|Kingdom of Bahrain
(and largest city)
|Official language(s)||Arabic |
|-||King||Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah|
|-||Queen||Sabika bint Ibrahim|
|-||Prime Minister||Khalifah ibn Sulman Al Khalifah|
|-||From United Kingdom||December 16, 1971|
|-||Total||750 km2 (184th)
290 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2008 estimate|
|-||Total||$27.014 billion (118th)|
|-||Per capita||$34,662 (32nd)|
|GDP (nominal)||2008 estimate|
|-||Total||$21.236 billion (96th)|
|-||Per capita||$27,248 (3rd)|
|HDI (2007)||▲ 0.895 (high) (39th)|
|Currency||Bahraini dinar (
|Drives on the||right|
Bahrain, officially Kingdom of Bahrain (Arabic: مملكة البحرين, Mamlakat al-Baḥrayn, literally: "Kingdom of the Two Seas"), is a small island country in the Persian Gulf ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. While Bahrain is an archipelago of thirty-three islands, the largest (Bahrain Island) is 55 km (34 mi) long by 18 km (11 mi) wide. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain via the King Fahd Causeway, which was officially opened on 25 November 1986. Qatar is to the southeast across the Gulf of Bahrain.
The planned Qatar Bahrain Causeway will link Bahrain and Qatar as the longest fixed link in the world. Bahrain is also known for its oil and pearls. The country is also the home of many popular structures such as the Bahrain World Trade Center and the Bahrain Financial Harbour, and also the home of many skyscrapers, including the proposed 1,022 m (3,353 ft) high supertall Murjan Tower. The Bahrain International Circuit is also located here, and is the place where the popular Bahrain F1 Grand Prix takes place.
Bahrain is the Arabic term for "two seas", referring to the freshwater springs that are found within the salty seas surrounding it. Bahrain has been inhabited since ancient times. Its strategic location in the Persian Gulf has brought rule and influence from the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and the Arabs, under whom the island became Islamic. Bahrain may have been associated with Dilmun which is mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations.
During its history it was called by different names such as Awal, then Mishmahig, when it was a part of the Persian Empire. From the 3rd to 6th century BC, Bahrain was included in Persian Empire by Achaemenians, an Iranian dynasty. From the 3rd century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Bahrain was controlled by two other Iranian dynasties of Parthians and Sassanids. By about 250 BC, the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under its control and extended its influence as far as Oman.
Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in the southern coast of Persian Gulf. In the 3rd century AD, the Sassanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later. Ardashir, the first ruler of the Iranian Sassanian dynasty marched forward on Oman and Bahrain, and defeated Sanatruq. At this time, Bahrain incorporated the southern Sassanid province covering the Persian Gulf's southern shore plus the archipelago of Bahrain.
The southern province of the Sassanid Empire was subdivided into the three districts of Haggar (now al-Hafuf province, Saudi Arabia), Batan Ardashir (now al-Qatif province, Saudi Arabia), and Mishmahig (which in Middle-Persian/Pahlavi means "ewe-fish"). Until Bahrain adopted Islam in 629 AD, it was a center of Nestorian Christianity. Early Islamic sources describe it as being inhabited by members of the Abdul Qays, Tamim, and Bakr tribes, worshiping the idol Awal.
In 899 AD, a millenarian Ismaili sect, the Qarmatians, seized the country and sought to create a utopian society based on reason and the distribution of all property evenly among the initiates. The Qarmatians caused disruption throughout the Islamic world; they collected tribute from the caliph in Baghdad, and in 930 AD sacked Mecca and Medina, bringing the sacred Black Stone back to their base in Ahsa, in medieval Bahrain where it was held to ransom. According to the historian Al-Juwayni, the Stone was returned twenty-two years later, in 951, under mysterious circumstances; wrapped in a sack, it was thrown into the Friday mosque of Kufa accompanied by a note saying "By command we took it, and by command we have brought it back." The Black Stone's abduction and removal caused further damage, breaking the stone into seven pieces.
The Qarmatians were defeated in 976 AD by the Abbasids. The final end of the Qarmatians came at the hand of the Arab Uyunid dynasty of al-Hasa, who took over the entire Bahrain region in 1076. They controlled the Bahrain islands until 1235, when the islands were briefly occupied by the ruler of Fars. In 1253, the Bedouin Usfurids brought down the Uyunid dynasty and gained control over eastern Arabia, including the islands of Bahrain. In 1330, the islands became tributary to the rulers of Hormuz, though locally the islands were controlled by the Shi'ite Jarwanid dynasty of Qatif.
Until the late Middle Ages, "Bahrain" referred to the larger historical region of Bahrain that included Ahsa, Qatif (both now within the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) and the Awal Islands (now the Bahrain Islands). The region stretched from Basrah to the Strait of Hormuz in Oman. This was Iqlīm al-Bahrayn "Bahrayn Province". The exact date at which the term "Bahrain" began to refer solely to the Awal archipelago is unknown. In the mid-15th century, the islands came under the rule of the Jabrids, a Bedouin dynasty that was also based in al-Ahsa and ruled most of eastern Arabia.
The Portuguese invaded Bahrain in 1521 in alliance with Hormuz, seizing it from the Jabrid ruler Migrin ibn Zamil, who was killed in battle. Portuguese rule lasted for nearly 80 years, during which they depended mostly on Sunni Persian governors. The Portuguese were expelled from the islands in 1602 by Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty of Iran, who instituted Shi'ism as the official religion in Bahrain. The Iranian rulers retained sovereignty over the islands, with some interruptions, for nearly two centuries. For most of that period, they resorted to governing Bahrain indirectly, either through Bushehr or through immigrant Sunni Arab clans, such as the Huwala, who where returning to Arabian side of the Gulf from the Persian territories in the north, namely Lar and Bushehr (whence the name, Hawilah, "the returnees"). During this period, the islands suffered two serious invasions by the Ibadhis of Oman in 1717 and 1738. In 1753, the Huwala clan of Al Madhkur invaded Bahrain on behalf of the Iranians, restoring direct Iranian rule.
