Bahrain, a nation comprising more than 30 islands in the Persian Gulf, has been at the center of major trade routes since antiquity. In its modern capital, Manama, the acclaimed Bahrain National Museum showcases artifacts from the ancient Dilmun civilization that flourished in the region for millennia. The city’s thriving Bab al-Bahrain bazaar offers wares ranging from colorful handwoven fabrics and spices to pearls.
In 2010, Bahrain’s population grew to 1.2 million, of which 568,399 were Bahraini and 666,172 were non-nationals. It had risen from 1.05 million (517,368 non-nationals) in 2007, the year when Bahrain’s population crossed the one million mark.
Bahrain under the Al-Khalifa regime is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. King Hamad enjoys wide executive powers which include appointing the Prime Minister and his ministers, commanding the army, chairing the Higher Judicial Council, appointing the parliament’s upper half and dissolving its elected lower half. The head of government is the unelected Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the uncle of the current king who has served in this position since 1971, making him the longest serving prime minister in the world. In 2010, about half of the government was composed of the Al Khalifa family.
Infrastructure and Economy
Bahrain has the fastest growing economy in the Arab world. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East and is twelfth freest overall in the world based on the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal. In 2008, Bahrain was named the world’s fastest growing financial center by the City of London’s Global Financial Centers Index. Bahrain’s banking and financial services sector, particularly Islamic banking, have benefited from the regional boom driven by demand for oil. Petroleum production and processing is Bahrain’s most exported product, accounting for 60% of export receipts, 70% of government revenues, and 11% of GDP. Aluminium production is the second most exported product, followed by finance and construction materials.
Arabic is the official language of Bahrain, though English is widely used.
There are no foreign exchange controls or restrictions on the repatriation of capital from Bahrain.