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Manama has modern buildings and wide, tree-lined roads as well as an older section with a traditional souk, or marketplace.Muharraq is the oldest town, and used to be the capital.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.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.
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.
Along the north and northwest coast, there are some springs and aquifers that are used for irrigation. The climate is humid for much of the year, but the country suffers from a scarcity of rainfall which averages three inches a year, falling almost entirely in the winter.
Despite the dry climate, the country is home to about two hundred species of desert plants as well as gazelles, hares, desert rats, and mongoose. According to the CIA World Factbook, the estimated population in 2000 was 634,137. There are many temporary immigrant workers, and one-third of the population is foreign-born.
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.