17,818 sq km (6,880 sq miles).
2.7 million (UN estimate 2005).
151.53 per sq km.
Kuwait City. Population: 1.2 million (UN estimate 2003).
Traditional Arab monarchy. Gained full independence from the UK in 1961.
Kuwait shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. To the southeast lies the Persian Gulf, where Kuwait has sovereignty over nine small islands (the largest is Bubiyan and the most populous is Failaka). The landscape is predominantly desert plateau with a lower, more fertile coastal belt.
Arabic, but English is widely understood, especially in commerce and industry.
95% Muslim (mostly Sunni), with Christian and Hindu minorities.
GMT + 3.
Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. It is quite likely that a visitor will be invited to a Kuwaiti's home, but entertaining is also conducted in hotels and restaurants. A small gift promoting the company, or representing your own country, is always welcome. The visitor will notice that most Kuwaitis wear the national dress of long white dishdashes and white headcloths, and that many women wear yashmaks. It is important for women to dress modestly according to Islamic law. Men do not usually wear shorts in public and should not go shirtless.
All other Islamic rules and customs must be respected. Convicted users of narcotics can expect to receive a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment, plus a heavy fine. 'No Smoking' signs are posted in many shops. It is greatly appreciated if visitors learn at least a few words of Arabic. Homosexuality is illegal, as is any public affection between men and women. Cohabitation is also illegal. The import and use of drugs, alcohol, pork products and obscene material are forbidden and can lead to imprisonment.
Head of Government
Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Muhammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah.
Head of State
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah since 2006.
Following the death of His Highness Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait, his Highness Sheikh Sa'ad al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah became Emir in January 2006. He ruled for just nine days before the parliament voted him out of office due to his ill health. Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah took over the role. Kuwait was the first Arab country in the Gulf to have an elected parliament. Moves to change the male-dominated political structure culminated in the granting of full political rights to women in 2005.
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