This article is part of the series on:
|Tylos and Mishmahig|
|Islam in Bahrain|
|Muqrin ibn Zamil|
|Safavid hegemony (1602-1717)|
|1717 Oman invasion of Bahrain|
|Al Khalifa and
the British Protectorate
|1783 Al Khalifa invasion of Bahrain|
|Perpetual Truce of Peace
and Friendship (1861)
|First Oil Well (1932)|
|20th Century Bahrain|
|National Union Committee|
|March 1965 Intifada|
|1981 coup d'état attempt|
|2000s in Bahrain|
|Military history of Bahrain|
|Timeline of Bahrain history|
The Al Bin Ali tribe are the original descendants of Bani Utbah tribe being that they are the only tribe to carry the last name Al-Utbi in their Ownership's documents of Palm gardens in Bahrain as early as the year 1699–1111 Hijri. They are specifically descendants of their great grand father Ali Al-Utbi who is a descendant of their great grand father Utbah hence the name Bani Utbah which means sons of Utbah. Utbah is the great grandfather of the Bani Utbah which is a section of Khafaf from Bani Sulaim bin Mansoor from Mudhar from Adnan. The plural word for Al-Utbi is Utub and the name of the tribe is Bani Utbah.
In 1783, Nasr Al-Madhkur lost the islands of Bahrain to Bani Utbah tribe to which Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif, Chief of Al Bin Ali belongs. Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif was a descendant of the original uttoobee conquerors of Bahrain This took place after the defeat of Nasr Al-Madhkur to the Bani Utbah in the battle of Zubarah that took place in the year 1782 between the Al Bin Ali from the Bani Utbah tribe and the army of Nasr Al-Madhkur, ruler of Bahrain and Bushire. Zubarah was originally the center of power of the Bani Utbah in which the Al Bin Ali Tribe in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E derives from. The Al Bin Ali were the Arabs that were occupying Zubarah, they were the original dominant group of Zubarah.
The islands of Bahrain were not new to the Bani Utbah, they were always connected to this island, whether by settling in it during summer season or by purchasing date palm gardens. The Al Bin Ali were a politically important group that moved backwards and forwards between Qatar and Bahrain. The Bani Utbah had been present in the banks of Bahrain in the seventeenth century. During that time, they started purchasing date palm gardens in Bahrain. One of the documents which belongs to Shaikh Salama Bin Saif Al Utbi, one of the Shaikh's of the Al Bin Ali, backs this statement about the presence of the Bani Utbah in Bahrain in the seventeenth century. It states that Mariam Bint Ahmed Al Sindi, a shia women has sold a Palm Garden in the Island Of Sitra at Bahrain to Shaikh Salama Bin Saif Al Utbi dating to the year 1699–1111 Hijri before the arrival of Al-Khalifa to Bahrain by more than 90 years..
After the Bani Utbah gained power in 1783, the Al Bin Ali had a practically independent status in Bahrain as a self governed tribe. They used a flag with four red and three white stripes, called the Al-Sulami flag in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Eastern province in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was raised on their ships during wartime and in the pearl season and on special occasions such as weddings and during Eid and in the "Ardha of war". Al Bin Ali were known for their courage, persistence, and abundant wealth.
Later, different Arab family clans and tribes mostly from Qatar moved to Bahrain to settle there since the Persian sovereignty there had come to an end with the fall of the Zand Dynasty of Persia. These families and tribes included the Al Khalifa, Al-Ma'awdah, Al-Fadhil, Al-Mannai, Al-Noaimi, Al-Sulaiti, Al-Sadah, Al-Thawadi, and other families and tribes.
Most of these tribes settled in Muharraq, the capital of Bahrain and the center of power at that time since the Al Bin Ali lived there. There is still a neighborhood in Muharraq city named Al Bin Ali. It is the oldest and biggest neighborhood in Muharraq, members of this tribe lived in this area for more than three centuries.
Fourteen years later after gaining power of Bani Utbah, the Al Khalifa family moved to Bahrain in 1797 as settlers in Jaww, and later moved to Riffa. They were originally from Kuwait but had left it in 1766. According to a tradition preserved by the Al-Sabah family, the reason why the ancestors of their section and those of the Al-Khalifa section came to Kuwait was that they had been expelled by the Turks from Umm Qasr upon Khor Zubair, an earlier seat from which they had been accustomed to prey as brigands upon the caravans of Basra and as pirates upon the shipping of the Shatt Al Arab.
In the early nineteenth centuriy, Bahrain was invaded by both the Omanis and the Al Sauds, and in 1802 it was governed by a twelve year old child, when the Omani ruler Sayyid Sultan installed his son, Salim, as Governor in the Arad Fort.
In 1820, the Al Khalifa rule to Bahrain became active, but it was buttressed when it entered into a treaty relationship with Britain, which was by then the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf. This treaty granted the Al Khalifa the title of Rulers of Bahrain. It was the first of several treaties including the 1861 Perpetual Truce of Peace and Friendship, which was further revised in 1892 and 1951. In the 19th century, the Al-Khalifas controlled the main archipelago of Bahrain, the Hawar Islands and the section of the Qatar peninsula around Zubarah called the Zubarah Bloc. The Al Bin Ali played a part in helping the Al Khalifa to retain possession of their new territory in the early days. Between 1869 and 1872 Midhat Pasha brought the islands nominally under the authority of the Ottoman Empire with coordination with the British and Ottoman ships starting appearing in the area.
