post-oil boom era of about four decades transformed Kuwait not only in
its physical infrastructure, the population structure also changed
completely with the huge influx of manpower for the development. Today's
population of Kuwait comprises of over 100 nationalities reducing
Kuwaiti citizens to a minority in their own country.
Population Summery 2002
……… 2,363,325 (100%)
Women) ration approx
……………………………….. 3 : 1
………………………… 0.97 : 1
……………….……..….. 2 : 1
Employment in Kuwait falls into three categories: the public sector
(ministries, other public authorities and the state-owned oil
companies), the private sector, and domestic service.
The state employs
about 93 per cent of Kuwaitis in the work force who enjoy relatively
high salaries and generous benefits compared with the private sector.
role as the dominant employer of national manpower is due to several
factors: the state's perceived duty to provide jobs for all citizens,
the high salaries paid in the public sector. In the private sector 98%
of employees are expatriates. At least 60% of these are non-Arabs,
According to the
Ministry of Planning report, unemployment among Kuwaitis increased from
2,449 in 2000 to 6,238 people by the end of 2001. The threefold rise in
the number of jobless Kuwaitis is attributed to increasing number of
college graduates to enter the job market.
History reveals that Kuwait was never
a colony and the Kuwaitis have always been free to manage their affairs
among themselves as they see fit and develop their unique cultural
characteristics in their own way. Because the country has experienced
several hundred years of continuous immigration, the sources of Kuwaiti
culture are very diverse.
The culture of
the Kuwaiti people is very rich and variegated and, like most cultures
that thrive, it is undergoing continuous change.
The Kuwaiti of
the pre-oil era survived, in the harshness of the desert or sea, through
a mix of finely-honed skills and a highly developed social organization
based on family, clan and tribe, which provided the economic and
political support necessary for survival. In return for this support,
the individual gave unquestioning service and loyalty to this group.
This gave rise to clan-based networks which are still extremely strong
and provide the basis of social relations between Kuwaitis today.
> The Diwaniyah
The diwanyiah, has existed in Kuwait since time immemorial. The term
originally referred to the section of a Bedouin tent where the men-folk
and their visitors sat apart from the family. In the old City of Kuwait
it was the reception area where a man received his business colleagues
and male guests. Today the term refers both to a reception hall and the
gathering held in it, and visiting or hosting a diwaniyah is an
indispensable feature of a Kuwaiti man's social life.
As a social
event, a diwaniyah takes place in the evening in a special room or annex
which in usually separate from the rest of a man's house. Only men are
present and they sit around on soft benches or cushions, conversing
casually, smoking, nibbling snacks and relaxing over beverages such as
tea, coffee or the like. Relatives and friends come and go throughout
the evening. The host's job is to be hospitable and entertain his
There are also
more formal diwaniyahs which specialize in particular interests, such as
politics or science.
are the core of Kuwait's social, business and political life, the places
where topics of interest are discussed, associates introduced, alliances
formed, and similar networking activities undertaken. Formal diwaniyahs
may be convened to discuss particular topics, sometimes with invited
guest speakers. They are called for particular purposes, such as
election campaigns. Formal diwaniyahs are the root of Kuwait's
consensual political system.
> Kuwaiti Male Attire
Most Kuwaiti men wear a dishdasha, a floor length robe with a centre
front opening which is put on over the head. The headdress of the
Kuwaiti male consists of three parts. The gutra is a square piece of
cloth which is folded into a triangle and then placed centrally on the
head so that the ends hang down equally over the shoulders. It is held
in place by an ogal, a double circlet of twisted black cord, which is
placed firmly over the head. Often a gahfiyah, a close-fitting skull
cap, is worn under the gutra to stop it from slipping.
> Kuwaiti Female Attire
Many Kuwaiti women dress in western clothes. However
their traditional clothing, such as the thob (a straight-sided long
overdress), is still used on festive occasions.
