Location: archipelago in the Arabian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia
Capital: Manama
Area: 665 sq km
Coastline: 161 km
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jebal ad Dukhan 122m
Official languages: Arabic, English
Population: 667,886
Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.4%
15-64 years: 68.4%
65 and over: 3.3%
Currency: Bahraini Dinar
Member: Arab League, GCC

The State of Bahrain is an archipelago consisting of 33 islands situated centrally on the western shores of the Arabian Gulf. Its total land area is about 692 square kilometers. It lies 22 kilometers off the eastern coast of
Saudi Arabia and 28 kilometers from the coast of Qatar. In 1986, the 25km King Fahd Causeway linking Bahrain to Saudi Arabia was completed.

The largest of these islands is Bahrain Island (586 sq km) from which the state takes its name. It is linked by causeway to
Al-Muharraq (20 sq km), the second largest island, and to Sitra. Other islands of significant size include Nabi Saleh to the east, and Jiddah and Umm al- Na’san to the west.

To the southeast lie the 16 small islands which compose the Hawar group. The largest of these is 19 km long and 1 km wide. Because it is similar in shape to Bahrain Island but smaller, it was called Hawar meaning young camel to suggest it was offspring of the parent landmass.

There are numerous other tiny islands in the archipelago but they are mainly uninhabited and are best known for the rich variety of migrating birds.

Most of Bahrain is low-lying and barren. Its surface is limestone rock covered with varying densities of saline sand which supports only the hardiest desert vegetation. Along the northern coast is a wide fertile strip of land. It was known for many years as “the island of a million palm trees” which flourished because of the abundant fresh water springs, particularly in the northern areas. Underground aquifers originate from Saudi Arabia and bring sweet water to Bahrain under the sea. There are three aquifers, the high, medium and the low. Out of these only the medium aquifer contains water usable without treatment. Once there were 220 natural springs, almost all are dried up and now water has to be pumped from artificial wells. The salinity of even the best ground water is high, barely suitable for irrigation and unsuitable for drinking. The quantity is limited and sufficient for the irrigation of less than half the agricultural land.

The highest point on the island just south of Awali is
Jabal al- Dukhan, or the "mountain of smoke" so-called because of the mists which often surround its base. Jabal al-Dukhan stands 122 m above sea level. It is around this area that the majority of- Bahrain's oil wells are situated.

Climate: Bahrain is hot in summer and mild in winter. The climate is very pleasant from November to April, with temperatures ranging from 15 C to 24 C. Temperatures are coolest between December and March when winds blow from the north and north-west. In July, August and September temperatures average 36C, but the climate is often tempered by the northwesterly al-Barah wind. The annual average rainfall is approximately 77 mm, with March the wettest month.


Flora: Date, almond, pomegranate, banana, fig trees and a variety of other vegetation grow on the fertile strip in the northern part of the island of Bahrain. The remainder of the state is covered in varying degrees by low-lying desert scrubs and salt-tolerant ground plants. The floral affinities are with plants from North Africa and India. The naturally occurring wild plants are for the most part salt-loving (halophytes) or drought resistant (xerophytes) while some are able to derive their moisture from the underlying water table. .

Fauna: Historically, Bahrain’s climate was more temperate and the land more fertile, thus supporting a wide variety of flora and fauna. Today, the largest wild animal is an individual subspecies of the gazelle, known as the Reem gazelle. It is protected at
al-Areen Wildlife Sanctuary. More common are the hare, jerboa, mongoose, the Ethiopian hedgehog, the naked belly tomb bat and the Trident bat. There are several types of lizards the most distinctive is the desert Dhub, which can be up to half a meter long. There are also several varieties of snakes and fish.

Two hundred and forty species of birds can be found in Bahrain, the majority of which are migrants passing through the islands in winter and spring between Asian breeding grounds and winter homes in Africa or Arabia. Many make their stop on
Hawar Island.

There are around 20 different strains of Bahraini Arabian horses bred in the country. The strongest stallion strains are drawn from the oldest lines including Kuheilan, Jallaby and Dahman. The highly valued pure bred Arabian horse partly originates from Bahraini bloodstock. Horses sent from Bahrain to the Khedive of Egypt in the middle of the 19th century helped to establish an Egyptian Arabian stud.

