Bahrain, the “Kingdom of the Two Seas”

Bahrain, the “Kingdom of the Two Seas”

International attention was focused on BAHRAIN on the 17th of February 2011 due to political uprising for freedom and equality that led to the arrest of 800 people with at least 4 dead and then followed by a declaration of martial law and a 3-month state of emergency in March 2011.

A national dialogue on reforms as previously announced by the King has been in progress since then.

In February of 2009 we spent a whole day of limitless sightseeing tour of the Island Kingdom of Bahrain, a modern gulf state that was once the capital of one of antiquity’s great trading empires. A flat and arid archipelago of 36 islands with 92% desert, located off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has a population of 1,234,596 occupying an area of 720 sq. kms. Arabic is the official language and Islam the state religion. Currency is the Bahrain dinar.

A British protectorate until 1971, Bahrain is an absolute monarchy headed by a King with the prime minister as the real head of the government. Manama is the capital and largest city with an approximate population of 155,000. Because Manama is a small city on a small island (you won’t get lost very long), it’s easy to get around. All roads in Bahrain lead to Manama either by taxi or a rental car.

Petroleum production and processing account for 60% of government revenues. With its rich history, fascinating museums, natural attractions, souks (markets), and mosques, Bahrain has become a tourist destination of over 8 million tourists a year.

Our first stop is at the Ahmed Al Fateh Grand Mosque, the largest in the island. Officially opened in 1986, the mosque is one of the largest in the world with the capacity to accommodate over 7000 worshippers at a time. The huge dome built on top of the mosque is made of pure fibreglass. The mosque is closed to visitors and tourists on all Fridays and other holidays.

The tour continued to the Bahrain National Museum, the largest and one of the oldest in Bahrain. The museum has a rich collection of ancient artifacts from the country’s history dating back to the island’s first human inhabitants 9000 years ago. Other halls depict the culture and lifestyle of Bahrain’s pre-industrial past. The natural history hall focuses on the natural environment of Bahrain and also features its flora and fauna. The ancient history section exhibits an actual burial mound which was transported from its site in the desert and reassembled in the museum.

We’re off to the Camel farm situated in Janabiya, home to a herd of 500 camels including the Arabian racing camels. The camels are regular sight being herded during the day to various grazing spots.

We drove through the remarkable 25-km. causeway, called King Fahd Causeway, that links the islands of Bahrain to mainland Saudi Arabia. At the end of the causeway are the tower-shaped restaurants designed so visitors can enjoy the beautiful view of the two countries.

Facts: Bahrain in 2007 is the first Arab country to institute unemployment benefits as part of a series of labour reforms. Bahrain lawyer and women’s activist, Haya bint Rashid Al Khalifa, is the third woman in history to be elected as the President of the United Nations General Assembly in 2006.