Bahrain (from the Arabic word for "two seas" — itself an inaccurate folk etymology for the much older, non-Semitic term, Bahran) comprises an archipelago of thirty-three islands situated close to the shore of the Arabian Peninsula. The islands are about twenty-four kilometers from the east coast of Saudi Arabia and twenty-eight kilometers from Qatar. The total area of the islands is about 691 square kilometers, or about four times the size of the District of Columbia. The largest island, accounting for 83% of the area, is Bahrain Island (aka Al Bahrayn), which has an extent of 572 square kilometers. From north to south, Bahrain is forty-eight kilometers long; at its widest point in the north, it is sixteen kilometers from east to west.
Geographic coordinates: 26°00' N, 50°33' E
Geographical setting and islands
- It now comprises an archipelago of thirty-two natural islands (after the return of Jenan to Qatar on March 2001).
Around most of Bahrain is a relatively shallow inlet of the Persian Gulf known as the Gulf of Bahrain. The seabed adjacent to Bahrain is rocky and, mainly off the northern part of the island, covered by extensive coral reefs. Most of the island is low-lying and barren desert. Outcroppings of limestone form low rolling hills, stubby cliffs, and shallow ravines. The limestone is covered by various densities of saline sand, capable of supporting only the hardiest desert vegetation – chiefly thorn trees and scrub. There is a fertile strip five kilometers wide along the northern coast on which date, almond, fig, and pomegranate trees grow. The interior contains an escarpment that rises to 134 meters, the highest point on the island, to form Jabal ad Dukhan (Mountain of Smoke), named for the mists that often wreathe the summit. Most of the country's oil wells are situated in the vicinity of Jabal ad Dukhan.
Manama (Al Manamah), the capital, is located on the northeastern tip of the island of Bahrain. The main port, Mina Salman, also is located on the island, as are the major petroleum refining facilities and commercial centers. Causeways and bridges connect Bahrain to adjacent islands and the mainland of Saudi Arabia. The oldest causeway, originally constructed in 1929, links Bahrain to Al Muharraq, the second largest island. Although the island is only six kilometers long, the country's second largest city, Al Muharraq, and the international airport are located there. A causeway also connects Al Muharraq to the tiny island of Jazirat al Azl, the site of a major ship-repair and dry-dock center. South of Jazirat al Azl, the island of Sitrah, site of the oil export terminal, is linked to Bahrain by a bridge that spans the narrow channel separating the two islands. The causeway to the island of Umm an Nasan, off the west coast of Bahrain, continues on to the Saudi mainland town of Al Khubar. Umm an Nasan is the private property of the amir and the site of his personal game preserve.
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