The Hubara Bustard is one of the smaller members of the Bustard family, weighing around 2.5 kg and is the bird of choice for Bahrain's falconers.The Hubara migrate towards the southern deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, passing through Bahrain in November or early December. They return northwards again in March.

Bahraini Saluki dogs belong to the feathered coat variety but are larger than those found elsewhere. With a speed of 65 kilometers per hour, the Saluki dog is capable of out-running the sprightliest gazelle.

The Arabian Gulf has an average depth of only 35 meters and most of the Bahrain section, which lies in the Gulf of Salwa, is much shallower than this. As a consequence, the effects of high evaporation rates, caused by wind and heat, have a consider¬able influence on both salinity and temperatures of Gulf waters.

Tidal currents in the Gulf play an important part in scouring channels and in mixing sea-water. Tidal flows off the east coast of Bahrain result in regular sharp changes in salinity at a particular location. Off the west coast of Bahrain the flooding tide carries less saline water into the Gulf of Bahrain while the ebb tide has the reverse effect, removing higher salinity water.


The traditional dress worn by the majority of men is the thobe and the head dress which consists of the ghutra, a white or red head cover held down by a black agal, which is made of wool. A cloak-like bisht in various colors can also be worn over the thobe on formal occasions.

Some women wear the black abba over their dress; formal dresses may be made from silk, wool or cotton in a variety of patterns. In certain villages such as Busaibi and Sanabis, women embroider intricate patterns onto their dress. Gold and silver (zeri) thread is sewn into the trim of thobes, abayas and other traditional garments.

Traditional industries include
pearling, weaving, pottery, boat building. The first reference to the Gulf pearls is believed to be an Assyrian inscription from 2000BC which described “a parcel of fish-eyes from Dilmun”.

Bahrain’s National Museum, and Beit al-Qur’an showcase the country’s art and histories.


Bahrain, which in Arabic means "Two Seas," is mentioned by several early historians such as the Roman Pliny, Yaqut al-Hamawi who refers to its "many palm trees and orchards" and Qazwini who refers to the "many good things" in it. There is more than one explanation for the name: Some believe that because sweet water springs from the middle of the salty sea, the Arabs called it Bahrain as it has both a salty sea and a sweet sea. Other writers believe Bahrain was called the two seas because it is surrounded by both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Evidence, from past generations is everywhere apparent in Bahrain, either in the form of a landscape patterned with ancient grave-mounds. some over 5,000 years old; or in the excavated ruins of temples like that of Barbar; or in more recent structures such as the Bahrain Fort, Arad Fort; or indeed many of the existing houses in the older parts of Manama, Muharraq and other towns.

Pre-History: The first inhabitants lived between 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Early inhabitants settled in makeshift villages and chipped tools from the flint which the limestone rocks supply in abundance. These flints are the only surviving relics of the earliest millennia of Bahrain's prehistory.

The first archaeological traces of man during the Bronze Age were found in
Jabal al- Dukhan and the old coast extending from Zallaq to Mumtalah. Pottery at the small site of al-Markh, south of Zallaq, is among the earliest excavated in Bahrain, confirming that trading contact was well established with the Mesopotamian settlement of Ubaid, beside the Euphrates River.

Thousands of flints were found in places where the original surface was not covered by sand drift or disturbed by cultivation. From these relics alone it is difficult to say much about the way of life of the hunters who inhabited the islands about 10.000 years ago, but the evidence of toothed sickle blades of flint suggests the early practice of agriculture.

Burial Mounds: Bahrain's 172,000 burial mounds belong to the Bronze Age from about 3,000 BC when Bahrain was the site of the world's largest prehistoric cemetery. Excavations in 1981 exposed the oldest tombs yet discovered on the island. The burial mounds range from single-chamber tombs to double-chamber and multiple¬ chamber graves.

The excavations of the Saar Burial Complex have uncovered a new type of grave complex, which looks like a settlement mound from the surface. Each grave was marked off by a curved (ring) wall built against the walls of earlier graves. Thus a pattern of interconnected graves each enclosed by a ring wall emerged which had no parallels with any site so far known in Bahrain.

