Kuwait is a small Middle Eastern country, located on the
northwest side of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia is to the south and southwest
and Iraq is to the north and northwest. Conflict with Iraq has been a major factor
in Kuwait's history. Its borders have long been in dispute. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait
have peacefully resolved their border conflicts by creating a Divided Zone.
Each country governs one-half of the Zone, but both countries share the territory's
With a total area of 17,820 square kilometres, Kuwait is about one-third the size of Nova Scotia. Its area includes nine islands and a coastline that is 290 kilometres long. Of these islands, the largest is Bubiyan on the north coast, which is uninhabited marshland.
The mainland of Kuwait is almost entirely flat desert. Most of the
soil is heavily infused with salt,which means that only 9% of the area is good for
agriculture. Natural salt-free drinking water is virtually non-existent. Nearly all
of Kuwait's drinking water is produced by removing salt from sea water.
Kuwait is an extremely hot, dry country. The average daily temperature is about 33°C. Temperatures are even higher during the summer months between May and October, while the humidity is very low. It almost never rains during the summer. Temperatures are more moderate in winter. This is when Kuwait receives its annual rainfall of 25 to 175 millimitres. Sandstorms are common and can last several days.
The little rain that falls allows the desert to bloom for a
short time. Desert flowers and shrubs grow abundantly. The most common of these is
the desert shrub called arfaj, which may reach 76 centimetres in height. Sheep,
goats and camels eat these desert plants.
Kuwaitis remain in this harsh landscape for two important reasons. First, the sheltered waters of Kuwait Bay provide ports for busy Persian Gulf naval traffic. Second there is oil under the desert. Oil has had a very important influence on the country's modern history.