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BAHRAIN! A HAVEN OF TOURISM

Ever been to Bahrain? Well, join Maha Olatokunbo on a tourism journey to Bahrain.
Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain is an island country in the Persian Gulf. The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centered around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain’s population is 1,234,571 (c. 2010), including 666,172 non-nationals. It is 765.3 square kilometres (295.5 sq mi) in size, making it the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore.
Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century.  Bahrain had the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf.  Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors.  Many large financial institutions have a presence in Manama, the country’s capital. It has a high Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
As a tourist destination, Bahrain received over eight million visitors in 2008, though the exact number varies yearly. Most of these are from the surrounding Arab states although an increasing number hail from outside the region due to growing awareness of the kingdom’s heritage and its higher profile as a result of the Bahrain International F1 Circuit. The kingdom combines modern Arab culture and the archaeological legacy of five thousand years of civilization. The island is home to forts including Qalat Al Bahrain which has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Bahrain National Museum has artifacts from the country’s history dating back to the island’s first human inhabitants some 9000 years ago and the Beit Al Quran is a museum that holds Islamic artifacts of the Qur’an. Some of the popular historical tourist attractions in the kingdom are the Al Khamis Mosque, which is one of the oldest mosques in the region, the Arad fort in Muharraq, Barbar temple, which is an ancient temple from the Dilmunite period of Bahrain, as well as the A’ali Burial Mounds and the Saar temple. The Tree of Life, a 400-year-old tree that grows in the Sakhir desert with no nearby water, is also a popular tourist attraction. Bird watching (primarily in the Hawar Islands), scuba diving, and horse riding are popular tourist activities in Bahrain. Many tourists from nearby Saudi Arabia and across the region visit Manama primarily for the shopping malls in the capital Manama, such as the Bahrain City Centre and Seef Mall in the Seef district of Manama. The Manama Souq and Gold Souq in the old district of Manama are also popular with tourists. In January 2019 the state-run Bahrain News Agency announced the summer 2019 opening of an underwater theme park covering about 100,000 square meters with a sunken Boeing 747 as the site’s centerpiece. The project is a partnership between the Supreme Council for Environment, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), and private investors. Bahrain hopes scuba divers from around the world 
will visit the underwater park, which will also include artificial coral reefs, a copy of a Bahraini pearl merchant’s house, and sculptures. The park is intended to become the world’s largest eco-friendly underwater theme park.
Since 2005, Bahrain hosts an annual festival in March, titled Spring of Culture, which features internationally renowned musicians and artists performing in concerts. Manama was named the Arab Capital of Culture for 2012 and Capital of Arab Tourism for 2013 by the Arab League. The 2012 festival featured concerts starring Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias and other musicians. Bahrain has a Formula One race-track, which hosted the inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on 4 April 2004, the first in an Arab country. This was followed by the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005. Bahrain hosted the opening Grand Prix of the 2006 season on 12 March of that year. Both the above races were won by Fernando Alonso of Renault. The race has since been hosted annually.

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