Bahrain is an Arabic word meaning "Two Seas", and refers to two facts, one 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.
The island was once known as Dilmun, and was home to an ancient civilisation that played a central trading role between the peoples of the Indus Valley (now India) to the south and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) to the north. Dilmun's capital was a major port whose remains are visible today at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bahrain Fort (Qal'at al Bahrain).
The Kingdom also features in one of the world's oldest and most enduring pieces of literature – the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the island was home to the source of eternal youth. The tale is believed to refer to the pearls from the shallow gulf waters around Bahrain, which were one of Bahrain's biggest exports for generations.
In more recent years, Bahrain has been a regional pioneer and became a specialist business centre. The Kingdom has a whole series of Gulf ‘firsts' under its belt - from discovering oil, to diversifying the economy, to providing education for both males and females from the 1920s onwards, to becoming the first democracy with universal suffrage in the region
Bahrain is an archipelago of 40 islands in the Arabian Gulf midway between the Qatar peninsula and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain Island is a pear-shaped land mass 48 km. long and 16 km. wide.
Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia by 23-km causeway, which opened in November 1986
Total Land Area: Bahrain has a total area of 711 sq km (274 sq mi).
Climate: hot summers, pleasant winters
Bahrain Time Difference: GMT + 3
Governorates: Bahrain is divided into five governorates
Total Population: 742,561 (459,012 Bahraini; 283,549 ex-pat)
Population Growth: 1.45% (2006 estimate)
Official Languages: The official language is Arabic. English is very widely spoken and is the principal language of commerce.
Country dialing code: 973
Education: State (203) and private (56). There is a choice of Bahraini, British, American, and Lebanese curricula in private schools.
Healthcare: 18 hospitals and 293 private clinics
Electricity: 240 volts (3 pin plugs)
Local Media: There are 8 daily newspapers, 2 of which are in English; Bahrain Television transmits local and international news, current affairs, documentaries, educational programmes, as well as entertainment series and films. Bahrain TV also runs Channel 55, which broadcasts in English.
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
Membership: Bahrain is a member of the UN, Arab League, Gulf Co-operation Council and the Organization of the Islamic Conference
Currency and taxation
There are no Exchange Controls on the movement of monies
Bahrain's currency is the Bahraini Dinar, which is pegged to the US Dollar.
(US Dollars are accepted in most major outlets)
- There are no personal income taxes in Bahrain
- No wealth taxes
- No Capital Gains tax
- No death duty tax or inheritance taxes.
Transport & Communications
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 - construction is due to begin by the end of 2006.
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, owned by the governments of Bahrain and Oman Steamers run scheduled service from Bahrain to other Gulf ports and to Pakistan and India.