Bahrain's main Island (the Kingdom is made up of 33 islands) is thought to have been torn
    from the Arabian peninsula around 6000BC. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times.

    The islands of Bahrain were home to one of the great trading empires of the ancient world.
    This was the civilization of Dilmun, founded during the Bronze Age around 3000BC and
    lasting, in one form or another, for over 2000 years.

    Dilmun developed as a centre of trade and commerce because of its location along trade
    routes linking Mesopotamia (southern Iraq) with the Indus Valley (today's India and
    Pakistan). Its decline dates from the fall of the Indus Valley civilization in the middle of the
    second millennium BC. This would of course have stripped Dilmun of its importance as a
    trading centre between Mesopotamia and India.

    Once the decline had set it continued over the following centuries. There is mention of
    Dilmun as a vassal of Assyria in the 8th century BC and by 600BC, it had been fully
    incorporated into the Babylonian empire.

    Though Dilmun enjoyed considerable power and influence, it is difficult to gauge exactly how
    much. There is no question that at one time Dilmun controlled a large part of the western
    Gulf shore, but there is dispute over how far north and inland its influence was felt. At
    various times in its history Dilmun probably extended as far north as Kuwait.

    There is virtually no information about what happened between Dilmun's absorption by
    Babylon and the arrival of Nearchus, a general in the army of Alexander the Great. He
    established a colony on the island of Falaika off the coast of Kuwait in the late 4th century
    BC. It is known that he explored the Gulf at least as far south as Bahrain. From the time of
    Nearchus until the coming of Islam in the 7th century AD, Bahrain was known by its Greek
    name of Tylos.

    The six hundred years from 300B.C. to 300A.D. seem to have been relatively prosperous
    ones. Writing in the first century A.D, Pliny mentioned that Tylos was famous for its pearls.
    During these years Bahrain was strongly influenced and often directly ruled by various
    Persian civilizations; the islands were formally annexed by the Sassanian Persians in the 4th
    century A.D.

    It was during the 3rd or 4th centuries A.D. that many inhabitants of Bahrain appear to have
    adopted the new Christian faith. It is a fact that the Nestorian sect of Christianity was well-
    established in Bahrain and on the Arabian side of the Gulf by the early 5th century. Church
    records show that Bahrain was the seat of two of the five Nestorian bishoprics existing on the
    Arabian side of the Gulf at the time of the arrival of Islam. It is uncertain when the two
    bishoprics were dissolved though they are known to have survived until 835A.D.
    In June 1932 oil was discovered in commercial quantities in Bahrain by William Taylor, it
    was the first discovery of oil on the Arab side of the Gulf and it coincided with the collapse of
    the world pearl market which had been Bahrain’s main export.

    Because Bahrain was the first Gulf state to discover oil, it was also the first to enjoy the
    benefits that came with the revenues, with a marked improvement in the quality of
    education and health care.

    Bahrain remained a protectorate of Great Britain until 1968, when the agreement between
    the two countries was cancelled by mutual consent. In 1971, Bahrain achieved total
    independence under the rule of the late Sheik Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. On the 6 of March
    1999, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, died at the age of 65; His son, Sheikh Hamad bin
    Isa al-Khalifa ascended to the throne in a smooth transition and he wisely made Bahrain a
    Kingdom after consulting the people who voted for the new constitution.

    Bahrain's oil production is minimal. The UAE, produces about 2 million barrels a day while
    Bahrain's daily production is less than 50,000 barrels. Bahrain does refine a large quantity of
    Saudi oil which arrives in the country through an undersea pipeline.
    Because of its limited oil production, the country has developed a more diversified economy
    than the other Gulf states.

    When Lebanon collapsed in the late 1970s, Bahrain made a conscious effort to attract the
    formerly Beirut-based banks and bankers to Manama and the effort paid off. In the late
    '80s, Bahrain's financial services sector expanded into offshore banking, though competition
    in this field has been stiff it has emerged as the Middle East's pre-eminent financial hub and
    a worldwide hub for Islamic Banking. In the recent past, the government has also begun a
    drive to attract tourists to the islands. The highlight of this was winning the competition to
    host the Formula One Grand Prix on the Island, beating off stiff competition from
    neighboring countries and enhancing its up market image.
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