The Kindom of Bahrain is an archipelago comprising of around 33 small islands and is located off the central southern shores of the Arabian Gulf. It was often referred to as “Two seas” due to the fresh water springs found within the salty sea water surrounding it. Bahrain was famous for its natural pearls which was the backbone of the economy before the discovery of oil. The central hilly area of Jebel Al Dukhan has the highest concentration of oil wells.
Though today Bahrain is connected to the Saudi Arabian mainland by the King Fahd Causeway, it was once believed to part of the mainland only becoming an island around 600BC. It is also believed that prehistoric settlers may have occupied the islands as early as 10,000BC. Trading accounts of the Sumerians form around 3000BC record a land called Dilmun, the first mention of Bahrain’s oldest recorded civilization. Dilmun was one of the great trading empires and a major centre on the trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indian Subcontinent.
The Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa was probably the first European to visit Bahrain in about 1485, but it was not until early the following century that the Portuguese Navy occupied Bahrain. The Portuguese were eventually expelled from the islands by the Bahrainis when in 1602 the Portuguese Governor ordered the execution of one of Bahrain’s richest traders, which led to an uprising.
Bahrain’s ruling family, the Al-Khalifas, first arrived in the middle eighteenth century, coming from Kuwait. In 1861 Mohammed Al Khalifa signed a ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship’ with Great Britain. This treaty was the first of the so-called ‘Exclusive Agreements’ under which Britain and other Gulf states signed away control of their foreign affairs in return for Britain’s protection. Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the present emir’s father, declared independence from Great Britain in 1971, almost immediately afterwards signing a treaty of friendship between the two countries. Shaikh Isa was succeeded by his son Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the present emir.
Bahrain has a cultural diversity comprising of various religions and ethnic groups. While Islam is followed by a majority of the population, there are other groups who enjoy an equal religious freedom. Bahrain has always been an open society and generally puts no restrictions on dressing. However being a muslim country, people generally dress in a conservative and respectful manner.