Since its early history, Bahrain has been an important trading centre, known then as Dilmun. Bahrain literally means "two seas", which is an appropriate name considering its strategic position on the great trade routes of antiquity. It also refers to the natural springs of water rising from beneath the sea, used by the country's famous pearl divers. During the Middle Ages, Bahrain changed hands frequently until the Omani took control in the late 15th century to be followed by the Portuguese, who valued Bahrain for its pearls and a thriving pearling trade. In the 17th century, Bahrain became part of the Persian Empire before the Al-Khalifa family established themselves as the country's rulers. In 1932, oil in commercial quantities was discovered in Bahrain, the first such strike on the Arab side of the Gulf. Exports began soon afterward and a refinery opened in 1936. The Bahraini were the first to enjoy the benefits that came from oil revenues, enabling them to improve the quality of the country's education and health care. Since Bahrain's oil revenues are not on the same level as those of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, it encourages the country to diversify its economy, taking advantage of its long history as a trading nation and lengthy contact to the outside world. The 1986 opening of the 15 mile (18 km) long King Fahad Causeway, linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, resulted in a boost to both business and tourism. Manama offers both a modern downtown centre as well as traditional areas. In fact, only a few blocks inland from shiny high-rises are sections, which have changed little in the last 50 years. A good introduction to the country's history and culture can be found in the National Museum and the Heritage Centre. Wind Towers intermingle with mosques, souqs and dhow building yards, providing interesting sights for visitors. While the official language is Arabic, English is widely spoken. Please Note: Bahrain is relatively liberal, compared to other Gulf countries. However, it is still conservative where dress is concerned. As a rule, women should not wear miniskirts, shorts or sleeveless tops. Please do not photograph people without their permission, especially women. While Bahrain is fairly relaxed about tourists and cameras, you may not take pictures of government buildings , embassies or anything military in nature, including airports. Going Ashore in Bahrain Pier Information The Ship is scheduled to dock at Port Mina Salman, approximately three miles (5 km) from the Manama town centre. Taxis are not immediately available outside the port gateway, but are generally available from Bab Al Bahrain. Before taking a taxi, please confirm with the driver that you are charged according to the meter. Radio Taxis are considered reliable and clean. Shopping Bahrain is known for the finest quality pearls and gold jewellery which comes in a dazzling array of both traditional and modern designs. There are modern shopping malls in addition to the government tourist shop, Bab Al-Bahrain, where you can find an extensive selection of local handicrafts such as pottery, basket ware, woven rugs and tapestries. While bargaining is an accepted practice in many small shops and the souq, prices are fixed at Bab Al-Bahrain. Normal opening hours are 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Saturday through Thursday. The local currency is the Bahraini dinar; U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Cuisine Asian specialty restaurants, ranging from Indian and Pakistani to Thai and Filipino, as well as Western cuisine and fast-food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King cater to all tastes and pocketbooks in Bahrain. Lavish hotel restaurants vie with Steak Houses and a Hard Rock Café. Bars are almost all located in hotels. Most restaurants add a service charge of 10-15 percent to the bill. Other Sights Bait Al-Qur'an Located in Manama, the "House of Qur'an" is characterized by a most distinct Islamic design. It is home to a rare collection of Islamic manuscripts, prints and books that have been collected from all over the world. Oil Well Museum This museum was built to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first discovery of oil in the Arabian Gulf. It houses exhibits of old photographs, drilling equipment and a working model of an oilrig. Saar Settlement This archaeological site is the most recent discovery of the Dilmun era and consists of residential dwellings that were inhabited by the Dilmunite people 4,000 years ago. Other discoveries on this site include the Saar temple and a unique type of tombs labelled "interconnected tombs." The Tree of Life Standing along in the desert, this well-matured tree has raised the curiosity of visitors and specialists alike for many years. It remains a mystery where the tree draws its water, as there is no known water source. The location is south of Oil Well Number One. Private car arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.