Bahrain (البحرين ' ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain (مملكة البحرين '), is an island country in the Persian Gulf. The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centered around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25 km King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain's population is 1,234,571 (c. 2010), including 666,172 non-nationals. It is 765.3 km2 in size, making it the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore.
Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, in 628 CE. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521, who in turn were expelled in 1602 by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty under the Persian Empire. In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain's first hakim.
In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. Formerly an emirate, the Arab constitutional monarchy of Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002. In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring. Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa royal family has been accused and criticized for human rights abuses, including imprisonment, torture and execution of dissidents, political opposition figures and its Shia Muslim population.
Bahrain had the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf. Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors. Many large financial institutions have a presence in Manama, the country's capital. It has a high Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Bahrayn is the dual form of Arabic bahr ("sea"), so al-Bahrayn originally means "the two seas". However, the name has been lexicalised as a feminine proper noun and does not follow the grammatical rules for duals; thus its form is always Bahrayn and never Bahrān, the expected nominative form. Endings are added to the word with no changes, as in the name of the national anthem Bahraynunā ("our Bahrain") or the demonym Bahraynī. The mediaeval grammarian al-Jawahari commented on this saying that the more formally correct term Bahrī (lit. "belonging to the sea") would have been misunderstood and so was unused.
It remains disputed which "two seas" the name Bahrayn originally refers to. The term appears five times in the Quran, but does not refer to the modern island—originally known to the Arabs as Awal—but, rather, to all of Eastern Arabia (most notably al-Katif and al-Hasa).
Today, Bahrain's "two seas" are generally taken to be the bay east and west of the island, the seas north and south of the island, or the salt and fresh water present above and below the ground. In addition to wells, there are areas of the sea north of Bahrain where fresh water bubbles up in the middle of the salt water as noted by visitors since antiquity. An alternate theory with regard to Bahrain's toponymy is offered by the al-Ahsa region, which suggests that the two seas were the Great Green Ocean (the Persian Gulf) and a peaceful lake on the Arabian mainland.
Until the late Middle Ages, "Bahrain" referred to the region of Eastern Arabia that included Southern Iraq, Kuwait, Al-Hasa, Qatif, and Bahrain. The region stretched from Basra in Iraq to the Strait of Hormuz in Oman. This was Iqlīm al-Bahrayn's "Bahrayn Province". The exact date at which the term "Bahrain" began to refer solely to the Awal archipelago is unknown. The entire coastal strip of Eastern Arabia was known as "Bahrain" for a millennium. The island and kingdom were also commonly spelled Bahrein into the 1950s.