Bahrain (BH)




1.64 million


Constitutional monarchy

Head of state

H.M King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa


Head of government

HRH Prime Minister & Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa

National Day

December 16th

Bahrain's Ambassador to the UK

H.E Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohamed Al Khalifa

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, 30 Belgrave Square, London, SW1x 8QB

UK's Ambassador to Bahrain

H.E Mr Alastair Long 

British Embassy Manama, 21 Government Avenue, Manama 306, PO Box 114 Manama, Bahrain


Bahrain is an archipelago located in the Persian Gulf. Its name means “two seas” in Arabic. Bahrain Island is the archipelago’s largest while Muharraq Island is the second largest and home to Bahrain International Airport.

Island nation and important western ally

So, Bahrain is an island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia, connected to it by the Kind Fahd Causeway. It is also home to a UK and a US naval base, which have both been crucial to the military presence and naval operations of both of these important Bahraini western allies in the region.


The Kingdom of Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. Since the late 1700s, the Al-Khalifa family has ruled Bahrain, which had previously been under the rule of the Portuguese, and, before them, the Persians and the Ancient Greeks. During the 19th century, Bahrain entered into various treaty agreements. It was a British protectorate until its full independence in 1971.

The ruling family is Sunni, although the current consensus opinion is that there is probably a small Shia majority in Bahrain. In truth, no one really knows the exact current ratio between Sunni and Shia. Some unofficial sources say it could be approximately 45% Sunni to 55% Shia. Other sources have even claimed that there is a small Sunni majority. However, whatever the figure, it is an issue which has caused a degree of tension within the country. It is a factor that has, on occasion, fuelled public protest and civil disobedience, as was shown to have been the case in the early stages of the so-called Arab Spring of 2011.

Religious tolerance

Bahrain is widely recognised as an example of minority religious tolerance in the Gulf. While Islam is still the majority religion, 9.3% of the population is Christian with 16.9% representing other faiths.

Bahrain is home to the biggest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the region, the Our Lady of Arabia, built in Awali south of Manama on 9,000 square metres of land bequeathed by King Hamad to the Holy See. The cathedral first opened its doors in 2021.

While the population includes a small number of Jews (0.1%) there are notable examples of Jewish Bahrainis in positions of influence, including female Jewish politicians, and a historic synagogue which has recently seen some of its first services for over a century.

Pearls to oil

For millennia, up until the 19th century, Bahrain was known principally for its pearl trade, and then, through the 20th Century, it gained its wealth through the oil industry. It has since become one of the first Gulf states to diversify its economy in order to reduce its reliance on oil. Currently, Bahrain produces around 200,000 barrels per day, accounting for some 80 percent of state revenues.

Recent oil strike

As oil reserves dwindled in the latter half of the 20th century, the nation became an early leader in the region of sectors like the processing and refinement of petroleum and aluminium production. Its economic diversification also encompassed areas such as tourism and the increasingly important field of Islamic finance.

In late 2017, Bahrain discovered highly significant quantities of oil and gas off-shore, thought to be the biggest strike since 1932, which are apparently set to dwarf the Kingdom's current supplies.

Carbon neutral by 2060

Climate change is impelling Bahrain and other Gulf countries to diversify their economies. Bahrain plans to be carbon neutral by 2060. The Kingdom plans to adopt a circular carbon economy strengthened by various offsetting schemes including carbon-capture technology and afforestation.

Constitutional reform

Bahrain moved to have more representation in government in the beginning of the century, with the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 2002, and the appointment of the first women and non-Muslims to the council. The Chief of State is the monarch.

The Prime Minister and cabinet are appointed by the monarch. Bahrain’s legislative branch is the National Assembly which is made up of the Consultative Council, a 40-seat council with appointed members, and the Council of Representatives which holds 40 elected members who must win absolute majority in their single seats. Representatives in the Council of Representatives serve four-year terms and can be re-elected.

Abraham Accords

In September 2020, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed a normalisation agreement together with Israel called the Abraham Accords. Subsequently, Bahrain and Israel have opened embassies in each other's countries. In December 2020, the trio were joined by Morocco.

