Kuwait National Day is a patriotic holiday that allows Kuwaiti citizens to reflect on the history and sovereignty of their nation.
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Kuwait National Day is celebrated on 25 February each year. This date marks Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah’s ascension to the throne of Kuwait in 1950. This date also marks Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah’s death in 1965. Since Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah played a critical role in the diplomacy that led to Kuwait’s independence, he is honoured by this important public holiday.
During the end of the 19th century, the people of Kuwait were fearful of an invasion by the Ottoman Empire. Since the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful forces in Eurasia during the 19th century, the leaders of the Kuwaiti government believed that Kuwait required assistance from a European power.
In 1896, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah ascended to the throne of Kuwait. In an effort to compete with the Ottoman Empire, he sought to modernise Kuwait. During the first few years of his reign, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah contributed to major infrastructure projects like the Berlin-Baghdad Railway.
To protect his government’s investments, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah also sought to form an alliance with the British. The British government was initially wary of the proposal, but they eventually formed an agreement with the Kuwaiti government in 1899. This agreement established Kuwait as a British protectorate. As a British protectorate, Kuwait’s resources and royal family was protected from external threats. The cost of this protection was the condition that Britain could dictate the use of Kuwait’s primary resources. These conditions reduced Kuwait’s sovereignty.
In 1914, Britain loosened its grip on Kuwait by recognising Kuwait as an independent emirate. During the 1930s, Kuwait’s economy slowed down due to its inability to update its economy. Instead of industrialising, Kuwait relied on traditional occupations like herding, fishing, and shipbuilding. In an effort to invigorate Kuwait’s economy, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah agreed to create the Kuwait Oil Company with British and American investors.
During the first few years of the Kuwait Oil Company’s existence, Kuwait was able to modernise due to inexpensive domestic oil. In 1946, Kuwait exported oil for the first time. As a result of increased wealth, the Kuwaiti government launched several projects to provide infrastructure and public goods to its citizens. During the 1950s, the literacy of Kuwaiti citizens improved drastically. The government also became more advanced during this period.
By the early 1960s, the Kuwaiti government finally believed that the country was ready to become completely independent. Shiekh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah sought to eliminate the 1899 protectorate agreement. After friendly negotiations with British diplomats, the Friendship Agreement was established. This agreement stated that Britain and Kuwait would maintain friendly ties, but all conditions from the 1899 protectorate agreement would be entirely dropped. Britain also agreed to help Kuwait in the event that an external force sought to overthrow the Kuwaiti government. In 1961, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah drafted a new constitution that recognised Kuwait’s independence. This granted Kuwait full sovereignty.