History of Bahrain

Bahrain Flag

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Gulf began to open up to European traders and Bahrain was under Portuguese rule between 1521 and 1622. For more than 100 years, Bahrain was attacked by various tribes and national groups until the al-Khalifa clan took control of the island. The clan sought the protection of the British and between 1861 and 1971, Bahrain was a British Protectorate – nominally independent but with the British in charge of foreign and security policy. A 1913 agreement between the British and the Ottoman empire confirmed its position within Britain’s sphere of influence. The discovery of oil in 1931 set Bahrain on a path of development that would see it become one of the world’s most prosperous country.

In 1971, in the wake of Britain’s ‘East of Suez’ strategic withdrawal, Bahrain’s protectorate status was relinquished and Bahrain became independent under the rule of Sheikh Isa al-Khalifa. Both British and US military forces have been allowed use of Bahraini ports and airfields, which were vital to the prosecution of the two Iraq wars and the 2002 Afghan war. Bahrain’s pro-Western stance was consolidated through membership of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a six-nation body designed to enhance economic and security co-operation between the Gulf States. The GCC has also dealt with territorial disputes between members, principally ownership of the tiny but potentially oil-rich Hawar Islands, which are claimed by both Bahrain and Qatar.

Bahrain’s economic development has not been matched by comparable progress in the political arena. The country is still an absolute monarchy in which dissent is barely tolerated; its relatively liberal reputation is based purely on the availability of alcohol and casinos (much enjoyed by rich Gulf potentates who cross the causeway to indulge). An elected forum, the majlis, provided an arena for the expression of popular opinion until its disssolution by the Sheikh in 1975. The opposition was mostly of a nationalist or socialist inclination, until the turn of the 1970s. Then, following the 1979 revolution in Iran, a Shia Islamist movement emerged in Bahrain. (The bulk of the population is Shia, while the ruling al-Khalifa clan and their principal allies adhere to the Sunni faith, the other principal branch of Islam.) The government believes that much Shia agitation is fostered by Iran and has taken firm measures to suppress Shia movements on several occasions.

In March 1999, Sheikh Isa died. He was succeeded by his son, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. While the new Sheikh has retained ultimate control over the Bahraini political system, there undoubtedly have been significant moves to open up the political system. Among Sheikh Hamad’s first actions was to declare an amnesty for political opponents. Then, in February 2002, he declared Bahrain a constitutional monarchy with himself as Head of State and announced that majlis elections would be held. These took place in October 2002. Women were allowed to stand as candidates for the first time, provoking complaints from traditionalist Islamists, while Islamist candidates were themselves allowed to stand for the first time. A small majority was secured by a bloc of independent and secular candidates.

A prominent opposition figure, Majid al-Alawi, recently returned from exile, was appointed to a ministerial post in the new government. Early in 2003, there were further protests against the impending war against Iraq, and Bahrain’s role in hosting American and British forces but, overall, the country is more stable than it has been for some time and Sheikh Hamad appears to have succeeded in quelling the Shia opposition – at least for the time being.

Bahrain Cities and Towns

Bahrain Map BAHRAIN Map - Click for larger view

List of Cities and Towns

  • Manama - the capital and the largest city of Bahrain.
  • Riffa - the second largest city.
  • Muharraq - the third largest city and served as its capital until 1923.
  • Hamad Town - a city in northern Bahrain.
  • A'ali - is one of the biggest towns in Bahrain.
  • Isa Town- a middle class town located in the north central part of Bahrain.
  • Sitra - is an island of Bahrain in Persian Gulf.
  • Budaiya - a coastal town located in the northwestern region of Bahrain.
  • Jidhafs - is a city in Bahrain in the northern part of the country.
  • Al-Malikiyah - a coastal village on the western coast of Bahrain island.
  • Adliya - the bohemian neighborhood in Manama, Bahrain.
  • Sanabis - a village located in the Kingdom of Bahrain, in the suburbs of the capital city.
  • Tubli - located in the east of Bahrain island and west of Sitra island.

Other Towns

  • Awali - a small municipality in the center of Bahrain.
  • Diraz - a village on the northwest coast of Bahrain.
  • Hidd - a town located on a sand spit on the southeastern extremity of Muharraq Island.
  • Sar - a residential area in Bahrain to the west side of the capital city.
  • Bani Jamrah - a village in the north-west of Bahrain.

Places you must visit
Bahrain is a place where people come to relax and enjoy themselves. Neighbours to this country visit and enjoy simple pleasures that may not be available at home.

As an island nation, both rich in history and strikingly modern, Bahrain has something for everyone.
You can choose to visit some of our historical sites, play sport, watch nature or simply indulge in shopping and eating.

Must visit:

  • Al Dar Island
  • Jaradah Island
  • Hawar Island

Society, Culture and Environment

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Culture & Lifestyle
With a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-denominational society, along with a low cost of living, excellent education facilities offering curricula from around the world and high-quality healthcare, Bahrain is an attractive destination for expat families.

