Population: 1,234,571 (est.)
- The Bahraini dinar is the official currency of Bahrain.
- The official religion of Bahrain is Islam and 99.8% of Bahraini citizens are Muslim. There are no official figures for the proportion of Shia and Sunni among the Muslims of Bahrain, but approximately 66-70% percent of Bahraini Muslims are Shias
- The name Bahrain means “two seas”.
- Bahrain was the first Arabian country to strike oil.
- Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by followers of Sunni Islam.
- It is one of only 3 countries in the world that has a Shiite Majority, the other 2 are Iraq and Iran.
Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago of 33 islands, the largest being Bahrain Island, at 55 km (34 mi) long by 18 km (11 mi) wide. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway. Iran lies 200 km (120 mi) to the north of Bahrain, across the Gulf. The peninsula of Qatar is to the southeast across the Gulf of Bahrain. The planned Qatar Bahrain Causeway will link Bahrain and Qatar and become the world’s longest marine causeway. The population in 2010 stood at 1,234,571, including 666,172 non-nationals.
Bahrain is believed to be the site of the ancient land of the Dilmun civilisation. Bahrain came under the rule of successive Persian empires, the Parthians and Sassanids empires respectively. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam in 628 AD. Following a successive period of Arab rule, the country was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521. The Portuguese were later expelled, in 1602, by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid empire. Since 1783, Bahrain has been ruled by the Khalifah family, members of the Bani Utbah tribe, who expelled the Persians, with Ahmed al Fateh being the first hakim of Bahrain. In 1861, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a virtual protectorate of the United Kingdom. Following the withdrawal of the British from the region in the late 1960s, Bahrain declared independence in 1971. In recent decades it has forged close links with the United States, and is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Formerly a state, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002. The king is the supreme authority and members of the Sunni Muslim ruling family hold the main political and military posts. There are long-running tensions between Bahrain’s minority Sunnis and the Shia majority. On occasion, these have spilled over into civil unrest. Since early 2011, the country has experienced sustained protests and unrest inspired by the regional Arab Spring.
Bahrain today has a very high Human Development Index (42nd highest in the world) and the World Bank identified it as a high income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference as well as being a founding member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. Bahrain was also designated as a major non-NATO ally by the George W. Bush administration in 2001.
Oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932 (the first in the Arabian side of the Gulf). In recent decades, Bahrain has sought to diversify its economy and be less dependent on oil by investing in the banking sector and tourism. The country’s capital, Manama, is home to many large financial structures, including the Bahrain World Trade Center and the Bahrain Financial Harbour. The Qal’at al-Bahrain (the harbour and capital of the ancient land of Dilmun) and the Bahrain pearling trail were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005 and 2012, respectively. The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit.