Bahrain was the home of the Dilmun civilization, an important Bronze Age trading center that links Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Bahrain was ruled later by the Assyrians and Babylonians.

From the sixth century to the third century BC, Bahrain was part of the Persian Empire ruled by the Achaemenid dynasty. Around 250 BC, Parthia put the Persian Gulf under his control and extended its influence to Oman. The Parthians established garrisons along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf to control trade routes.

During the classical era, the ancient Greeks referred to Bahrain as Tylos, the center of the pearl trade, when the Greek admiral Nearchus served under Alexander the Great in Bahrain. It is believed that Nearchus was the first of Alejandro's commanders to visit the island, and found a green land that was part of a large commercial network; He recorded: "On the island of Tylos, located in the Persian Gulf, there are large plantations of cotton trees, of which garments called sindones are made, of very different degrees of value, some expensive, others less expensive. of these is not limited to India, but extends to Arabia. "The Greek historian, Theophrastus, states that much of Bahrain was covered by these cotton trees and that Bahrain was famous for exporting sticks with emblems that were usually worn in Babylon.

Alexander had planned to colonize the Greek settlers in Bahrain, and although it is not clear if this happened on the scale he conceived, Bahrain became part of the Hellenized world: the language of the upper classes was Greek (although Aramaic was in use daily). ), while Zeus was worshiped in the form of the Arabian god Shams. Bahrain even became the site of Greek athletic competitions.

The Greek historian Strabo believed that the Phoenicians originated in Bahrain. Herodotus also believed that the homeland of the Phoenicians was Bahrain. This theory was accepted by the nineteenth-century German classicist Arnold Heeren who said: "In Greek geographers, for example, we read of two islands, called Tyrus or Tylos, and Arad, Bahrain, which boasted of being the motherland of the Phoenicians, and exhibited relics of Phoenician temples. " The people of Tire in particular have long maintained the origins of the Persian Gulf, and the similarity in the words "Tylos" and "Tire" has been commented. However, there is little evidence of any human settlement in Bahrain during the time in which that migration had allegedly occurred.

It is believed that the name Tylos is a hellenization of the Semitic, Tilmun (of Dilmun). The term Tylos was commonly used for the islands until the Geography of Ptolemy when the inhabitants are known as 'Thilouanoi'. Some place names in Bahrain date back to the Tylos era; For example, it is believed that the name of Arad, a residential suburb of Muharraq, comes from "Arados", the ancient Greek name of Muharraq.

In the third century, Ardashir I, the first ruler of the Sassanid dynasty, marched on Oman and Bahrain, where he defeated Sanatruq, the ruler of Bahrain. At this time, Bahrain was known as Mishmahig (which in Middle-Persian / Pahlavi means "sheep fish").

Bahrain was also the place of worship of a shark deity called Awal. The faithful built a large statue of Awal in Muharraq, although now it has been lost. For many centuries after Tylos, Bahrain was known as Awal. In the fifth century, Bahrain became the center of Nestorian Christianity, with the Samahij village as the seat of bishops. In 410, according to the synodal records of the Eastern Syriac Church, a bishop named Batai was excommunicated from the church in Bahrain. As a sect, Nestorians were often persecuted as heretics by the Byzantine Empire, but Bahrain was beyond the control of the Empire offering some security. The names of several villages of Muharraq today reflect the Christian legacy of Bahrain, with Al Dair meaning "the monastery".

The pre-Islamic population of Bahrain consisted of Christian Arabs (mainly Abd al-Qays), Persians (Zoroastrians), Jews and Aramaic-speaking farmers. According to Robert Bertram Serjeant, the Baharna can be the "descendants of the converts of the original population of Christians (Arameans), Jews and Persians who inhabit the island and cultivate the coastal provinces of eastern Arabia at the time of the Muslim conquest" . The sedentary people of pre-Islamic Bahrain were Aramaic speakers and, to a certain extent, Persian speakers, while the Syriac language functioned as a liturgical language.

