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    Country Overview

    Population: 1,540,558
    Population Growth Rate: 2.7% (2021)
    Religious Groups Breakdown:  Muslims 73.7% (99.8% if non-nationals excluded), Christians 9.3%, Jews 0.1%, Others 16.9% (Hindus, Baha’is, Sikhs, and Buddhists)
    Youth Unemployment: 5.3%
    UNDP HDI: 0.852 (49/189) (very high)
    Life Expectancy (Male Life Expectancy & Female Life Expectancy): 79.9 (M: 77.63, F: 82.24)
    Literacy Rate (Male Literacy Rate & Female Literacy Rate): 97.5% (M: 99.9%, F: 94.9%)
    Primary School Completion Rate: 100% (2019)
    Median Age: 32.9

    Capital: Manama
    Largest City: Manama
    Nationality: Bahrani (plural: Bahrainis)
    Currency: Bahraini Dinar
    Languages: Arabic (official), English, Farsi, Urdu

    Agriculture: Mutton, dates, milk, poultry, tomatoes, fruit, sheep offals, sheep skins, eggs, pumpkins

    Industries: Petroleum processing and refining, aluminum smelting, iron pelletization, fertilizers, Islamic and offshore banking, insurance, ship repairing, tourism


    The Kingdom of Bahrain is a cluster of fifty natural islands and thirty-three artificial islands in the Gulf of Bahrain, the biggest one being Bahrain Island. Saudi Arabia is located to the west of Bahrain, and Qatar is just to the east, with a stretch of water separating the countries. The Gulf of Bahrain is connected to the larger Persian Gulf. Since 1986, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have been connected by the 25 kilometer King Fahd Causeway. Construction plans for the 45 kilometer Qatar Bahrain Causeway, also referred to as the Qatar-Bahrain Friendship Bridge, were announced in 2008, but the project has been postponed indefinitely due principally to finances. The city of Manama (meaning “dreams of peace”) is the capital of Bahrain with a population of roughly 150,000 people. Bahrain’s estimated population is 1.5 million people as of 2022, according to the CIA World Factbook.

    Most of the artificial islands were built to increase rich tourism as it helps to fuel Bahrain’s economy. Some notable artificial island chains include the Durrat Al Bahrain islands, spanning 1.931 square miles and the Amwaj Islands, spanning 2.798 square miles. The Amwaj Islands receive $1.5 billion investment from the Ossis Property Developers. The country also plans to invest $20 billion USD in 22 new development projects to build five new cities and expand the landmass of the Gulf island by 60%.

    In Arabic, the word Bahrain means “two seas,” which correlates with how strong the role of water plays in national indentity. Today, Bahrain’s two seas are generally taken to be the bay east and west of the island, the seas north and south of the island, or the salt and fresh water present above and below the ground. The latter possibility refers to the sweet, freshwater produced from springs and the salty water from the sea. In some places, it is possible to dive beneath a layer of saltwater and reach the freshwater springs. Until the late Middle Ages, Bahrain referred to the region of Eastern Arabia that included Southern Iraq, Kuwait, Al-Hasa, Qatif, and Bahrain. 

    Climate Change

    Despite being surrounded by water, Bahrain has an arid climate, resulting in occasional droughts. Its terrain is mostly a low desert plain, and it is common for sandstorms to occur. To some extent, Bahrain makes up for its size and environmental challenges by its strategic location in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain’s largest export is petroleum at above 60%. Bahrain has developed banking and financial sectors that benefit from its neighbors. It is the world's 62nd largest exporter of crude petroleum despite its relatively small geographic area. In April 2018, for instance, Bahrain announced the discovery of an oilfield off the west coast named the "Khaleej al-Bahrain field." Though facing pressure from Bahraini climate activists, the government has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060.

    Bahrain also suffers from desertification and degradation of its limited arable land. Being a desert island surrounded by saltwater with no streams, lakes, or rivers for freshwater, Bahrain has an over-reliance on groundwater. Oil spills contribute to the expedited coastal degradation. To address some of the environmental issues, Bahrain joined the UN’s Clean Seas program in 2018. A year later, Bahrain introduced a program to phase out and ban plastic bags. Bahrain was the second country in West Asia to take such action.

