Bahrain (Arabic: البحرين, Bahreyn), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain (Arabic: مملكة البحرين) is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago of 33 islands, the largest being Bahrain Island, 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. Iran lies 200 km (124 mi) to the north of Bahrain, across the Gulf. The peninsula of Qatar is to the southeast across the Gulf of Bahrain.
Bahrain is believed to be the site of the ancient land of the Dilmun civilisation. Bahrain came under the rule of successive Persian empires, the Parthians and Sassanians empires respectively. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam in 628 AD. Following a successive period of Arab rule, the country was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521. The Portuguese were later expelled, in 1602, by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid empire. In 1783, the Bani Utbah tribe captured Bahrain from the Persians and was ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family since. 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, Bahrain declared independence in 1971. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.
Bahrain today has a very high Human Development Index (42nd highest in the world) and the World Bank identified it as a high income economy. Bahrain is also a member of the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference as well as being a founding member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
Manama (Arabic: المنامة Al Manāma) is the capital and largest city of Bahrain, with an approximate population of 155,000 people. Long an important trading center in the Persian Gulf, Manama is home to a very diverse population. After periods of Portuguese and Persian control and invasions from the ruling dynasties of Saudi Arabia and Oman, Bahrain established itself as an independent nation during the 19th century period of British hegemony. In the 20th century, Bahrain's oil wealth helped spur fast growth and in the 1990s a concerted diversification effort led to expansion in other industries and helped transform Manama into an important financial hub in the Middle East. Manama was designated as the capital of Arab culture for the year 2012 by the Arab League.
Manama is the focal point of the Bahraini economy. While petroleum has decreased in importance in recent years due to depleting reserves and growth in other industries, it is still the mainstay of the economy. Heavy industry (e.g. aluminium smelting, ship repair), banking and finance, and tourism are among the industries which have experienced recent growth. Several multinationals have facilities and offices in and around Manama. The primary industry in Manama itself is financial services, with over two hundred financial institutions and banks based in the CBD and the Diplomatic Area.
Manama is a financial hub for the Persian Gulf region and a center of Islamic banking. There is also a large retail sector in the shopping malls around Seef, while the center of Manama is dominated by small workshops and traders.
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