Languages of Bahrain: Wikis


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Kingdom of Bahrain
مملكة البحرين
Mamlakat al-Baḥrayn
Flag Coat of arms
Our Bahrain
(and largest city)
26°13′N 50°35′E / 26.217°N 50.583°E / 26.217; 50.583
Official language(s) Arabic [1]
Demonym Bahraini
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah
 -  Queen Sabika bint Ibrahim
 -  Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman Al Khalifah
 -  From Portugal 1602 
 -  From Persia 1783[2][3] 
 -  From United Kingdom December 16, 1971[4] 
 -  Total 750 km2 (184th)
290 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0
 -   estimate 791,000[5] (159th)
 -  Density 1,189.5/km2 (7th)
3,126.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $27.014 billion[6] (118th)
 -  Per capita $34,662[6] (32nd)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $21.236 billion[6] (96th)
 -  Per capita $27,248[6] (3rd)
HDI (2007) 0.895[7] (high) (39th)
Currency Bahraini dinar (BHD)
Time zone (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .bh
Calling code 973

Bahrain, officially Kingdom of Bahrain (Arabic: مملكة البحرين‎, Mamlakat al-Barayn, 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.





Asia in 600 AD, showing the Sassanid Empire before the Arab conquest.

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] At this time, Bahrain incorporated the southern Sassanid province covering the Persian Gulf's southern shore plus the archipelago of Bahrain.[12]

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").[13] Until Bahrain adopted Islam in 629 AD, it was a center of Nestorian Christianity.[14] Early Islamic sources describe it as being inhabited by members of the Abdul Qays, Tamim, and Bakr tribes, worshiping the idol Awal.

Islamic conversion and Portuguese control

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.[15][16][17]

The Qarmatians were defeated in 976 AD by the Abbasids.[18] 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.[19] 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,[20] though locally the islands were controlled by the Shi'ite Jarwanid dynasty of Qatif.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] 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").[23][25][26] During this period, the islands suffered two serious invasions by the Ibadhis of Oman in 1717 and 1738.[27][28] In 1753, the Huwala clan of Al Madhkur invaded Bahrain on behalf of the Iranians, restoring direct Iranian rule.[29]

Origin of the Bani Utbah tribe

Coat of arms of Bahrain.svg

This article is part of the series on:

History of Bahrain

Ancient Bahrain
Tylos and Mishmahig
Historical region
Islam in Bahrain
Al-Ala'a Al-Hadrami
Portuguese occupation
Muqrin ibn Zamil
Antonio Correia
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
Uprising 1994-2000
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[30]. 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[31] 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[32], they were the original dominant group of Zubarah.[33]

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[33]. The Bani Utbah had been present in the banks of Bahrain in the seventeenth century[34]. 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.[35].

Rising power of Bani Utbah

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[36] 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"[37]. Al Bin Ali were known for their courage, persistence, and abundant wealth[38].

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.[citation needed]

Al Khalifa ascendancy to Bahrain and their treaties with the British

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.[39]

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.[40]

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.[38] 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.[42] 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.[43] 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’.
WG Palgrave, Narrative of a Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862–3)[44]

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’.[45] 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."[46]

The great trading families that emerged during this period have been compared to the Borgias and Medicis[47] 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.[48] The Al Safar enjoyed an 'exceptionally close'[49] 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."[50]

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.

Discovery of petroleum

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;[51] Belgrave established modern education systems in Bahrain.[52] 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 IsraelTel 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.[4]

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.[53] 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.[54] 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.[55] 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".[56] The country was declared a kingdom in 2002. It formerly was considered a State and officially called a "Kingdom".



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The Bahrain Royal Flight (Boeing 747SP).

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.[57]

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,[58] sorcery, and the hanging of underwear on washing lines.[59]

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.[60] 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".[61]

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.[62] 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".[63] 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,[64] only the third woman in history to head the world body.[65] The king recently created the Supreme Judicial Council[66] to regulate the country's courts and institutionalize the separation of the administrative and judicial branches of government;[67] 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.[68] 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.[69] 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.[70]


For further information, see Decree-Law establishing governoratesPDF (732 KiB) from the Bahrain official website.

