One of the milestones in the history of shipping was Alexander the Great’s Admiral, Nearco, who sailed from the Indus River to the bottom of the Arabian Gulf and ended his journey in Diridotis in modern-day Kuwait. Yet, this was not the first contact between India and Kuwait, which had been a lively trade center since 2000. Until the 13th century, the country’s fate was closely linked to Mesopotamian civilizations (see Iraq) – until the Mongols invasions brought the caliphate of Baghdad to a fall.
As a result, a long period of isolation began, during which new Arab people settled in the area. In the 18th century, the area was formally subject to the Ottoman Empire, but the population was largely independent. They could choose their own sheikh, which represented them in the rare negotiations with the Turks. According to Countryaah, in 1756, the head of the anaiza family, Abdul Rahim Al-Sabah, was appointed Sheikh. He is the founder of the dynasty that continues to rule the country.
It was during this same period that the area, which until then had been called Qurain (horn), began to be called Kuwait – the diminutive of al-Kout, which, on the local Arabic dialect, denoted the fortified houses along the coast.
The weakness of the Turkish sultans and the rising British influence in the area stimulated the creation of semi-states in the area, the most dynamic of which was the emirate Najd (see Saudi Arabia). In order to avoid being swallowed up by the Wahabites, the Kuwaiti emirs sought help from the British, who in 1779 had moved the terminus of the East India Post Railway from Basra to Kuwait. The British now sent troops from India to guarantee the autonomy of the emirate without the Turks being able to impede it. For decades, Kuwait was now the most prosperous and peaceful city in the otherwise troubled region.
In 1892, the emir of Nadj was overthrown by a patriarchal conspiracy and granted asylum in Kuwait. With Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah’s approval, he now operated from Kuwait against the Rashidians who ruled the Arabian Peninsula under Ottoman protection.
In 1899, the danger of a Turkish invasion became imminent. Sheiken therefore signed an agreement with England, promising not to relinquish any part of his country without the British’s acceptance. In return, Britain promised to secure Kuwait’s territorial integrity. The treaty and the British military presence prevented the Turks from extending the Berlin-Baghdad railway line to the Persian Gulf.
- AllCityPopulation: Find Kuwait demographics including latest population, life expectancy, age structure, and urbanization.
At the end of World War I, France and Britain shared the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Kuwait now became a British protectorate, separate from the ancient kingdom of Iraq, which, with reference to history, perceived the country as an Iraqi province.
In 1938, oil was discovered in the area of Burgan, but the emir Ahmad Jabi al-Sabah opposed the extraction of the huge oil deposits. He feared that the upheavals the oil industry would bring would ruin the pearl fishing, which at that time was the country’s most important economic activity with about 10,000 sailors and divers. Following the World War II bracket, the emir surrendered the oil concessions to Kuwait Oil Co. – which consisted of British BP and the North American Gulf – and in 1946 oil was exported from the country for the first time. The large-scale extraction of oil and gas quickly transformed the small port city into a large commercial center.
In 1961, the country negotiated independence, within the framework of a gradual British decolonization. Sheik Sabah appointed himself emir and took full power in the country. However, Iraq refused to recognize the new state, claiming that it was an artificial British construction to secure superpower access to the oil. The British troops therefore remained in the country to defend the emirate until they could be replaced by troops from the Arab League.