The kingdom provides a holiday destination on your doorstep boasting an archipelago of 33 islands, a cosmopolitan capital city, an attractive liberal lifestyle and a rich history and culture: from historic monuments such as the Al Khamis Mosque, dating back to 692 A.D. to one of the most modern Formula One race-tracks in the world at the Bahrain International Circuit.

By sea, you can sail, dolphin watch, fish, scuba dive or kite surf. On land, there are gyms, horse riding stables and sports clubs, including rugby, tennis, soccer, cricket and basketball. Furthermore, our Royal Golf Club, designed by international champion Colin Montgomerie, is a particular attraction.

In sport, our facilities are world-class. We are the home of Formula One in the Gulf, becoming the first Middle Eastern country to host a Grand Prix in 2004, and hosting the season’s opening race in 2010.

Society and Community
Local people in the Gulf are traditionally welcoming to visitors and outsiders. Coffee is a very important part of any visit, poured from a highly decorated pot into a small cup. Manners are formal and polite, with people indulging in small talk before other conversations begin. Sports enjoy great popularity. Some families still practise the traditional sports of falconry, horse racing and camel racing. Boating activities are popular, as are modern sports such as basketball and football.

Islam is the state religion of Bahrain, representing more than 80% of the population. The non-Muslims are almost entirely non-citizens, and among immigrants, many are Muslims. Religious freedom is secured by the constitution, other faiths may worship publicly and establish designated places of worship.

Bahrain was a traditional Arab monarchy, ruled since 1782 by an Emir selected from the al-Khalifa dynasty through an appointed cabinet led by a Prime Minister. Constitutional changes introduced by the current Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, in February 2002, establish him as head of state of a constitutional monarchy. The Emir governs with the support of an appointed cabinet of Ministers. He is also advised by the Majlis as-Shura (People’s Council), which was elected for the first time in October 2002. Its 40 members serve in single-seat constituencies for a four-year term.

Bahrain has grown successfully over the past 10 years, due its liberal economic policies, and has a clear roadmap for improving the prosperity of all in society. The country’s annual real GDP growth ranged between 3.1% and 8.4% over the period, according to the Central Informatics Organisation.

Looking to the future, the Economic Vision 2030 is a roadmap for making Bahrain a more sustainable, competitive and fair economy, with the aim of doubling household income within the next 20 years. The National Economic Strategy is a regularly updated action-plan that will turn the Vision into reality, setting specific milestones in the public and private sectors including education and training, the economy, health and society.

Furthermore, Tamkeen, Bahrain’s national labour fund, is investing in improving Bahrainis’ skills through training programmes, further enhancing both our competitiveness and the prosperity of local people.


Dinar (BD) = 1000 fils. Notes appear in denominations of BD20, 10, 5, and 1, and 500 fils. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 25 and 10 fils.

Bahrain Weather and Climate

Bahrain Current Weather

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During the summer months, stretching from April to October, afternoon temperatures average around 37-40°C. In winter, temperatures range between 10°C and 20°C.

Required clothing
Lightweight cottons and linens from spring to autumn, mediumweight clothes from November to March. Warmer clothes are necessary in winter and on cool evenings.

Public Holidays

BAHRAIN Public Holidays Year 2014
Holiday Date

New Year's Day 01 January
Milad Un Nabi (The Prophet's Birthday) 13 January
Labour Day 01 May
Lailat Al Miraj (The Prophet's Ascension) 27 May
Renaissance Day 23 July
Eid Al Fitr 28 - 30 July
Eid Al Adha 04 - 06 October
Al Hijra (Islamic New Year) 24 October
Ashoora 01 - 02 November
National Day 16 - 17 December

Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and the dates given above are approximations. During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns may be interrupted. Many restaurants are closed during the day and there are restrictions on smoking and drinking. Some disruption may continue into Eid al-Fitr itself. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha may last anything from two to 10 days, depending on the region.

Travel Advisory

Bahrain is the smallest of the independent Persian Gulf states, a fairly gracious host nation but it is imperative to demonstrate respect and courtesy in reference to their particular cultural practices and religion at all times. When out in places where local Arabs can be found it is advisable to wear long trousers, or shorts, and women shouldn't wear a see-through dress. However, in beach clubs and hotels, swimsuits, bikinis and shorts are okay to wear. Do not show signs of affection to members of the opposite sex in public. People of the opposite sex have been arrested for kissing in public and it is just not socially accepted. Always avoid any confrontation and never become involved in an argument, especially with a local.

Bahrain has relatively liberal laws regarding alcohol and has long been a favorite getaway for visitors from Saudi Arabia and other nearby countries. Under Bahraini law, any sign of having consumed alcohol may be taken as prima facie evidence of driving under the influence. Even having the smallest amount of alcohol in your system is banned and can lead to imprisonment and/or fines of up to BD 1,000.

Avoid eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan or you may be fined or even go to jail.

As a visitor to Bahrain you should exercise a high degree of caution. Avoid large crowds and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Take care of your valuables and other personal possessions. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Bahrain is an islamic country, you have not to forget it.