Bahrain is split into five governorates. These governorates are:

Map Governorates
Governorates of Bahrain.svg
1. Capital Governorate
2. Central Governorate
3. Muharraq Governorate
4. Northern Governorate
5. Southern Governorate


Sunset at the King Fahd Causeway.

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.[71] 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.[72]

In 2008, Bahrain was named the world's fastest growing financial center by the City of London's Global Financial Centres Index.[73][74] Bahrain's banking and financial services sector, particularly Islamic banking, have benefited from the regional boom.[75] 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.[4]

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%,[76] but women are over represented at 85% of the total.[77] 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.[78]


Desert landscape in Bahrain.

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%[2] 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.[citation needed]


Climate charts
Average temperature.
Average rainfall in mm.
Average hours of sunshine.

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).[79]


Religion in Bahrain
religion percent[2]

In 2008, Bahrain's population stood at 1.05 million, out of which more than 517,000 were non-nationals.[80] 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.[81]

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,[82] 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.[2] 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.[83]

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:

Community Description
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[84] (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 [85][86]
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[87] and child abuse.[88]

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.[89] Ali Bahar is the most famous singer in Bahrain. He performs his music with his Band Al-Ekhwa (The Brothers).

Language and religion

Arabic is the official language of Bahrain though English is widely used. Bahrain's primary religion is Islam.

Formula One and other motorsports events

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 [90]

In 2006, Bahrain also hosted its inaugural Australian V8 Supercar event dubbed the "Desert 400".[citation needed] 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[citation needed] 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).


Royal Bahraini Navy RBNS Sabha.

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.[91]


Students at the University of Bahrain.

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.


A 123 m (404 ft) high fountain off the coast of Manama. The mechanism is contained in a barge, anchored to the seabed.

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[citation needed]. The Lonely Planet describes Bahrain as "an excellent introduction to the Persian Gulf",[92] 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.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Institute for Economics and Peace Global Peace Index[93] 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

