The enormous oil wealth determined the progress of the small archipelago of Bahrain and transformed it into a nerve center for trade and finance in the Middle East.
Bahrain comprises the archipelago of the same name, located in the Persian Gulf, northwest of the Qatar peninsula and east of Saudi Arabia. It consists of about thirty islands and islets, the largest of which is Bahrain, with approximately 16km from east to west and 48km from north to south. Connected to the main island by road are the small islands of Muharraq and Sitra. In 1986 a bridge was opened connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. The total area of the archipelago is 692km2.
There are no major orographic accidents on the islands. The maximum altitude, on the hill of Jabal Dukhan, on the main island, reaches just over 130m. The climate is arid, with very high temperatures in the summer, exceeding an average of 28o C, and moderate in the winter (21o C). Precipitations do not exceed eighty millimeters per year and are concentrated in the winter season. Despite the scarcity of water, the islands have been inhabited since ancient times, and have some irrigation crops concentrated around the springs on the north coast. The archipelago has about 200 plant species. The fauna is composed of mammals such as the gazelle, the hare and the mongoose, the latter probably brought from India.
Despite its small extent, Bahrain is densely populated (more than 500 inhabitants per square kilometer). The largest cities are Manama, the capital, located in the northwest of the main island, and Muharraq, on the island of the same name. The two are joined by a jetty and constitute, in fact, a single urban agglomeration.
The population is mostly Arab, although there is a small presence of European and American technicians. A considerable proportion of the workforce is made up of immigrant workers, mostly Egyptians, Pakistanis and Indians.
The use of groundwater allows the practice of minimal horticulture, insufficient for the needs of the population. The collection of pearl oysters, a traditional occupation of the inhabitants of the archipelago, has almost disappeared, since it does not offer profitability in the face of competition from cultured pearls.
In 1932 oil was discovered in Awali, in the center of the island of Bahrain; the extraction, originally controlled by American companies, has largely passed to the jurisdiction of the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO). The extraction of oil and natural gas has acquired fundamental importance in the country’s economy. In addition to being a production center, the archipelago is a notable refining and shipping point for crude oil from neighboring Saudi Arabia, which sends it to Bahrain via a submarine pipeline.
The oil wealth stimulated the creation of other industries on the islands, such as cement, aluminum and shipbuilding, the latter deeply rooted in the country’s artisanal tradition. The former semi-pirate activities of the natives of the archipelago were replaced by the traffic of a modern merchant fleet. On the other hand, the development of banking and service activities has made Bahrain one of the main commercial and financial centers in the Middle East, to which the modern communications network and the important international airport located on the island of Muharraq contribute.
Since antiquity, the islands of Bahrain have been coveted for their strategic interest. Two millennia before the Christian era, they already constituted a mandatory stop on the commercial route between the Sumerian civilization and the Indus valley.
According to Youremailverifier.com, Bahrain’s population converted to Islam in the 7th century. In 1521 the country was occupied by the Portuguese and in 1602 it fell into the hands of the Persian empire. In 1783, Ahmad ibn Khalifa, from Saudi Arabia, gained independence and founded the reigning dynasty to this day. Successive treaties negotiated throughout the 19th century ended up making the archipelago a British protectorate. Bahrain regained independence in 1971 and became an emirate. Two years later, a constitution was promulgated that enshrined the traditional monarchical regime and established a parliamentary chamber.
Bahrain’s population enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. The government provides various social services, especially those related to education and health. Despite economic development, social customs remain closely linked to tradition.
The majority religion is Muslim, professed in the Shia and Sunni variants in almost equal parts. Shiites in general are descended from the Persian population that occupied the island in the past, while Sunnis are Arabs and constitute the ruling class, linked to the dynasty that governs the country.
In a state whose main human needs are met, the sources of social instability are, above all, the increasing presence of immigrant workers and pressure from the Shiite sector, which considers itself politically subjected to Sunnis.