Time of Muhammad

The first interaction of Muhammad with the people of Bahrain was the invasion of Al Kudr. Muhammad ordered a surprise attack on the Banu Salim tribe for allegedly conspiring to attack Medina. He had received news that some tribes were gathering an army in Bahrain and preparing to attack the continent. But the members of the tribe withdrew when they discovered that Muhammad was leading an army to fight against them.

Traditional Islamic accounts indicate that Al-'Alā 'Al-Haḍrami was sent as an envoy during the Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha (Hisma) to the Bahrain region by the Prophet Muhammad in the year 628 and that Munzir ibn-Sawa al-Tamimi , the local ruler, responded to his mission and converted the entire area.

Middle Ages

In the year 899, the qarmatianos, a millenarian Ismaili Muslim sect, took Bahrain to create a utopian society based on reason and the redistribution of property among the initiates. From then on, the Qarmatians demanded tribute from the caliph in Baghdad, and in 930 they sacked Mecca and Medina, bringing the sacred black stone to their base in Ahsa, in medieval Bahrain, to ask for a ransom. According to the historian Al-Juwayni, the stone was returned 22 years later in 951 under mysterious circumstances. Wrapped in a sack, he was thrown into the Great Mosque of Kufa in Iraq, accompanied by a note that said "We took it by order, and we have brought it back in order". The theft and removal of the Black Stone caused it to break into seven pieces.

After their defeat of the Abbasids in 976, the Qarmations were overthrown by the Arab Uyunid dynasty of al-Hasa, who took over the entire Bahrain region in 1076. The Uyunids controlled Bahrain until 1235, when the archipelago was briefly occupied by the Persian ruler. of Fars. In 1253, the Bedouin Usfurids toppled the Uyunid dynasty, thus gaining control of eastern Arabia, including the islands of Bahrain. In 1330, the archipelago became a tributary state to the rulers of Hormuz, although locally the islands were controlled by the Shiite Jarwanid dynasty of Qatif. In the mid-15th century, the archipelago came under the rule of the Jabrids, a Bedouin dynasty also based in Al-Ahsa that ruled most of eastern Arabia.

Early-modern era

In 1521, the Portuguese allied with Hormuz and took Bahrain from Jabrid Migrin ibn Zamil, who was killed during the seizure of power. The Portuguese government lasted about 80 years, during which time they depended mainly on the Sunni Persian governors. The Portuguese were expelled from the islands in 1602 by Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty of Persia, which gave impetus to Islam Shia. During the next two centuries, the Persian rulers retained control of the archipelago, interrupted by the invasions of the Ibadhis of Oman in 1717 and 1738. For most of this period, they resorted to governing Bahrain indirectly, either through the city of Bushehr or through immigrant Sunni Arab clans. The latter were tribes that returned to the Arab side of the Persian Gulf from the Persian territories in the north that were known as Huwala (literally: those who have changed or moved). In 1753, the Huwala clan of Nasr Al-Madhkur invaded Bahrain on behalf of the Iranian Zand leader Karim Khan Zand and restored the direct Iranian government.

In 1783, Al-Madhkur lost the islands of Bahrain after his defeat by Bani Utbahtribe at the Battle of Zubarah in 1782. Bahrain was not a new territory for the Bani Utbah; They had been there since the 17th century. During that time, they began buying date palm orchards in Bahrain; a document shows that 81 years before the arrival of Al-Khalifa, one of the shaikhs of the Al Bin Ali tribe (a branch of the Bani Utbah) had purchased a palm garden from Mariam bint Ahmed Al Sanadi on the island of Sitra.

Al Bin Ali was the dominant group that controlled the city of Zubarah on the peninsula of Qatar, originally the center of power of the Bani Utbah. After the Bani Utbah gained control of Bahrain, Al Bin Ali had a practically independent status there as an autonomous tribe. They used a flag with four red and three white stripes, called the Al-Sulami flag in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the eastern province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Later, different clans and tribes of Arab families from Qatar moved to Bahrain to settle after the fall of Nasr Al-Madhkur of Bushehr. These families included Al Khalifa, Al-Ma'awdah, Al-Fadhil, Al-Mannai, Al-Noaimi, Al-Sulaiti, Al-Sadah, Al-Thawadi and other families and tribes.