    The artificial islands have negatively impacted the Gulf environment. They have disturbed natural ecosystems as the increase in sediment particles choke the reef, disturb natural water currents, and ultimately bury wildlife. In response, the government claims these islands as a method of habitat construction for aquatic fauna as species diversity has increased around the islands. 

    Geography Resources


    Early Bahraini Civilizations & Foreign Rule

    Bahrain linked India and China to Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley for trade. For 3,000 years, trade was the primary source of income for the Kingdom of Bahrain. Assyrians, Babylonians, Arabs, Persians, and Portuguese ruled the area. The designation “Bahrain” was introduced officially during the 7th century under Islamic rulers.

    In 1783, Bahrain freed itself from the Persian Empire. The al-Khalifa family overthrew the Persians and set up a monarchy that is still in place today. In 1863, Al- Khalifa became a protectorate to guarantee security from the ascendant British Empire. The British signed two further treaties with Al Khalifa in 1880 and 1892, gave up control of defense and foreign relations to be a British colonial protectorate before becoming fully independent in 1971.

    Bahrain Under British Rule

    During this time, Sunni King Isa bin Ali ruled Bahrain for 54 years, the country’s longest-ruling leader. Tribal councils managed economic resources and government and tribal sovereignty without standardized law or procedures. The economic resources determined its power. Some notable trades included pearl diving, fishing, palm cultivation, and estate administration. Unlike regular tribal councils, the Ali had a supreme council (known as diwan) and used physical coercion to collect tax or whatever they wanted from people. There was also no distinction between Ali’s private income and that of the government. Therefore, most of the money went towards the leader’s administration rather than infrastructure like public education and roads.

    Despite this internal attention given to the king at the executive, the country’s courts were strictly religious and followed Sharia. There were multiple Shia courts independent of the ruler. They followed the practice of ijtihad (interpretation) instead of qiyas (analogy) which the Sunni courts followed. Shia jurists had more social power because they were independent of the government. Religion had more social influence on Shia as they believed in taqlid (religious imitation). Thus Shia jurists represented an alternative to the government eventhough their followers viewed them as “legitimate” authority. 

    Bahraini Independence

    In 1940, the Bahraini Revolution began as citizens yearned for self-determination from British rule. In 1971, Bahrain’s first emir (or ruler) Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa ascended the throne as the first leader independent of British rule in a century. In 1971, Brittain and Bahrain signed a friendship treaty with the British that terminated previous agreements between them, giving Bahrain independence.  The state celebrates December 16 as National Day, to coincide with al-Khalifa’s ascension to the throne.

    In 1973 Bahrain had its first parliamentary, or National Assembly, elections, but were suspended and consequently dissolved two years later after they rejected the State Security Law. This Law granted the police immense power and removed the right to trial. In 1975, Sheikh Isa Bin-Salman Al Khalifa dissolved the government to “speed up” projects and ruled by decree. 

    Post-Independence Religious Tension

    After independence, economic and social grievances like budget cuts fueled tensions between the majority Shi’ite population and the Sunni leaders of Bahrain. The unrest culminated in an alleged Iranian-backed coup attempt in 1981 and the making of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC). The GCC fostered the creation of a freer trade network and closer economic and defense ties. 

    In 1994, demonstrations began after the arrest of Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, who supported the National Assembly. It quickly turned into an uprising when liberals and Islamists joined forces. Sheikh Hamad ibn ʿIsa Al Khalifah assumed power after his father’s death in 1999. He released a number of Shi’a dissidents from prison and instituted political reform to curb tension. Emir Hamad’s political reform included elections for the first National Assembly since 1975, women’s suffrage, and a referendum on political reform. 

