Overview of Kuwait City

History of Kuwait City

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According to archaeological discoveries, Kuwaiti civilization dates back more than 4000 years. The country's prime location in the region controls the connecting routes between different civilizations and markets in the world, thus making Kuwait a central meeting point of various civilizations and developments.

Archaeological ruins on Kuwait's largest island Failaka Island, suggest that the island may have been a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. It continued to serve as a marketplace for roughly 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. In spite of Failaka's long record of being a market and sanctuary for merchants, the island was eventually abandoned around the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history started in the 18th century when, the city of Kuwait was built by the Uteiba, a descendent of the Anaiza ethnic group who may have journeyed from as far north as Qatar.

The Ottoman Turks and other powerful Arabian Peninsula peoples began threatening Kuwait in the 19th century. Shortly thereafter, Kuwait sought a treaty relationship with Great Britain which was already in place with other neighbouring nations such as the Trucial States (U.A.E.) and the island nation of Bahrain. Sometime in January 1897, Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah, signed an agreement with the British Government promising that neither himself nor anyone preceding him would relinquish any territory, nor receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without prior approval from Britain, in exchange for protection and financial support. When Mubarak passed away in 1915, Kuwait's population was about 35,000, and heavily reliant on shipbuilding and pearl diving.

When Sheikh Mubarak died, his son, Jabir, ruled Kuwait from 1915-17. He was followed by Salim, from 1917 to 1921. Kuwait's successive rulers have all come from these two brothers. All of Kuwait's rulers are listed here. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah reigned over the country from 1921 until his passing in 1950. It was during this period that oil was first discovered and the Government of Kuwait attempted to establish internationally recognized boundaries with its neighbors; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair established a border with The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and also set the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.

Kuwait gained its independence from the British in 1961. The British had already begun withdrawing their judicial court system, which processed foreigner cases in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to implement its own legal system being drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait is officially recognized as an independent State.

Under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, Kuwait enjoyed years of wealth and prosperity. Twelve years later, Amir Sabah passed away. During his reign over Kuwait, Amir Sabah signed an agreement with The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, dividing the Neutral Zone (now known as the Divided Zone) and defining a new international boundary between the two countries, sharing equally the Divided Zone's oil deposits, both on land and offshore.

Kuwait's northern border with Iraq was set by a treaty reached with Turkey in 1913. The Iraqi Government recognized this claim in 1932, upon its independence from Turkey. Following Kuwait's independence from the English in 1961, the Iraqis attempted to reclaim Kuwait, saying it had once been part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acknowledgment of Kuwait's autonomy, and the official boundary line it originally agreed to in 1913 and 1932.

In August 1990, Iraq invaded The State of Kuwait. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, the United States and collation forces started a ground assault which lasted four days which ended the war with Iraq. Throughout Iraq's 7-month occupation, the Amir of Kuwait, the Government, and many Kuwaiti nationals sought shelter in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and Kuwaiti government effectively managed Kuwaiti affairs from locations outside the country, relying on extensive Kuwaiti investments available outside of the country, to fund war-related expenses.

Following Kuwait's successful liberation from Iraq, UN, Security Council Resolution 687, fixed the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and 1963 agreements between the two countries. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN border agreement with Kuwait, which had been spelled out in greater detail under UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883. After all of this, bilateral relations between Kuwait and Iraq remain troubled, well into 2010 due to unresolved political issues related to the border, debt, compensation and the return of missing persons and historical archives taken during the 1990 invasion.

Kuwait City

In the early 18th century, the Al-Sabah clan settled the city of Kuwait and continues to rule today. The name Kuwait may have derived from an abandoned fort located at its present location, called "Kut" ,which means fortress by the sea. The village expanded rapidly and had a fleet of 800 dhows (ships). The village's trading partners were Baghdad and Damascus and it soon prospered into a vibrant, highly successful sea port in the region.

Kuwait may have been part of the Ottoman Empire, resulting in frequent disputes between the two nations. Fighting was so fierce that, in 1896, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah murdered his own brother, Amir Muhammad Al-Sabah, because Mubarak was worried the Ottoman Empire would annex Kuwait.

In 1897, Mubarak asked England for naval protection. The English agreed, but only if Mubarak promised not to negotiate or give more territory away to foreign nations without prior approval from England. Britain oversaw foreign relations and defence for the ruling Kuwaiti Al-Sabah dynasty from 1899 until independence in 1961. Oil was discovered in 1936 and the standard of living dramatically improved for all.

Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq in August 1990, and the city was severely damaged by weeks of aerial bombardment. A US-led, UN coalition began a ground assault on February 23rd, 1991 and was able to liberate Kuwait. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure.

During the 2010-11 uprisings and protests across the Arab world, Kuwait experienced its share of upheaval. Stateless Arabs, known as bidoon, staged protests demanding citizenship, jobs, and other benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals. Youth activist groups rallied repeatedly for an end to corruption. These protests led the ousting of the prime minister and his cabinet.

In October and November 2012, Kuwait witnessed further upheaval as changes to the electoral law reduced the number of votes per person from four to one. An opposition movement led by a coalition of Sunni Islamists, tribalists, liberals, and youth groups boycotted the December 2012 legislative election. This resulted in a historic number of seats won by Shia candidates.

Update 25/05/2013

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