Various types of funerary objects such as pottery, copper/ bronze objects, and seals of steatite, shells and beads recovered from the graves indicated that most of them belonged to the "Barbar" period comparable to those from the remains found at the
Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort).

The Aali tumuli are the tallest and most imposing of the islands' mounds. The tallest mound at Aali stood over 24m high. Nine were more than 20m high and five others were more than 15m high.

Dilmun: Bahrain is identified with the ancient Dilmun, the land of immortality described in Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions as a major port on the sea trade routes between Mesopotamia and India.

Sumerian poems tell of the Epic of Gilgamesh in which Dilmun was a land of immortals, a kind of paradise to which sages and heroes were transported to live in eternal bliss. A Sumerian hymn refers to Dilmun as a holy land, blessed by the God of Sweet Waters, Enki, found in the well at
Barbar Temple. Bahrain was also once known as the island with abundant fresh water.

Clay tablets found in Bahrain that date to the third Iron Age, record the receipt of tribute from the kings of Dilmun or campaigns which incorporate Dilmun in their empires. Evidence of how sophisticated the Dilmunites were is provided by the solid geometric construction of their cut-stone Barbar Temple and by the exquisite artifacts recovered from the grave mounds distributed on the island. At its height the ancient city at Bahrain Fort had a population of 7,000. It is thought that Bahrain was connected to mainland Arabia until 6,000 BC.

Dilmun's importance began to decline about 2000 B.C. Trade goods from India were cut off and the islands had to fall back on their own resources. With the rise of the Assyrian empire, a degree of prosperity appears to have returned to Bahrain. From 750 B.C. onwards the
Assyrian kings repeatedly claimed sovereignty over the islands.

However, the renewed wealth of Bahrain did not escape the attention of the
Babylonian kingdom and shortly after 600 B.C. Dilmun was incorporated into their new empire.

Tylos: After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, there are no historical references to Bahrain until the time of Alexander the Great when two of his ships sailed to Tylos, today identified as the islands of Bahrain, and found it famous for its pearls. A large number of silver coins from the fourth century B.C. indicate that the Greeks settled in Bahrain for some years bringing prosperity to the island.

Awal: The Arab
tribes of Bani Wa'el ruled Bahrain in the third century B.C. They gave the name of their idol, Awal, to Bahrain. However, according to other historians, Awal is derived from the name of the Arab hero Awal bin Rabi'ah. For the next six centuries Bahrain enjoyed commercial prosperity.

Advent of Islam: In 627 A.D. Bahrain was governed for Persia by a Christian Arab. It was in that year, the eighth year of the Islamic Hijra calendar when al-Ala' bin Abdallah al-Hadrami brought the message of the Islam to the people of Bahrain. The ruler, al-Mundhir ibn Sawi, and the majority of the population converted to Islam, while Christians and Jews continued to observe their religion. After the Prophet's death some people renounced Islam in Arabia. In Bahrain, al--Jarud ibn al-Mualla, a Christian convert to Islam, defended the new faith until the Caliph Abu Bakr sent Abu al-Ala' al.Hadrami to subdue the rebellion.

For the next 350 years, Bahrain and Eastern Arabia were ruled by the
Umayyad caliphs of Damascus and the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad. The Carmathians, an offshoot of the Ismaili sect, ruled Bahrain for nearly two centuries until it was seized from them by Abdullah al-Uyuni. The Uyunid dynasty was established in Bahrain for about 150 years.

Later periods: Early in the 15th century, Bahrain was united with Oatif and al-Ihsa under Shaikh Ibrahim al-Maliki and in 1487 the Omanis invaded the island.

In 1515 Bahrain was under the suzerainty of Hormuz which was held by the Portuguese. In 1521 when Bahrain refused to pay homage to the new suzerain of Hormuz it was seized by the Portuguese who killed its ruler Muqrin ibn Zamil. Bahrain maintained a strategic buffer position between the Turks at the northern end of the Gulf in Basra and the Portuguese in Hormuz until the end of the 16th century. The Portuguese were expelled from Bahrain in 1602. In 1645 they tried to return to destroy Hormuz and Bahrain, but their fleet was destroyed by Omani pirates before it entered the Gulf.