This treaty was similar to those entered into by the British Government with the other Persian Gulf principalities. It specified that the ruler could not dispose of any of his territory except to the United Kingdom and could not enter into relationships with any foreign government without British consent. In return the British promised to protect Bahrain from all aggression by sea and to lend support in case of land attack. More importantly the British promised to support the rule of the Al Khalifa in Bahrain, securing its unstable position as rulers of the country. According to SOAS academic, Nelida Fuccaro:
From this perspective state building under the Al Khalifa shayks should not be considered exclusively as the result of Britain's informal empire in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it was a long process of strategic negotiation with different sections of the local population in order to establish a pre-eminence of their particularly artistic Sunni/Bedouin tradition of family rule.—
Peace and trade brought a new prosperity. Bahrain was no longer dependent upon pearling, and by the mid-19th century it became the pre-eminent trading centre in the Persian Gulf, overtaking rivals Basra, Kuwait, and finally in the 1870s, Muscat. At the same time, Bahrain's socio-economic development began to diverge from the rest of the Persian Gulf: it transformed itself from a tribal trading centre in to a modern state. This process was spurred by the attraction of large numbers of Persian, Huwala, and Indian merchant families who set up businesses on the island, making it the hub of a web of trade routes across the Persian Gulf, Persia and the Indian sub-continent. A contemporary account of Manama in 1862 found:
Mixed with the indigenous population [of Manamah] are numerous strangers and settlers, some of whom have been established here for many generations back, attracted from other lands by the profits of either commerce or the pearl fishery, and still retaining more or less the physiognomy and garb of their native countries. Thus the gay-coloured dress of the southern Persian, the saffron-stained vest of Oman, the white robe of Nejed, and the striped gown of Bagdad, are often to be seen mingling with the light garments of Bahreyn, its blue and red turban, its white silk-fringed cloth worn Banian fashion round the waist, and its frock-like overall; while a small but unmistakable colony of Indians, merchants by profession, and mainly from Guzerat, Cutch, and their vicinity, keep up here all their peculiarities of costume and manner, and live among the motley crowd, ‘among them, but not of them’.
Palgrave's description of Manama's coffee houses in the mid-19th century portrays them as cosmopolitan venues in contrast to what he describes as the ‘closely knit and bigoted universe of central Arabia’. Palgrave describes a people with an open – even urbane – outlook: "Of religious controversy I have never heard one word. In short, instead of Zelators and fanatics, camel-drivers and Bedouins, we have at Bahrain [Manama] something like ‘men of the world, who know the world like men’ a great relief to the mind; certainly it was so to mine."
The great trading families that emerged during this period have been compared to the Borgias and Medicis and their great wealth – long before the oil wealth the region would later be renown for – gave them extensive power, and among the most prominent were the Persian Al Safar family, who held the position of Native Agents of Britain in 19th Century. The Al Safar enjoyed an 'exceptionally close' relationship with the Al Khalifa clan from 1869, although the al-Khalifa never intermarried with them – it has been speculated that this could be related to political reasons (to limit the Safars’ influence with the ruling family) and possibly for religious reasons (because the Safars were Shia).
Bahrain's trade with India saw the cultural influence of the subcontinent grow dramatically, with styles of dress, cuisine, and education all showing a marked Indian influence. According to Exeter University's James Onley "In these and countless other ways, eastern Arabia's ports and people were as much a part of the Indian Ocean world as they were a part of the Arab world."
Bahrain underwent a period of major social reform between 1926 and 1957, under the de facto rule of Charles Belgrave, the British advisor to Shaikh Hamad ibn Isa Al-Khalifa (1872-1942). The country's first modern school was established in 1919, with the opening of the Al-Hiddaya Boys School, while the Arab Persian Gulf's first girls' school opened in 1928. The American Mission Hospital, established by the Dutch Reform Church, began work in 1903. Other reforms include the abolition of slavery, while the pearl diving industry developed at a rapid pace.
These reforms were often opposed vigorously by powerful groups within Bahrain including sections within the ruling family, tribal forces, the religious authorities and merchants. In order to counter conservatives, the British removed the Emir, Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, replacing him with his son in 1923. Some Sunni tribes such as the al Dossari were forcibly removed from Bahrain and sent to mainland Arabia, while clerical opponents of social reforms were exiled to Saudi and Iran, and the heads of some merchant and notable families were likewise exiled. The Britain's interest in pushing Bahrain's development was motivated by concerns about Saudi-Wahabbi and Iranian ambitions.
Oil was discovered in 1932 and brought rapid modernization to Bahrain. This discovery made relations with the United Kingdom closer, as evidenced by the British establishing more bases there. British influence would continue to grow as the country developed, culminating with the appointment of Charles Belgrave as an advisor; Belgrave established modern education systems in Bahrain. After World War II, increasing anti-British sentiment spread throughout the Arab World and led to riots in Bahrain. The riots focused on the Jewish community, which counted among its members distinguished writers and singers, accountants, engineers and middle managers working for the Oil Company, textile merchants with business all over the peninsula, and free professionals.
Following the events of 1947, most members of Bahrain's Jewish community abandoned their properties and evacuated to Bombay, later settling in Palestine (later Israel – Tel Aviv's Pardes Chana neighborhood) and the United Kingdom. As of 2007, 36 Jews remained in the country. The issue of compensation was never settled. In 1960, the United Kingdom put Bahrain's future to international arbitration and requested that the United Nations Secretary-General take on this responsibility.
In 1970, Iran laid claim to Bahrain and the other Persian Gulf islands. However, in an agreement with the United Kingdom it agreed "not to pursue" its claims on Bahrain if its other claims were realized. The following plebiscite saw Bahrainis confirm their Arab identity and independence from Britain. Bahrain to this day remains a member of the Arab League and Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. The British withdrew from Bahrain on 16 December 1971, making Bahrain an independent emirate.
The oil boom of the 1970s greatly benefited Bahrain, but its downturn hurt. However, the country had already begun to diversify its economy, and had benefited from the Lebanese Civil War that began in the 1970s; Bahrain replaced Beirut as the Middle East's financial hub as Lebanon's large banking sector was driven out of the country by the war. After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Bahraini Shī'a fundamentalists in 1981 orchestrated a failed coup attempt under the auspices of a front organization, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. The coup would have installed a Shī'a cleric exiled in Iran, Hujjatu l-Islām Hādī al-Mudarrisī, as supreme leader heading a theocratic government. In 1994, a wave of rioting by disaffected Shīa Islamists was sparked by women's participation in a sporting event.
