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The Kingdom of Bahrain
When we moved to Canada, people asked us were we came from. We tell them, we came from Bahrain. “Bahrain, where is Bahrain?” And then we tell them, “ it is somewhere in the Middle East at the border of Saudi Arabia and Qatar”.
Not too many have heard of this small island but mostly know about Saudi Arabia. “Ah, it’s in the desert. So, you guys lived a tent? Do you ride camels?” We laughed because truly, Bahrain is located in the flat and arid desert. There are camels in Bahrain and there are tents. But, we didn’t live in tents. Tents are for camping just like anywhere in the world and for housing festive celebrations like Ramadhan and Eid and camel rides are for fun not our means of daily transportation.
To further clarify, we are originally from Asia. We moved to Bahrain in the 90's in search of greener pasture. The economy back home was inflating and most businesses were on the down slope. We were lucky enough to have been given the opportunities to work in Bahrain and earn more than a decent living. Life indeed, was beautiful, abundant and full of great memories.
The People of Bahrain
Before I go any further, let me tell you briefly about the people of Bahrain. They are called “Bahraini(s)”. The Bahrainis are generally friendly and I would say, the most civilized amongst other Gulf nationals (please take no offense, this is as per my personal experience). They are innately generous and very hospitable. We know each other well in our neighborhood. We can leave the main door of our house open and still feel safe. Bahrainis are generally respectable and very helpful people, full of passion and compassion. It's easy to get-along with them and develop a quick rapport. They are very family-oriented and the relationship we personally had with them is something that we cherish in our hearts and will treasure for a lifetime. Splendid!
The Kingdom of Bahrain
Bahrain, a polyglot kingdom is a land of culture, tradition and history. It is an archipelago of originally 33 islands. However, it now comprises an archipelago of 32 natural islands since the return of one of the islands called Jenan to Qatar on 2001. Bahrain is home to more than 1 million people. More than half of the populations are expats or non-Bahrainis. You will see Arabs from other Arab countries, Europeans, Americans and Asians-all living peacefully and harmoniously in this tiny island. It is located just between the border of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It was then an Emirate before becoming a Kingdom only in 2002.
Bahrain is a rich island known for its oil and prized pearls. It was the first Arabian country to discover petroleum in 1932. However, as its' oil reserve is fluctuating, Bahrain intelligently turned to petroleum processing and refining and now has transformed itself into a communication hub and an international banking center. It is home to huge building structures like the Bahrain World Trade Center and the Financial Harbor. Bahrain is the official venue for Formula One Grand Prix. The hospitals and other medical facilities both public and private are equipped with all the latest technology with sufficient doctors and passionate professional medical practitioners to look after you.
The government of Bahrain can boast about its‘ effective public educational system. Schooling and related costs are entirely paid for by the government. However, there are also private schools, Catholic, Christians and other International schools from pre-school to High school to Middle School. The University of Bahrain is an internationally recognized university and one that Bahrain can surely be proud of.
Economically, Bahrain has the freest economy in the Middle East and North African region and is ranked tenth overall in the world.
Traditionally, Bahrain is an Islamic country. However, it has embraced diversity and is very cosmopolitan. People of all creeds are free to practice their religions. There are Christians and Catholic churches and other places for worship.
Bahrain was virtually a British protectorate until its independence in 1971. And, since independence, it has forged close links with the United States and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
The king is the supreme authority, the monarch and the head of the State.
The Lonely Planet guide describes Bahrain as "an excellent introduction to the Gulf”. Every year, Bahrain welcomes millions of tourist from all around the world. As a sun worshipper, I love the weather of Bahrain and it’s unique ambiance and really very relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes it a choice for travelers around the globe. The malls are first class and huge. Shopping is phenomenal—no tax.
Yes, there is no income tax system in Bahrain due to its' established large gas and oil industries plus its' relatively small size. There is no equivalent of Value Added Tax in Bahrain.
There are attractions and activities of all sorts from diving and water sports. Bahrain is home to many castles including Bahrain Fort, also known as Portuguese Fort, which has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In 2010, I went back to visit my beloved Bahrain after having been away for many many years. At 13 thousand feet from the aircraft, I once again had a glimpse of the beautiful, well-lit King Fahad Causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia and the refreshing scenery of the marina. I was amazed by how greatly it has expanded and developed in terms of attractions and sky rocketing unique buildings and spectacular architectures. The diversity of hotels and restaurants is enormous too as influenced by the mixed-culture. Posh coffee shops are everywhere but nothing compares to the beauty of the traditional coffee shop, hub to the old folks passing time, exchanging talk, spreading wisdoms.
I almost didn’t recognize it but how can I forget the lingering scent of Bukhoor (Arabic fragrant bricks or wood chips). The lovely smile of the people and the warmth acceptance of familiar faces as I landed at the airport that even though I’ve been away for many many years, my Bahraini friends have greeted me with such royalty, big hug and the traditional Bahraini kisses. They took me back in time and once again allowed me to experience the sweet-water springs that bubble offshore. Ahh, nostalgia!
