Emir: Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (2006)
Prime Minister: Sheikh Jabir al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah (2011)
Total area: 6,880 sq mi (17,819 sq km)
Population (2012 est.): 2,646,314 (growth rate: 1.883%); birth rate: 20.96/1000; infant mortality rate: 7.87/1000; life expectancy: 77.28
Capital (2009 est.): Kuwait, 2.23 million
Monetary unit: Kuwaiti dinar (KD)
National name: Dawlat al-Kuwayt
Languages: Arabic (official), English
Ethnicity/race: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%
Religions: Islam 85% (Sunni 70%, Shiite 30%); Christian, Hindu, Parsi, and other 15%
National Holiday: National Day, February 25
Literacy rate: 93.3% (2005 census)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $155.5 billion; per capita $42,200. Real growth rate: 8.2%. Inflation: 5.6%. Unemployment: 2.2% (2004 est.). Arable land: 0.84%. Agriculture: practically no crops; fish. Labor force: 2.243 million; note: non-Kuwaitis represent about 60% of the labor force; agriculture n.a., industry n.a., services n.a. Industries: petroleum, petrochemicals, cement, shipbuilding and repair, desalination, food processing, construction materials. Natural resources: petroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas. Exports: $94.47 billion (2011 est.): oil and refined products, fertilizers. Imports: $22.41billion (2011 est.): food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing. Major trading partners: Japan, India, South Korea, U.S., Germany, UAE, Saudi Arabia, China (2011).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 566,300 (2009); mobile cellular: 4.4 million (2009). Broadcast media: state-owned TV broadcaster operates 4 networks and a satellite channel; several private TV broadcasters have emerged since 2003; satellite TV is available with pan-Arab TV stations especially popular; state-owned Radio Kuwait broadcasts on a number of channels in Arabic and English; first private radio station emerged in 2005; transmissions of at least 2 international radio broadcasters are available (2007). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2,730 (2010). Internet users: 1.1 million (2009).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 5,749 km; paved: 4,887 km; unpaved: 862 km (2004). Waterways: none. Ports and harbors: Ash Shu'aybah, Ash Shuwaykh, Az Zawr (Mina' Sa'ud), Mina' 'Abd Allah, Mina' al Ahmadi. Airports: 7 (2012).
International disputes: Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue negotiating a joint maritime boundary with Iran; no maritime boundary exists with Iraq in the Persian Gulf.
Kuwait is situated northeast of Saudi Arabia at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, south of Iraq. It is slightly larger than Hawaii. The low-lying desert land is mainly sandy and barren.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy, governed by the al-Sabah family.
Kuwait is believed to have been part of an early civilization in the 3rd millennium B.C. and to have traded with Mesopotamian cities. Archeological and historical traces disappeared around the first millennium B.C. At the beginning of the 18th century, the 'Anizah tribe of central Arabia founded Kuwait City, which became an autonomous sheikdom by 1756. 'Abd Rahim of the al-Sabah became the first sheik, and his descendants continue to rule Kuwait today. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the sheikdom belonged to the fringes of the Ottoman Empire. Kuwait obtained British protection in 1897 when the sheik feared that the Turks would expand their hold over the area. In 1961, Britain ended the protectorate, giving Kuwait independence, but agreed to give military aid on request. Iraq immediately threatened to occupy the area, and the British sent troops to defend Kuwait. Soon afterward, the Arab League sent in troops, replacing the British. Iraq's claim was dropped when the Arab League recognized Kuwait's independence on July 20, 1961. Historically, Kuwait followed a neutral and mediatory policy among Arab states.