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Culture & Identity of Kuwait

Introduction

Oil has changed the way of life in Kuwait. In the past life was based on survival as many people lived in the desert, near an oasis, or along the coasts, but the people were spread apart and the population was very small. Today oil has given the people jobs, urbanized the population, and job growth has gone up so much that today there is a large temporary immigrant population to fill extra jobs.

Nearly everyone in the country today lives in the cities, particularly Kuwait City and the capital's urban sprawl. Unlike the past, the capital, and throughout the country, life runs on technology and life in the desert is only available due to this technology. Life in these cities appears similar to many other cities with public transportation taking many people to and from work or school. Most people have regularly scheduled jobs so have a standard work day and work week (the weekend is Friday-Saturday in Kuwait). Most people get food from the local shops, most of which is imported, as are most goods.

The oil industry is so large and growing that the small population can't occupy every jobs so there are many foreign workers in the country (although not in comparison to the Gulf Coast countries further south). For most of these people the daily schedule is the same as the cities dictate the pace of life and daily schedule.

Despite the technology and modern amenities in Kuwait's cities, for most people life truly revolves around religion. Nearly everyone in the country is Muslim, which dictates a huge number of things, beginning with the Friday-Saturday weekend since Friday is Islam's holy day. More than this, religion dictates how people dress and how people entertain themselves. Dating comes with strict rules that most people follow and alcohol is outlawed so the country's nightlife and entertainment options are limited in some ways. However, family is important to the Kuwaitis so most free time seems to be spent at home with family, not out on the town.

Identity

The Kuwaitis tend to identify as either "Kuwaiti" or as "Arab." Most people first identify as Kuwaiti and these people tend to view this political-affiliated identity to being defined as a Muslim with strong family ties and a history in the region. This is an identity growing in popularity due to the large immigrant population in the country; being Kuwaiti indicates an individual is a native and citizen of the country. On a secondary level, many Kuwaitis like identifying as Arab, which is a more unified and regional definition. This identify is tied to both the ethnicity and the religion of Islam in Kuwait, but it also ties the people quite strongly to neighboring countries, particularly Saudi Arabia.

This page was last updated: December, 2013