The Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of low lying islands located in the Arabian Gulf off the Eastern shore of Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain's name stems from the Arabic for “two seas”- reflecting its unique natural combination of freshwater springs amongst salty sea beds.
Perhaps most well-known for its history of civilizations that dates back more than 5,000 years, Bahrain has achieved an impressive status as a progressive powerhouse in the region in terms of economy, vision and lifestyle.
Strategically located in the centre of ancient trade routes between the East and the West, Bahrain has always been immersed in trade and commerce, and its people have grown accustomed to cultural diversification. In the early 1900s, Bahrain held a preeminent position as the hub for the international pearl trade, known as a hotbed for cultivating pearls of the highest quality. The precious pearl became the main driver for Bahrain’s economic growth for several decades, bringing merchants from far and wide to this small island. This exposure was a critical factor in enabling Bahrain’s progression, encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship, openness and learning. Innovation fostered vision, and today this vision has translated into an economy that is one of the most diverse in the region, a community that is one of the highest educated in the region, and a lifestyle renowned for its ease.
Bahrain is the region’s top performer in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom and ranks No.18, the only country from the MENA region to feature in the Top 20.
The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom,published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation evaluates countries in four broad policy areas that affect economic freedom: rule of law; limited government; regulatory efficiency; and open markets. There are 10 specific categories: property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom. Scores in these categories are averaged to create an overall score.
Over the 21-year history of the Index, Bahrain has been consistently rated one of the “mostly free” economies achieving economic freedom scores above 70. Three of the country’s 10 economic freedoms—financial freedom, investment freedom, and labor freedom—have recorded score gains of 10 or more points since Index grading began.
Bahrain’s economic freedom score is 73.4, making its economy the 18th freest in the 2015 Index. Bahrain continues to be the freest economy in the MENA region and its economic freedom score is well above the world average.
The Kingdom’s overall score has decreased by 1.7 points due to declines in investment freedom, monetary freedom, and business freedom. Although of the slight drop, Bahrain has registered significant improvements since its inclusion in the index in 1995, specifically progress in the financial, investment, and labor freedoms have helped the Kingdom transform itself into a competitive trade and financial hub that leads the region in many areas.
More information on Bahrain’s international rankings, economic indicators and economic performance can be found through Bahrain’s Economic Development Board.
For a full suite of information about Bahrain’s business environment, lifestyle and culture, please contact:
Bahrain Economic Development Board
P.O. Box 11299
Kingdom of Bahrain
Historically, Bahrain has acted as a gateway between the East and the West, providing a natural transit destination for early trade routes and a strategic hub for the Northern Gulf. Air services, which commenced in the early 1930s, have played a very important role in shaping the development of the country's infrastructure and economy.
The first scheduled commercial flight arrived in Bahrain in October 1932 en-route from London to Delhi. The aircraft only carried 24 passengers, and had taken several days of flying to reach Bahrain, with frequent refuelling stops and overnight stays in hotels for the passengers. Nonetheless, with the commencement of these regular services, Bahrain became established as the Gulf's first international airport.
Prior to the commencement of scheduled services, Imperial Airways, the forerunner of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and later British Airways had operated several proving flights through the Gulf in the late 1920's. According to records, the first Imperial Airways flight to Bahrain occurred in August 1927, when a local pearl merchant chartered an aircraft from Baghdad, Iraq to Bahrain. Even for this relatively short flight, an overnight stop in Basra was required.
The Handley Page HP 42 became the standard long-haul aircraft for Imperial Airways and was used on the route between the UK and India after the airline began scheduled services via Basrah, Iraq, Bahrain and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, with Kuwait added soon after as an optional calling point. By 1936 the operation had been become a twice-weekly regularly scheduled flight.
In 1937, a passenger terminal, known as "Bahrein Marine Airport", (the spelling of Bahrain had yet to be standardized) was established to accommodate the rise of the commercial “flying boat” long haul aircraft. Bahrain saw the start of regular service by the famous Short's Empire seaplanes. The "landing strip" for these lumbering giants was a stretch of water between the Marina Club – located on Bahrain’s northern coast - and Mina Salman Port.
Flying-boat services to Bahrain continued into the early 1950s. At their height, what by then had become BOAC was operating several services a week through Bahrain. These included weekly services to Karachi, Singapore, Hong Kong and three times a week to Sydney.
By 1950 BOAC was already looking to return to more traditional forms of air transport which offered a greater passenger payload. This saw the return of commercial passenger flights to Muharraq using Argonauts, a four engine aircraft, which could carry up to 60 passengers. Services were steadily built-up to the point where there were three Argonaut services a week from Europe terminating in Bahrain.
The year 1950 was made even more significant for Bahrain’s commercial aviation history as it was the year Gulf Aviation Company was formed - the forerunner of Gulf Air.
The airline was created with just one aircraft, a second-hand Anson Mark ll, which was used initially on services to Dhahran – Saudi Arabia. But within two years the fleet had expanded to four De Havilland aircrafts and four DC-3s for use on a steadily growing network in the Gulf.
By this time Bahrain was firmly established as an international staging post. It was easily the most modern and advanced airport in the Gulf with a good runway, control tower, lighting, communication facilities and even restaurants. It began to attract other carriers such as Middle East Airlines, Air India, Air Ceylon and Iran Airways - all mostly operating Dakotas.
In 1954, Bahrain's position as the major airport in the region was further enhanced with the establishment of a new Flight Information Region based in Bahrain to cover the navigation of aircrafts in transit through Gulf airspace. This saw the installation of modern navigational and communications equipment.
Soon after this, Bahrain entered the jet age with the arrival of the Comet and then the Boeing 707. These aircrafts reduced the number of stops the airlines had to make on long-haul routes. With many intermediary stops withdrawn, the advent of the jet age again focused attention on Bahrain as a major stopover point between Europe and the Far East.
