Kuwait Travel Guide
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In the 4th century BC, the ancient Macedonians colonized an island on Kuwait's coast, now known as Failaka, and named it "Ikaros". Earliest recorded history of the State of Kuwait goes back to the year 1613. Tribes from central Arabia settled in Kuwait in the 17th-century after experiencing a massive drought in their native land. Kuwait would later emerge as a major center for the spice trade between India and Europe. By late 18th-century, most of the local people made a living selling pearls.
In 1756, the people elected Sabah I bin Jaber as the first emir of Kuwait. The current ruling family of Kuwait, al-Sabah, are descendants of Sabah I. During the rule of the Al-Sabah, Kuwait progressively became a center of trade and commerce. It now served as a hub of trade between India, the horn of Africa, the Nejd, Mesopotamia and the Levant. Up until the advent of Japanese pearl farming, Kuwait had one of the largest sea fleets in the Persian Gulf region and a flourishing pearling industry. Trade consisted mainly of pearls, wood, spices, dates and horses.
As the influence of the Ottoman Empire increased in the region, Kuwait was assigned the status of a caza of the Ottomans. After the signing of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, then emir of Kuwait, Mubarak Al-Sabah, was diplomatically recognized by both the Ottomans and British as the ruler of the autonomous caza of the city of Kuwait and the hinterlands. The 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone, an area of about 5,180 km² adjoining Kuwait's southern border.
Oil was first discovered in Kuwait in the 1930s and the government became more proactive in establishing internationally recognized boundaries. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was financially crippled and the invading British Indian Army invalidated the Anglo-Ottoman Convention, declaring Kuwait to be an "independent sheikdom under British protectorate".
On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and the then emir of Kuwait, Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah. The Gulf rupee, issued by the Reserve Bank of India, was replaced by the Kuwaiti dinar. The discovery of large oil fields, such as the Burgan field, triggered a large influx of foreign investments into Kuwait. The massive growth of the petroleum industry transformed Kuwait into one of the richest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and by 1952, the country became the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf region. This massive growth attracted many foreign workers, especially from Egypt and India.
Kuwait settled its boundary disputes with Saudi Arabia and agreed on sharing equally the neutral zone's petroleum reserves, onshore and offshore. After a brief stand-off over boundary issues, Iraq formally recognized Kuwait's independence and its borders in October 1963. During the 1970s, the Kuwaiti government nationalized the Kuwait Oil Company, ending its partnership with Gulf Oil and British Petroleum.
In 1982, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price. However, the crisis was short-lived as Kuwait's oil production increased steadily to fill the gap caused by decrease in Iraq's and Iran's oil production levels following the events of the Iran–Iraq War. In 1983, a series of six bomb explosions took place in Kuwait killing five people. The attack was carried out by Shiite Dawa Party to retaliate Kuwait's financial support to Iraq during its war with Iran.
Kuwait had heavily funded Iraq's eight year-long war with Iran. After the war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt. An economic warfare between the two countries followed after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent. Tensions between the two countries increased further after Iraq alleged that Kuwait was slant drilling oil from its share of the Rumaila field.
On 2 August, 1990 Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. Saddam Hussein, then President of Iraq, deposed the emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Sabah, and installed Ali Hassan al-Majid as the new governor of Kuwait. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States-led coalition of thirty-four nations fought the Persian Gulf War to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On February 26, 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces, restoring the Kuwaiti emir to power. Kuwait paid the coalition forces US$17 billion for their war efforts.
During their retreat, the Iraqi armed forces carried out a scorched earth policy by damaging 737 oil wells in Kuwait, of which approximately 600 were set on fire. It was estimated that by the time Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation, about 5 to 6 million barrels of oil was being burned in a single day because of these fires. Oil and soot accumulation had affected the entire Persian Gulf region and large oil lakes were created holding approximately 25 to 50 million barrels of oil and covering 5% of Kuwait's land area. In total, about 11 million barrels of oil was released into the Persian Gulf and an additional 2% of Kuwait's 96 billion barrels of crude oil reserves were burned by the time the oil fires were brought under control.
The fires took more than nine months to extinguish fully and it took Kuwait more than 2 years and US$50 billion in infrastructure reconstruction to reach pre-invasion oil output. Kuwait has since largely recovered from the socio-economic, environmental, and public health effects of the Persian Gulf War.
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