During the mid-1990s, the Kingdom was badly affected by sporadic violence between the government and the cleric-led opposition in which over forty people were killed. In March 1999, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah succeeded his father as head of state and instituted elections for parliament, gave women the right to vote, and released all political prisoners. These moves were described by Amnesty International as representing an "historic period of human rights". The country was declared a kingdom in 2002. It formerly was considered a State and officially called a "Kingdom".
This article is part of the series:
Other countries · Atlas
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; the head of government is the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalīfa bin Salman al Khalifa, who presides over a cabinet of twenty-five members, where 80% of its members are from the royal family. Bahrain has a bicameral legislature with a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage and an upper house, the Shura Council, appointed by the king. Both houses have forty members. the first round of voting in the 2006 parliamentary election took place on 25 November 2006, and second round Islamists hail huge election victory.
The opening up of politics has seen big gains for both Shīa and Sunnī Islamists in elections, which have given them a parliamentary platform to pursue their policies. This has meant parties launching campaigns to impose bans on female mannequins displaying lingerie in shop windows, sorcery, and the hanging of underwear on washing lines.
Analysts of democratization in the Middle East cite the Islamists' references to respect for human rights in their justification for these programmes as evidence that these groups can serve as a progressive force in the region. Islamist parties have been particularly critical of the government's readiness to sign international treaties such as the United Nation's International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. At a parliamentary session in June 2006 to discuss ratification of the Convention, Sheikh Adel Mouwda, the former leader of salafist party, Asalah, explained the party's objections: "The convention has been tailored by our enemies, God kill them all, to serve their needs and protect their interests rather than ours. This why we have eyes from the American Embassy watching us during our sessions, to ensure things are swinging their way".
Both Sunnī and Shī'a Islamists suffered a setback in March 2006 when 20 municipal councillors, most of whom represented religious parties, went missing in Bangkok on an unscheduled stopover when returning from a conference in Malaysia. After the missing councillors eventually arrived in Bahrain they defended their stay at the Radisson Hotel in Bangkok, telling journalists it was a "fact-finding mission", and explaining: "We benefited a lot from the trip to Thailand because we saw how they managed their transport, landscaping and roads". Bahraini liberals have responded to the growing power of religious parties by organizing themselves to campaign through civil society in order to defend basic personal freedoms from being legislated away. In November 2005, al Muntada, a grouping of liberal academics, launched "We Have A Right", a campaign to explain to the public why personal freedoms matter and why they need to be defended.
Women's political rights in Bahrain saw an important step forward when women were granted the right to vote and stand in national elections for the first time in the 2002 election. However, no women were elected to office in that year's polls and instead Shī'a and Sunnī Islamists dominated the election, collectively winning a majority of seats. In response to the failure of women candidates, six were appointed to the Shura Council, which also includes representatives of the Kingdom's indigenous Jewish and Christian communities. The country's first female cabinet minister was appointed in 2004 when Dr. Nada Haffadh became Minister of Health, while the quasi-governmental women's group, the Supreme Council for Women, trained female candidates to take part in the 2006 general election. When Bahrain was elected to head the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 it appointed lawyer and women's rights activist Haya bint Rashid Al Khalifa as the President of the United Nations General Assembly, only the third woman in history to head the world body. The king recently created the Supreme Judicial Council to regulate the country's courts and institutionalize the separation of the administrative and judicial branches of government; the leader of this court is Mohammed Humaidan.
On 11–12 November 2005, Bahrain hosted the Forum for the Future, bringing together leaders from the Middle East and G8 countries to discuss political and economic reform in the region. The near total dominance of religious parties in elections has given a new prominence to clerics within the political system, with the most senior Shia religious leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, playing what's regarded as an extremely important role; according to one academic paper, "In fact, it seems that few decisions can be arrived at in Al Wefaq – and in the whole country, for that matter – without prior consultation with Isa Qassim, ranging from questions with regard to the planned codification of the personal status law to participation in elections. In 2007, Al Wefaq-backed parliamentary investigations are credited with forcing the government to remove ministers who had frequently clashed with MPs: the Minister of Health, Dr Nada Haffadh (who was also Bahrain's first ever female cabinet minister) and the Minister of Information, Dr Mohammed Abdul Gaffar.
Bahrain is split into five governorates. These governorates are:
|1. Capital Governorate|
|2. Central Governorate|
|3. Muharraq Governorate|
|4. Northern Governorate|
|5. Southern Governorate|
In a region experiencing an oil boom, Bahrain has the fastest growing economy in the Arab world, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia found in January 2006. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East according to the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal, and is twenty-fifth free-est overall in the world.
In 2008, Bahrain was named the world's fastest growing financial center by the City of London's Global Financial Centres Index. Bahrain's banking and financial services sector, particularly Islamic banking, have benefited from the regional boom. In Bahrain, petroleum production and processing account for about 60% of export receipts, 60% of government revenues, and 30% of GDP.
Economic conditions have fluctuated with the changing fortunes of oil since 1985, for example, during and following the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990–91. With its highly developed communication and transport facilities, Bahrain is home to multinational firms. A large share of exports consists of petroleum products made from imported crude oil. Construction proceeds on several major industrial projects. In 2004, Bahrain signed the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, which will reduce certain barriers to trade between the two nations.
Unemployment, especially among the young, and the depletion of both oil and underground water resources are major long-term economic problems. In 2008, the jobless figure was a 3.8%, but women are over represented at 85% of the total. Bahrain in 2007 became the first Arab country to institute unemployment benefits as part of a series of labour reforms instigated under Minister of Labour, Dr. Majeed Al Alawi.
Bahrain is a generally flat and arid archipelago, consisting of a low desert plain rising gently to a low central escarpment, in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia. The highest point is the 134 m (440 ft) Jabal ad Dukhan. Bahrain has a total area of 665 km2 (257 sq mi), which is slightly larger than the Isle of Man, though it is smaller than the nearby King Fahd International Airport near Dammam, Saudi Arabia (780 km2 (301 sq mi)).