The Al Khalifa family moved from Qatar to Bahrain in 1799. Originally, their ancestors were expelled from Umm Qasr in the center of Arabia by the Ottomans due to their predatory habits of preying on caravans in Basra and trading boats in Shatt al-Arabwaterway until the Turks expelled them. to Kuwait in 1716 where they remained until 1766.

Around the 1760s, the Al Jalahma and Al Khalifa clans, both belonging to the Utub federation, migrated to Zubarah in present-day Qatar, leaving Al Sabah as the sole owners of Kuwait.

19th century and later

At the beginning of the 19th century, Bahrain was invaded by both Omanis and Al Sauds. In 1802 he was ruled by a twelve-year-old boy, when the Omani ruler Sayyid Sultan installed his son, Salim, as governor at Fort Arad. In 1816, the British political resident in the Gulf, William Bruce, received a letter from the Bahraini Sheikh who was concerned about the rumor that Britain would support an attack on the island by the Muscat imam. He sailed to Bahrain to assure the sheikh that this was not the case and drafted an informal agreement that assured the sheikh that Britain would remain a neutral party.

In 1820, the Al Khalifa tribe was recognized by Great Britain as the rulers ("Al-Hakim" in Arabic) of Bahrain after signing a treaty relationship. However, ten years later they were forced to pay annual taxes to Egypt despite seeking Persian and British protection.

In 1860, the Al Khalifas used the same tactic when the British tried to dominate Bahrain. In writing letters to the Persians and Ottomans, Al Khalifas agreed to place Bahrain under the protection of the latter in March because it offers better conditions. Finally, the government of British India overtook Bahrain when the Persians refused to protect it. Colonel Pelly signed a new treaty with Al Khalifas that places Bahrain under British rule and protection.

After the Qatari-Bahrain War in 1868, the British representatives signed another agreement with Al Khalifas. He specified that the ruler could not dispose of any of his territories, except the United Kingdom, and could not enter into relations with any foreign government without British consent. In return, the British promised to protect Bahrain from all aggression by sea and to provide support in the event of a land attack. More importantly, the British promised to support the Al Khalifa government in Bahrain, assuring their unstable position as rulers of the country. Other agreements in 1880 and 1892 sealed the Bahraini protectorate status to the British.

The disturbances between the people of Bahrain began when Great Britain officially established total dominion over the territory in 1892. The first revolt and the generalized uprising took place in March 1895 against Sheikh Issa bin Ali, then ruler of Bahrain. Sheikh Issa was the first of Al Khalifa to rule without Persian relations. Sir Arnold Wilson, representative of Great Britain in the Persian Gulf and author of The Persian Gulf, arrived in Bahrain from Muscat at this time. The uprising was further developed with some protesters killed by British forces.

Before the development of oil, the island was largely devoted to pearl fishing and, even in the nineteenth century, was considered the best in the world. In 1903, the German explorer, Hermann Burchardt, visited Bahrain and took many photographs of historical sites, including the former Qaṣr es-Sheikh, photos now stored in the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. Before the First World War, there were about 400 vessels that hunted pearls and an annual export of more than £ 30,000.

In 1911, a group of Bahraini merchants demanded restrictions on British influence in the country. The leaders of the group were later arrested and exiled to India. In 1923, the British introduced administrative reforms and replaced Sheikh Issa bin Ali with his son. Some clerical opponents and families like al Dossari left or were exiled to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Three years later, the British placed the country under the de facto government of Charles Belgrave, who served as the ruler's adviser until 1957. Belgrave brought a series of reforms such as the establishment of the country's first modern school in 1919, the first girls of the Persian Gulf. school in 1928 and the abolition of slavery in 1937. At the same time, the pearl diving industry developed at a rapid pace.

In 1927, Rezā Shāh, then Shah of Iran, demanded sovereignty over Bahrain in a letter to the League of Nations, an action that led Belgrave to take tough measures including encouraging conflicts between Shiites and Sunni Muslims to topple the uprisings and limit the Iranian influence. Belgrave even went so far as to suggest changing the name of the Persian Gulf to the "Arabian Gulf"; however, the proposal was rejected by the British government. Britain's interest in the development of Bahrain was motivated by concerns about Saudi and Iranian ambitions in the region.

