Country Profile: Bahrain
Capital and largest cityAl-Manámah
Area665 sq km
Population1, 200, 814 (2008 est.)
Arabic is the official language of Bahrain. However, elsewhere, English is very widely used. Some Bahraini people speak a dialect of the Persian language.
Oil was found in Bahrain in 1932, and this led to extremely fast modernisation, and an economic boom, with Bahrain becoming the fastest growing economy in the Arab world, and the freest economy in the Middle East. The production and processing of petroleum accounts for 60% of exports, and 30% of GDP in Bahrain. The country has highly advanced communication and transport facilities and houses two multinational firms. Its GDP is $14.11 billion and its major trading partners include Saudi Arabia, US, Germany, Japan, UK and France. Aside from oil, other key industries include offshore banking, fertilisers, ship repairing, tourism, and natural resources include gas, fish and pearls.
The Qatar-Bahrain Friendship Bridge is to be built linking Bahrain to Qatar to the south-east, with construction starting in 2009.
Since the discovery of oil in 1932, Bahrain has formed links with other countries in order to exploit the natural resources - petroleum is their biggest export as well as industry, providing almost all of the country's energy.
Bahrain has become a popular tourist destination, with more than 8 million visitors a year. Though mostly made up of people coming from neighbouring Arab countries, there are increasing numbers of people visiting from further afield due to the Bahrain Grand Prix, and also because of the country's Arab heritage and history, and also its reputation as being liberal and modern. The country has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its National Museum has exhibits from the first human settlers on the island, from over 9000 years ago.
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