The Kingdom of Bahrain consists of an archipelago of 33 small islands situated halfway down the Arabian Gulf an has a combined area about the size of Singapore. The main island lies almost midway between Saudi Arabia to the west and Qatar to the east. Iran is about 200km northeast across the Gulf. The largest island of the cluster is Bahrain island (586.5 Sq. km) from which the Kingdom takes its name.
Its name is derived from two Arabic words "thnain Bahr" meaning "two seas" and refers to the phenomenon of sweet water springs under the sea which mingle with the salty water. This phenomenon is believed to be responsible for the unusual luster of Bahrain's natural pearls, the country's major economy before the advent of oil. In addition, the land was once blessed with a remarkable number of natural springs, which irrigated the fertile north and western belts for centuries. The central area is low lying and barren limestone rock covered with saline sand, which supports only hardiest desert vegetation. The highest point of Bahrain is the Jabel Dukhan, 134 meters above the sea level. The majority of Bahrain's oil wells are in this area. The country offers a fascinating blend of eastern and western cultures as high rise buildings vie for space with more traditional dwellings and ancient traditions and historical sites mix with modern developments and cosmopolitan living. Bahrain's population of around 600,000 consists of a significant percentage of expatriates from all over the world. Locals and expatriates live together and interact in a rare bond of fraternity and brotherhood. Such charms, along with an excellent network of hotels, apartments and restaurants, attract an increasing number of regional and international tourists.
The main island, where most development is concentrated, is quite flat with Jebel Ad-Dukhan, the highest point, only 130m above sea level. Two bridges to Muharraq, the second largest island, and one to Sitra further south connect Bahrain.
To the southeast lies a group of 16 small islands; the largest of these, Hawar, being similar in shape to Bahrain, hence its name which means 'young camel' in Arabic. The majority of the surrounding islands are uninhabited; except for a huge variety of migrating birds that make these islands their home annually. The afore-mentioned King Fahd causeway which was opened in 1986, has made Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar and beyond directly accessible by road from Bahrain.