Key dates

3000s BC
Bahrain is part of the ancient Dilmun civilisation, evidence of which first surfaced in Sumerian Cuneiform
600s - 300s AD
Bahrain is an important part of the Persian Empire under the Achasmenid dynasty
330s BC
TYLOS: During Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia, his admiral, Nearchus, overthrows Bahrain's ruling tribe, Al Hamar. The ancient Greeks know Bahrain as Tylos, the heart of pearl trading
629 AD
ISLAM: Bahrain is an early convert to Islam, embracing the religion wile the Prophet Muhammad is still alive
900 - 1058
The Qarmatians, a messianic Islamist sect, lead a rebellion and and take over Bahrain. The Qarmations are ousted in their turn by a rebellion 150 years later
1076 - 1251
Bahrain comes under the control of the Uyunid dynasty and at one point the state of Awal (Bahrain) is extended to Kuwait
1253 - 1521
Bahrain comes under the sway of the Usfurid and Jabrid dynasties. It's during this period - under Sunni rule - that Twelver Shiasm became established in Bahrain
PORTUGUESE RULE: Portugal's Antonio Correia conquers Bahrain
Arab navigator Ahmad Bin Majid paints a picture of Bahrain in the late 1400s, at the centre of a vibrant pearl fishing industry involving a 1,000 ships
1602 - 1717
Bahrain comes under the control of the Persian Saffavid Empire. The Saffavids prefer to rule Bahrain from a distance
Oman invades Bahrain, ending 100 years of Persian rule
The Shah of Persia launches a successful invasion of Bahrain, while its ruler, sheikh Jubyar, is away in Mecca for the hajj. But Persia's influence wanes and by 1753, it is occupied by Arabs
War breaks out between Sheikh Nasr Al-Madhkur, then ruler of Bahrain , and the Bani Utbah clan of Zubarara (northern Qatar)
Kuwaitis take advantage of confusion to invade Bahrain and occupy it
the Al Khalifa family gain power in the Bani Utbah clan and move to Bahrain and settle in Jaww on the south east coast
The Al Khalifa tribe regain power in Bahrain and enter a treaty relationship with the British Empire, then the dominant naval power in the Persian Gulf. The treaty recognises the Al Khalifa as the rulers of Bahrain
The UK and the Ottoman Empire sign a treaty recognising the independence of Bahrain remains under British administration
The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco), a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of California (Socal), discovers oil at Jabal al-Dukhan
June 1932
Oil starts to be produced in Bahrain - the first country in the Arabian Gulf to discover oil and get it flowing
Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa become ruler of Bahrain
The UK moves its main naval base from Aden in Yemen to Bahrain
The UK announces it will close its military bases "east of Suez" - but Bahrain remains of critical importance
May 1970
A United Nations report confirms that the overwhelming majority of people of Bahrain favour independence from the UK and Iran. The Shah of Iran officially renounces his country's claim over Bahrain
The Administrative Council of Bahrain becomes a 12-member Councillor State, headed by a president, the ruler's brother, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Aug' 1971
Bahrain declared its independence, marked by signing of a friendship treaty with the UK that terminated previous agreements between sides. Sheikh Isa becomes the first Emir and the Council of State becomes a cabinet
Dec' 1973
Elections are held for a National Assembly advisory board that consists of 14 cabinet members and 30 MPs elected by male voters over the age of 20
The Gulf Cooperation Council is founded, with Bahrain as a member
Bahrain provides military facilities for “Operation Desert Fox”, the US and UK led bombing campaign against Iraq
Feb' 2002
SECOND BAHRAIN CONSTITUTION: Emir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declares Bahrain a kingdom and himself to be the first constitutional King of Bahrain (February 14th) . Women are also given the freedom to vote
Oct' 2002
Parliamentary elections held for the first time in 30 years
March 2003
WAR AGAINST SADDAM; Bahrain opposes the impending US-led invasion of Iraq and attempts to avert conflict by offering Saddam Hussein asylum in Bahrain
April 2004
FIRST WOMAN MINISTER: Nana Haffadh makes history by becoming the first woman to head a government department in Bahrain when she is appointed health minister
May 2004
IRAQ WAR REACTION: Protests in Manama over the fighting in the Iraqi Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. The King sacks the interior minister
Sept' 2004