As an archipelago of thirty-three islands, Bahrain does not share a land boundary with another country but does have a 161 km (100 mi) coastline and claims a further 22 km (12 nmi) of territorial sea and a 44 km (24 nmi) contiguous zone. Bahrain's largest islands are Bahrain Island, Muharraq Island, Umm an Nasan, and Sitrah. Bahrain has mild winters and very hot, humid summers. Bahrain's natural resources include large quantities of oil and natural gas as well as fish stocks. Arable land constitutes only 2.82% of the total area.
Desert constitutes 92% of Bahrain, and periodic droughts and dust storms are the main natural hazards for Bahrainis. Environmental issues facing Bahrain include desertification resulting from the degradation of limited arable land, coastal degradation (damage to coastlines, coral reefs, and sea vegetation) resulting from oil spills and other discharges from large tankers, oil refineries, distribution stations, and illegal land reclamation at places such as Tubli Bay. The agricultural and domestic sectors' over-utilization of the Dammam Aquifer, the principal aquifer in Bahrain, has led to its salinization by adjacent brackish and saline water bodies.
Bahrain is an island located west of the mainland of Saudi Arabia. Jabal ad Dukhan is the highest point in Bahrain with hills up to 134 m (440 ft) above sea level. The Zagros Mountains in Iraq cause low level winds to be directed to the Bahrain Island. The dust bowls from Iraq and Saudi Arabia make fine dust particles easily transported by northwesterly winds which cause reduced visibility in the months of June and July.
The summer is very hot since the Persian Gulf waters provide low levels of moisture supply. Seas around Bahrain are very shallow, heat up quickly in the summer, and produce high humidity, especially in the summer nights. In those periods, summer temperatures may reach about 35 °C (95 °F). Rainfall in Bahrain is minimal and irregular. Most rainfalls occur in the winter season, recorded maximum of 71.8 mm (2.83 in).
In 2008, Bahrain's population stood at 1.05 million, out of which more than 517,000 were non-nationals. Though majority of the population is ethnically Arab, a sizable number of people from South Asia live in the country. In 2008, approximately 290,000 Indian nationals lived in Bahrain, making them the single largest expatriate community in the country.
The official religion of Bahrain is Islam, which the majority of the population practices. However, due to an influx of immigrants and guest workers from non-Muslim countries, such as India, Philippines and Sri Lanka, the overall percentage of Muslims in the country has declined in recent years. According to the 2001 census, 81.2% of Bahrain's population was Muslim, 9% were Christian, and 9.8% practiced Hinduism and other religions. There are no official figures for the proportion of Shia and Sunni among the Muslims of Bahrain. Unofficial sources, such as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, estimate it to be approximately 33% Sunni and 66% Shia.
A Financial Times article published on 31 May 1983 found that "Bahrain is a polyglot state, both religiously and racially. Leaving aside the temporary immigrants of the past ten years, there are at least eight or nine communities on the island". The present communities may be classified as:
|Afro-Arabs||Descendants of black African slaves from East Africa|
|Ajam||Ethnic Persians from Shia and Sunni faith|
|Baharna||Shia Arabs divided between those indigenous to the islands|
|Bahraini Jews||A small Jewish community; and a miscellaneous grouping|
|Banyan||Indians who traded with Bahrain and settled before the age of oil (formerly known as the Hunood or Banyan, Arabic: البونيان)|
|Tribals||Sunni Arab Bedouin tribes allied to the Al-Khalifa including the Utoob tribes, Dawasir, Al Nuaim, Al Mannai etc.|
|Howala||Descendants of Sunni Arabs who migrated to Persia and returned later on, although some of them are originally Persians |
|Najdis (also called Hadhar)||Non-tribal urban Sunni Arabs from Najd in central Arabia. These are families whose ancestors were pearl divers, traders, etc. An example is the Al Gosaibi family.|
Bahrain is sometimes described as "Middle East lite" because it combines modern infrastructure with an Arabian Gulf identity and, unlike other countries in the region, its prosperity is not solely a reflection of the size of its oil wealth, but is also related to the creation of an indigenous middle class. This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that Bahrain is generally more liberal than its neighbours. While Islam is the main religion, Bahrainis have been known for their tolerance, and churches, Hindu temples, Sikh Gurdwara and a Jewish synagogue can be found alongside mosques. The country is home to several communities that have faced persecution elsewhere.
It is too early to say whether political liberalisation under King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has augmented or undermined Bahrain's traditional pluralism. The new political space for Shia and Sunni Islamists has meant that they are now more able to pursue programmes that often seek to directly confront this pluralism, yet political reforms have encouraged an opposite trend for society to become more self critical with more willingness to examine previous social taboos. It is now common to find public seminars on once unheard of subjects such as marital problems and sex and child abuse.
Another facet of the new openness is Bahrain's status as the most prolific book publisher in the Arab world, with 132 books published in 2005 for a population of 700,000. In comparison, the average for the entire Arab world is seven books published per one million people in 2005, according to the United Nations Development Programme. Ali Bahar is the most famous singer in Bahrain. He performs his music with his Band Al-Ekhwa (The Brothers).
Arabic is the official language of Bahrain though English is widely used. Bahrain's primary religion is Islam.
Bahrain has a Formula One race-track, hosting the first Gulf Air Grand Prix on 4 April 2004, the first for an Arab country. This was followed by the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005. Bahrain has successfully hosted the opening Grand Prix of the 2006 season on 12 March. Both the above races were won by Fernando Alonso of Renault. The 2007 event took place on April 13, 14th and 15th 
In 2006, Bahrain also hosted its inaugural Australian V8 Supercar event dubbed the "Desert 400". The V8s will return every November to the Sakhir circuit. The Bahrain International Circuit also features a full length drag strip, and the Bahrain Drag Racing Club has organised invitational events featuring some of Europe's top drag racing teams to try and raise the profile of the sport in the Middle East.
