|Bahrain has not always been an island. Up until around 6000 BC, Bahrain was part of the Arabian Peninsula before it began drifting away, drawn by the forces of nature. It would not be until 1986 that modern technology would rejoin the island with the mainland by way of the 25-kilometre King Fahad Causeway link to Saudi Arabia but that, as they say, is another story.
The earliest recorded reference to Bahrain dates back to the third millennium BC, when it was known as Dilmun.
The significance of the Dilmun era is not yet to fully known on us, but ongoing excavation work continues to reveal breathtaking secrets of the period.
Recent digs have proved the existence of a very organised lifestyle, with well ordered roads, proper houses, workshops and a central marketplace.
Equally significant is the discovery of thousands of burial mounds, each covering a stone built chamber which formed the grave. It is believed that at one time there were more than 150,000 burial mounds, but most of these were destroyed with the development of the modern road network. The elaborate nature of burials however throws light on what was evidently an extremely well developed society for its time.
The era has also been chronicled in the Epic of Gilgamesh, who called Dilmun the land of immortality when he visited it in his quest for eternal life.
With its lush vegetation and abundant fresh water springs, not to speak of its ideal location between Mesopotamia and the Indian subcontinent, Dilmun became a popular haven on the sea trade route. As trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilisations in the subcontinent continued to flourish, Dilmun also grew in prosperity. A city, Qalat Al Bahrain, began to spring up at the site where the Bahrain Fort now exists.
The good times were not to last; between 1800 and 1600 BC, Aryan forces invaded and destroyed the cities of the Indus Valley civilisation, bringing trade to a halt.
For a long period thereafter Bahrain remained isolated, forced to depend on its own resources. It would not be until the early first millennium that Bahrain would flourish again, as part of the Assyrian Empire. Bahrain became an important pearling and fishing port, but the high quality and abundance of pearls in its waters attracted some unwelcome attention.
By 600 BC, Bahrain was drawn into the expanding Babylonian empire. The Greeks, who called the island Tylos, soon began settling in Bahrain.
Trade began to play an important part with the fall of Babylonia to the Persians - who now controlled much of the region between India and the Mediterranean - and by 323 BC, Bahrain regained its independence.
There followed a period of relative calm, up until the 15th century when the Europeans began exploring new sea trade routes.
Bahrain was also known as Awal during that pre-Islamic era. The name is associated with a pagan idol worshipped by the Wael tribe.
The islands first became known as Bahrain in the early Islamic era, when the name was used for the entire region stretching from Basra (Iraq) in the north to Oman in the south. By the early 1500's, the Portuguese saw Bahrain as a key point to protect their trade routes between India, Africa and Europe.
They invaded the island and set up military base at the Bahrain Fort. The fort, which ironically had been used by the people of Bahrain to defend themselves against the Portuguese, was strengthened and new stone towers erected. Right up until today, the Bahrain Fort is widely known as the Portuguese Fort.
The Portuguese were however unable to protect the islands, which fell to the Persians in 1603. Then came a long period of turmoil, with Bahrain changing hands between the warring Persians and Arabs until it was finally conquered in 1783 by Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa. Better known as Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Fateh, the conqueror, he was to usher in a start of a new and important era.