    21st Century Government Reform and the Arab Spring

    In 2001, a political referendum was overwhelmingly backed by Bahraini citizens (98%) and established a constitutional monarchy with an elected lower chamber of National Assembly and an independent judiciary. However, the upper house of the National Assembly continued to be royal appointees. The same year Emir Hamad overturned the State Security Law from 1974. A year later, the reforms took place with Hamad declaring himself King, and local elections included  female candidates for the first time. National Assembly elections occurred later in 2002 despite calls by Islamists to boycott the election. The call to boycott the election emerged from King Hamad’s reneged promise to keep the upper house of the National Assembly as merely an advisory council. Instead, he gave them legislative powers as well.

    Four years later, protests erupted demanding a fully-elected Parliament, but their demands were not met and later the Shi’a political party Al Wifaq would be elected. 

    Bahrain experienced large-scale, organized demonstrations during the 2011 Arab Spring. At first, these protests were peaceful and non-sectarian. People took to a central landmark, the Pearl Roundabout, in pursuit of reforms for political freedom for the majority Shia population living under the Sunni Al Khalifa family’s monarchical rule.

    On February 17, 2011 in the early hours of the morning, clashes between protesters and security forces intensified as the Bahraini security forces attempted to clear the encampment of around 1,500 to 3,000 people. The demonstrators wanted to abolish  the monarchy along with the original demands. Consequently, King Hamid bin Isa al-Khalifa declared a state of emergency, which increased security measures by bringing troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and enforcing martial law. The government was concerned that Iranian influence would further protests.

    Bahrain’s opposition groups continued to organize rallies and demonstrations. The Bahraini security forces were met with armed resistance in the protests. The demonstrations and government response received international attention from the UN and several countries troubled by the excessive force towards protesters, emergency responders, and the media. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs expressed their solidarity with the government of Bahrain and its actions.

    In the wake of the protests, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) independent of the government on June 29, 2011 to investigate and report current and future protests. The investigation resulted in the submission to the king of the Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry available for the public to read. The report documented 46 deaths, 559 allegations of torture, and more than 4,000 cases of employees dismissed for protesting . King Hamad implemented key economic and political reforms recommended by the BICI.

    The unrest of 2011 largely subsided with divisions still remaining between the Sunni and Shia populations and the government. In the era of radical Sunni movements like the Islamic State, Bahrain also experienced a growth in the number of extremists opposed to the government’s concessions to the Shia majority. The situation in Bahrain is much more complicated than the media portrayal of an oppressive Sunni monarchy denying rights to its Shia majority. We recommend you review the articles below.

    History Resources


    Constitutional Monarchy

    Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family since 1783. The 2001 reformations mentioned above largely formed the current government. The reforms created elected elected legislature and independent judiciary bodies. The Emir possesses broad powers as the executive including power to appoint and dismiss officials, ratify constitutional amendments, propose legislation, and veto laws. The monarchy can also appoint the prime minister and cabinet positions.

    The National Assembly

    The parliament or  National Assembly is composed of two chambers, the Consultative Council and the Chamber of Deputies. The Consultative Council holds 40 members appointed by the King. The Chamber of Deputies has 40 elected members. The National Assembly is allowed to create and vote on legislation, constitutional amendments, and royal decree while expressing its concern over public issues in hearings for cabinet members. The cabinet can also remove the member if a simple majority is reached.

    Court System

    Its judicial system, headed by a High Civil Appeals Court, is founded in Shari’a and English Law. The Constitutional Court is appointed by the Emir based on feedback from the Higher Judicial Council. The Higher Judicial Court is chaired by the Emir to ensure the functioning of the courts and the Public Prosecution Office. It recommends judge nominations to the Emir with the Emir having a final say. Criminal courts and civil courts deal with crimes and other smaller offenses. 

    Government Resources

    International & Regional Issues

    Bahrain-Iran Relations

    As a consequence of Bahrain’s history as a part of the Persian Empire, Iran has long laid claims to the islands. Historically, the ruling Al Khalifa family of Bahrain kept  Iran close. For instance, towards the end of the 19th century, Bahrain raised the Iranian flag on official buildings to protest British colonization. In a show of good faith, Iran reserved two seats for Bahrain in its national parliament for 65 years, dubbing Bahrain its “14th province.” Iran hoped that it would take over Bahrain when the British  withdrew from the east of the Suez Canal in 1971. Shah Pahlavi agreed to a limited UN-sponsored opinion poll of the Bahraini people to decide the future of the nation which granted Bahrain its independence. Iran accepted Bahrain’s independence despite the small population claiming Bahrain as a part of Iran. Iran and Bahrain’s recent history has proven to be significantly more tumultuous. 

    Two years after the Iranian Revolution, a Shi’ite front group called the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, organized and carried out a failed coup against the Sunni government in 1981. Bahrain accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of training and financing the group, a claim which Iran denied. Regardless of Iran’s alleged involvement with the group, Bahrain cracked down on the rights of its Shiite citizens. The government jailed thousands of Shi’ite citizens, leading to tense relations between Bahrain and Iran. Bahrain’s normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel has also increased tensions between Iran and Bahrain. 

    It is also important to note that Bahrain stands in the middle of a power struggle between the Saudi-led GCC and Iran. After a 2016 Iranian attack on Saudi missions within Iran, Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Iran. The future of Bahrain-Iran relations will likely follow the GCC-Iran relations, with even more tension in Bahrain due to Bahrain’s Shi’ite population.

    Bahrain gave the U.S. military access to its land, air space, and sea space. The Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy is based at NSA (Naval Support Activity) Bahrain in Manama. Most recently, the U.S. military is using Bahrain as a staging ground during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Bahrain is a formally designated non-NATO ally of the United States. The presence of U.S. military forces has drawn the ire of the Iranian government and has led to even more tensions. The base provides the United States a strategic position in the region, as Bahrain is close to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran despite growing Iranian aggression.

    Bahrain-Qatar Relations

    Bahrain and Qatar have had many territorial disputes. Since 1936, the nations have been involved in disputes over the Hawar Islands, Fasht Al Azm, Fasht Dibal, al-Jaradah, and Zubarah.  The countries have come close to military action against one another. After Qatar accused Bahrain of building on Fasht Dibal, Qatari troops arrived on the island in 1986 to claim it as a “restricted zone.” They seized several Bahraini officials and 29 construction workers. On May 12, 1986, following mediation by several GCC member states, Bahrain and Qatar reached a settlement, and the foreign workers were released. 

    In 1991, the dispute flared up again after Qatar instituted proceedings to let the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague decide whether it had jurisdiction. The disputes were resolved by the International Court of Justice on 16 March 2001, awarding both sides equal amounts of land. The ICJ granted Bahrain control of the Hawar Islands (excluding the Janan Island), al-Jaradah, and Fasht Al Azm, with Qatar receiving Zubarah, Fasht Dibal, and the Janan Island.

    In 2014, tensions grew as Qatar offered prominent Sunni families in Bahrain Qatari citizenship in exchange for renouncing their own Bahraini citizenship. Bahrain’s concerns stemmed from a national security perspective, as the ruling Al Khalifa family is Sunni and the majority of Bahrain is Shiite. At a GCC meeting in Jeddah, Qatar pledged to stop this action, yet had already naturalized hundreds of Bahraini citizens. In 2017, Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over the ongoing feud between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the GCC as a whole. 

    Bahrain can be expected to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia in many GCC and regional issues, due to the two countries’ proximity to one another and their shared, common security threats. Recently though, relations between Bahrain and Qatar have been improving, notably, as the country removed Qatar from its “travel ban” list and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met with King Al Khalifa in July 2022 for th

    Bahrain-Saudi Arabia Relations

    Due to the tensions between Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority and the Sunni ruling family, the Al-Khalifas sought to secure support from its Sunni neighbor Saudi Arabia. The family forged bilateral bonds through diplomatic marriages to ensure strong Saudi support. In 1954, plans between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to build a causeway were underway. To prepare for the bridge, Bahrain changed its road laws by having cars drive on the right in 1967 and even asked the World Bank for assistance for the causeway. The project did not begin construction until 1982 when King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz and Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa unveiled the curtain on the Memorial Plaque. 

    Five years later, the project was finished and renamed the King Fahd Causeway. The bridge project strengthened bilateral relations and regional defense while also helping both countries' economies and politics.