The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco), a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of California (Socal), discovered oil in 1931 and production began the following year. This was to bring a rapid modernization to Bahrain. Relations with the United Kingdom became closer, as demonstrated by the British Royal Navy moving its entire command of the Middle East from Bushehr in Iran to Bahrain in 1935.

In the early 1930s, the Bahrain airport was developed. Imperial Airways flew there, including the Handley Page HP42. Later, in the same decade, the Bahrain Maritime Airport was established for seaplanes and hydroplanes.

Bahrain participated in the Second World War on the Allied side, joining on September 10, 1939. On October 19, 1940, four Italian bombers SM.82 bombed the Bahrain oil fields in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, targeting the refineries of oil operated by the allies. Although minimal damage was caused in both places, the attack forced the Allies to improve the defenses of Bahrain, an action that further increased allied military resources.

After World War II, the growing anti-British sentiment spread throughout the Arab world and sparked riots in Bahrain. The riots centered on the Jewish community. In 1948, after the increasing hostilities and looting, the majority of the members of the Bahraini Jewish community abandoned their properties and evacuated to Bombay, then settled in Israel (Pardes Hanna-Karkur) and in the United Kingdom. As of 2008, 37 Jews remained in the country. In the 1950s, the National Union Committee, formed by reformists after the sectarian clashes, demanded an elective popular assembly, the dismissal of Belgrave and carried out a series of protests and general strikes. In 1965, a month-long uprising broke out after hundreds of Bahrain Petroleum Company workers were fired.


On August 15, 1971, Bahrain declared independence and signed a new treaty of friendship with the United Kingdom. Bahrain joined the United Nations and the Arab League later in the year. The oil boom of the 1970s benefited Bahrain to a large extent, although the subsequent fall hurt the economy. The country had already started the diversification of its economy and benefited even more from the Lebanese Civil War in the 70s and 80s, when Bahrain replaced Beirut as the financial center of the Middle East after the war unleashed the great Lebanese banking sector .

After the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran, in 1981 the Bahá'í fundamentalists of Shi'a orchestrated a failed coup attempt under the auspices of a front organization, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. The coup would have installed a Shiite cleric exiled in Iran, Hujjatu l-Islām Hādī al-Mudarrisī, as supreme leader at the head of a theocratic government. In December 1994, a group of young people threw stones at runners during an international marathon for running with bare legs. The resulting clash with the police soon turned into civil unrest.

There was a popular uprising between 1994 and 2000 in which leftists, liberals and Islamists joined forces. The event resulted in approximately forty deaths and ended after Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa became the Amir of Bahrain in 1999. He instituted elections for parliament, granted women the right to vote and released all political prisoners. A referendum from February 14 to 15, 2001 massively supported the National Action Charter. As part of the adoption of the National Action Charter on February 14, 2002, Bahrain changed its formal name from the State (dawla) of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The country participated in military actions against the Taliban in October 2001 by deploying a frigate in the Arabian Sea for rescue and humanitarian operations. As a result, in November of that year, the administration of US President George W. Bush designated Bahrain as an "important non-NATO ally." Bahrain opposed the invasion of Iraq and had offered asylum to Saddam Hussein in the days leading up to the invasion. Relations improved with neighboring Qatar after the border dispute over the Hawar Islands was resolved by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2001. Following the country's political liberalization, Bahrain negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States in 2004

Bahraini uprising

Inspired by the regional Arab Spring, the Shiite majority in Bahrain launched large protests against its Sunni rulers in early 2011. The government initially allowed protests after a pre-dawn attack on the protesters camped at Pearl Roundabout. One month later he requested security assistance from Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries and declared a three-month state of emergency. Then, the government launched an offensive against the opposition that included thousands of arrests and systematic torture. Almost all the daily clashes between the protesters and the security forces led to dozens of deaths. Protests, sometimes organized by opposition parties, are ongoing. More than 80 civilians and 13 policemen were killed in March 2014. The lack of coverage of Arab media in the Persian Gulf, compared with other revolts in the Arab Spring, has sparked several controversies.

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Bahrain - Travel guide