See also


  1. ^ Article 2 (The official language is Arabic.)
  2. ^ a b c d CIA World Factbook, "Bahrain"
  3. ^ " Bahrain". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 16 2008 [1]
  4. ^ a b c Bahrain Timeline BBC
  5. ^ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (.PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Bahrain". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  7. ^ "Human Development Report 2009: Bahrain". The United Nations. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  8. ^ History of Bahrain History of Nations website
  9. ^ Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf: A Maritime Political Geography by Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, page 119
  10. ^ Bahrain By Federal Research Division, page 7
  11. ^ Robert G. Hoyland, Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam, Routledge 2001, p. 28
  12. ^ Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in ... by Jamsheed K. Choksy, 1997, page 75
  13. ^ Yoma 77a and Rosh Hashbanah, 23a
  14. ^ Curtis E. Larsen. Life and Land Use on the Bahrain Islands: The Geoarchaeology of an Ancient Society University of Chicago Press, 1984
  15. ^ Cyril Glasse, New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 245. Rowman Altamira, 2001. ISBN 0759101906
  16. ^ "Qarmatiyyah". Overview of World Religions. St. Martin's College. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  17. ^ "Black Stone of Mecca". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 25 June 2007 <>.
  18. ^ Juan Cole, Sacred Space and Holy War, IB Tauris, 2007
  19. ^ Smith, G.R. "Uyūnids". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 16 March 2008 [2]
  20. ^ Rentz, G. "al- Baḥrayn". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 15 March 2008 [3]
  21. ^ Juan R. I. Cole, "Rival Empires of Trade and Imami Shiism in Eastern Arabia, 1300–1800", International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2. (May, 1987), pp. 177–203, at p. 179, through JSTOR. [4]
  22. ^ Rentz, G. "al- Baḥrayn".
  23. ^ a b Rentz, "al- Baḥrayn".
  24. ^ Juan R. I. Cole, "Rival Empires of Trade and Imami Shiism in Eastern Arabia, 1300–1800", p. 186, through JSTOR. [5]
  25. ^ Juan R. I. Cole, "Rival Empires of Trade and Imami Shiism in Eastern Arabia, 1300–1800", p. 187
  26. ^ X. De Planhol, "Bahrain", Encyclopedia Iranica (online version)
  27. ^ X. De Planhol
  28. ^ Juan R. I. Cole, Rival Empires of Trade and Imami Shiism in Eastern Arabia, 1300–1800, p. 194
  29. ^ J. A. Kechichian, "Bahrain", Encyclopedia Iranica (online version)
  30. ^ Ownership's Document of a Palm Garden in Island of Sitra, Bahrain belonging to Shaikh Salama Bin Saif in which the owner carries the Al-Utbi last name dated 1699–1111 Hijri,, also Ownership's Document of a Palm Garden in Island of Nabih Saleh, Bahrain belonging to Shaikh Mohamed Bin Derbas in which the owner carries the Al-Utbi last name dated 1804–1219 Hijri,, also in the Precis Of Turkish Expansion on the Arab Littoral of the Persian Gulf and Hasa and Katif Affairs. By J. A. Saldana; 1904, I.o. R R/15/1/724, assertion by British Foreign Secretary Of State in 1871 that Isa Bin Tarif belongs to the Original Uttoobee's who conquered Bahrain, which means that he differentiate's the Original Uttoobee's who's desendants are the Al Bin Ali since they are the oldest and only tribe who officially carried the Al-Utbi last name in their ownership's documents, from the Utubi's who entered under its umbrella such as the Al-Khalifa and Al-Sabah and other families
  31. ^ Precis of Turkish Expansion on the Arab Littoral of the Persian Gulf and Hasa and Katif Affairs by J. A. Saldana; 1904, I.o. R R/15/1/724
  32. ^ Around the Coast, Amin Reehani, p297
  33. ^ a b Arabia's Frontiers: The Story of Britain's Boundary Drawing in the Desert, John C. Wilkinson, p44
  34. ^ The Origins of Kuwait, B.J. Slot, p110
  35. ^ Ownership's Document of a Palm Garden in Island of Sitra, Bahrain belonging to Shaikh Salama Bin Saif Al Utbi dated 1699–1111 Hijri,
  36. ^ Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman, and Central Arabia, Geographical, Volume 1, 1905
  37. ^ Picture of the Al Sulami Flag in the "Ardha of War" which was celebrated in Eid Al Fitr in Muharraq 1956 which was attended by Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, ex Ruler of Bahrain,
  38. ^ a b Arabian Studies by R.B. Serjeant, R.L. Bidwell, p67
  39. ^ Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman, and Central Arabia, John Gordon Lorimer, Volume 1 Historical, Part 1, p1000, 1905
  40. ^ James Onley, The Politics of Protection in the Persian Gulf: The Arab Rulers and the British Resident in the Nineteenth Century, Exeter University, 2004 p44
