Bahrain is sometimes described as "Middle East lite" due to its combination of modern infrastructure with a Persian Gulf identity. While Islam is the main religion, Bahrainis are known for their tolerance towards the practice of other faiths.
In common with the rest of the Muslim world, though Bahrain has taken strong strides for women's rights, it does not recognise lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.
Another facet of the new openness is Bahrain's status as the most prolific book publisher in the Arab world, with 132 books published in 2005 for a population of 700,000. In comparison, the 2005 average for the entire Arab world was seven books published per one million people, according to the United Nations Development Programme