    Saudi Arabia has provided military and economic aid to Bahrain. During the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia sent troops to help suppress protesters to protect the ruling family. Later, Saudi Arabia provided billions of dollars of aid to Bahrain to relieve socioeconomic tensions in the country. 

    It should be noted that the relationship between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is not completely one-sided. While Bahrain needs Saudi Arabia for political and diplomatic support, Saudi Arabia wants to keep Bahrain under Sunni control to secure national security. In Bahrain, Saudi citizens enjoy freedoms such as alcohol, nightclubs, and they enjoy looser social rules (e.g. women do not have to wear the niqab) causing a surge of of Saudis to drive to Bahrain on the weekends and for vacations. 


    On February 24, 2020, the Ministry of Health announced Bahrain’s first COVID-19 case from a Bahraini citizen returning from Iran. As of 21 July 2022, there have been 652,526 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,506 deaths, reported to WHO.

    Bahrain approved the Sinopharm vaccine on December 13th, 2020 since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is limited  As of July 10, 2022, a total of 3,456,455 vaccine doses have been administered.

    International & Regional Issues Resources


    Refined petroleum remains Bahrain’s top export, representing 60% of its total exports, though the country has actively diversified  its economy following economists’ critiques of its over-reliance on oil. In 2018, Bahrain discovered the Khaleej al-Bahrain oilfield, the largest oilfield discovered since 1932 that has the potential to double the amount of oil. Bahrain will be the second country in the world, after the US, to extract light oil by using very new technologies. The Bahraini government expects to produce oil from the Khaleej al-Bahrain field in the next five years.

    Bahrain also has the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf and is now renowned for its banking, finance, and tourism sectors which have been active since the late 20th century. 64% of the population works in the service industry, 35% are employed in industrial services, and 1% work in the agricultural sector. Because very little of Bahrain’s land is arable (roughly 1%), the Kingdom is susceptible to food insecurity and relies on food imports due to environmental challenges. Foreign temporary workers  account for over 79% percent of the labor force according to the World Bank. Regarding imports and exports, Bahrain’s main export partners are India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. Their imports are from Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany.

    The rapid growth rate resulted in a deficit of jobs for the young population. Currently, unemployment stands at 5.3% for those under 25. Further complicating the country’s economic outlook, Bahrain’s labor force is up to 60% non-native. The rapid depletion of its oil reserves and underground water resources offsets Bahrain’s economic diversification efforts in banking and finance. The low oil prices in 2014 posed a challenge to the Bahraini government as production slowed. Additionally , out of all the GCC countries, Bahrain has the highest public debt to GDP ratio at almost 89%.   Bahrainis doubt in redeeming a $750 million Islamic bond made matters worse. The looming debt crisis led Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates to give Bahrain a $10 billion aid package to help Bahrain cope with fiscal reform and a pending credit crunch. The future holds a somewhat more positive outlook for Bahrain. Surging oil prices resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, heavy investment in infrastructure, and an emerging 5G industry led  to economic growth and efforts to balance the country’s budget. Economists project a 3.2% increase on Bahrain’s GDP due to Khaleej al-Bahrain oilfield ramps, however, public debt did grow due to COVID-19. 

    Economy Resources


    Bahrain has a small population of 1,641,172 people as of 2022. Nearly 90% of the population lives in either one of the two urban areas, Manama and Al Muharraq. Additionally, up to 52% (2020 est.) of the population consists of foreigners working in the kingdom. Most of Bahrain’s foreign workers live in the capital. Some Bahrainis live  in the few villages and towns. These localities survive mostly by cultivating palm groves that provide medicinal benefits. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2022 Bahraini men’s life expectancy was 79.9 years old, and the female life expectancy was 82.24 years old. The UNDP's Human Development Index ranks Bahrain 42nd on its index for all nations in the world. The HDI measures life expectancy, education, and per capita income. The placement is consistent with its neighboring GCC states.

    The obesity rate in Bahrain is 40% among those older than 20, and 24% for the youth population, higher than the average for the region. Only 9.5% (2021 est.) of the population is over 65. The per capita expenditure on healthcare is much higher than the region’s average, skilled professionals attend 100% of births. Over the past 15 years, the under-5 mortality rate has decreased. 

