Bahrain's reputation as a relatively liberal and modern Gulf state has made it a favourite with travellers to the region and is an excellent introduction to the Middle East. The Kingdom of Bahrain, comprising an archipelago of thirty-three islands, was a great trading empire of the ancient world, owing to its geographical location and bounty of pearls, which develop with relative ease in Bahrain's warm, shallow waters and springs. Today, a cosmopolitan atmosphere prevails, created by the many nationalities that live and visit each year and the country's transformation into a leading financial centre in the 1980s.
Visitors to the archipelago's largest island, Bahrain (meaning 'two seas' in Arabic), can look forward to experiencing a host of attractions, including dazzling white-sand beaches perfect for relaxation, the excellent Bahrain National Museum, super shopping opportunities at the country's air-conditioned, modern shopping malls - home to designer boutiques, jewellery stores, book shops and stores devoted to electronics and gadgets, plus a host of restaurants, nightclubs and bars, along with multi-screen cinemas showing Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic movies. A range of water-based activities is also available, including scuba-diving, dolphin-watching, sailing, fishing and kite-surfing, while back on dry land, there are opportunities to experience camel-racing, falconry and horse-racing. The golf course designed by the Scottish professional golfer, Colin Montgomerie can be found at Bahrain's Royal Golf Club and is a popular place for travelling amateur golfers to play a round while they are away, while visitors to Bahrain who enjoy motorsport will be delighted to learn that, out of season, the Formula One Grand Prix race track at Bahrain International Circuit can be visited, with tours available on selected days that take in the grounds, media centre and control room - it's even possible to take a lap of the circuit, if you wish. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the city, there are ancient forts, a wildlife reserve and the remarkable 'Tree of Life' to visit, which grows in the desert. Boasting green leaves and flowering twice a year, the tree has no known source of water.