Known in ancient times as Dilmun, Bahrain was an important center of trade by the 3rd millennium B.C. The islands were ruled by the Persians in the 4th century A.D., and then by Arabs until 1541, when the Portuguese invaded them. Persia again claimed Bahrain in 1602. In 1783 Ahmad ibn al-Khalifah took over, and the al-Khalifahs remain the ruling family today. Bahrain became a British protectorate in 1820. It did not gain full independence until Aug. 14, 1971.
The site of the ancient Bronze Age civilization of Dilmun, Bahrain was an important center linking trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley as early as 5,000 years ago. The Dilmun civilization began to decline about 2,000 B.C. as trade from India was cut off. From 750 B.C. on, Assyrian kings repeatedly claimed sovereignty over the islands. Shortly after 600 B.C., Dilmun was formally incorporated into the new Babylonian empire. There are no historical references to Bahrain until Alexander the Great’s arrival in the Gulf in the 4th century B.C. Although Bahrain was ruled variously by the Arab tribes of Bani Wa’el and Persian governors, Bahrain continued to be known by its Greek name Tylos until the 7th century, when many of its inhabitants converted to Islam. A regional pearling and trade center, Bahrain came under the control of the Ummayad Caliphs of Syria, the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghdad, Persian, Omani and Portuguese forces at various times from the 7th century until the Al Khalifa family, a branch of the Bani Utbah tribe that have ruled Bahrain since the 18th century, succeeded in capturing Bahrain from a Persian garrison controlling the islands in 1783.
In the 1830s the Al Khalifa signed the first of many treaties establishing Bahrain as a British Protectorate. Similar to the binding treaties of protection entered into by other Persian Gulf principalities, the agreements entered into by the Al Khalifa prohibited them from disposing of territory and entering into relationships with any foreign government without British consent in exchange for British protection against the threat of military attack from Ottoman Turkey. The main British naval base in the region was moved to Bahrain in 1935 shortly after the start of large-scale oil production. from all aggression by sea and to lend support in case of land attack.
In 1968, when the British Government announced its decision (reaffirmed in March 1971) to end the treaty relationships with the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Bahrain initially joined the other eight states (Qatar and the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms now the United Arab Emirates) under British protection in an effort to form a union of Arab emirates. The nine sheikhdoms still had not agreed on terms of union by 1971, however, prompting. Bahrain to declare itself fully independent on August 15, 1971.
Area: 710 sq. km. ( 274 sq. mi.); approximately four times the size of Washington, D.C. Bahrain is an archipelago of 36 islands located off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The four main islands are joined by causeways, and make up about 95% of the total land area.
Cities: Capital--Manama, pop. (2002 est.) 148,000. Other cities--Al Muharraq.
Terrain: Low desert plain (highest elevation point–122 m).
Climate: Hot and humid from May-September, with average highs ranging from 30-40 C (86-104 F). Maximum temperatures average 20-30C (68-86F) the remainder of the year.
Type: Constitutional Monarchy.
Independence: August 15, 1971 (from the UK).
Constitution: Approved and promulgated May 26, 1973; suspended on August 26, 1975; amended and approved by a national popular referendum again on February 14-15, 2001.
Branches: Executive--King (chief of state); Prime Minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by the King and headed by the Prime Minister.
Legislative--The bicameral parliament (al-Majlis al-Watani) consists of a 40-member elected House of Deputies and a 40-member Shura Council appointed by the King. Members of both chambers serve four-year terms. Judicial--High Civil Appeals Court. The judiciary is independent with right of judicial review.
Administrative subdivisions: 12 municipalities (manatiq): Al Hidd, Al Manamah, Al Mintaqah al Gharbiyah, Al Mintaqah al Wusta, Al Mintaqah ash Shamaliyah, Al Muharraq, Ar Rifa' wa al Mintaqah al Janubiyah, Jidd Hafs, Madinat Hamad, Madinat 'Isa, Juzur Hawar, Sitrah.
Political parties: None. Formal parties are banned but political societies have been formally sanctioned since 2001.
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded the throne in March 1999, after the death of his father Shaikh Isa bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ruler since 1961. He championed a program of democratic reform shortly after his succession. . In November 2000, Shaikh Hamad established a committee to create a blueprint transform Bahrain from a hereditary emirate to a constitutional monarchy within 2 years. The resulting “National Action Charter” was presented to the Bahraini public in a referendum in February 2001. The first public vote in Bahrain since the 1970s, held by universal suffrage, the charter was overwhelmingly endorsed by 94.8% of voters. That same month, Shaikh Hamad pardoned all political prisoners and detainees, including those who had been imprisoned, exiled or detained on security charges. He also abolished the State Security Law and the State Security Court, which had permitted the government to detain individuals without trial for up to 3 years.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bahraini(s).
Population (July 2003 est.): 667,238, including about 235,108 non-nationals.
Annual growth rate: 1.61%.
Ethnic groups: Bahraini 63%, Asian 19%, other Arab 10%, Iranian 8%.
Religions: 98% Muslim (Shi’a 70%, Sunni 30%), with small Christian, Jewish and Hindu communities.
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Farsi, and Urdu are also widely spoken.
Education: Education is not compulsory, but is provided free to Bahrainis and non-nationals at all levels, including higher education. Estimated net primary school attendance (1991-2001)--84%. Adult Literacy (age 15 and over) (2003 est.)--89.1% for the overall population (male 91.9% female 85%).
Health: Infant mortality rate--19.02 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--71 yrs. males, 76 yrs. females.
Work force (2001): 307,000 of which 59% are foreigners and 20.8% female.
GDP (2002): $7.7 billion.
Real GDP Growth Rate (2002 est.): 5.1%.
Per capita GDP (2002 est.): $14,000.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish, pearls.
Agriculture (less than 1% of GDP): Products--With the exception of eggs, vegetables, dates, and fish, most food is imported. Types--oil and gas (16.5 % of GDP), manufacturing (12.2% of GDP), , aluminum.
Services: Finance (15.7 % of GDP), transport and communications (8.9% of GDP), real estate (7.8% of GDP), .
Government Services(10.4% of GDP).
Trade (2002--about 13.3 % of GDP): Exports--$5.8 billion: oil and other mineral products, base metals, textiles. Major markets--India (4.5 %), U.S. (3.2%), Saudi Arabia (2.3%), Japan (1.7%), South Korea (1.7%). Imports--$5.0 billion: crude oil, machinery and appliances, transport equipment, foodstuffs. Major suppliers--Saudi Arabia (30.2%), U.S. (11.7%), France (7.1%), U.K. (6.1%),Germany (5.6%).
Places to visit in Bahrain:
- Oil Museum
- Arad Fort
- A’Ali village
- Bahrain Fort
- The Tree of Life
- Al-Areen Wildlife Park
- The Grand Mosque
- Jebel Al Dukhan
- Al Jazeer Beach
- Al Jasra