    Government expenditure for education in Bahrain was at 8.49% of the overall GDP in 2022. In Bahrain, the majority of men and women are literate, only 2.5% of the population is illiterate. More boys are enrolled in primary and secondary school than girls; however, in tertiary education, the women outnumber the men with a female enrollment at 73.9% of the total number of eligible women In fact, in 2020, 15% of the seats in Bahrain's national parliament were held by women

    LGBTQ+ Issues

    According to the country’s legal code, consensual sex between same sex couples at age twenty-one (21) is legal in Bahrain. Gender reassignment surgery has also been legal in the country since 2008.

    While there is no official censorship of the LGBT+ community in Bahrain, there also exist no protections against gender- and sexuality-based discrimination (e.g. housing discrimination, workforce discrimination). In fact, 42% of Bahrainis believe that homosexuality is not justifiable and 18% would not want LGBT+-identifying neighbors. Additionally, adoption and marriage are not legal for same-sex couples and conversion therapy is not banned.

    LGBTQ+ Resources


    Islam is the predominant religion of Bahrain. An estimated 99.8% of the Bahraini population is Muslim, with the figure shrinking to 73.7% if non-nationals are included. The US State Department estimates that, of the remaining people, 9.3% are Christian, 0.1% Jewish, and 16.9% are "other" compromising Hindus, Baha’is, Sikhs, and Buddhists. It is one of the more open and religiously tolerant societies mainly due to the large population of foreign workers. Bahrain is the only Arab Persian Gulf state with a synagogue; a very small but influential Jewish minority has been involved in Bahraini business and politics.

    The constitution of Bahrain states that Islam is the official religion and the principal source of legislation as Sharia. Tensions between the ruling minority of Sunni Muslims and the Shia majority of the population still persist. 

    Religion Resources


    General Information

    Bahrain strikes a strong balance between preserving its cultural history while making strides in modernization and urbanization.


    Bahrain has a rich artistic heritage with works from various ruling empires, including the Ottoman Empire. Bahrain is known for its use of glass and metal in the arts , particularly in jewelry. Manuscripts and calligraphy are carefully  preserved and accessible to the public. Much of the ancient art contains phrases in Arabic or specific phrases from the Qur’an Pottery and weaving are also popular. The younger generations are producing an extremely diverse assortment of artwork with an abundance of color to express politics opinions, religious issues, or social problems.

    Art Resources


    Other Arab cultures introduced staple foods in Bahrain include bread, hummus, and tabbouleh (salad with parsley, bulgur, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon). Bahraini cuisine is influenced by Europeans since rice was introduced to the islands. Bahrainis enjoy mackerel, nagroor, shrimp, crab, and lobster among other seafood due to its geographic location.

    Food Resources

    Literature & Film

    Historically, Bahrain was the site of the ancient land of Dilmun. Jumping to more recent times, most traditional writers and poets write in the classical Arabic style, contemporary poets that write in this style include Ali al-Sharqawi, Qassim Haddad, Ebrahim Al-Arrayedh, and Ahmad Muhammed Al Khalifa.

    Women engaged mostly in poetry. during the 20th century. It was estimated that one-sixth of all Bahraini poets between 1925 and 1985 were women. Iman Asiri, Fatima al-Taytun, Fathiya 'Ajlan, Hamda Khamis and Fawziyya al-Sindi were prominent female writers. In the second half of the 20th century, prose and free verse poetry gained popularity amongst women and their work was soon published in 1969. Bahrain cinema is almost non-existent due to lack of government support. However, various short films are produced by individual filmmakers, and about five feature films in Bahrain's history. The first attempt to create a movie theater in Bahrain was in 1922, on the initiative of Bahraini businessman Mahmood Al Saati. He imported a projector and set up a makeshift cinema at a cottage on the north coast of Manama.
    More recently, companies such as the Bahrain Cinema Company Cineplex (Cineco) have suffered great financial losses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Literature & Film Resources


    Women dress in the abaya, a long and loose-fitting black gown worn alongside a black hijab. On important days or national holidays, women will often accessorize with red to show Bahraini pride. Men’s traditional dress is the thobe, or dishdasha. It is a loose, long-sleeved, ankle-length garment that is white and made from cotton in summer and black made out of wool in winter. 

