Bahrain at a Glance
The Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago, consisting of approximately 36 islands located in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, lying 32 kilometers (20 miles) off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia and 29 kilometers (18 miles) north of Qatar. The total area of the country is approximately 700 km2 or 270 miles2. The island has a desert climate with summer temperatures rising to above 47° C. During the winter the temperature drops to 10-15° C with occasional rainfall. The summer is hot and humid and lasts from late April to end September.

Until the great depression of the 1930s, trade and the pearl industry dominated the Bahrain economy. In 1932 Bahrain was the first country in the Arabian Gulf to discover oil. Since then it has used its oil revenues to build up an infrastructure well ahead of its neighboring Gulf States. It has the fifth highest income per capita in the Middle East, the highest life expectancy in the Gulf and a European rate of literacy.

Official Languages
The official language is Arabic. English is very widely spoken and is the principal language of commerce.

Currency
The unit of currency is the Bahrain dinar (BD) equal to USD $ 2.6596.

Business Hours
Government offices (Sunday to Thursday) 7.00 am to 2.15 pm
Some offices such as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Tourism deal with the public only from 7.30 am to 12.30 pm.


Banks (Sunday to Thursday) 7.30 am to 1.00 pm.
Some branches may be open in the afternoons and on Saturdays.

Business offices (Sunday to Thursday) 8.00 am to 1.00 pm & 3.00 pm to 7.00 pm
Most offices work five days a week but some work five and a half days.

Public Holidays
Fixed: New Year’s Day (1 January) - Labor Day (1 May) - Bahrain National Day & Accession Day of HM the King [16 & 17 December]


Islamic Holidays: Al Hijra New Year (1 Muharram) - Ashoora (9 & 10 Muharram) - Prophet's Birthday - Eid Al Fitr - Eid Al Adha

Transportation & Communications
Bahrain's strategic position between Europe and the Far East has facilitated the growth of an efficient international transportation network. Bahrain International Airport is one of the major international airports in the Middle East. Some 30 international airlines link Bahrain with the major industrial and population centers of the world. Daily flights operate to many destinations in the world. The airport has good air cargo facilities. Bahrain has two major ports – Mina Salman and the Khalifa bin Salman Port at Hidd Bahrain has a good road network, with motorways, flyovers and dual carriageways covering the island to such an extent that the most areas are easily and quickly accessible.


Most of the international car hire agencies have offices in Bahrain. Many expatriates visiting Bahrain are allowed to drive in Bahrain on the strength of the driving license issued in their country of origin. The island is linked to Saudi Arabia by the Bahrain - Saudi Causeway.

Education
In addition to government schools, colleges and universities, which are also available to expatriates' children, private schooling in Bahrain is excellent and there is a varied choice available. Most residential areas have their own playgroups and nursery schools. International elementary and secondary schools follow either the English or American curricula, with English as the medium of instruction. In addition, there are Bangladeshi, Filipino, French, Indian, Japanese, Lebanese and Pakistani schools offering curricula compatible with these national education systems.

Office Premises - Housing
Accommodation is plentiful, ranging from large villas with their own swimming pools and tennis courts to smaller villas in compounds with shared facilities, and from luxurious penthouses to small apartments. Accommodation is available either furnished or unfurnished, usually with air conditioning. Rents vary from US$500 to well over US$5,000 per month. The majority of accommodation is in the capital, Manama, or the various surrounding suburbs. There is a wide range of real estate in various areas that is for sale to non-Bahrainis. Renting residential or commercial property is a fairly straightforward process for both locals and foreigners, who can deal with the landlord directly or through a real estate agent.


There is a fair number of Business Centers in Bahrain which offer fully equipped and serviced offices at a monthly rate depending on the size of the rental space and location:

Government
Bahrain is governed by a King and, with the right to rule passed within the Al Khalifa family, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa acceded to the throne in 1999. The day-to-day running of the county is entrusted to a cabinet of ministers with HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa heading the cabinet of 23 ministers. In January 1993 a Shura Council (Consultative Council), comprising of representatives of the community, was established to advise the government on issues referred to it by the cabinet.


In November 2000 the King of Bahrain announced the formation of a Supreme National Committee to draft the "Action Charter", a blueprint for Bahrain's political, economic and social development. The new democratic reforms are the first of their kind in the Gulf, granting Bahrain's citizens, men and women alike, the freedom of speech, expression, and religion as well as the right to vote and the right to a free trial.


The government recognises the need to broaden the country's economic base and welcomes foreign investment considered to be economically beneficial. Investment in sectors which are export oriented and do not compete directly with established local enterprises are particularly encouraged. Industries with heavy requirements for land, water or energy or which are environmentally unfriendly are not encouraged.


The Kingdom of Bahrain permits 100% foreign ownership of businesses in certain sectors. Most firms establishing themselves in Bahrain are required to have 51% Bahraini equity, although this does not apply to foreign investors offering essential technical know-how or required foreign capital, to industrial projects, to firms set up for regional distribution services or representation or to activities otherwise exempt. Many advantages are offered by Bahrain to foreign investors and corporations.

Head of State
HM King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa

Head of Government
HH Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa

Crown Prince & Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force
HH Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa

Parliament
Bahrain has a bicameral legislature with a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage and the upper house, the Shura Council, appointed by the King. Each house has forty members. The inaugural elections were held in 2002, with parliamentarians serving four year terms. A second round of elections was held in November 2006.

Memberships
Bahrain is a member of the UN, Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.