A must see attraction is the Tree of Life. Although now damaged by graffiti carvings, in which I am guilty of, it is a place for people to contemplate on God’s many wonderful creations that despite its extremely dry terrain (water source of the tree is not known until now) the tree stands on top of a 25-foot or 7.6-meter high sandy hill and is now approximately over 400 years old.
Although, it is believed to be the site for cults practicing ancient rites, some thought that it is the site of the Garden of Eden.
One of my favorite places in Bahrain is the back-street gold souk (market) in Manama. Gold is inexpensive in Bahrain and jewelry is an ordinary thing to give as birthday gift or for other occasions or even there's no special occasion, given simply just a token of appreciation. And, although Bahrain has now become very modern, it is still filled with history and old places to visit like the historical museums, dhow building yards, wild life and water parks (old and new).
The city of Manama is the heart of Bahrain. It is the capital and the largest city of Bahrain. It was recently designated as the capital of Arab culture by the Arab League and is the focal point of their economy.
Another favorite place was “The Sheik Beach”, - an exclusive resort where the late Amir, a man of noble rank loved to walk around the block without any escorts. We had the privilege to visit this beach on few occasions and I personally met and had the honor of shaking the hand of the late Amir, Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Alkhalifa (pictured here). He was a very fine gentleman, very charming and in fact, very casual during our short exchanged of pleasantries. Although no photos were allowed at that time (unfortunately), the experience of meeting and speaking face to face with the dignified Amir cannot be bought and that’s an experience of a lifetime. Priceless!
Albeit an archipelago, Bahrain doesn’t really have a beach culture. However, there are private resorts, like a man made Laguna with a beautiful sandy beach at the Ritz Carlton Hotel formerly the Le Royal Meridien hotel, where I partied for the last time before finally migrating to Canada and went to have an exquisite well-served lunch one more time during my last visit. There is also the Al Bander Resort, which offers accommodation in chalets and cabanas, Al Dar Island, Hawar Island Resort, Hamala Beach Resort and Novotel Al Dana Resort just to name a few.
Have you been to Bahrain?
Bahrain has only two seasons: a pleasant mild winter from November to March and extremely hot summer for the rest of the months. Generally, the weather can be described as arid, very hot and humid. It is known for its scorching summer where temperature can go as high up to 45 degree Celsius and the seemingly temperature along with humidity can be as high as 50 degree Celsius. However, it could be mild and pleasant during the short winter time, in which temperature can be as pleasant as 10 degrees Celsius.
Now, don't go too graphics here but when we take a shower or a bath during the summer time, we have to literally cool off the water by throwing a bucket of ice cubes in the pail or in the tub. The water straight from the faucet is boiling hot and that's no kidding.
Bahrain-the experience of a lifetime!
We could only recall truly great memories through all those years of living in Bahrain. We have lived in a clean city of Manama. Bahrain in general has a low crime rate. We felt safe then. There is a good quality of education, advance health care, ample job opportunities, friendly and helpful people. As expats we have the freedom to move, do and express our opinions as the locals, which we have immensely enjoyed. These are just few of the many good things we had in Bahrain.
Included in our perks as expats was our travel allowance every year. So, we get paid a month's equivalent of our salary plus fare back home or equivalent cash. And so, with the option of getting our fare in cash, we either go back home for a vacation or travel elsewhere. We are very grateful for this benefit and we did travel half the world-the whole family.
This island treated us with pretty much excessive indulgence, in fact: nice decent accommodation, handsome car(s), a nanny and time-there's always time to spend with family and friends. People work smartly in Bahrain and lifestyle is usually relax compared to other countries in the world. We don't sweat the small stuff in Bahrain. Period.
Bahrain was a breathing place for the late King of Pop "Michael Jackson" ~
Ma'asalam (goodbye) Bahrain!
And as the old cliche', all good things must come to an end. We cannot be forever expats. The family is growing and needing more stability. We need to secure the future of the family and so, we begun to look for a long term goal. Bahrain does not offer citizenship and so at the end of the day, we all have to go back to where we originated or seek immigration somewhere else. In our case, our primary goal was to be able to provide our children with a quality yet affordable higher education. Since the economy back home remained bleak, Canada seemed the best option. And then, it was sadly goodbye for our dear Bahrain.
It's been a decade now since we left Bahrain. Now, missing the quiet life we once had. We call it "simple living feeling rich". Rich with time, with family and friends. I am personally missing hanging out with good friends, hotel hopping and shopping, the long holidays like the National Day celebration on December 16, the weekend get-together with family and friends just because, the food, other festivities like the celebration of the Holy Month of Ramadhan and Eid, most of all the early morning sound of Adhan - calling for prayer.
Long Live Bahrain! Until we meet again.
Fast Facts About Bahrain
· Capital: Manama
· Official Language: Arabic but English is widely spoken
· Demonym: Bahraini
· Religion: Islam
· Legislature: Constitutional Hereditary Monarchy
· Independence: 15 August 1971 (from the United Kingdom)
· Area: 750 sq. km
· Population: 1,234,596 (2010 estimates)
· Currency: Bahraini Dinar (BHD) - 1 BHD is equal to US $ 2.65 (approx)
· National Animal: Arabian Oryx
Copyright@CrisSp-TM/06/22/12. Fearless but not Heartless!
© 2012 CrisSp