A sheikhdom in the Arabian Gulf.
Bahrain consists of a group of islands some 32 km (20 miles) off the Arabian coast. The largest island is some 16 km (10 miles) wide and three times as long.
The country's exports are dominated by crude oil and petroleum products from a large oil refinery on Bahrain Island. There is also a growing banking and communications sector. Shipbuilding and repair in dry docks are also significant. Medical care is free, as is schooling to technical college level.
Iran, which ruled Bahrain from 1602 to 1783, was expelled by the al-Khalifas, who still reign. British political control dates from 1820. Oil was discovered in 1932, when the Bahrain National Oil Company was formed. After the withdrawal of Britain in 1971 and the abandonment by Iran of its claims, the country joined the Arab League. Tension between Shiite and Sunni communities increased, leading to the suspension of the National Assembly in 1975. Together with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman), Bahrain repeatedly called for an end to the Iran–Iraq war (1980–88), while retaining its neutrality then and in the Gulf war (1991). Its economy became increasingly diversified as oil reserves dwindled. Increasing opposition to the government and demands for the restoration of the National Assembly led to rising civil unrest in the mid‐1990s. A new constitution was adopted in 2002 and Bahrain became a democratic constitutional monarchy.
691 sq km (267 sq miles)
1 Bahrain dinar = 1000 fils
Shiite Muslim 41.0%; Sunni Muslim 41.0%; Christian 10.5%; Hindu 6.3%
Bahraini Arab 68.0%; Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani 24.7%; other Arab 4.1%; European 2.5%
Arabic (official) and minority languages
UN; Arab League; OAPEC; GCC; Non-Aligned Movement; WTO