  41. ^ Nelida Fuccaro, "Persians and the space in the city in Bahrain 1869–1937", in Transnational Connections and the Arab Persian Gulf by Madawi Al-Rasheed Routledge 2005 p41
  42. ^ James Onley, The Politics of Protection in the Persian Gulf: The Arab Rulers and the British Resident in the Nineteenth Century, Exeter University, 2004
  43. ^ Larsen, p72
  44. ^ James Olney, Chapter "Transnational merchants in the nineteenth-century Gulf: the case of the Safar family" in Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf Ed Madawi Al-Rasheed, Routledge, p59
  45. ^ Nelida Fuccaro, "Persians and the space in the city in Bahrain 1869–1937", in Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf by Madawi Al-Rasheed Routledge 2005 p39
  46. ^ WG Palgrave, Narrative of a Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862–3) quoted in Nelida Fuccaro, "Persians and the space in the city in Bahrain 1869–1937", in Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf by Madawi Al-Rasheed Routledge 2005 p39
  47. ^ Jonathan Raban, Arabia through the Looking Glass, William Collins & Sons, 1979, p56
  48. ^ Nelida Fuccaro, Persians and the space in the city in Bahrain 1869–1937, in Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf by Madawi Al-Rasheed Routledge 2005 p47
  49. ^ James Olney, "Transnational merchants in the nineteenth-century Gulf: the case of the Safar family" in Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf Ed Madawi Al-Rasheed, Routledge, p71-2
  50. ^ James Olney, Chapter "Transnational merchants in the nineteenth-century Gulf: the case of the Safar family" in Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf ed. Madawi Al-Rasheed, Routledge, p78
  51. ^ Belgrave of Bahrain: The Life of Charles Dalrymple Belgrave, Emirates Natural History Group, 2007
  52. ^ The Uncontrollable Genie Time magazine, 27 August 1956
  53. ^ Bahrain Profile National Post 7 April 2007
  54. ^ "Stay just over the horizon this time", Time magazine, 25 October 1982
  55. ^ Rebellion in Bahrain, Middle East Review of International Affairs, March 1999
  56. ^ Bahrain: Promising Human Rights Reforms Must Continue, Amnesty International, 13 March 2001
  57. ^ Gulf News, 27 November 2006
  58. ^ Mannequins ban councillor up in arms Gulf Daily News, April 11, 2005
  59. ^ Drying underwear in public 'offensive', Gulf Daily News, 11 March 2005
  60. ^ The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights Human Rights Web
  61. ^ Rights push by Bahrain, Gulf Daily News, 14 June 2006
  62. ^ Councillors 'missing' in Bangkok, Gulf Daily News, 15 March 2006
  63. ^ Councillors face the music after Bangkok jaunt, Gulf Daily News (via 16 March 2006
  64. ^ Bahraini woman becomes UN General Assembly president. Zee News. June 8, 2006
  65. ^ 'UN General Assembly to be headed by its third-ever woman president', United Nations, June 8, 2006
  66. ^ Bahrain Law on Judicial Authority Published by the Arab Judicial Forum 15–17 September 2003
  67. ^ Bahrain sets up institute to train judges and prosecutors Gulf News, 15 November 2005
  68. ^ Forum for the Future Factsheet US State Department, 2005
  69. ^ Voices in Parliament, Debates in Majalis, Banners on the Street: Avenues of Political Participation in Bahrain, Katja Niethammar, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, 2006
  70. ^ Bahrain ministries' probe to continue Gulf News, 25 September 2007
  71. ^ Bahrain expected to bustle Arabian Business, 1 February 2007
  72. ^ Bahrain Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation
  73. ^ Hedge Funds Review 18 March 2008
  74. ^ Gulf Daily News 18 March 2008
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ Minister lashes out at parties opposed to unemployment benefit scheme Gulf News, 22 June 2007
  79. ^
  80. ^ Bahrain witnesses population explosion
  81. ^ 290,000 Indians in Bahrain
  82. ^ Bahrain's crown prince to visit India Overseas Indian, 8 March 2007
  83. ^ Bahrain Country Profile FCO
  84. ^ «البونيان» تاريخ طويل يمتد في وسط المنامة باسم «ليتل إنديا», Alwasat Newspaper
  85. ^ Rentz, "al- Baḥrayn.": "A good number of the Sunnīs of Baḥrayn are Arabs or the descendants of Arabs onze resident on the Persian coast; such are known as Huwala."
  86. ^ Rentz, G. "al- Kawāsim." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 15 March 2008 [6]
  87. ^ Scholarly 'lacking sexual awareness' Gulf Daily News, 22 January 2006
  88. ^ Gulf Daily News
  89. ^ Bahrain tops publishing sector among Arab states Gulf News, 4 January 2006
  90. ^ Bahrain International Circuit
  91. ^ United States Navy Central Command web site
  92. ^ Bahrain, Destination Guide Lonely Planet
  93. ^ "Vision of Humanity". Vision of Humanity. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

External links

Coordinates: 26°01′39″N 50°33′00″E / 26.0275°N 50.55°E / 26.0275; 50.55


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