Bahrain Country Facts

البحرين – Baḥrayn
Capital city Manama
Surface 750 km²
Population 1,569,000
Road network length 2,768 km
Length of highway network 80 km
First highway 1986
Motorway name Motorway
Traffic drives Right
License plate code BRN

Bahrain (Arabic: al-Baḥrayn) is a mini-state in Asia, located in the Persian Gulf. The country has approximately 1.5 million inhabitants on 750 km². The capital is Manama.

The King Fahd Causeway from the Bahrain side.


Bahrain is an island nation in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Saudi Arabia and not far from Qatar. The country consists of one main island and several smaller islands, which are often reclaimed. The country is flat and consists of a sandy desert. Over the years, the land area has increased by approximately 100 km² due to land reclamation. The highest point is the 134 meter high hill Jabal ad Dukhan. The northern half of Bahrain is highly urbanized, the southern half consists of desert.

The country has a dry and hot climate, the average maximum temperature varies from 20°C in January to 38°C in July. The precipitation is only 70 mm per year, which almost all falls in the period from December to April. Sandstorms are the main natural hazard.


It wasn’t until the 1940s that Bahrain surpassed the 100,000 mark, but its greatest growth period was 2000-2010, when the population grew from 638,000 to 1,262,000. Less than half of Bahrain’s residents have Bahraini nationality. Bahrain is one of the most populous countries in the world and the most populous country that is not a city-state.  The capital Manama itself is not that big with 160,000 inhabitants, but almost the entire population lives in and around Manama. There are no official numbers of ethnicities, but Shias make up a majority of the population.


Bahrain’s economy is heavily based on oil and gas, which accounts for 70% of its GDP. There is also some manufacturing industry, especially aluminum and textiles. Bahrain’s economy is considered the most open economy in the Middle East. The Bahraini dinar is one of the most highly valued currencies in the world. They are trying to make the economy more diverse and not just depend on oil and gas. Bahrain is considered successful in this. The financial sector in Bahrain is extensive. Since virtually no part of the country is cultivated, the country has to import most of its food. Bahrain ranks as one of the most developed countries in the region, but its per capita GDP is lower than Kuwait, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates.


Bahrain has traditionally been under Arab rule, but was colonized by the Portuguese in 1521. The Portuguese were expelled by the Persians in 1602. In 1783 it came under the rule of Arab clans again. The country has been under the rule of the House of Khalifa ever since. At the end of the 19th century, Bahrain became a British protectorate. Bahrain declared its independence in 1971. It was originally governed as an emirate but changed to a kingdom in 2002. Although the majority of the country is Shia, the House of Khalifa is Sunni, leading to tensions.

Road Network

The Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Highway.

Bahrain’s road network is mainly urban in nature, with several highways in and around Manama. A very important infrastructural structure is the King Fahd Causeway, a 25-kilometer-long link between Manama and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. A similar, even longer connection is planned to neighboring Qatar. Such a connection would be almost 45 kilometers long. In 1968 the country switched from left to right driving.

In Bahrain there are 80 kilometers of highway, divided over three highways that are all about the same length. The King Fahd Causeway and Sheik Isa Bin Salman Highway is a 28-kilometer east-west highway from the center of Manama to the border with Saudi Arabia, which lies halfway along the causeway on man-made islands. The De Sheik Kalifa Bin Salman Highway is a north-south highway across the western side of Bahrain, and the King Hamad Highway is a highway across the southeast of the island. Manama’s road network consists mainly of boulevards with traffic lights, compared to other cities on the Persian Gulf such as Dubai or Kuwait City, Manama does not have as many grade separated roads. Traffic jams are common as all traffic around downtown Manama converges on roads with traffic lights. INSERTconnections are relatively common. Roundabouts are not uncommon either.

Motorways in Bahrain
Eastern Arterial • Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Highway • Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Highway • King Hamad Highway • King Fahd Causeway

Road numbering

There is no clear road numbering system in Bahrain. The road numbers appear to be randomly assigned, and some highways have no road number at all. The road numbers are mainly two-digit, with some three-digit numbers.


On motorways, blue signposts with white letters are used, in Arabic and British English. Green signposts with white letters are used on non-motorways. The highway symbol is also used in Bahrain. Signposts are British style. No reference is made to foreign cities, only to Saudi Arabia.


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