The Kingdom of Bahrain consists of an archipelago of thirty-three islands in the Persian Gulf.
The island of Bahrain, the largest island of the group, has been inhabited since prehistoric times.
Qal'at al-Bahrain, on the World Heritage List, is the site of the capital of the Bronze Age civilization of Dilmun.
Dilmun was described as paradise in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Dilmun Town, in the Saar area, is an excavated settlement dating back four thousand years.
Dilmun temple, estimated to have been built between the fifth and sixth centuries AD, is situated within an ancient burial complex.
Dilmun was mentioned as a seaport between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in texts from the early civilizations of Sumer, Babylon and Assyria.
Dilmun was eventually absorbed into the Mesopotamian civilizations.
Greeks, from the time of Alexander the Great, arrived in the archipelago around 300 BC. Dilmun was renamed Tylos.
Islam was brought to the islands in the seventh century AD.
The Portuguese set up a colony in Bahrain in the sixteenth century.
Bahrain became part of the Persian Empire after the Portuguese were forced to leave the islands.
The Al-Khalifa family has led Bahrain since the late 18th century.
Bahrain became a British Protectorate in 1861.
Bahrain was one of the first countries in the Gulf to benefit from the discovery of oil. Large-scale drilling began in the 1930s.
Oil revenues were used to modernize Bahrain.
Britain moved its naval base in the Gulf to Bahrain in 1935.
In 1971 Bahrain became independent from Britain.
The King Fahd Causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain was opened in November 1986.
In September 2010 twenty Shia opposition leaders were arrested in the run up to elections, on accusations of plotting against the monarchy, and a month later the main Shia opposition group, Islamic National accord Association, made slender gains in Bahrainís parliamentary poll.
In February 2011, following popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of protesters gathered in Manamaís Pearl Square leading to a police crackdown resulting in many deaths.
Aiming to appease protesters, the government dropped charges against the prominent Shia opposition figure Hassan Mushaima allowing him to return from exile in the UK as well as releasing a number of political prisoners.
In March 2011, amid escalating unrest, Saudi troops were called in, martial law declared and a clamp down on demonstrations although protests continued. By April the government had moved to ban the two main Shia political parties, al-Wefaq and the Islamic Action Society, although the ban was deferred after international criticism.