Bahrain is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East comprising more than 30 islands. It is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century. It's an oasis of social liberalism – or at least Western-friendly moderation – among the Muslim countries of the region. It's popular with travellers for its authentic "Arabness".