The tiny state of Kuwait, an emirate located at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, is a land of extremes. Summer temperatures are among the hottest in the world—only Death Valley has exceeded the local record—annual rainfall ranks near the bottom, and freshwater is scarce. Less than one percent of the desert landscape is arable, but the sands hold the seventh largest national oil reserves, the source of Kuwait’s immense wealth. As with the other oil-rich nations in the gulf region, petrodollars have given rise to a culture of conspicuous consumption.
Kuwait’s modern prosperity had humble beginnings. Before its oil fields were discovered in the 1930s, pearls were a major