The State of Bahrain, the two main islands are Bahrain, or Aval, and Al-Muharraq, connected by a causeway. The capital and chief port is Al Manamah, on Bahrain.
The islands are flat and sandy, with a few low hills. The climate is hot and humid during the summer, mild and pleasant in the winter. The largely urban population is about 63% Bahraini; the balance of the people consist of other Arabs, Asians, Indians, and Iranians. Languages spoken other than Arabic (the official language) include English, Farsi, Urdu, and Malayali.
Bahrain was once a chief center of pearling, but the industry has declined precipitously. Oil was found in 1931, and oil revenues have financed extensive modernization projects, particularly in health and education. Oil and petroleum products account for about 80% of Bahrain's exports. Ship-repair, aluminum smelting, and turbine-manufacturing industries have been started, and oil refineries largely making petroleum products from imported crude are operated. In addition, offshore banking has become significant. There is some fishing, and dates, fruits, and vegetables are grown.
During the 3d millennium B.C. Bahrain (known in Sumerian as Dilmun) was already an important trade center, functioning as a transshipment point between Arabia and India. In the ancient world it was also famous for the pearling conducted in the waters surrounding the islands.
Bahrain was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in May, 1981, along with neighboring Persian Gulf countries, and it is also a member of the United Nations and the Arab League. A causeway road was built connecting Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s.