The Kingdom of Bahrain (Bahrain) is a small island (727 sq. km, 274 sq. mi.) located in the Arabian Gulf (GMT+3) and the capital is Manama. The word Bahrain literally means ‘two seas’ and refers to spring waters which rise from under the sea.  Known in ancient times as Dilmun, Bahrain was an important center of trade by the 3rd millennium B.C. The islands were ruled by the Persians in the 4th century A.D., and then by Arabs until 1541, when the Portuguese invaded them. Persia again claimed Bahrain in 1602. In 1783 Ahmad bin al-Khalifah took over, and the Al-Khalifahs remain the ruling family today. Bahrain became a British protectorate in 1820 and did not gain full independence until August 14, 1971.

Although oil was discovered in Bahrain in the 1930s, it was relatively little compared to other Gulf States, and the wells are expected to be the first in the region to dry up. Shaikh Isa bin Sulman al-Khalifah, who became emir in 1961, was determined to diversify his country's economy, and he set about establishing Bahrain as a major financial center. The country provides its people with free medical care, education, and old-age pensions.

The emir, Shaikh Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, died in 1999 after four decades of rule. He was succeeded by his son, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah, who gave himself the title of King, but also began a sweeping democratization of the country in a 2001 referendum, which permitted women to vote for the first time. Bahrainis overwhelmingly supported the transformation of the traditional monarchy into a constitutional one. In 2002 Bahrain had its first parliamentary election since 1973. In 2006, the U.S. and Bahrain signed a free-trade agreement. Bahrain is the headquarters for the U.S. Naval Fifth Fleett.