Kuwait was founded in the early eighteenth century when clans of the Anaiza tribe
|An ancient ship for pearl divers|
migrated to the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. The clans joined forces and called themselves Bani Utub. When they arrived at Kuwait, they saw a "Kut" or a fortress built by early settlers of Bani Khalid. It has been said that the name Kuwait was derived from that Kut or fortress.
Bani Kahlid was a small tribe that controlled the region and maintained peace, but they were primarily desert people and did not use the over 100 miles of sea to their advantage. Bani Utub took advantage of the water and joined a trading network with neighboring countries. Traded goods included horses, wood, spices, coffee, dates, but Kuwait was most popular with the trading of pearls, and for that reason, Kuwait has always been called the Pearl of the Gulf 1, 2.
The Al Sabahs
With trade being the basis of the economy, the Bani Utubs became the source of power in Kuwait. But even with in the Bani Utubs, there were separation of classes, and the Al Sabahs were at the top of the hierarchy. Two reasons were behind this:
1- They were the prominent figures in the caravan trade as opposed to the sea trade. In addition to the big revenues that desert trade brought to the country, the Al Sabahs were able to bond and develop closer ties with the people of the desert.
2- It has been said that they had great administrative skills, which were needed in controlling the harbor and the whole trade industry.
When the prominent figures of Bani Utub met to choose a leader, the Al Sabahs were clearly the front runners, and from the mid eighteenth century until today, the Al Sabahs have been ruling Kuwait 1, 2.
British Control and Oil
Trying to move away from Ottoman rule, Kuwait established close relations with Britain, and in 1899 Kuwait became a British colony.
Kuwait became more efficient in pearl trading, but in the 1920's when the artificial cultivation of pearls was introduced, Kuwait's economy collapsed. It became one of the poorest and weakest countries in that region.
Its weakness and small size stirred neighboring countries Iraq and Saudi Arabia to claim parts of the borders. Fortunately, the British imposed the Uqair Protocol of 1922, which clearly defined borders between the three countries.
In the late1930's oil was discovered, and Kuwait saw a new beginning. In 1953 the country's economy prospered as it became the largest oil exporter in the Middle East. At first, ownership and revenues were divided between Kuwait and British oil companies, but in 1976, the Kuwaiti government attained full control of the oil industry. Oil made Kuwait one the richest and highest incomes per capita countries in the world. According the CIA World Factbook, Today, Kuwait has a reported oil reserves of about 96 billion barrels—10 percent of the world reserves 3.