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World Travel Guide > Guides > Middle East > Bahrain

Bahrain History, Language and Culture

History of Bahrain

Bahrain has a Stone-Age history that dates back to 5000 BC and visible evidence of this early history can be seen around the country in the form of 85,000 burial mounds and chambers that undulate across 5% of Bahrain’s land mass. Bahrain is perhaps even more famous, however, as the seat of the lost empire of Dilmun, a powerful civilisation whose influence lasted between 3200 and 330 BC.

The country’s sweet-water springs attracted traders, who took particular interest in the local pearls, and by the 16th century the country began to be of interest to the big naval powers of Europe. In the early 1500s the Portuguese invaded, leaving not much legacy but the distinctive Qala’at al-Bahrain fort on Bahrain’s northern shore. During the 19th century Bahrain came under the influence of the British in the so-called Trucial system – a series of treaties signed with Britain against piracy. The relationship developed into a protectorate agreement, the modern day result of which is a strong tie between the British and the people of Bahrain.

Bahrain regained full independence in 1971 and in 2002, Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy with a fully elected parliament in which both men and women are eligible to vote and stand for office. There is also a system in place to ensure transparency of government finances which has helped Bahrain compete to become the region's leading offshore banking and commercial hub.

Bahrain Culture

Religion in Bahrain

Islam. Most Bahrainis (60%) are Shi'ite Muslims although there is a sizeable minority of Sunnis, including the Royal family.

Social Conventions in Bahrain

Bahrain is a tolerant country but visitors will avoid giving offence if they observe a few courtesies, especially with regard to dress. Cover knees and shoulders, except within hotel grounds where more casual clothing is acceptable.

At business and social functions, traditional Arabic coffee is served as part of the ritual welcome. Cups are held in the right hand: accept two cups - taking only one cup will embarrass the host; taking more than three will embarrass everybody else. Never pass or receive items with the left hand and avoid pointing with the soles of your feet (for example, when sitting on the ground) as this is considered an insult.

Language in Bahrain

The official language is Arabic. English is widely spoken.