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The Kingdom of Bahrain is an island nation in the Persian Gulf that consists of the larger Bahrain Island and the surrounding smaller islands, as well as the Hawar islands. between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain is the third smallest nation in Asia, but one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Almost 90% of its population is in Manama and Al Muharraq, the former of which is in northeastern Bahrain Island, while the latter is in southwestern Al Muharraq Island, connected to one another by the Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Causeway and the Shaikh Hamad Causeway. Bahrain Island is connected to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahad Causeway. The Hawar Islands are just off the coast of the Qatar Peninsula. Bahrain includes artificial islands as well as formerly separated islands that have been joined through land reclamation.

Bahrain has a large foreign worker population, particularly from India and South Asia. Its indigenous population is 98% Muslim. Although two-thirds of its domestic population is Shi'a Muslim, the country's ruling family and most of those in government, the military, and corporate leadership are Sunni Muslims. There are small populations of Christians and Jews, and about half of its foreign workers are non-Muslim. Including Bahrain's foreign workers along with its indigenous population, just over 80% of the people in the country are Muslim, about 10% are Christian, and the remainder are Hindu or other religions. Some reports show its Muslim population as low as 70%.

The official language of Bahrain is Arabic, although much of its population is also fluent in English. Bahrain invests much of its substantial oil revenue into its educational system. Although school attendance is not compulsory, attendance rates are high, and the government pays for the costs of education. Literacy rates are high. Boys and girls are educated separately in Bahrain's public school. Higher education is available at Bahrain University, Arabian Gulf University, and specialized institutions, as well as in private universities.

Bahrain has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Petroleum is its largest export, followed by aluminum production, finance, and construction materials. Since only a small amount of its land is arable, Bahrain imports most of its food.

Bahrain is also a tourist destination, particularly for visitors from the surrounding Arab states. Tourist attractions include the Al Khamis Mosque, one of the oldest in the region, the Arad Fort, and the Tree of Life, a 400-year-old tree that grows in the Sakhir Desert. In recent years, bird watching on the Hawar Islands, scuba diving, and horseback riding have attracted visitors to Bahrain.

Currently, Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy headed by a King who enjoys wide executive powers, including the appointment of the Prime Minister and his ministers, the command of the army, and the chairmanship of the Higher Judicial Council. The King also appoints the upper house of Parliament, and has the power to dissolve the lower house.

When Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa became king when his father died in 1999, he promoted democratic reforms, transforming the country from a hereditary emirate to a constitutional monarchy. He pardoned all of the country's political prisoners and detainees, even those who had been charged with security violations. He abolished the State Security Law that allowed the government to detain people for up to three years without trial.

Women were given the right to vote and to stand for office for the first time in 2002. Although no women were elected to political office in 2002, six were appointed to the Shura Council, in which Bahrain's Christian and Jewish communities are also represented. In 2006, Lateefa Al Gaood became Bahrain's first female Member of Parliament. In 2011, a Christian woman was appointed as ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, Bahrain was a target of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, and has been criticized for cracking down heavily, including accusations of systematic torture. Most of the broadcast media in Bahrain is state-operated, and an opposition satellite station operating from London has had its signals blocked in Bahrain. Print journalists have been jailed on charges of publishing false news, and self-censorship is widely practiced.

Historically, Bahrain was a significant link in the trade routes connecting Mesopotamia with the Indus Valley around 5,000 years ago. Then part of Dilmun, the islands became part of the Babylonian Empire around 600 BC. There were no historical references to Bahrain until the 4th Century, when it was known as Tylos. Most of its population converted to Islam in the 7th Century, and were ruled by various Arab tribes and Persian governors until the Al Khalifa family captured Bahrain from a Persian garrison governing the islands in 1783.


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