Contrary to common expectations, the landscape of Bahrain is quite different, depending on which part of the island you are in. The south is dominated mostly of а beige-colored rocky desert, barren and devoid of vegetation. Few creatures survive without water and shade under the horrible heat reaching almost 50°C. The landscape is unrecognizable to the north. Suddenly the dry and barren desert gives way to an oasis of lawns, flowering shrubs, date palms laden with fruits and citrus trees.
Located amidst the warm and tranquil waters of the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is an island country of 32 small and one significantly larger island.
It occupies an area of only 760 sq km, and is the smallest country in the region. As it is located about 23 kilometers off the coast of Asia, Bahrain is connected to the Arabian Peninsula by a 25 km-long bridge.
The King Fahd Causeway, the official name of the bridge, ensures an important transport connection between the island country and neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Although Bahrain has a small territory, it is among the most densely populated countries in the world. It is assumed that the average density exceeds 1,741 people per square kilometer.
According to the World Bank, in 2011 the population of Bahrain amounted to 1,323,535 people. Nowadays the majority of the population lives in the northern parts, while most areas in the south are almost deserted.
More than half of the population are foreign immigrants, especially from Asia, Africa and Europe. The residents of Bahrain are mostly Muslims (Sunni and Shia), while the immigrants are people of different faiths, including a large number of Buddhists.
Bahrain is a very rich country, which has gained all its current wealth from oil producing and exporting.
The country is one of the oldest producers of black gold in the region, and therefore today enjoys a very high standard of living and socio-economic prosperity.
Billions of dollars in revenue have turned Bahrain into a thriving oasis. In Manama, the capital of the emirate, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, today stands a modern financial center with skyscrapers of steel and glass.
The twin towers of Bahrain Financial Harbor (260 meters high) and the second tallest twin towers of Bahrain World Trade Center (240 meters high) are the most impressive buildings dominating the skyline of the city today.
Like Dubai, near the coast of Bahrain there are many artificial islands designed to serve as luxurious living residences or attractive beach resorts.
Luxury hotels, villas, golf courses and other facilities will be built on the manmade islands after their full completion.
Like many other oil producers in the region, Bahrain is trying to adapt its economy for the time when the black gold in the country will be a thing of the past.
The combination of ancient culture, delicious Arabic cuisine, bright sandy beaches, warm sea, shallow water, beautiful coral reefs off the northern coast, plenty of sunshine and luxury atmosphere is the best formula for success in attracting foreign tourists.
As a typical Arab country, the past of Bahrain is full of myths and fairy stories. The most popular legend associates the island with the tree of life, and describes the country as the supposed location of the Garden of Eden.
Like any legend, this one also has a kernel of truth, because the tree of life actually exist. This is a 400-year-old representative of Prosopis cineraria (or Mesquite tree).
It is located in the desert of Bahrain, and within a radius of kilometers there are no other trees. Seeing the landscape, one wonders how this plant has survived and grew up in the middle of the desert.
Bahrain is a land of unique cultural heritage. In the north of the island is the ancient fort Qal’at al Bahrain. Known also as the Portuguese fortress, it was built in the 6th century and was used until the 18th century, including from the Portuguese.
The area is permanently inhabited since 2300 BC, long before the fortress was built, though archeological evidences in the vicinity of Qal’at al Bahrain indicate traces of human presence dating back to about 5000 years ago.
In 2005 the castle Qal’at al Bahrain was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another treasure of the desert island is the fortress of Arad. It is a quite new fort, dating from the 17th century. It has a square form and round-shaped corner towers of the same height.
Among the leading attractions of the capital Manama is Al Fateh Mosque. Although the building looks very old, it was completed not long ago, in 1988.
The 70-meter-high minarets of the mosque soar majestically above the center of Manama. It attracts a large number of Muslim followers and tourists. The main hall of Al-Fateh Mosque is able to accommodate about 7,000 worshipers.
Though smaller than Al Fateh, Al Khamis Mosque, existing for more than 1000 years, is one of the most stately buildings in Bahrain.
It is believed that its construction was started approximately in 692 and completed a few centuries later, although over the years it was partly rebuilt and reconstructed. It is the oldest in Bahrain, and is considered to be one of the oldest in the world a whole.
Not far from the capital are located the Dilmun Burial Mounds, one of the largest ancient cemeteries in the Arab world.
It is believed that there are approximately between 300 and 350 thousand graves, and the oldest tombs date back more than 4,000 years!
Another interesting landmark of Bahrain are the Hawar Islands, located near the coast of Qatar. After one of the longest-standing territorial disputes in history, the International Court of Justice in The Hague decided that the Hawar Islands belongs to Bahrain.
Although at first glance they seem to be wild and devoid of life, the islands are extremely important refuge for migratory birds, huge number of species of fish and other marine life, as well as an important habitat of the scimitar-horned oryx, a kind of desert antelope.
Bahrain has a desert tropical climate with very dry and hot weather throughout most of the year. Sometimes powerful sandstorms appear suddenly out of nothing.
The average daytime temperature in July usually reaches around 38°C. Sometimes, however, thermometers can reach up to 50°C! The period with temperatures of over 30°C usually lasts from April to October.
From November to March Bahrain experiences cooler and more easily tolerated weather with daytime temperatures ranging from 20 to 28°C.
In January and February are possible short periods with lower temperatures of around 10 – 15°C. The best time to travel to Bahrain is during the months of March, April, October and November.
Official currency. The official currency used in Bahrain is Bahraini Dinar (BHD).
How to get to Bahrain? The best, fastest and cheapest way to get to Bahrain is by plane. Bahrain International Airport is located on a small island north of Manama.
If for some reason you cannot take a direct flight to Bahrain, you could fly through Dubai (UAE).
Events. Bahrain Grand Prix, the Formula One World Championship in Bahrain, is considered the largest international event annually held in Bahrain since 2004.