Bahrain

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مملكة البحرين
Kingdom of Bahrain
Flag of Bahrain
(Flag of Bahrain) (Full size)
National motto: Bahrainona بحريننا
image:LocationBahrain.png
Official languages Arabic and English
Capital Manama
King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah
Prime Minister Khalifah bin Sulman al-Khalifah
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Area
- Total
- % water
Ranked 176th
665 km² (253 sq. mi)
0%
Population


- Total (2005)
- Density

Ranked 157th


688,345 note: includes 235,108 non-nationals (July 2005 est.)
987/km² (2,556/sq. mi)

HDI (2003) 0.846 (43rd) – high
Independence- From the United Kingdom


1971

Currency Bahraini Dinar (BHD)
GDP $ 14.08 billion (130)
GDP per capita $ 20,500 (50)
Time zone UTC+3
National anthem Bahrainona (Our Bahrain)
Internet TLD .bh
Calling Code 973

The Kingdom of Bahrain, or Bahrain (Arabic: مملكة البحرين), is a borderless island nation in the Persian Gulf (Southwest Asia/Middle East, Asia). Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway (officially opened on November 25, 1986), and Qatar is to the south across the Persian Gulf. The Qatar–Bahrain Friendship Bridge, currently being planned, will link Bahrain to Qatar as the longest fixed link in the world.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Bahrain

Bahrain has been populated by humans since ancient times, and has even been proposed as the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden.

Its strategic location in the Persian Gulf has brought rule and influence from the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, and finally the Arabs, under whom the island became Muslim. Bahrain was in the ancient times known as Dilmun, Tylos (its Greek given name), Awal, as well as Persian name Mishmahig when it came under the imperial rule of the Persian Empire.

The islands of Bahrain, positioned in the middle south of the Persian Gulf, have attracted the attention of many invaders in history. Bahrain is an Arabic word meaning "Two Seas", and is thought to either refer to the fact that the islands contain two sources of water, sweet water springs and salty water in the surrounding seas, or to the south and north waters of the gulf, separating it from the Arabian coast and Iran, respectively.

A strategic position between East and West, fertile lands, fresh water, and pearl diving made Bahrain a centre of urban settlement throughout history. Some 2,300 years BC, Bahrain became a centre of one of the ancient empires trading between Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and the Indus Valley (now the region near India). This was the civilization of Delmon that was linked to the Sumerian Civilization in the third millennium BC. Bahrain became part of the Babylonian empire about 600 BC. Historical records referred to Bahrain as the "Life of Eternity", "Paradise", etc. Bahrain was also called the "Pearl of the Persian Gulf".

Bahrain up until 1521 comprised the bigger region of Ahsa, Qatif (both are now the eastern province of Saudi Arabia) as well as Awal (now Bahrain Islands). The region stretched from what is now Kuwait to Oman. This was Iqlim Al-Bahrain (Province of Bahrain). In 1521, the Portuguese conquered Awal and since then the name of 'Bahrain' has specifically referred to today's Bahrain.

From the 16th centrury to AD 1743 the control of Bahrain drifted between the Portuguese and the Persians. Ultimately, the Persian king, Nadir Shah Invaded and took control of Bahrain and for reasons of political control supported the Shia majority. In the late 18th Century the Al-Khalifa family invaded and captured the islands. In order to secure Bahrain from returning to Persian control, the Emirate entered into a treaty relationship with the United Kingdom and became a British protectorate.

Oil was discovered in 1931 and brought rapid modernization and improvements to Bahrain. It also made relations with the United Kingdom closer, evidenced by the British moving more bases to the island nation. British influence would continue to grow as the country developed, culminating with the appointment of Charles Belgrave as an advisor; Belgrave established modern education systems in Bahrain.

After World War II, increasing anti-British sentiment spread throughout the Arab world and led to riots in Bahrain. In the 1960s, the United Kingdom put Bahrain's future to international arbitration and requested that the United Nations Secretary-General take on this responsibility. In 1970, Iran simultaniously laid claim to both Bahrain and the other Persian Gulf islands, however in an agreement with the United Kingdom it agreed to 'not pursue' its irredentist claims on Bahrain if its other claims were realised. The following plebiscite saw Bahrainis confirm their independence from Britain and their Arab identity. Bahrain to this day remains a member of the Arab League and the all Arab Gulf Cooperation Council.

