$75 billion. In addition, the ports were blocked and mined, and power and water distillation plants were rendered inoperative. But within ten days one port was cleared, power was restored two months later, and the last oil fire was extinguished in November 1991.
Nearly six hundred Kuwaitis, who were arrested and reported as being taken to Iraq, are still missing. Now, more than eleven years, best of efforts have not achieved much success. Those missing include men, women and even children. The families of missing continue to live in agony as they wait.