Off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, lie a group of islands tethered to the mainland by a single bridge. These 33 islands together are known as the Kingdom of Bahrain.
This island nation is in the middle of an area that is rich with oil which is a major contributing factor to how Bahrain has a really high income economy. But in recent years, they have expanded their interests into the banking industry as well as tourism. The Bahrainis are also famous for their coveted pearl industry.
The islands of Bahrain have been controlled by many different invading groups of peoples through the centuries, from various Persian empires to the Portuguese and eventually the British, though it has been considered to be the original lands of the ancient Dilmun civilization.
The name "Bahrain" itself means "the two seas," but it's not exactly clear as to which two seas the name referred to. Originally, the Arabs called these islands as Awal (not to be confused with AWOL or the band AWOLnation). The seas may refer to both sides of the islands or the fact there's fresh water that comes up in the middle of the salt water.
Bahrain may be familiar to some, especially for race fans or anyone who lives with race fans like I do, as the location of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix which is held at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. The inaugural Grand Prix race in 2004 was the first of its kind in the Middle East.
The capital of Bahrain is Manama. (And I can never read or say its name without thinking of the Sesame Street song "Mahna-mahna.") It's the largest city in the country, with a metro population of around 330,000 people. The country is divided into five governorates (which are similar to states or prefectures), and Manama is in the Capital Governorate. (Makes sense.) It has long been a center for trading, shipping, and commerce.
Arabic is the official language spoken in Bahrain, but English, Farsi, and Urdu are also spoken and used.
The vast majority of Bahrainis practice Islam (both Shia and Sunni), while there is a small percentage of Christians and other religions practiced as well. It's widely accepted that Bahrainis are more tolerant of other religious practices than other countries in the region. They are also known for supporting women's rights, yet still practically ignore LGBT rights.
Much of Bahrain's culture is similar to other cultures in this region, but with subtle differences that make it their own. I think this country will pleasantly surprise me in its isolated uniqueness.
[Note: I'm distraught to find that my Macbook Pro has a bad logic board. I don't know what that is, but "bad" and "logic" together in the same sentence is never good. So, the posts on Bahrain this week will come via my iPhone. My apologies in advance for missing links on resources, fewer pictures that aren't embedded in the text, and no videos. Hopefully, it'll get fixed soon. If only I could find someone to do it without giving up my firstborn child as an indentured servant.]
Up next: Holidays and Celebrations