On 1 September 2006, Bahrain changed its weekend from being Thursdays and Fridays to Fridays and Saturdays, in order to have a day of the weekend shared with the rest of the world. Other non-regular holidays are listed below:
|Date||English name||Local (Arabic) name||Description|
|1 January||New Year's Day||رأس السنة الميلادية||The Gregorian New Year's Day, celebrated by most parts of the world.|
|1 May||Labour Day||يوم العمال|
|16 December||National Day||اليوم الوطني||National Day, Accession Day for the late Amir Sh. Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa|
|17 December||Accession Day||يوم الجلوس|
|1st Muharram||Islamic New Year||رأس السنة الهجرية||Islamic New Year (also known as: Hijri New Year).|
|9th, 10th Muharram||Day of Ashura||عاشوراء||Commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein.|
|12th Rabiul Awwal||Prophet Muhammad's birthday||المولد النبوي||Commemorates Prophet Muhammad's birthday, celebrated in most parts of the Muslim world.|
|1st, 2nd, 3rd Shawwal||Little Feast||عيد الفطر||Commemorates end of Ramadan.|
|9th Zulhijjah||Arafat Day||يوم عرفة|
|10th, 11th, 12th Zulhijjah||Feast of the Sacrifice||عيد الأضحى||Commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son. Also known as the Big Feast (celebrated from the 10th to 13th).|
The kingdom has a small but well equipped military called the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF). The BDF is primarily equipped with United States equipment, such as F16 Fighting Falcon, F5 Freedom Fighter, UH60 Blackhawk, M60A3 tanks, and the ex-USS Jack Williams, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate renamed the RBNS Sabha. The Government of Bahrain has a cooperative agreement with the United States Military and has provided the United States a base in Juffair since the early 1990s. This is the home of the headquarters for Commander, United States Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) / United States Fifth Fleet (COMFIFTHFLT), and about 1500 United States and coalition military personnel.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Qur'anic schools (Kuttab) were the only form of education in Bahrain. They were traditional schools aimed at teaching children and youth the reading of the Qur'an. After World War I, Bahrain became open to western influences, and a demand for modern educational institutions appeared. 1919 marked the beginning of modern public school system in Bahrain when Al-Hidaya Al-Khalifia School for boys was opened in Muharraq. In 1926, the Education Committee opened the second public school for boys in Manama, and in 1928 the first public school for girls was opened in Muharraq.
In 2004 King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa introduced a project that uses Information Communication Technology (ICT) to support K–12 education in Bahrain. This project is named King Hamad Schools of Future. The objective of this project is to connect and link all schools within the kingdom with the internet. In addition to British intermediate schools, the island is served by the Bahrain School (BS). The BS is a United States Department of Defense school that provides a K-12 curriculum including International Baccalaureate offerings. There are also private schools that offer either the IB Diploma Programme or UK A-Levels.
In 2007, St. Christopher's School Bahrain became the first school in Bahrain to offer a choice of IB or A-Levels for students. Numerous international educational institutions and schools have established links to Bahrain. A few prominent institutions are DePaul University, Bentley College, Ernst & Young Training Institute, NYIT and Birla Institute of Technology International Centre (See also: List of universities in Bahrain). Schooling is paid for by the government. Primary and secondary attendance is high, although it is not compulsory.
Bahrain also encourages institutions of higher learning, drawing on expatriate talent and the increasing pool of Bahrain Nationals returning from abroad with advanced degrees. The University of Bahrain has been established for standard undergraduate and graduate study, and the College of Health Sciences; operating under the direction of the Ministry of Health, trains physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and paramedics. The national action charter, passed in 2001, paved the way for the formation of private universities. The first few private universities were Ahlia University situated in Manama and University College of Bahrain, Saar. In 2005, The Royal University for Women (RUW) was established. RUW is the first private, purpose-built, international University in the Kingdom of Bahrain dedicated solely to educating women. The University of London External has appointed MCG as the regional representative office in Bahrain for distance learning programs. MCG is one of the oldest private institutes in the country. Institutes have also been opened which educate Asian students, such as the Pakistan Urdu School, Bahrain, the Indian School, Bahrain.
Bahrain is a tourist destination with over eight million tourists a year. Most of the visitors are from the surrounding Arab states but there is an increasing number of tourists from outside the region due to a growing awareness of the kingdom's heritage and its higher profile with regards to the Bahrain International F1 Circuit. The Lonely Planet describes Bahrain as "an excellent introduction to the Persian Gulf", because of its authentic Arab heritage and reputation as liberal and modern.
The kingdom combines Arab culture, gulf glitz and the archaeological legacy of five thousand years of civilization. The island is home to castles including Qalat Al Bahrain which has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Bahrain National Museum has artifacts from the country's history dating back to the island's first human inhabitatants 9000 years ago.
|Institute for Economics and Peace||Global Peace Index||69 out of 144|
|United Nations Development Programme||Human Development Index||39 out of 182|
|Transparency International||Corruption Perceptions Index||46 out of 180|
|World Economic Forum||Global Competitiveness Report||38 out of 133|
|Government||Constitutional hereditary monarchy|
|Currency||Bahraini dinar (BHD)|
|Population||698,585 (including 235,108 non-nationals) (July 2006 est.)|
|Language||Arabic, English, Persian (Farsi), Urdu|
|Religion||Islam 84% (Shi'a Muslim 70%, Sunni Muslim 30%), Christianity and other 16%|
|Electricity||220V/50Hz UK plug|
|Time Zone||UTC +3|
The Kingdom of Bahrain  is a Middle Eastern archipelago in the Persian Gulf, tucked into a pocket of the sea flanked by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It's an oasis of liberalism – or at least Western-friendly moderation – among the Muslim countries of the region. It's popular with travelers for its authentic "Arabness" but without the strict application of Islamic law upon its non-Muslim minority. Case in point: alcohol is legal here. Although it has a heavily petroleum-based economy, its more relaxed culture has also made it a social and shopping mecca (so to speak), which has helped it develop a fairly cosmopolitan middle class not found in neighboring countries with just a rich elite and subsistence-level masses.
Bahrain is the smallest of the independent Persian Gulf states, and has often had to walk a diplomatic tightrope in relation to its larger neighbours. The country has few oil reserves, however it has established itself as a hub for refining as well as international banking, while also achieving a liberal (by Gulf standards at least) political system. Its economy depends to a small extent on Saudis interested in a little entertainment, not available in the strictly Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Officially 220V 50Hz. Most outlets are the British standard BS-1363 type. Generally speaking, U.S., Canadian and Continental European travellers should pack adapters for these outlets if they plan to use their electrical equipment in Bahrain.
The best time to visit Bahrain is November-March, with October & April being just bearable. Be sure to take along a sweater during December-March as evenings can be cool. Bahrain's summer, which is from May-September, is very hot and humid, though occasional cool northerly winds blow to provide some relief. More frequent are the qaws, the hot, dry summer winds that can bring sandstorms.
Citizens of following countries can obtain 14-day visa at all border stations and airports. The fee is 10 dinar.
Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, China(Mainland, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Republic of China Taiwan), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland (3 months), Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom (3 months), United States, Uzbekistan, Vatican City
You can also apply in advance online for an eVisa , which costs BD 7. The benefit of this is somewhat unclear though, as those eligible for eVisas can also get visas on arrival; however, possessing an eVisa will likely allow you to get through Customs faster, as one wouldn't need to obtain the visa at the port of entry.
Bahrain is among the few Gulf states that officially accepts Israeli Passports (although you'll need a visa) and passports with evidence of visits to Israel.
Bahrain International Airport (IATA: BAH), in Muharraq just east of Manama, is the main base for Gulf Air  and has excellent connections throughout the region and London. The airport has good duty-free shopping and a 'Transotel' offering beds and showers (for a fee) to those awaiting flights. Many residents of eastern Saudi Arabia choose to fly out via Bahrain, and Gulf Air offers shuttle services to Khobar and Dammam to cater to this market; inquire when booking.
The Saudi-Bahraini Transport Company (SABTCO) , tel. +973-17252959, runs six buses daily from Dammam via Khobar in Saudi Arabia, across the King Fahd Causeway, to the bus terminal next to the Lulu Centre in central Manama. As of February 2009, the schedule is as follows:
|From Dammam||From Khobar||From Manama|
The service uses comfortable aircon minibuses with a trailer for luggage. Tickets cost SR50/BD5 and can be purchased in advance, although they'll squeeze you in without a reservation if there is space. As crossing the Causeway involves two passport checks and two customs checks, figure on 2 hours for the trip, plus any traffic delays at busy times like Wednesday evenings. At congested times, buses may actually be slightly faster than private cars, as they can use separate lanes at immigration and customs.
The 26-km King Fahd Causeway connects Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Rental vehicles usually cannot be taken across, but SABTCO's BahrainLimo taxis that seat up to four can take you across for prices starting from BD30/SR300. Unofficial taxis, found hanging around bus stations at both ends, can offer slightly lower fares.
The official rates start at ($2.65) BD 1.000 plus 0.150 Fils (0.40¢) per kilometer. In practice, though, meters are always "broken", covered, missing or just ignored, and you'll need to agree on fares in advance. Beware that cabbies will often ask for ridiculous prices.
However, a new agreement have been reached between the government and taxis representatives on August 2008; and a growing majority of taxis now use their meters. Rates vary from 3 to 5 dinars for a ride within Manama.
Finding a taxi can be difficult, although major hotels and malls usually have a few waiting outside. Some privately owned company operate in the kingdom, but are twice more expensive than 'real' taxis.
Speedy Motor Services Call - (+973 1768 2999)
Bahrain Limo is the newly established most impressive Radio Meter Taxi Company in the Kingdom of Bahrain and the sister company of the transport giant "Saudi Bahraini Transport Company" (SABTCO) which provides luxurious bus and limousine services across the King Fahad Causeway. Call (+973 1726 626)
There are also public buses that run to many parts of the island. Bus fares are low, but understanding the system can be very confusing for visitors, due to difficulties in obtaining bus schedules and maps.
If planning on visiting several sites, consider renting a car. Prices range from 10-20 dinar per day, but allow you freedom to drive around the island.
The Qala'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) is located off the northern shore and is a five to ten minute drive away from Manama city. It is restored and in good condition although it lacks furniture, signage, or exhibits. Admission is free.
Next door to the fort is a museum, completed in February 2008, which contains many artifacts ranging from the ancient Dilmun periods through the Islamic era, many of which were found at the fort and additional ruins next door. The museum is a large rectangular and white building with absolutely no signs to indicate that it is a museum. The hours are 8AM-2PM daily; admission is free.
Tree of Life. Although trees grow in Bahrain, this one is special because of its location in the middle of the desert amidst the oil wells and other infrastructure of the petroleum industry. You need a car to reach the tree, as it is far from the main roads and not on any public transportation route.
To reach the tree, take the Zallaq Highway heading east, which becomes the Al-Muaskar Highway. You will eventually see a sign for the Tree of Life indicating a right turn. (Although the sign seems to point you to turn onto a dirt road which actually goes nowhere, do not do so, instead wait until the next intersection which is several metres ahead). There are no signs as you travel down this road, but pay attention to a scrap metal yard on your right. Before you reach a hill which warns you of a steep 10% incline, take a right. As you continue straight down this road (including roundabouts), you will begin to see Tree of Life signs again. The signs will lead you down a road which will then be devoid of these signs, but you will eventually see the tree in the distance on the right (it is large and wide, not to be mistaken for other smaller trees along the way). You turn onto a dirt path at Gas Well #371. You can drive up to just outside of the tree, but make sure you stay on the vehicle-worn path, as turning off of it is likely to get your car stuck in the softer sand.
