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Bahrain is an archipelago made up of Bahrain Island and thirty smaller islands.
It is located in the Persian Gulf near the Arabian Peninsula, 120 miles southwest of Iran, 14 miles to the east of Saudi Arabia, and 17 miles to the west of the Qatar Peninsula.
Four-fifths of the population lives in cities, the majority in Manama which is the capital and the largest urban center.
That city stands on a seabed, parts of which were recently reclaimed from the water.
This situation lasted until 1602, when the Persians wrested the country from the Portuguese.
The ruler Ahmad ibn Al Khalifah took control from the Persians in 1783; his descendants lead the country to this day.
Nineteen percent of the population is Asian, 10 percent is non-Bahraini Arab, and 8 percent is Irani. The population is growing rapidly with a high birthrate and a low death rate.
Traditional houses, called barastis, were made from palm branches, but today most villagers build homes from modern materials. The best-known dish, machbous, consists of fish or meat served with rice.The 1970s and 1980s saw a dramatic rise in the price of oil, which benefitted the economy significantly.In the late 1980s, when other countries in the area experienced economic difficulties, Bahrain maintained its prosperity thanks to earlier economic diversification.Snacks known as sambousas are also popular; these are pastries filled with meat and cheese or sugar and nuts. Muslim holidays are often the occasion for large family meals.The breaking of the fast month of Ramadan is celebrated with feasts of traditional food, and a variety of special sweets and pastries. Only 1 percent of the land is arable, and so the country is unable to produce enough food for its population and relies almost entirely on imports.