Bahrain , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago with Bahrain Island the largest land mass at 55 km (34 mi) long by 18 km (11 mi) wide. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway (The project cost a total of US$800 million (SAR3 billion). One of the major contractors of the project was Ballast Nedam, based in the Netherlands. It is unclear how many workers were engaged in the construction of the Causeway. The four-lane road is 25 km (16 mi) long and approximately 23 m (75 ft) wide, and was built using 350,000 m3 (12,000,000 cu ft) of concrete along with 47,000 metric tonnes of reinforced steel. The causeway was constructed in three segments starting from Saudi Arabia:
- From Al-Aziziyyah, south of Khobar, to the Border Station
- From the Border Station to Nasan Island in Bahrain
- From Nasan island to the Al-Jasra, west of Manama, on the main island of Bahrain
Bahrain is believed to be the site of the ancient land of the Dilmun civilization and later came under the rule of successive Parthian and Sassanid Persian empires. The country was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam in 628 AD. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521, who in turn were expelled in 1602 by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid empire. In 1783, the Bani Utbah tribe captured Bahrain from the Qajars and has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh the first hakim of Bahrain. In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. Following the withdrawal of the British from the region in the late 1960s, Bahraindeclared independence in 1971. Formerly a state, Bahrain was declared a "Kingdom" in 2002. Since early 2011, the country has experienced sustained protests and unrest inspired by the regional Arab Spring, particularly by the majority Shia population.
As of 2012, Bahrain had a high Human Development Index (ranked 48th in the world) and was recognised by the World Bank as a high income economy. The country is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference as well as a founding member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. Bahrain was designated a major non-NATO ally by the George W. Bush administration in 2001.
Oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932, the first such find on the Arabian side of the Gulf. Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has sought to diversify its economy and become less dependent on oil by investing in the banking and tourism sectors. The country's capital, Manama is home to many large financial structures, including the Bahrain World Trade Center and the Bahrain Financial Harbour. The Qal'at al-Bahrain (the harbour and capital of the ancient land of Dilmun) and the Bahrain pearling trail were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005 and 2012 respectively. The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit.