History of Bahrain

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Bahrain is a small archipelago full of history and contradictions, an extremely significant place for the history of the Persian Gulf

The words of Ibn Battuta

“From here we left for a large and beautiful city full of gardens, trees and rivers, al Bahrayn, where water is found simply by digging into the earth [with the hands].”[con le mani]

Ibn Battuta

The Dilmun and Tylus civilization

The first civilization to impose itself on the lands of today’s Bahrain was that of Dilmun who, starting from the 4th millennium BC, was the first to build on these places, making Bahrain ever since a country with legendary elements. Many deities of the Sumerians, in fact, saw their birthplace in Dilmun, making it immediately a place of great interest. It will then be prey to the Achaemenids, Parthians and finally the Greeks, on whom this fascination was stronger than ever.

Some of the remains of the Dilmun civilization

Nearchus, Alexander‘s brave general, was the first to visit Bahrain directly, which, however, was already long talked about in the Greek lands. These lands were in fact known with the name of Tylus and for many centuries the Greeks were convinced that the inhabitants of Tire were native to them. Alexander the Great seems that he was so impressed by the beauty and wealth of these territories that he wanted to found a new entirely Greek city; it is not known exactly if it succeeded in its intent, but its culture and its language became an integral part of the territory, which proved to be a long bulwark of Hellenization. The archipelago subsequently passed to the Sassanids, who reigned here until the arrival of Islam.

Qarmatians and dynasties

In a very short time in Bahrain the overwhelming majority of Bahrainis converted to Islam, so much so that the Prophet was able to receive the happy news alive. In 899 the archipelago became the seat of the Qarmatians, a very particular current of Ismaili Shiite Islam that caused many problems to the Abbasid authorities. This group was in fact convinced of an imminent end of the world and, for this reason, they had no problems in sacking Mecca and Medina, desecrating their sacred symbols and even stealing the Black Stone, which remained in their hands for 23 years. For this reason, the Abbasids fought them fiercely, managing to defeat them only in 976.


With their fall, the Uyunids will reign from 1076 to 1253, a lineage that was the first to bring Twelver Shiite Islam to the region. Following the invasion of Qutlugh Khan Abu Bakr bin Sa’d I, atabeg of Fars, their authority was severely undermined and this allowed a new dynasty to emerge: the Usfurids. The latter were Bedouin allies with both the Carmates and the Uyunids who had taken advantage of the favorable moment to establish themselves as a new authority. Their impact was quite modest, but their dominion will last until the 15th century, then passing to the Jarwanids, who however will reign for just a hundred years, and finally to the Jabrides.

Persians and Khalifa

To replace them will not be, however, an Arab or Persian lineage, but the Portuguese, who had set their sights on this archipelago. Their dominion, however, will last only 80 years, being replaced by that of the Persians, who with Shah Abbas I brought it definitively into Persian and Shiite orbit. However, due to the Afghan invasion of Iran and a growing conflict regarding the way of seeing the Shiite doctrine, Bahrain will fall prey to Oman, under which it will remain until 1736. It will then be reconquered by the Persians, but their rule will be severely hampered by a new dynasty destined to make the history of the country: the Al Khalifa.


These were part of the Bani Utbah clan, originally from Kuwait but with a large base in Zubarah, in today’s Qatar. This city attracted the sights of the Persian governor, who was able in a very short time to compose an army suitable for the conquest of their capital, which will prove to be a complete disaster. The Utbahs were in fact warned of the imminent arrival and thus managed to prepare in turn a large fleet with which they quickly conquered Bahrain. At the head of this expedition was Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifa, who later became the progenitor of the family that still reigns over the archipelago today.

British and contemporary era

Starting from 1820, the Al Khalifa will sign many treaties with the English crown, then the first world power, which will culminate with the “Treaty of Peace and Perpetual Friendship” signed in 1861. The latter will transform the country into a British protectorate. , a condition that will persist over the years. The Al Khalifa, in particular, were not strong enough in the country to rule on their own and London’s support proved to be a decisive ally; it must be said, however, that on several occasions the Bahraini rulers tried to find better allies (including the Ottomans), returning however under the dominion of Albione.


Albeit very slowly, the new lords will bring very important structural reforms to the archipelago, opening the first modern school in 1919 and eliminating slavery in 1937. In 1971 the country will see its independence and, thanks to the large reserves of hydrocarbons discovered in its soil , he was finally able to write his own story independently.

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