What Is The Ethnic Composition Of Bahrain?

A market in Manama, Bahrain. Editorial credit: trabantos / Shutterstock.com.
A market in Manama, Bahrain. Editorial credit: trabantos / Shutterstock.com.

Bahrain is an island state that is situated in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain is located between Saudi Arabia and the Qatar peninsula. Bahrain Island is linked to Saudi Arabia by the 16 miles long King Fahd Causeway. It is the third-smallest Asian state right after Singapore and the Maldives.

Bahrain is an ethnically diverse state that is made up of over eight communities. Some of the main ethnic groups living in Bahrain include Bahrainis (46%), Asians (45.5%), Africans (1.6%), Europeans (1%), and other Arabs (4.7%) among others. Over 55% of the residents are immigrants. A considerable percentage of the immigrants in Bahrain came from Southeast and South Asia. About 8,000 Indonesians, 45,000 Filipinos, 45,000 Pakistanis, 125,000 Bangladeshis, and 290,000 Indians migrated to Bahrain from 2005 to 2009. Some of the main ethnic communities living in the country include:


The Baharna people are the original inhabitants of Bahrain. Baharna community is a Shia-Muslim ethnoreligious group who live in the historical area of Eastern Arabia. The Shia Bahrainis are split into two ethnic groups: Ajam and Baharna. The Ajams are Persian Shias while the Shia Bahrainis are Arabs (Baharna). A huge percentage of the Persian Shias have established large communities in Muharraq and Manama. A smaller group of the Shia Bahrainis, known as Hasawis, came from Al-Hasa.

Ajam of Bahrain

The Ajam of Bahrain, also known as Iranian Bahrainis or Persian Bahrainis, is an ethnic group residing in Bahrain. The Ajam of Bahrain is composed of Shia-Bahraini citizens that are of non-Arab Iranians living in Bahrain. There are over 100,000 Ajams in Bahrain, making up about 14% of the total population. The Ajams of Bahrain are bilingual and converse in both Arabic and Persian. The Persians started migrating to Bahrain during the days of Achaemenid Persian and Sassanid empires. Initially, the Persians settled in Mushbir, but they moved to other towns in Bahrain with time. Currently, a significant number of Ajam communities reside in the numerous modernized Shia towns in Bahrain islands and Muharraq.

Other Communities

The Bania also referred to as the Vanya, Vania or the Vaniya, are a group of merchants, money-lenders, bankers and grain or spice dealers living in Bahrain. The Bania are Indians who traded with the natives centuries ago and settled in the country long before the age-of-oil. Another small community found in Bahrain is the Hola community. The Hola community is composed of Sunni Arabs who migrated to Bahrain from Persia during the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The Bahraini Jews community is small. Numerous sources claim that there are between 36 to 50 Jews living in Bahrain.


Bahrain had a population of about 1,234,571 people by 2010, and this included 666,172 non-Bahraini and 568,399 Bahraini. 


Even though English is widely used in the country, the official language of Bahrain is Arabic. The most widely spoken Arabic dialect on the planet is the Bahrain Arabic, which differs widely from Arabic. The Arabic language plays a key role in the country’s politics since anyone who wants to become the country’s Member of Parliament (MP) must know Arabic. A considerate percentage of the population converse in Urdu (Pakistan’s official language) or Persian (Iran’s official language). Nepali is used by the Gurkha Soldiers and Nepalese workers. Hindi, Bangla, Tamil, and Malayalam are also used among numerous Indian communities. All road signs and commercial institutions in Bahrain display both the Arabic language and English.


Islam is Bahrain’s state religion with a huge percentage of the locals being Muslims. The majority of the Muslims in Bahrain are Shiites. Bahrain is one of the 3 middles eastern states with the highest number of Shiites. The 2017 Bahrain national survey confirmed that 32% of Bahrainis are Sunni while 62% are Shia. 


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