Although it seems like a chore to reach, the Tree of Life is worth the visit for the oddity of it. The tree is covered in graffiti, although this is not visible until you get up close. Try to make your arrival near sunset for a picturesque view of the tree and the surrounding desert.
Bahrain has history dating back 5000 years, from the ancient Dilmun period through the Islamic era. The country offers three forts which have been meticulously restored and opened to the public, although a lack of signs and general promotion by the country's tourist industry sometimes makes finding these sites difficult.
Bahrain's biggest yearly event is the Bahrain Grand Prix F1 race, held each April at the Bahrain International Circuit . Plan well in advance, as flights sell out and hotel prices triple.
The high temperatures in Bahrain make sea activities seem extra tempting and water sports are extremely popular in Bahrain, with tourists and locals indulging in their sport of choice all year round in the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf. Sailing and scuba diving are particularly popular.
Although a desert country, Bahrain boasts an international 18-hole grass golf course, which is about 15 minutes outside the capital, Manama. The par 72 championship course features five lakes and is landscaped with hundreds of date palms and desert plains.
Enjoy riding a camel along a highway.
Purchase souvenirs and buy some authentic pottery at A'ali Village Pottery.
Haggle for goods at the local souk markets.
The currency in Bahrain is the Bahraini dinar (BD), which is divided into 1000 fils. One dinar is worth nearly three US dollars (US$2.66, to be precise, as the exchange rate is fixed), making this one of the world's strongest currencies, and this can get some getting used to: that seemingly cheap ten-dinar taxi ride is in fact almost $27 and thus an extortionate rip-off!
The dinar is pegged to the Saudi riyal at 1:10, and riyals are accepted almost everywhere at that rate, although odds are you'll get your change in dinars and hotels may try to screw you out of a few percent. If coming in from Saudi, there's no reason to change your money, but do try to get rid of any excess dinars before you leave the country, as they're hard to exchange elsewhere, even in Saudi.
Like most Gulf countries, Bahrain is not cheap. With recent rising costs a decent dinner can cost around BD1.5, and car rental at BD 10-20/day is reasonable, but hotel prices will put a dent in your budget: a perfectly ordinary room in a "good" hotel can set you back BD 100. Do not travel to Bahrain during the annual F1 race in April if looking for reasonable prices, as hotels will quadruple their rates. A room at the Gulf Hotel during this race will cost you upwards of BD 300/night.
A visit to the local souq (sook) is a must. There you can negotiate the price on “rolexes”, jewelry, and many other gifts. The souq is also home to many excellent tailors. If you're there for long enough (say a week) then you can take a favourite clothing item in and they will "clone" it precisely in any material you select from the huge range available.
Restaurants in Bahrain run the gamut for cheap stalls offering local food to fancy restaurants in fancy hotels. American fast food franchises such as Burger King and McDonalds are ubiquitous. Western (mostly American) style-foods and franchises can be found around the malls and in the city center, offering food for upper mid-range prices.
Bahrain has relatively liberal laws regarding alcohol and has long been a favorite getaway for visitors from Saudi Arabia and other nearby "dry" countries — don't be surprised to see Arabs in thobe and gutra sipping cool brewskis as they watch dancers strut their stuff in the hotel nightclub. However, since May 2007 all this debauchery has been restricted to five-star hotels, and you will not find "regular" restaurants offering alcohol.
Mostly public schools, but enough private schools to serve majority of overseas. Modern Knowledge School (MKS), Bahrain School, St Christopher's School  educates to British GCSE and A-level qualifications and has a very diverse base, with students from many ethnic backgrounds, although most British expats working in Bahrain send their children there. There is also a school mostly frequented by the children of Indian expats.
Also many private universities and Bahrain University located in Sukheer next to Bahrain International Circuit.
Bahrain has a number of expatriates (they make up almost 30% of the population). The predominant industry is the financial sector where over 400 banks are licensed, although only about 30 can accept deposits from retail customers- the rest are basically investment houses. The construction industry is also finding takers in Bahrain. Large building complexes(commercial and residential) are coming up.
For an expat, life is easy. By law, a company must provide:-
At present, there is a 1% charge on salary (gosi tax) which goes to subsidize the unemployed, but a lot of employers are giving their employees an additional bonus by paying it themselves instead of deducting it from the salary.
Most executive positions would have their children's education sponsored.
Working hours differ across different industries. Government offices work from 7:30 to 2:00; banks from 7:00 to 3:00.
Large demonstrations can occur at any time, can sometimes become violent but are typically NOT anti-Western. Avoid areas where crowds of people appear to be assembling.
Be a little more cautious with locking your hotel room at night. Most hotels have disco's frequented by some unsavoury characters. Though the hotels have proper security systems including cameras installed, there are instances of tourists having their rooms burglarized.
Drink plenty of water. April through August can be very hot (up to 50 ºC) and humid. Use an umbrella to protect you from the harsh sun. It is important to stay hydrated, especially if you are outdoors during the day. Bottled water is sold practically everywhere in the city from "Cold Stores" and small restaurants at very reasonable prices. In the souk, walking vendors offer small chilled bottles but you may end up paying more than the bottle is really worth. If you are living in Bahrain for an extended period of time, you can set up an arrangement for a neighborhood Cold Store to deliver bottled water to your flat, or sign up for water delivery through several companies on the island.
Bahrain is a fairly gracious host nation but it is imperative to demonstrate respect and courtesy in reference to their particular cultural practices and religion at all times. When out in places where local Arabs can be found it is advisable to wear long trousers, or shorts, and women shouldn't wear a see-through dress. However, in beach clubs and hotels, swimsuits, bikinis and shorts are okay to wear. Do not show signs of affection to members of the opposite sex in public or risk being mistaken as one with very loose morals and you will be treated accordingly. People of the opposite sex HAVE been arrested for lip kissing in public and it is just not socially accepted. Always avoid any confrontation and never become involved in an argument, specially with a local. In general it is desirable to understand and respect the culture in which you live or enjoy your vacation type.
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