Bahrain was repeatedly attacked by the Omanis who invaded it at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1720 it came under Persian control.

Al- Khalifa: The al-Khalifa family are a branch of the Bani Utbah tribe, and have ruled Bahrain since the 18th century. Following the death of his father in 1747, Mohammad ibn Khalifa migrated to Zubara on the west coast of
Qatar. He was later joined by other members of his family who consolidated their position at Zubara by building a large town and a fort; Qal'at Marir. In 1783 Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Khalifa, known as Ahmad al-Fateh, captured Bahrain and drove out the Persian garrison controlling the islands. When he died in 1796 he was succeeded jointly by his sons Abdulla and Salman. Al-Fateh Mosque was named for him.

In 1799 the Omanis gained a foothold in Bahrain, and the Wahabi tribe also occupied Bahrain for a short time during that period. In 1820, the joint rulers of Bahrain, Shaikhs Salman and Abdulla, signed a treaty with the British East India Company.

Following a turbulent period marked by disputes among the members of the al- Khalifa family, Shaikh Isa bin Ali al- Khalifa was proclaimed ruler in 1869. Sheikh Isa's reign lasted 54 years. In 1913, eleven years after a British was posted to head Bahrain, a convention was signed by the British government recognizing Bahrain's independence and her control of the archipelago's 33 islands. In 1923, Sheikh Isa retired from active participation in the affairs of state and his appointed heir apparent and eldest son, Sheikh Hamad, assumed the role of Deputy Ruler, Shaikh Isa continued to live in
Beit Sheikh Isa in Muharraq which was restored around 1985.

The years bewteen 1923 to 1932 were a period of rapid growth and progress. The first electric power station was opened in 1930, and in 1932 oil was struck, Bahrain's telephone service was inaugurated and the first plane landed on the island.

Economy: Bahrain was the first country in the southern Gulf region to have an oil based economy. In the 1970's, its economy started to prosper as a result of increased oil revenues. Oil comes from three sources:
Jabal al- Dukhan field in the center of the main island, which has approximately 325 wells. Offshore, Bahrain shares Abu Sa'fa field with Saudi Arabia. Bahrain receives half of the income from the sale of the Abu Sa'fa field's crude oil. Imports provide the third source of the oil refined in Bahrain.

Bahrain has a diversified economy and develops its other assets, such as its strategic position, skilled labor force, plentiful supplies of natural gas and an advanced telecommunications system. Several major industrial sectors are established. The Aluminium Bahrain smelter, the first in the Gulf went into production in 1971. Other aluminium production companies and petrochemical industries take advantage of the available natural gas as an energy source.

Bahrain is a banking center with its freedom from currency restric¬tions and most taxes. Government provides incentives to attract international investment

In 1965, the Bahrain Currency Board issued the first national currency, the dinar; in 1967 Mina Salman port was completed; in 1968 Sheikh Isa inaugurated Isa Town; 1970 marked the opening of Bahrain's first earth satellite station, and in the same year Sheikh Isa laid the foundation stone of Aluminium Bahrain. In December 1971 the State of Bahrain became a number of the United Nations and the Arab League, and in 1981 it joined five other Gulf States - Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar - to form the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Social services:

A tradition of stability and international trade has enabled the government to improve on health, social security, and education. Bahrain has the oldest public education system in the Arabian Peninsula. The system was established in 1932 when the government assumed responsibility for operating two preexisting primary schools for boys. Subsequently, separate facilities for girls and various secondary programs were established. Since the 1970s, education has been one of the largest current government expenditures, providing free educational opportuni¬ties for all children and a curriculum relevant to the socio-economic needs of the state. The University of Bahrain was established in 1986 with the merging of University College and Gulf Polytechnic.

Care for the disabled, the orphaned and the elderly is provided at the Isa Town Rehabilitation and Development Home. A centre in Gudaibiya cares for orphans and children from broken homes.

constitutioncame into effect on 14 Feb 2002.


Islam is the state religion and 85 per cent of the population is Muslim. There are also Christians, Jews, Hindus and Zoroastrians. Muslim as well as Christian places of worship, including Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox churches are found on the island.