Bahrain is located in the Middle East and is an archipelago of 33 islands, with the largest and the main island being the Bahrain Island. A unique feature of the archipelago is that some of the islands are man-made.
Bahrain has a rich history, stretching back to the Bronze Age when it was home to the Dilmun Civilization and later (6th BC – 3rd BC) when it was made part of the Persian Empire. From around 900 AD, it was under control of various Arab dynasties until 1860 when it officially became part of the British Colony. It gained independence in 1971 and became the State of Bahrain. In 2002, it became a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected parliament and its official name was changed to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The official state religion is Islam, with approximately 70% of the population being Muslims (2010 Census). The rest of the population comprises Christians, Hindus and Jews.
It has a higher rate of gender equality compared to the surrounding Arab countries. Women in Bahrain have more freedom and are highly educated. They are well represented in most of the major professions and also have a right to vote.
Arabic is the official language of Bahrain. Various dialects of Arabic are spoken by the population, along with Persian and Urdu languages. However, due to its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population and outlook, English is used as the main business language.
Bahrain has a rich culture, largely due to the influence of its rich history and also the multi-ethnic population. Its capital, Manama, was named the Cultural Capital of the Arab world in 2012 in honor of its role in the fields of knowledge and culture in the Middle East. It has a number of historic monuments with the most famous being the Al Khamis Mosque that dates back to 692 AD and the Bahrain Fort that originally dates back to 16th century AD. Another major attraction is the collection of rare Islamic manuscripts (including one of the oldest manuscripts of the Quran) displayed at the Beit Al Qur’an. This is one of the largest and again most important collections in the Islamic world.
National Holiday Celebrations
A huge majority of the national holidays are Islamic religious holidays. For example, Eid-Ul-Fitr, Islamic New Year. A major celebration is the annual Spring of Culture, a 2 month celebration of Bahraini culture and history.
Tourism and Travel
All foreign visitors to the kingdom are required to have a Bahrain visa except the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab emirate). Applicants from selected countries are allowed to apply for visas electronically ahead of their arrival in Bahrain. There is a special category of Bahrain visa for spectators who want to attend the F1 Grand Prix. It is valid only for the duration of the event. Apart from the historic attractions, it also boasts of a wide range of attractions. In sports, it has a Formula One track at the Bahrain International Circuit and a wide variety of water sports including scuba diving and kite surfing.