To cater for this growing transit traffic a new passenger terminal was opened at the airport in December 1961. Aviation growth grew exponentially throughout the decade, and was further catalysed by the advent of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet which could carry 400 passengers.
Determined to retain its position as a leading regional airport and transit hub, Bahrain executed a further expansion plan for its commercial aviation service sector which was completed in December 1971 with the opening of new passenger facilities and an apron area that could accommodate four B747 aircrafts.
This investment quickly paid dividends with Qantas, BA, Air India and Singapore Airlines all using Bahrain International Airport as a major transit stop with their B747 aircrafts. However, with all the carriers wanting to make their transit stops at around the same time, even with the new expanded airport facilities, it quickly became obvious that further expansion would be needed to accommodate these "jumbo peaks." A further expansion phase of the airport was completed in 1976, just five years after the opening of the new passenger terminal.
The year 1976 also marked another significant first for Bahrain International Airport with the inauguration of supersonic flights which saw the commencement of regular British Airways Concorde service between London and Bahrain.
During that time, Gulf Air was progressively expanding its network of services and in 1976 received its first Lockheed Tri-Star aircraft. This marked Gulf Air's transformation from a local regional airline with all the significance that implied for its home hub of Bahrain International Airport.
Further expansion of the airport's facilities took place in the early eighties as a prelude to the major expansion and refurbishment programme that was completed in March 1994. The new US$ 100 million terminal was inaugurated in 1994, and this expanded the handling capacity of the airport to 10 million passengers a year.
Ports and Maritime
The Kingdom of Bahrain, which literally means “two seas” in Arabic, has a long-standing sea-based legacy and a rich maritime tradition extending back to as early as 1345 AD, where it is mentioned in a number of Islamic texts. It has also been long-established as a trading hub for the Gulf, with the pearl trade forming the primary export. Bahrain also had burgeoning fishing and boat-building industries, which supported the country’s fledgling economy.
Upon the discovery of oil in 1932, Bahrain began to develop as a commercial, financial and trade centre. This required extensive development of its maritime infrastructure and dredging on the approach channels, which took place in 1954, to allow access for major sea-going vessels. Upgrading existing facilities - which at the time was composed of the Port of Manama and the Mina Salman Port - to accommodate these vessels followed in 1956, with a deep water wharf composed of six berths constructed in 1962. With the completion of the deep-water wharf, direct loading and unloading of cargo from sea going vessels was made possible for the first time in Bahrain.
The government of Bahrain invested heavily in the further development of its maritime infrastructure throughout the mid-1970’s, expanding the country’s facilities and increasing the available capacity to cater to the rising volume of sea-trade coming through Bahrain.
Mina Salman Port operated as the Kingdom’s main port for 50 years, capitalising on the port’s easy access to the Gulf’s sea lanes. The high productivity levels of the Mina Salman Port and the streamlined customs’ procedures made it the preferred port for regional and international shipping lines calling in the region.
In April of 2009, Bahrain inaugurated the region’s newest and most state-of-the-art sea port called the Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP). KBSP quadrupled the capacity Bahrain previously enjoyed at Mina Salman Port, thus maintaining its hold on the title of the region’s preferred port, capitalising on its strategic location and direct overland links to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the GCC.
Bahrain’s postal history dates as far back as 1884 with the opening of the first office in Manama. This was followed with the opening of a second office 62 years later in Muharraq.
During the early days, the postage stamps included Bahrain’s name as an over-print until 1933 when pre-printed stamps were introduced.
For a brief period during the Autumn of 1947, the Pakistani Government in Karachi was responsible for managing the Bahrain Post offices. Following that, the British Post took over and assumed this responsibility in 1948. During that period, the postage stamps cost 5 rupees until July 1948 when the 10 rupees postage stamps were introduced.
In 1953, the first collection of local Bahraini stamps with a 1.5 “anna” denomination were introduced. These stamps were adorned with a picture of His Highness the late Amir Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Ruler of Bahrain, and were used for local and international mail and hence marked the first step of Bahrain fully taking over the postal services from Britain.
Additional stamp collections were introduced in the early sixties which started to replace the ‘Bahrain’ over-print stamps as well as those with the anna denomination and these were adorned with Queen Elizabeth II picture.
In 1973, Bahrain joined the International Postal Union - a specialised agency of the United Nations that coordinates postal policies among member nations, following the country’s independence and acceptance in the United Nations. Less than fifteen years later, Bahrain became a member of the Arab Postal Union and a founding member of the Gulf Postal Organisation.
During the reign of His Highness the late Amir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the postal sector witnessed many developments with great advancements made in the services offered as well as the post office network. Postal services also started to include non-core services with an overall aim to provide convenience to individuals and businesses.
Timeline – Major Milestones
1884 : First post office opens in Manama under the India Post’s management.
1933 : First set of stamps with Bahrain’s name issued.
1946: Second post office opens in Muharraq.
1948: English Post assumes responsibility for managing postal services and operations and issues British stamps with Bahrain’s name.
1950: An independent post office for BAPCO opens in Awali.
1953: First collection of local Bahraini stamps with a 1.5 anna denomination and bearing the picture of His Highness the late Amir Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Ruler of Bahrain.
1966: Bahrain assumes responsibility for managing postal services and operations.
1973: Bahrain becomes a member of the Universal Postal Union.
1977: Bahrain becomes a member to the GCC Post Authority.
1986: Bahrain becomes a member of the Arab Postal Union and a founding member of the Gulf Postal Organisation.
2002: First collection of stamps issued with the name ‘Kingdom of Bahrain’.
2005: Bahrain Post develops launches new brand identity and logo.