Bahrain is an Arabic word meaning “Two Seas”, referring to freshwater springs that may be found within the salty waters of the Arabian Gulf (also referred to as the Persian Gulf). The Kingdom of Bahrain is located midway between the Qatar peninsula and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain’s main island is 48 kilometres long and 16 kilometres wide, with a coastline of 161 kilometres. The Kingdom of Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia by a 23-kilometre causeway, which opened in November 1986, creating easy access for many businessmen who live in the Kingdom of Bahrain and work in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
Bahrain was once known as Dilmun and was home to an ancient civilization that played a central trading role between the settlements of the Indus Valley (now India) to the south and the people of Mesopotamia (now Iraq) to the north. Dilmun’s capital was a major port whose remains are visible today at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al Bahrain). The Bahrain National Museum also exhibits artifacts ranging from human inhabitants of the island some 9,000 years ago.
Bahrain 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 island’s shallow waters, which were one of the Bahrain’s biggest exports for generations. Northern Pearling beds represent Bahrain’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site, officially recognized since 2012.
As per its economy, Bahrain has been a regional pioneer, notably as a specialist business and financial centre. The Kingdom also has a whole series of Gulf ‘firsts’ under its belt - from discovering oil, to diversifying the economy, providing education for both males and females from the 1920s onwards and becoming the first democracy with universal suffrage in the region.
Today, Bahrain continues to boast itself as one of the most diversified economies in the GCC. Its economy depends largely on oil and gas with a close second in the construction and financial industries. In 2011, Bahrain’s economy experienced a large setback due to internal unrest. However Bahrain continues to make strong strides especially in the Islamic banking sector and to seek new natural gas supplies as feedstock to support its expanding petrochemical and aluminium industries. Meanwhile corporations have increased their training facilities in order to qualify Bahrain’s growing youth population for the workforce. Towards this aim Bahrain’s government-owned energy companies spend over $25 million each year in training employees. Bahrain’s liberalization with relaxed tax policies continues to encourage budding small and medium size enterprises within various industries. In further efforts of diversification, the Government of Bahrain has provided over $4 million in grants to non-governmental organisations in 2012.
Manama at Night