When in public
many local women cover their chic western clothing with an aba, a
head-to-toe silky black cloak. Bedouin women
also wear a burga, a short black veil which leaves the eyes and forehead
exposed, or occasionally a bushiya, a semi-transparent veil which covers
the entire face.
The hijab, or
Islamic headscarf, which conceals the hair while leaving the face
unveiled, is worn by many Kuwaiti and expatriate Muslim women.
Social status, financial standing and religious sect
are some of the important considerations. Some marriages are still
arranged in Kuwait. However there is no coercion and both partners are
free to accept or reject their parents' choice. Marriage between cousins
If no marriage
partner could be found by parents among their extended family or close
acquainted families, services of a female go-between (Khataba) is
agreement to marry has been reached, the contract is signed according to
Islamic law fixing an amount of mahr or dowry which the man must pay.
This is followed by a public announcement and then separate wedding
receptions are held for the woman and the man. Both are extremely
lavish. Weddings are major social occasions.
Lavish Kuwaiti hospitality prevails on the birth of a
child, more so if the infant is a son. The baby whether a boy or girl,
will receive presents of gold jewelry. Traditionally the mother will
stay at home for 40 days after birth eating special foods, such as
gabout (a type of mutton stew), to restore her strength.
Once his first-born son has been named, a father will
be addressed by his son's name prefixed with "Abu", meaning "the father
Since death is regarded as God's will, excessive
display of grief is considered evil and elaborate ceremonies are
regarded unnecessary. When a person dies, according to Islamic rites,
the body is buried before sundown on the day of death. It is usually
accompanied to the graveyard by male relatives only. The family of the
deceased stay at home for a period of the three days following the
funeral to receive condolences. Each morning for three days, the men of
the family hold a condolence diwaniyah and even casual acquaintances
will come to pay their respects. The men of the family sit in a row with
their elders in the middle. But they all stand when a visitor arrives.
The visitor goes down the line shaking hands and murmuring condolences,
then sits quietly for a while before leaving.
Women receive condolences separately. A widow observes
idda (strict seclusion) for four lunar months and ten days after her
Because of Kuwaiti's coastal location seafood is
prominent in the local diet.
Bedouin influence has given a special place to Kharoof (mutton), tamar
(dates) and laban (yoghurt). Ancient trading links with India have
influenced the variety of spices used. Immigrants from Iran and, more
recently, expatriates from Lebanon have added their culinary input. The
influence of the Far East is also discernible in modem Kuwaiti cooking.
Kuwaiti cuisine is a synthesis of the various techniques and ingredients
that traders, travelers and immigrants have brought to Kuwait, a
synthesis which is unique and recognizably Kuwaiti.
> The arts and folk scene
Kuwait has persistently paid special attention to
refining and preserving the folk arts. In 1956 the "Folklore
preservation Centre" was established and in1982 folklores were included
within the curriculums of teaching the folklore subject for students of
music, theatre and fine arts.
Kuwait has a long tradition of story telling, poetry,
folk dancing and music. Local folklore and traditional music centre on
tales of the desert and the sea, children's stories, riddles and
proverbs. Poetry, with historical and modern themes, is still written in
Kuwaiti males excel in Iilth-like dancing which they
perform on special family and social occasions. The well known Ardah is
a very graceful slowish dance performed by groups of men gently swinging
swords to the sound of drums, tambourines and sung-poetry. Other popular
rhythmic dances are the Samri, Khamari, and the Tanboura which are
performed at family gatherings, social occasions and wedding
Kuwait Television has formed the Kuwait Television
Folklore Troupe which presents Kuwaiti folklore abroad at various world
Beduine art is the most prominent expression of Kuwaiti
folk arts and is best illustrated by 'SADU' weaving, creating rugs with
beautiful geometric designs from hand-dyed and spun wool. To keep the
craft alive the government opened AI-Sadu House on the Gulf road in