The modernization of Kuwait was the first of its kind in the entire Middle East. Since around the early 1950s through 60s, and 70s Kuwait has witnessed a huge modern transformation.
Kuwai is a western Asian country located along the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula. The country has bordered Iraq to the north, Saudia Arabia to the south, and Persian Gulf to the east.
The evolution of Kuwait as a nation started with the founding of Kuwait city as a fishing village in 1613. Gradually, Kuwait developed into a Sheikhdom under the rule of the Bani Khalid, and later from the Bani Utbah clan. In 1756, an influential family of Sabahs became the ruling family of what is now the nation of Kuwait.
In terms of commercial activities, in the early 18th century, Kuwait prospered as a maritime fishing port city, and rapidly became the principal commercial center along the Gulf of Persia. The city even served as a sea routes to India, and east of Africa for trade activities.
Britain became especially interested in Kuwait because the Persian Gulf was an important waterway on the route to British-controlled India. On the other hand also, the end of the 1800’s, Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah feared that the Ottoman Turks would occupy his country. By 1899, Sheikh al-Sabah was maneuvered into signing a treaty with Britain, in return for British protection. Since the agreement, Kuwait remained as the protectorate until the termination of the agreement in 1961.
DISCOVERY OF OIL
The history of the petroleum discovery in Kuwait began since around 1910. Initially, the attempt was made by oil company in name of Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) which was developing oil fields in Iran then. The APOC requested permission from Kuwait authority to start geological survey of the area, but, unfortunately the request was refused by Kuwaiti authority. However, in 1913, the British government signed an agreement with the Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Mubarak in order to start the work. Unfortunately, before the start of the work, the First World War erupted and the work had to be deferred.
After the First World War, the attempt of discovering oil in Kuwait resumed in the late 1920s through 1930s. In 1934, Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah signed a concession agreement with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), the firm jointly owned by APOC and the American Gulf Oil. The joint firm of the KOC began drilling in 1936 on the north shore of Kuwait, and by 1938, the oil was found in an area called al-Burqan Field.
By 1946, commercial export of crude oil began in Kuwait with at least 5.9 million barrels, and later in 1947 a 16.2 million barrels. Since, the beginning of the commercial export, different oil companies received concessions from Kuwaiti government. The companies were like American Independent Oil Company (AMINOIL), Getty Oil Company (GOC), the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), and others. By 1961, Kuwait started to develop its own proficiency in the oil industry. In the same year, Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) was established. Its founding charter allowed it to engage in almost any activity concerning oil at home or abroad.
Modernization of Kuwait
The modernization of Kuwait owed much to the discovery of oil in the country. Since the discovery of the petroleum, Kuwait saw a tremendous transformation from a semi-urban country into a modern with state.
Since the discovery of oil, the city of Kuwait in particular was tremendously transformed from a small traditional city of mud brick courtyard houses into a modern city with marble-fronted buildings, vast suburbs, and wide highways. Gradually, as the revenue of oil increased since the beginning of the commercial export, a giant move in transforming Kuwait to an urban country was initiated. Thus, From 1946 to 1982, the country in general underwent a large-scale modernization. For example, the fist step was the state’s commissioning of a master plan in 1951 with aim of making Kuwait city a modern and most progressive city in the Middle East.
The urbanization of Kuwait became achievable from the 1950s, 1960s, up to 1970s. For example, during the period, people enriched by oil moved from crowded traditional courtyard houses into a large single-family villas of American styles. While, different social clubs and restaurants were opened for the enjoyment of the Kuwaitis.
In terms of health care, before, the oil wealth in Kuwait, the country’s healthcare system was weak in which there were lack of enough hospitals and facilities. But, as a result of the pouring of oil money, Kuwat’s government launched a free, comprehensive health care program for every Kuwaiti citizen. Under the program, the citizens enjoyed different kind of health care support in terms of family and personal care.
In the educational sector, huge amount of money was spent in order to improve the education. In the process of the modernization of Kuwait , the government took over administration of the entire education system. By 1945, there were only 17 schools in existence. Therefore the government incorporated the schools under the new ministry of education. Gradually, a standard system was established whereby kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools for all Kuwaiti boys and girls were made built and made available with modern facilities. By 1961, when Kuwait gained independence, almost twenty-seven thousand Kuwaiti boys and eighteen thousand Kuwaiti girls were educated.
In the pre-oil era, Kuwaiti’s society was already a traditional society structured in a traditional way. The Arabs of Kuwait was living their lives based on the Arabic and Islamic culture.
However, by early 1950s, with the discovery and the pouring of oil money, the people of Kuwait gradually became reach based on the per capita estimate. Because, a certain percentage of the monthly or annual oil revenue was shared among the Kuwaitis. Therefore, this led some Kuwait citizens to begin accepting some Western norms like dressing and some behaviors. For example, some women especially among the elites began to attend social places without wearing hijab or Islamic dressing
the following order : Upper Class included Ruling Party, Big merchant families. Middle Class included Small merchants and traders, Tribal Sheikhs, and Theologians. Lower Class or Working Classs included Pearl divers, Carpenters, Boat makers, Farmers and Fishermen, Nomadic and Settled Beduins.