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In 1521, Portugal took control, using Bahrain as a pearling post and military garrison.
This situation lasted until 1602, when the Persians wrested the country from the Portuguese.
Despite the dry climate, the country is home to about two hundred species of desert plants as well as gazelles, hares, desert rats, and mongoose. According to the CIA World Factbook, the estimated population in 2000 was 634,137. There are many temporary immigrant workers, and one-third of the population is foreign-born.
Nineteen percent of the population is Asian, 10 percent is non-Bahraini Arab, and 8 percent is Irani. The population is growing rapidly with a high birthrate and a low death rate.
Anti-British sentiment rose in the 1950s, but Britain did not decide to pull out until 1971.
Bahrain officially declared its independence on 14 August of that year.
One-third of the people are less than fifteen years old. Arabic is the official language and the language of daily life.
English is understood in many places and Farsi and Urdu also are spoken by the large numbers of Indian and Persian residents. The national flag is red with a white serrated band of eight points along the left side. In the seventh century, Muslims conquered the area and ruled until the sixteenth century.
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The United States military buildup in the area also created a tense relationship between Bahrainis and American troops. They come mainly from other Arab nations but also from India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Europe, and America.
While relations are not unfriendly, foreigners generally are not integrated into Bahraini society.
Although oil was discovered in 1902, drilling did not begin in earnest until the 1930s.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a dramatic rise in the price of oil, which benefitted the economy significantly.In the late 1980s, when other countries in the area experienced economic difficulties, Bahrain maintained its prosperity thanks to earlier economic diversification.