Kuwait International airport, Kuwait
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between
Iraq and Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 29 30 N, 45 45 E
Map references: Middle East
total: 17,820 sq km
land: 17,820 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
total: 464 km
border countries: Iraq 242 km, Saudi Arabia 222 km
Coastline: 499 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool
Terrain: flat to slightly undulating desert plain
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 306 m
Natural resources: petroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 8%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 92% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 20 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: sudden cloudbursts are common from October
to April; they bring inordinate amounts of rain which can damage
roads and houses; sandstorms and dust storms occur throughout the
year, but are most common between March and August
Environment - current issues: limited natural fresh water
resources; some of world's largest and most sophisticated desalination
facilities provide much of the water; air and water pollution; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Climate Change, Desertification, Environmental
Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping,
Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity, Endangered Species,
Geography - note: strategic location at head of Persian
Background: Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2
August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led
UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely
liberated Kuwait in four days. Kuwait has spent more than $5 billion
dollars to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91.
Formal Name: State of Kuwait.
Short Form: Kuwait.
Term for Citizens: Kuwaiti(s); adjectival form,
Capital: Kuwait (city of Kuwait frequently used
to distinguish it from country).
Date of Independence: June 19, 1961.
Size: About 17,818 square kilometers.
Topography: Almost entirely flat desert.
Climate: Hot, dry, desert climate; sandstorms
in June and July; some rain, mainly in spring.
Boundaries: Mostly defined; United Nations post-Persian
Gulf War 1992 boundary settlement accepted by Kuwait but rejected
Data as of January 1993
Armed Forces: In 1993 personnel strength 13,700:
army, 9,000 plus 1,000 general staff; navy, 1,200 (including coast
guard); and air force, 2,500. Matιriel of all services largely destroyed
or captured in Persian Gulf War; being renewed by large-scale foreign
arms purchases in 1992-93.
Kuwait -- GEOGRAPHY
KUWAIT CAPTURED THE WORLD'S ATTENTION on August 2, 1990, when Iraqi
forces invaded and occupied the country, catalyzing a series of
events that culminated in military intervention and ultimate victory
by United States-led coalition forces in February 1991. In 1993
it appeared that the invasion and its aftermath would have a lasting
effect on the people, the economy, and the politics of Kuwait.
Once a small gulf shaykhdom known locally as a center for pearl
diving and boat construction, Kuwait came to international prominence
in the post-World War II era largely because of its enormous oil
revenues. Yet its history as an autonomous political entity is much
older, dating back to the eighteenth century. At that time, the
town of Kuwait was settled by migrants from central Arabia who arrived
at what was then a lightly populated fishing village under the suzerainty
of the Bani Khalid tribe of Arabia. Members of one family, the Al
Sabah, have ruled Kuwait from that time.
Since 1977 Kuwait has been ruled by Shaykh Jabir al Ahmad al Jabir
Al Sabah and his designated successor, Shaykh Saad al Abd Allah
as Salim Al Sabah, the prime minister and crown prince. In the postwar
period, these men have supported, with some ambivalence, the strengthening
of popular participation in decision making as provided for in the
Kuwait is located at the far northwestern corner of the Persian
Gulf, known locally as the Arabian Gulf . It is a small state of
about 17,818 square kilometers, a little smaller than the state
of New Jersey. At its most distant points, it is about 200 kilometers
north to south and 170 kilometers east to west.
Shaped roughly like a triangle, Kuwait borders the gulf to the
east, with 195 kilometers of coast. Kuwait includes within its territory
nine gulf islands, two of which, Bubiyan (the largest) and Warbah,
are largely uninhabited but strategically important. The island
of Faylakah, at the mouth of Kuwait Bay, is densely inhabited. It
is believed to be the outermost point of the ancient civilization
of Dilmun, which was centered in what is present-day Bahrain. Faylakah
is the site of an ancient Greek temple built by the forces of Alexander
the Great. Kuwait's most prominent geographic feature is Kuwait
Bay, which indents the shoreline for about forty kilometers, providing
natural protection for the port of Kuwait and accounting for nearly
onehalf the state's shoreline.
To the south and west, Kuwait shares a long border of 250 kilometers
with Saudi Arabia. The boundary between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
was set by the Treaty of Al Uqayr in 1922, which also established
the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone of 5,700 square kilometers.
In 1966 Kuwait and Saudi Arabia agreed to divide the Neutral Zone;
the partitioning agreement making each country responsible for administration
in its portion was signed in December 1969. The resources in the
area, since known as the Divided Zone, are not affected by the agreement,
and the oil from onshore and offshore fields continues to be shared
equally between the two countries.
The third side of the triangle is the 240 kilometers of historically
contested border to the north and west that Kuwait shares with Iraq.
Although the Iraqi government, which had first asserted a claim
to rule Kuwait in 1938, recognized the borders with Kuwait in 1963
(based on agreements made earlier in the century), it continued
to press Kuwait for control over Bubiyan and Warbah islands through
the 1960s and 1970s. In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and, shortly
thereafter, formally incorporated the entire country into Iraq.
Under United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 687, after
the restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty in 1991, a UN commission
undertook formal demarcation of the borders on the basis of those
agreed to in 1963. The boundary was demarcated in 1992, but Iraq
refuses to accept the commission's findings.
Kuwait has a desert climate, hot and dry. Rainfall varies from
seventy-five to 150 millimeters a year across the country; actual
rainfall has ranged from twenty-five millimeters a year to as much
as 325 millimeters. In summer, average daily high temperatures range
from 42° C to 46° C; the highest recorded temperature is
51.5° C. The summers are relentlessly long, punctuated mainly
by dramatic dust storms in June and July when northwesterly winds
cover the cities in sand. In late summer, which is more humid, there
are occasional sharp, brief thunderstorms. By November summer is
over, and colder winter weather sets in, dropping temperatures to
as low as 3° C at night; daytime temperature is in the upper
20s C range. Frost rarely occurs; rain is more common and falls
mostly in the spring.
The land was formed in a recent geologic era. In the south, limestone
rises in a long, north-oriented dome that lies beneath the surface.
It is within and below this formation that the principal oil fields,
Kuwait's most important natural resource, are located. In the west
and north, layers of sand, gravel, silt, and clay overlie the limestone
to a depth of more than 210 meters. The upper portions of these
beds are part of a mass of sediment deposited by a great wadi whose
most recent channel was the Wadi al Batin, the broad shallow valley
forming the western boundary of the country. On the western side
of Ar Rawdatayn geological formation, a freshwater aquifer was discovered
in 1960 and became Kuwait's principal water source. The supply is
insufficient to support extensive irrigation, but it is tapped to
supplement the distilled water supply that fills most of the country's
needs. The only other exploited aquifer lies in the permeable zone
in the top of the limestone of the Ash Shuaybah field south and
east of the city of Kuwait. Unlike water from the Ar Rawdatayn aquifer,
water from the Ash Shuaybah aquifer is brackish. Millions of liters
a day of this water are produced for commercial and household purposes.
The bulk of the Kuwaiti population lives in the coastal capital
of the city of Kuwait. Smaller populations inhabit the nearby city
of Al Jahrah, smaller desert and coastal towns, and, prior to the
Persian Gulf War, some of the several nearby gulf islands, notably
Data as of January 1993