    The male headwear includes the keffiyeh, ghutra, and agal. The ghutra is a square scarf that is folded in a triangle and worn over the keffiyeh. In Bahrain, it is usually red and white checked or all white. There is no significance placed on which kind of ghutra a man wears in Bahrain, although the selection does matter in some other Gulf countries. The keffiyeh is a white knitted skull cap worn under the ghutra, and the agal is a thick, black cord that is worn on the top of the ghutra to hold it in place. The keffiyeh skullcap used in the Arabian Gulf must be differentiated from the black and white keffiyeh scarf (also known as ghutra and shemagh across the Middle East) worn in Palestine. As seen above, traditional marriage wear  for women tends to be more colorful and elaborate.

    Clothing Resources


    Sawt, or “voice” in Arabic, is the most popular type of music in Bahrain. Heavily influenced by African, Indian, and Persian music, sawt is played using the Oud, a traditional Arab stringed instrument that is an antecedent of the lute, and Rebaba, a stringed instrument similar to a guitar. Other musical traditions in Bahrain include Khaleeji, a style of Persian Gulf-area folk music, and Fidgeri, songs performed by the male-only pearl diving community.

    There is a growing popularity of hard rock and heavy metal music among the younger generations including music groups writing original content. Osiris is the most popular rock band in Bahrain currently.

    Al Ekhwa is a Bahraini musical band that was formed by the widely-known Bahraini performer, Ali Bahar, in 1986.

    Music Resources

    Sites & Places of Interest

    Small in size, Bahrain has a breadth of historical, religious, and cultural prominence. Included among them are an ancient fortress and a top regional museum. The Bahrain National Museum is located in Manama and covers 4,000 years of the country’s history. Tours of the Al-Fatih Mosque , the largest building in Bahrain, are given to non-Muslims to display the structure’s unique architecture details featuring marble from Italy, glass from Austria, and teak wood from India. Guides will share the fundamental tenets of Islam with visitors.

    To date, the Bahrain Fort (Qal’at Al Bahrain) is the country’s sole World Heritage Site located on an old trading port. It has Portuguese architecture and sits on top of a tell, an artificial mound that has been created by several layers of human occupation. About 25% of the site has been excavated in an area where many groups lived in 2300 BCE. The structures resembled residential homes and public and commercial buildings, and even religious and military ones as well. The site used to be the capital of Dilmun, an important ancient civilization of the region.

    Bahrain also hosts the densest concentrations of burial mounds found anywhere in the world from any period. The sites display the burial practices of the Dilmun and Tylos eras who were prominent traders in South Arabia, and the Indian subcontinent. TThe government’s lack of preservation according to UNESCO through urbanization has prevented the mounds from becoming World Heritage sites. Vases, glasses, weapons, and bones are stored in the National Museum.

    One of the most famous sites in Bahrain is the Tree of Life. The tree is a 400-year old mesquite tree that stands alone in the desert, surrounded by miles of sand. The area is supposedly free of any water supply, giving the tree its dramatic name. The Tree of Life is located in the desert about two kilometers from Jebel Dukhan.

    Sites & Places of Interest Resources


    Bahrain is home to the 2010 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, the opening race of the season.

    The 2004 Grand Prix of Bahrain marked the first-ever time the FIA Formula One World Championship was held in the Middle East. Bahrain is still the Middle East’s premier venue for Formula One racing. 

    Bahrain has only appeared in the Summer Olympics. In 2012 Bahrain won its first Olympic medal in London when Maryam Yusuf Jamal took bronze in the 1500 meter run. By doing so, Jamal also became the first female athlete from any Persian Gulf nation to win an Olympic medal. Bahrain’s first Olympic gold was won by Ruth Jebet, who won the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Kalkidan Gezahegne won one silver medal for Bahrain in the women’s 10,000-meter race.

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