Bahrain is an archipelago of 49 islands between the Qatar peninsula and the Saudi Arabian mainland. Only three of the islands are inhabited. It was the first Gulf emirate to export oil.
Geography: All islands are low-lying. The largest, Bahrain Island, is mainly sandy plains and salt marshes.
Climate; Summers are hot and humid. Winters are mild. Low rainfall.
People and Society: The key social division is between the Shi’a majority and Sunni minority. Sunnis hold the best jobs in bureaucracy and business while Shi’as tend to do menial work. The al-Khalifa family has ruled since 1783, but transformed Bahrain into a constitutional monarchy, with limited democracy, in 2002. Bahrain is socially liberal.
The Economy: Main exports are refined petroleum and aluminum products. As oil reserves run out, natural gas is of increasing importance. Major Middle East offshore banking center, hit by global banking crisis in 2008–2009.
Insight: The 16 Hawar Islands were awarded to Bahrain in 2001 after a lengthy dispute with Qatar
Official Name: Kingdom of Bahrain
Date Of Formation: 1971
Total Area: 239 sq. miles (620 sq. km)
Density: 2899 people per sq. mile
Religions: Muslim (mainly Shi’a) 99%, other 1%
Ethnic Mix: Bahraini 70%, Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani 24%, other 6%
Government: Mixed monarchical parliamentary system
Currency: Bahraini dinar = 1000 fils