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A dessert called muhammar is made of brown rice and sugar or dates.
Halwa is another traditional sweet, a green, sticky dessert filled with spices and nuts.
The highest point is Ad-Dukhan Hill in the center of Bahrain Island.
This area is surrounded by sandy plains and salt marshes.
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.
English is understood in many places and Farsi and Urdu also are spoken by the large numbers of Indian and Persian residents. The national flag is red with a white serrated band of eight points along the left side. In the seventh century, Muslims conquered the area and ruled until the sixteenth century.
In 1521, Portugal took control, using Bahrain as a pearling post and military garrison.
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.
Bahrain officially declared its independence on 14 August of that year.
Although oil was discovered in 1902, drilling did not begin in earnest until the 1930s.
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.