The British withdrew from Bahrain in August 1971, making Bahrain an independent emirate in line with the desires of the Plebicite. The oil boom of the 1980s greatly benefitted Bahrain, but its downturn was felt badly. However, the country had already begun to diversify its economy, and had benefited from the Lebanese civil war that began in the 1970s; Bahrain replaced Beirut as the Middle East's financial hub as Lebanon's large banking sector was driven out of the country by the war.

After 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Bahraini Shia fundamentalists in 1981 orchestrated a failed coup attempt under the auspices of a front organisation, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. The coup would have installed a Shia cleric exiled in Iran, Hojjat ol-Eslam Hādī al-Mudarrisī, as supreme leader heading a theocratic government.

In 1994 a wave of rioting by disaffected Shi'a Islamists occurred due to perceived injust actions by the government. The Kingdom was badly affected by sporadic violence during the mid-1990s in which over forty people were killed by the government and hundreds jailed.

In March 1999, Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah succeeded his father as head of state and instituted elections for parliament, gave women the right to vote and released all political prisoners; moves described by Amnesty International as representing an 'historic period for human rights'. This provided the country with a great chance to move forward, if somewhat falteringly[1], toward a political consensus.


Politics

Main article: Politics of Bahrain
Politics - Politics portal
Bahrain

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Politics and government of
Bahrain

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Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; the head of government is the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa who presides over a cabinet of 15 members. 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.

The opening up of politics has seen big gains for both Shia and Sunni Islamists in elections, which has given them a parliamentary platform to pursue their policies. This has meant that what are termed 'morality issues' have moved further up the political agenda with parties launching campaigns to impose bans on female mannequins displaying lingerie in shop windows, sorcery and the hanging of underwear on washing lines. Supporters of democratisation in the Middle East cite the Islamists' references to respect for human rights in their justification for these programmes as evidence that these groups can serve as a progressive force in the region.

Bahraini liberals have responded to the growing power of religious extremist parties by organising themselves to campaign through civil society in order to defend basic personal freedoms from being legislated away. In November 2005, Al Muntada, a grouping of liberal academics, launched 'We Have A Right', a campaign to explain to the public why personal freedoms matter and why they need to be defended.

Bahrain's Islamists suffered a serious setback in March 2006 when twenty municipal councillors, most of whom represented religious extremist parties, went missing in Bangkok on an unscheduled stop over returning from a conference in Malaysia [2]. The councillors in comments to the press described the visit as a 'fact finding mission', explaining: 'We benefited a lot from the trip to Thailand because we saw how they managed their transport, landscaping and roads.'

Women's political rights in Bahrain saw an important step forward when women were granted the right to vote and stand in national elections for the first time in 2002's election. However, no women were elected to office in that year’s polls and instead Shia and Sunni Islamists dominated the election, collectively winning a majority of seats. In response to the failure of women candidates, six were appointed to the Shura Council, which also includes representatives of the Kingdom’s indigenous Jewish and Christian communities. The country's first female cabinet minister was appointed in 2004 when Dr Nada Haffadh became Minister of Health, while the quasi-governmental women's group, the Supreme Council for Women has been training female candidates to take part in 2006's general election.

The King recently created the Supreme Judicial Council to regulate the country's courts and institutionalize the separation of the administrative and judicial branches of government.

On 11-12 November 2005, Bahrain hosted the Forum for the Future bringing together leaders from the Middle East and G8 countries to discuss political and economic reform in the region.

Governorates

Map of Bahrain showing governorates
Enlarge
Map of Bahrain showing governorates

Bahrain is split into five governorates. Until July 3, 2002, it was divided into twelve municipalities; see Municipalities of Bahrain.

  1. Capital
  2. Central
  3. Muharraq
  4. Northern
  5. Southern

For further information, see: Decree-Law establishing governorates from the Bahrain official website.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Bahrain
Bahrain's wealthy capital, Manama
Enlarge
Bahrain's wealthy capital, Manama

In a region currently experiencing an oil boom of unprecedented proportions, Bahrain is the fastest growing economy in the Arab world, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia found in January 2006. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East according to the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal, and is twenty-fifth freest overall in the world.

