Bahrain, a vibrant, modern Gulf country, has been able to strike a perfect balance between tradition and the 21st century. From its legendary beginnings as Dilmun, the land of immortality hailed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, to rumors that it was the fabled Garden of Eden, Bahrain has become renowned for many things. Among them are its pearls, its hospitality, its open-minded people and its enlightened leaders. Bahrain has entered the modern age with enthusiasm while retaining some of its old world mystique.
As the place where oil was first discovered in the Middle East, Bahrain heralded the regional economic prosperity that has since followed.
Today it is a financial centre, a tourist destination, an economic hub, a major port and home to a cosmopolitan mix of people.
Bahrain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East with over two million tourists a year. Most of the visitors are from Arab states of the Persian Gulf but there are an increasing number of tourists from outside the region thanks to a growing awareness of the Kingdom’s rich heritage and its higher profile with regards to the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Lonely Planet describes Bahrain as “an excellent introduction to the Gulf because of its authentic Arab heritage and reputation as relatively liberal and modern. The Kingdom combines authentic Arab culture, contemporary Gulf glitz and the archaeological legacy of five thousand years of civilization. The ancient civilization of Dilmun, which dominated trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilization, was centered in Bahrain. The inhabitants of Dilmun left behind settlements and temples and tens of thousands of burial mounds which dot the landscape.
Dilmun prospered because it had fresh water, and it is this resource which has meant that Bahrain has long fought over by regional powers in a predominantly arid region. As a result, the island is home to many castles including the impressive Qalat Al Bahrain which was recently listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Bahrain National Museum has a wide-varied collection of artifacts from the Kingdom’s history dating back to the island’s first human inhabitation 9000 years ago.
The government of Bahrain is encouraging tourism development and has participated partially in the capital of developments such as Durrat Al Bahrain while many gulf nationals have relatives in Bahrain or vice versa, regional tourism is also a significant source of income to Bahrain. The government continues to contribute into large-scale tourism projects such as the Bahrain International Circuit, the only Formula One track in the Middle East when it opened in 2004, and has awarded tenders for several tourist complexes across the Kingdom.
Facts and Figures
Bahrain is an Arabic word meaning “Two Seas”, referring to the island’s two sources of water, sweet water springs and salty water.
The Kingdom is an archipelago of 40 islands - a number that is growing as new developments spring up across the Kingdom - placed midway between the Qatar peninsula and Saudi Arabia.
- Capital: Manama
- Total Land Area: 711 sq km
- Time Zone: GMT + 3
- Population: 760,168
- People: Bahraini (63%), Asian (19%), Iranian (8%), other Arab (10%)
- Labor Force: 380,000 (2005 est.)
- Population Growth: 1.45% (2006 est.)
- Languages: The official language is Arabic. English is very widely spoken and is the principal language of commerce.
- Religion: Islam, other religions and indigenous beliefs
- Currency: Bahraini Dinar, which is pegged to the US Dollar
- Head of State: King Hamad bin Essa Al-Khalifa
- Head of Government: Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
- Crown Prince and Commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defense Force: Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa
- Parliament: Bahrain has a bicameral legislature with a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage and the upper house, the Shura Council, appointed by the King. Both houses have forty members. The inaugural elections were held in 2002, with parliamentarians serving four year terms
- International affiliations: Bahrain is a member of the UN, Arab League, Gulf Co-operation Council and the Organization of the Islamic Conference
- Logistics: Bahrain has an excellent road network with causeway connections to Muharraq and Sitra islands and to Saudi Arabia. A road link is also planned between Bahrain and Qatar - which is due for completion in 2010. Bahrain International Airport in Muharraq is one of the busiest airports in the Middle East with the most connections to the rest of the region. It is used by most major international airlines. Manama is the headquarters of Gulf Air, Bahrain’s national carrier. Steamers run scheduled service from Bahrain to other Gulf ports and to Pakistan and India.
- e-enabled: Bahrain is one of the region’s leaders when it comes to e-government. At www.e.gov.bh , you can find many Government services and sources of information about the Kingdom.
- GDP: US$12.07 billion (2006 est)
- GDP per capita: US$25,600 (2006 est)
- GDP growth: 7.1% (2006 est)