An Egyptian friend of mine who has lived here for years told me that when her husband announced they were moving to Bahrain she asked, “So… where exactly is Bahrain?” It’s not an unusual response. Most people know it’s in the Middle East… maybe. But that’s about as far as folks get. So let me help you out.
Bahrain is an island in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. It’s to the east of Saudi Arabia, southwest of Iran, and northwest of Qatar, which is northwest of United Arab Emirates where Dubai is and where parts of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and "Fast and Furious 7" were filmed. Clear now?
It has a population over 1.2 million, however half of those are non-nationals. It’s listed as the 23rd smallest country in the world encompassing just 780 square kilometers (301 square miles). It measures approximately 31 miles long and just 11 miles wide. Essentially it is one-third the size of Rhode Island. Yup, it’s small.
It’s made up of a bunch of islands, with the main and largest island known as Bahrain Island. Researching on Wikipedia (only the best will do) I was surprised to learn that they claim over 80 islands, including many artificial (“reclaimed”) islands. Love those little facts.
When I first saw the shape of Bahrain it reminded me of photos I’d seen of Martha Graham in her Lamentation dance. You decide.
Bahrain has an extensive history, dating back to the Bronze Age (4000 BC) when it was home to the Dilmun civilization. It is believed to be one of the oldest civilizations in the Middle East and artifacts from the Dilmun era are still being excavated.
It has had a litany of rulers including Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Portugal (for 80 years in the 1500s), then back to Persia, Oman, and eventually Great Britain in 1860. During the second World War, Bahrain declared their support for Great Britain and conducted a fund drive and was able to raise enough money to purchase 10 fighter planes for the RAF. But it wasn’t until August of 1971, that Bahrain was finally able to declare its independence.
Economically, it’s lucky that it has oil and natural gas, because less than 3% of its land is farmable. As much as 92% of it is desert and I can speak personally that dust storms are a regular annoyance and health hazard. Temperatures range from the low 60s in “winter” up to 130+ in the high heat of summer.
It might not be the hot-spot to visit in the Gulf, but as a place to live and raise young kids, we're really happy. There are days we wake up and feel like we're living at a country club, and there are other days we are reminded we're living in a dust-worn desert. Either way, it's always sunny in Bahrain!