In Bahrain, petroleum production and processing account for about 60% of export receipts, 60% of government revenues, and 30% of GDP. Economic conditions have fluctuated with the changing fortunes of oil since 1985, for example, during and following the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-91. With its highly developed communication and transport facilities, Bahrain is home to numerous multinational firms with business in the Persian Gulf. A large share of exports consists of petroleum products made from imported crude. Construction proceeds on several major industrial projects. Unemployment, especially among the young, and the depletion of both oil and underground water resources are major long-term economic problems.

Geography

Map of Bahrain
Main article: Geography of Bahrain

Bahrain is a generally flat and arid archipelago, comprising of a low desert plain rising gently to a low central escarpment, in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia. The highest point is the 122 m Jabal ad Dukhan.

Considered to be one of the fifteen states that comprise the so-called "Cradle of Humanity" in the Middle East, Bahrain has a total area of 620 km² (239 mi²), which is slightly larger than the Isle of Man, though it is smaller than the nearby King Fahd Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia which covers 780 km² (301 mi²). As an archipelago of 33 islands, Bahrain does not share a land boundary with another country but does have a 161 kilometres (528 mi) coastline and claims a further 12 nautical miles (22 km) of territorial sea and a 24 nautical mile (44 km) contiguous zone. Bahrain enjoys mild winters and endures very hot, humid summers.

Bahrain's natural resources include large quantities of oil and associated and nonassociated natural gas as well as fish stocks, which is perhaps fortunate as arable land constitutes only 1% of the country. Desert constitutes 92% of Bahrain and periodic droughts and dust storms are the main natural hazards for Bahrainis.

Environmental issues facing Bahrain include desertification resulting from the degradation of limited arable land and coastal degradation (damage to coastlines, coral reefs, and sea vegetation) resulting from oil spills and other discharges from large tankers, oil refineries, and distribution stations. The agricultural and domestic sectors' over-utilization of the Dammam aquifer, the principal aquifer in Bahrain, has led to its salinization by adjacent brackish and saline water bodies.

Demographics

Bahrain from space, June 1996
Enlarge
Bahrain from space, June 1996
Main article: Demographics of Bahrain

The official religion of Bahrain is Islam, with the majority of the population practicing Islam. However, due to an influx of immigrants and guest workers from non-Muslim countries, such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the overall percentage of Muslims in the country has declined in recent years. According to the 2001 census, 81.2% of Bahrain's population was Muslim (Shi'a and Sunni), 9% were Christian, and 9.8% practiced other Asian or Middle Eastern religions.

Recently, Bahrain has transformed into a cosmopolitan society with mixed communities: two thirds of Bahrain's population consists of Arabs, while the rest are immigrants and guest workers largely from Iran, South Asia and Southeast Asia. A Financial Times published on 31 May 1983 found that "Bahrain is a polyglot state, both religiously and racially. Leaving aside the temporary immigrants of the past 10 years, there are at least eight or nine communities on the island."

The present communities may be classified as Al-Khalifa, Arab tribes allied to Al-Khalifa, the Baharnah (Shia Arabs), the Howilla (Sunni Arabs from Persia), Sunni Arabs (from the mainland), Ajam (ethnic Persian Shia), Indians who traded with Bahrain and settled before the age of oil (used to be called Banyan), a tiny Jewish community, and a miscellaneous grouping.

Culture

See also Category:Bahraini culture

Bahrain is sometimes described as the 'Middle East lite': an Arab country that mixes thoroughly modern infrastructure with a definite Gulf identity, but unlike other countries in the region its prosperity is not solely a reflection of the the size of its oil wealth, but also related to the creation of an indigenous middle class. This unique socio-economic development in the Gulf has meant that Bahrain is generally more liberal than its neighbours. While Islam is the main religion, Bahrainis have been known for their tolerance, and alongside mosques can be found churches, a Hindu temple, a Sikh Gurudwara and a Jewish synagogue. The country is home to several communities that have faced persecution elsewhere.

Political liberalisation under King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has been accompanied by a greater willingness by society in general to examine previous social taboos. It is now common to find public seminars on once unheard of subjects such as marital problems and sex and child abuse. Another facet of the new openness is Bahrain's status as the most prolific book publisher in the Arab world, with 132 books published in 2005 for a population of 700,000. In comparison, the average for the entire Arab world is seven books published per one million people in 2005, according to the United Nations Development Programme. [3]

It was revealed on October 20, 2005 that Michael Jackson intended on permanently leaving the United States in order to seek a new life in Bahrain. Mr. Jackson has reportedly told friends that he feels 'increasingly Bahraini' after buying a former MP's mansion in Sanad, and is now seeking another property by the sea shore. Other celebrities connected with the Kingdom include Grand Prix driver Jenson Button, who also owns a property, and Shakira (for more details see List of famous people connected with Bahrain).