Bahrain and US sign a free trade agreement; neighbouring Saudi Arabia complains that it could hinder economic integration in the region
Jan' 2006
US President George W. Bush signs a bill enacting the US-Bahrain trade agreement after Congress approves it
Nov' 2006
Shia opposition parties win 40% of vote in parliamentary elections
Sept' 2007
Thousands of illegal foreign workers rush to take advantage of government-sanctioned amnesty
May 2008
Bahrain appoints a Jewish woman, Houda Nanoo, to be Ambassador to the US
Sept' 2009
The King pardons 170 prisoners who had been charged with endangering national security, including 35 Shias
Oct' 2010
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: The main Shia opposition group, the Islamic National Accord, makes a small gain
Feb' 2011
ARAB SPRING: Demonstrations in Manama following large-scale protests in Tunisia and Egypt
March 2011
Troops are called in from neighbouring Saudi Arabia following further unrest. The authorities declare Martial Law
Nov' 2011
BAHRAIN PROTESTS INQUIRY: A Bahrain government inquiry says "excessive force" was used against Shia-led protestors during the demonstrations. 20 members of the security forces are arrested for alleged abuses
June 2012
Appeals Court partially overturns jail sentences on 20 medics for taking part in the protests. 9 are completely acquitted and the others get shorter sentences
Oct' 2012
Protests in Manama during the funeral of 23 year old Ali Ahmed Mushaima, who had been jailed for taking part in protests. Officials say Mushaima died of sickle cell anaemia for which he had been hospitalised
Feb' 2013
NATIONAL DIALOGUE: National conciliation talks begin in effort to investigate grievances and end unrest
March 2013
King Hamad appoints his son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, as deputy prime minister. The CP is widely seen as a moderating influence
Jan' 2014
The government suspends deadlocked reconciliation talks with Shia opposition reps
July 2014
A bomb kills 3 police officers, the latest in a series of attacks on security forces.
Oct' 2014
The main Shia opposition group, Al-Wefaq, is banned for 3 months
March 2015
Bahrain and 4 other GCC countries take part in Saudi-led airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen
Nov' 2015
HMS JUFFAIR: Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and his UK counterpart Philip Hammond hold ceremony to mark the start of the construction of a permanent naval base at Mina Salman Port to be called HMS Juffair
Nov' 2016
HRH The Prince of Wales is in Bahrain to open the welfare block of HMS Juffair, marking the completion of phase 1 of HMS Juffair. The base is planned to be fully operational by Nov' 2017
Dec' 2016
UK Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the GCC in Manama, reiterating importance of joint security and trade relationship with Gulf
May 2017
The country's leading Shia cleric, Isa Qassim, is found illegal fundraising and money laundering and given a suspended sentence
June 2017
QATAR BOYCOTT: Bahrain is part of a quartet of Arab nations that severs ties with Qatar over Doha's alleged funding of terrorist and extremist groups. The 4 countries, led by Saudi Arabia, ban Qatar from using their airspace, seas and land borders
July 2017
Bahrain and the 3 other countries boycotting Qatar say they will re-establish dialogue with Doha only if it adheres to regional and international agreements as well as a list demands and principles issued by the quartet
Aug' 2017
Bahrain TV accuses Qatar of playing a role in the 2011 protests in Bahrain
Dec' 2017
Bahrain imposes visas on Qatari nationals
April 2018
OIL STRIKE AT KHALEEJ AL BAHRAIN: Bahrain announces the discovery of a vast new off-shore oil field at Khaleej Al Bahrain containing up to 80 billion barrels of tight (or shale) oil, dwarfing the country's current reserves
Sept' 2020
ABRAHAM ACCORDS: Israel and Bahrain establish diplomatic relations, and sign the Abraham Accords on September 15th, making Bahrain the fourth Arab country to do so
Jan 2021
QATAR BOYCOTT ENDS: Bahrain joins Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and a number of other countries in ending the boycott of Qatar
April 2021
KHALEEJ AL-BAHRAIN OIL FIELD: Bahraini oil minister Mohamed bi Khalifa Al Khalifa announces that drilling at the new offshore oil field at Khaleej al-Bahrain will begin at the end of 2022
Oct' 2021
2060 CARBON NEUTRALITY AND VISION 2030: Bahrain announces it plans to be carbon neutral by 2060. It announces a number of important economic measures aimed at de-carbonising and diversifying its currently oil-based economy