The small yet oil-rich and highly-developed country of Kuwait is one of Emirates key Middle Eastern destinations. Nestled at the north-east end of the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait offers access not only to a thriving petrochemical industry, but also to one of the region's financial hubs.
The State of Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century when Kuwait City was founded by the Bani Tubah tribe, who had travelled north from Qatar. An important port on the trade route to India, the country was of great interest to the Ottoman Empire, and to avoid their rule Kuwait sought protection from the British Empire. In 1899 the independent sheikhdom of Kuwait became a British Protectorate, a status it maintained until the British withdrew in 1961. Historically the country's economy was dependent on shipbuilding and the pearling industry, but in the late 1930s Kuwait struck black gold: immense oil fields were discovered, resulting in nearly 60 years of unprecedented economic growth.
In August 1990, Kuwait's growth came to a juddering halt as the country was invaded by neighbouring Iraq. Iraqi soldiers occupied the country for seven months until a UN-mandated coalition, led by the United States, managed to liberate Kuwait. Kuwait's infrastructure was badly damaged during the war, and both the economy and environment were wrecked as the retreating Iraqi army torched more than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells.
The fires took nine months to fully extinguish, and it took Kuwait a further two years to recover its oil output to pre-war levels. Its economy recovered accordingly and Kuwait – with the world's fifth largest oil reserves – now ranks as the world's fifth richest country per capita.