Language

Arabic is the official language of Bahrain. The two main dialects are Baharna Arabic, spoken by the indigenous Baharna Shia, and Gulf Arabic spoken by the tribal Sunnis. Persian, Urdu, English and Malayalam are also spoken by sections of the population.

Formula One

Bahrain is the home of Formula One racing in the Middle East. It started hosting the Gulf Air Grand Prix on 4/4/04, the first for an Arab country. This was followed by the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005. Bahrain has successfully hosted the opening Grand Prix of the 2006 season on March 12.

Holidays

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day - -
May 1 Labour Day -
December 16 National Day - -
December 17 Accession Day - -
date varies Feast of the Sacrifice or the Big Feast (4 days) Eid ul-Adha Commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, occurs at the end of the month of hajj
date varies the Little Feast (3 days) Eid ul-Fitr Commemorates end of Ramadan
date varies Hijri New Year Muharram Islamic New Year
date varies Al-Isra' ul-Miraj - Commemorates Muhammad's trip to heaven
date varies Prophet Muhammad's birthday Mawlid al-Nabi -
date varies Ashoura (2 days) -

Education

Numerous international educational institutions and schools have established links to Bahrain. One prominent institution is DePaul University of the United States.

Quranic schools (Kuttab) were the only form of education in Bahrain at the beginning of the 20th century. They were traditional schools aimed at teaching children and youth the reading of the Qur'an. Many people of Bahrain had felt that this type of education did not fulfil the academic efficiency that match with the spirit of age. After the First World War, things changed and Bahrain became widely open upon the modern western renaissance. Political and social changes have occurred in the country that caused the rise of social and cultural awareness among people.

Due to all these, a demand for modern educational institutions different from (Kuttab) has appeared in terms of system, curricula and objectives.

1919 marked the beginning of modern public school system in Bahrain. Al-Hidaya Al-Khalifia school for boys was opened in Muharraq. In 1926, the Education Committee had opened the second public school for boys in Manama.

In 1928 the first public school for girls was opened in Muharraq.

The first institution of higher education in Bahrain, the Gulf Polytechnic, was accomplished in 1968 as the Gulf Technical College. In 1986 Gulf Polytechnic merged with the University College of Art, Science, and Education (UCB), founded in 1979, to create the University of Bahrain, a national university offering bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees as well as masters degrees.

Tourism

Main articles, Tourism in Bahrain and List of Bahrain's tourist attractions
A Bahraini tourist resort
Enlarge
A Bahraini tourist resort

Bahrain has long been a popular tourist destination for visitors from neighboring states, but growing awareness of its rich heritage dating back five thousand years to the Dilmun civilization means that the Kingdom is steadily attracting visitors from further abroad.

Bahrain combines a modern infrastructure and comparatively liberal society with an authentic Gulf experience making it an ideal introduction to the Middle East. Tourist attractions include historic sites such as the recently UNESCO listed Qalat Al Bahrain castle and archaeological complex, the tens of thousands of ancient Dilmun Burial Mounds that dot the landscape, traditional Arab culture, shopping in the Kingdom's malls and souks, and the opportunity to relax in the many hotel beach resorts and luxury spas.

The Kingdom is becoming increasingly popular with celebrities: during a 2006 New Year break in Manama controversial former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan told the Telegraph that he found his "arch-enemies", TV presenter Carol Vorderman and journalist Des Kelly, sharing the same hotel swimming pool. Recently, pop star Michael Jackson is said to have made plans to make Bahrain his permanent home and has also reportedly bought property in Bahrain.

Bahrain also has a famous beach in Zallaq.

Places in Bahrain

External links

Find more information on Bahrain by searching Wikipedia's sister projects:

 Dictionary definitions from Wiktionary
 Textbooks from Wikibooks
 Quotations from Wikiquote
 Source texts from Wikisource
 Images and media from Commons
 News stories from Wikinews

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Heritage

General information


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