Bahrain is an island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East. It is an archipelago with Bahrain Island, the largest land mass, at 55 km (34 mi) long by 18 km (11 mi) wide. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway while Iran lies 200 km (124 mi) to the north across the Persian Gulf. The peninsula of Qatar is to the southeast across the Gulf of Bahrain. The population in 2010 stood at 1,234,571, including 666,172 non-nationals.
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 (ad 628). 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 a state, Bahrain was declared a Kingdom in 2002. In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring.