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Bahrain - Overview

Bahrain is made up from 33 islands situated in the Persian Gulf, just off the Saudi Arabian east coast and there is a 15 mile long causeway which links it to the mainland. Plans are in place for a similar causeway to link it to Qatar. Some of the islands are reclaiming land from the shallow waters surrounding them and some of the islands are man-made.

The time zone is GMT +3 and the population of the country is less than three quarters of a million people with just over 150,000 of these living in the capital. The currency is the dinar. A dinar is worth approximately 50 British pence and around 35 US cents.

The country had been part of the British Empire dating from 1861 but gained independence in 1971 and is the country is a constitutional monarchy. There is an elected parliament and in the last few years it has been possible for women to stand for office. The official language is Arabic but it is common to find people who can speak English.

The capital is Manama and boasts both ultra modern and traditional quarters. The skyline of the capital is very similar to Manhattan. Just outside Manama there is Bilad al-Bahrain which is the ancient capital and dates back over 1000 years. Bahrain also boasts a number of sandy beaches and visitors can also take advantage of the many boat trips which run between the different islands as well as indulging in shopping trips and water sports.

Trade in Bahrain used to be based around the sea but the country is now fast becoming a centre for business, with the oil industry at the forefront of developments. There is also a growing financial industry along with gas and petrochemical businesses. It is attractive for western investment as Bahrain is one of the few Arab countries that allows gambling and alcohol.

Expats are drawn to Bahrain mainly for work, in industries such as oil and banking. This places most in the larger urban areas of the country. When moving there for work, it is the company offering the job which must arrange the necessary visas. Expats are welcome although there are stringent regulations on visas and immigration which must be followed. Expats are also expected to observe local customs, such as adhering to dress codes in public areas. There are also several customs to be aware of, such as not pointing with the soles of your feet, as this is considered to be insulting.

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