General Bahrain facts
Kingdom of Bahrain
Head of state
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
Area 767 square kilometres, including recent land reclamation.
Bahrain is a cluster of islands lying between the east coast of Saudi Arabia and the Qatari peninsula. The capital, Manama, occupies the northeast of the main island and is connected by three bridges to the island of Muharraq, where the main international airport is located. Bahrain is linked to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia via a causeway from its west coast.
The national flag of Bahrain is red with a white, serrated vertical stripe on the hoist side. The five triangles of the serration represent the five pillars of Islam. The flag is similar in design to that of Qatar, which uses a darker shade of red and has nine serrations.
The official language is Arabic. English is widely used in business and official circles.
The population was recorded as 1.3 million in 2012, of which about half are expatriates.
Bahrain is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. It does not adjust its clocks in summer.
The Bahraini dinar is fixed to the US dollar with $1 worth about BD0.376. It is the second-highest valued currency in the world after the Kuwaiti dinar.
Internet country code
Gross domestic product
Bahrains real gross domestic product was $27.1bn in 2012, according to the Central Bank of Bahrain.
Bahrain has moved to an official Sunday to Thursday working week to bring it in line with the other GCC countries. Many private businesses also work on Saturdays, particularly those dealing with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, where government offices have only recently changed from a Saturday to Wednesday week. Most bank branches close at 1pm before reopening two hours later. Shops, too, typically shut in the early afternoon for several hours.
Islam is the official state religion. The ruling family is Sunni Muslim, while the majority of the Bahraini population is Shia. The sectarian balance has shifted in recent years as Sunnis from other countries have been naturalised as citizens.
Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking between dawn and dusk, and office hours are curtailed for both the public and private sectors. Ramadan started in July in 2013 and moves forwards by about 11 days each year. The festivals of Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which follows the Hajj pilgrimage, are the main holiday periods.
Bahrain is hot and humid from May to September, with temperatures approaching 50 degrees Celcius in the summer months. The country is also susceptible to frequent dust storms. The period from October to April is generally mild and pleasant.
Gulf Air has been fully owned by the Bahraini government since 2007, when Oman was the last of three other Gulf states to withdraw from the enterprise. From December 2013, Gulf Air will fly to 36 international destinations.
Resources and economy
Bahrain was the first Arab Gulf state to strike oil in the 1930s and the first regional producer to go into decline. As a result, its economy is smaller but more diversified than its neighbours. The country continues to process Saudi oil, refining it into high-grade fuel and other products for the European market in particular.
The expansion of heavy industry is otherwise constrained by the availability of gas supplies as well as a rapid decline in groundwater reserves. The government has instead focused on developing the service sector, light manufacturing and logistics, as well as encouraging the growth of the financial services industry, which competes with Dubai to be the largest in the region.
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