Bahrain - Bahrain's reputation as a relatively liberal and modern Persian Gulf state has made it a favourite with travellers in the region and an excellent introduction to the Gulf. It was once the seat of one of the great trading empires of the ancient world, and is redolent of the past. While their neighbours staked everything on oil, Bahrainis diversified their economy and created some of the region's best education and health systems. Years of British influence have made English widely spoken. Development has been swift, but it hasn't swallowed up everything.