Bahrain (/bɑːˈreɪn/ (About this soundlisten); Arabic: البحرين al-Baḥrayn Arabic pronunciation: [al baħrajn] (About this soundlisten)), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain (Arabic: مملكة البحرين About this soundMamlakat al-Baḥrayn), is an island country in the Persian Gulf. The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centered around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain’s population is 1,234,567 (c. 2016), including 666,172 non-nationals. It is 765.3 square kilometres (295.5 sq mi) in size, making it the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore.
Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, in 628 CE. 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 dynasty under the Persian Empire. In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain’s first hakim.
In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. Formerly an emirate, the Arab constitutional monarchy of Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002. In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring. Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa royal family has been accused and criticized for human rights abuses, including imprisonment, torture and execution of dissidents, political opposition figures and its Shia Muslim population.
Bahrain had the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf. Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors. Many large financial institutions have a presence in Manama, the country’s capital. It has a high Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.