Bahrain History and Politics

Bahrain History and Politics

Early Bahrain

Due to its location, Bahrain was an important base for trade travelers who were on the sea route to India. In ancient times, the Greeks settled there, followed by the Persians around 300 AD. Then in the 7th century Islam spread in the region and with it the Arabs. Bahrain was part of a larger state that encompassed the entire Arabian Peninsula and was ruled by a caliph.

The Portuguese are coming

There was always a change between Arab and Persian rulers until the Portuguese came on the scene at the beginning of the 16th century. Because they always liked to go to places where they could trade. Above all, the local pearl fishing attracted them to today’s Bahrain. It was not until 1622 that the Persians expelled the Portuguese from Bahrain.

Al-Khalifa ruling family in Bahrain

The Al-Khalifa family fled from Qatar to Bahrain in 1782/83 and took control there. It is still based there today and represents the respective rulers of the country.

Great Britain as a protecting power

In the 19th century, Great Britain came into play and signed various treaties with Bahrain to protect the country while also increasing British influence in the region. The emir officially remained ruler of the country, but the country became a protectorate, i.e. a protected area of ​​Great Britain. The protectorate treaty was signed in 1861.

Oil as an important source of income in the country

As in other countries in the region, the pearl trade was an important source of income for the residents. When it was discovered in Japan how pearls could also be produced artificially, Bahrain lost this important source of income.

However, oil was discovered on the island as early as the first quarter of the last century, so that the sale of oil became a new source of income and replaced the pearl trade. Bahrain was the first Gulf state to produce oil. The Emir of Bahrain expanded the country with the income from the sale of oil, built roads, schools and hospitals, so that the country became more and more prosperous. But Britain’s influence continued and not every resident of Bahrain was satisfied with it. There were increased protests by the population.

Bahraini independence

However, Bahrain only achieved state independence in 1971. The first ruler in independent Bahrain was the Emir Isa Ibn Sulman Al-Khalifa. The question was whether Bahrain, like Qatar, should join the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain refused to join this federation. Two years later there were also elections for representatives of the people, who, however, exercised little political power.

The emir remained the sole ruler and if there were other institutions, they were only allowed to advise him, but not to make any important political decisions. But there were riots. Not everyone wanted to be satisfied with the power of the emir. This nevertheless expanded its sphere of influence and simply dissolved parliament. Since then there has been no parliament and the emir was the sole ruler in Bahrain. During this time, the USA also began to set up bases on Bahrain.

But in the aftermath there remained conflicts and, above all, the Shiite protests against the emir. Many Shiites resisted because they felt they were disadvantaged. There was also terrorfiles and many Shiites went to prison. Only the Emir Hamad Ibn Isa Al-Khalifa released the political prisoners in 1999 and wanted to set up a parliament again to represent the people.

New constitution and constitutional monarchy

A new constitution came into being in 2002, making the former emirate a constitutional monarchy, with a parliament and an independent judiciary. Women were given equal status to men and were allowed to vote and be elected in Bahrain as the first state in the Gulf region. As a result, some women sat in parliament. There were again elections in 2006 and 2016, in which the Shiites won the most votes. However, since the king is of Sunni faith, there are always conflicts and arguments between the two groups. Even during the Arab Spring, many Shiites protested against the king.

Bahrain History

Today Bahrain

As in many countries on the Arabian Peninsula, the people of Bahrain are crazy about sports. The Formula 1 race in Bahrain in particular is always an event. The Bahrain Grand Prix has been held here since 2004. On three days in March, the Formula 1 racing drivers race for the Bahrain Prize. On the other days of the year, the route is also used by all those who really want to race.


Football is also high up in sports in Bahrain. Although the country is so small, the national team is not doing badly. So, of course, many footballers, both young and old, emulate their role models and play football.

Falcon hunting

In earlier times, hunting with falcons was part of everyday life, because the hunted prey enriched the often rather meager menu in the desert. Today only rich families and of course the sheikhs keep their own falcons and even employ falconers who take care of the valuable birds of prey.

From real and false pearls

As a country located in Asia according to softwareleverage, Bahrain was considered to be the place where the finest pearls in the world could be found. This was due to the mixture of the water in the mussels, which consisted of fresh and salt water and probably provided optimal growth conditions for the pearls. For centuries, Bahrain was the center of pearl fishing, which was also the country’s main source of income. But not only the “discovery of cultured pearls” pushed back the pearl trade, also the overfishing of the seas around Bahrain, the pollution of the water and the fact that the important freshwater sources dried up because the land was being continually filled up.

Nevertheless, pearls are still fished and traded in Bahrain today. The trade in cultured pearls is banned in Bahrain. It is the only state in the whole world in which these artificially created pearls are not allowed to be traded.

Real or fake?

Pearls are created when a foreign body such as a grain of sand gets into a shell and the shell defends itself against the intruder. With mother-of-pearl, which the mussel deposits and wraps around the foreign body, it protects itself from it at the same time. With a cultured pearl you use this clever move by nature by artificially inserting a foreign body into the shell and then automatically forming it again. The difference between a real and a fake pearl is by the way not that easy to determine, because a cultured pearl is ultimately also created in a shell. This can only be seen under the microscope.