The island kingdom of Bahrain derives its name from the Arabic word for ‘two seas’ and sits sheltered in the Persian Gulf between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain was historically part of an ancient empire known as the Dilmun which was later called Tyros by the Greeks. More recently Bahrain has garnered a reputation for its fast economic growth based on oil and pearls, and its cosmopolitan atmosphere which combines the luxuries of the West with Middle Eastern traditions.Only achieving independence in 1970, Bahrain has historically been ruled by a variety of imperialistic countries, which have battled it out for the right to govern this strategically important island. The country is now a constitutional monarchy led by King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, whose family has been in power in some form since 1783. Recent protests over political, economic and social violations led to a brutal crackdown by the regime, with troops being deployed from Saudi Arabia to assist in the repression of protestors.
Despite the island's small size and the political uncertainty of recent years, Bahrain has a rich culture which includes a thriving publishing industry. The island holds the status of the most prolific book publisher in the Arab world, with 132 books published in 2005. Ali Al Saeed and Laala Kashef Alghata are two of the first Bahraini authors to publish fiction in English in the 21st century. Well-known contemporary poets such as Qasim Haddad, Ibrahim al'Urayyid, and Ahmad Muhammed Al Khalifah are famous for their traditional poetry while also exploring new, more contemporary themes in their works.
The music of Bahrain follows the traditional Arabic mode, very often elaborate and repetitive, played on the Oud (father of the lute) and the Rebaba (a one-stringed bowed instrument). Fidjeri is a repertoire of vocal music performed by male pearl divers of Bahrain, also involving clapping, drums and dancing with earthen water jars. Khaleeji is a style of Persian Gulf folk music, strongly influenced by African music, popularly played in Bahrain with polyrhythms. Khaleeji singer Ali Bahar is one of the few Bahraini pop stars to sing in a local dialect, along with his band Al Ekhwa. Bahar, Sultan Hamid and Khalid al Shaikh are among the most popular musicians, while the progressive rock band Bahraini Osiris has achieved international recognition since the 1980s.
Despite a vibrant television industry, the movie industry of Bahrain is in its infancy with only a handful of films made in Bahraini since 2007, mostly directed by Bassam Al-Thawadi. The majority of Bahraini cinemas show a mix of Hollywood and Bollywood movies.