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Bahrain ( (listen); Arabic: البحرين al-Baḥrayn Arabic pronunciation: [al baħrajn] (listen)), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain (Arabic: مملكة البحرين Mamlakat al-Baḥrayn), is a sovereign state in the Persian Gulf. The island nation comprises a small archipelago made up of 51 natural islands and an additional 33 artificial islands, centered around Bahrain Island which makes up around 83 percent of the country's landmass. The country is situated between the Qatari peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway. According to the 2010 census, Bahrain's population is over 1.2 million, of which around half are non-nationals. At 780 square kilometres (300 sq mi) in size, it is the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. The capital and largest city is Manama.
Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization. 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, during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in 628 CE. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was ruled by the Portuguese Empire from 1521 until 1602, following the conquest 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, it declared independence. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared an Islamic constitutional monarchy in 2002.
In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring. Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa royal family has been criticized for violating the human rights of groups including dissidents, political opposition figures, and its majority Shia Muslim population.Bahrain developed the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf, the result of decades of investing in the banking and tourism sectors; many of the world's largest financial institutions have a presence in the country's capital. It subsequently has a high Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
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