Bahrain – The Modern Arabic Kingdom
The relation of the Bahrain with water is quite evident in its name itself which in Arabic means “Two Seas”. The country is recognized not by its small landmass but the greatness of the seas that touch its shores. The sea around it is quite shallow thus giving the residents a chance to reclaim as much land as required by taming the sea. The Manama harbor of Bahrain, the main harbor of country, is fast coming up on such reclaimed land. The country of Bahrain has history as old as 4000 years, and easy availability of sweet water has contributed a lot to growth of human settlement here. Bahrain has been known for its pearls for long, but as on date it has progressed in many others fronts too.
Bahrain is actually made up of 32 islands with population of about 1 million people. The population is even a mix of original inhabitants and expatriates. People from Europe, America and Asia are all able to live in peacefully harmony here. The country is located on the western coast of Persian Gulf and situated between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain is known for its oil and pearls, rather it was the Ist country to find oil among Arabian countries. Later on it invested heavily in downstream petrochemical industries and refining facilities. The country has also grown as the centre for communication and financial activities, with many known banks are located here. Its skyline is dotted with milestone buildings as Bahrain World Trade Centre. Bahrain also has one of the well known Formula One Track. The medical facilities are just great and state of the art.
Despite being a Muslim dominated country, the kingdom of Bahrain has invested heavily in putting up a most modern educational system. The public education system is totally free and funded by the government. Besides this there are other missionary schools, internally reputed universities in all walks of life. The University of Bahrain is a international recognized education body and the country is really proud of this fact. Bahrain’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the region. Basically a Muslim country, but really cosmopolitan in nature, people of all religion are allowed to freely practice their religion here. Bahrain got its independence from Britain in 1971 and is closely associated with USA and home to its Fifth Fleet. The country is ruled by monarchy and The King is the supreme ruler.
For a new comer the place may look a bit dry initially, but worth an effort to try to understand it. It has many nice places worth a visit like that of the Manama National Museum, Muharraq Traditional Houses, Sar’s burial Mounds etc. The Bahrain WTC if you are interested in pearls, the upcoming new island project on the southern side of the country, King Fahd causeway etc. Though there were protests in Bahrain in 2011 and 2012 by people demanding more freedom politically and also equal representation by the Shia majority in the country. But when I planned to go there in last winter, the situation was very much normal as was observed by US.
I love marathons and this not only gives me the opportunity to go and visit the place but what I see in the 3 hours while running gives me much more insight into the place than actually doing the guided tour. Last month there was Bahrain International Marathon to be organized on 20.02.13. So, I decided to take part in it and also use the opportunity to see and understand the place much closer. During my stay there I saw and met many other runners from all over the globe who were there in very much similar circumstance as that of mine. Though on the day of marathon, it took me only 3.5 hours to complete the race (which I had not won but completing it was itself a great achievement for me) I then used my remaining one day to see the place around.
Next morning, despite the fatigue of the last day, I decided to see Manama, the capital of Bahrain. It is to be noted that for the year 2013, Manama has been identified as the Capital of Crab Tourism, a great honor for the place to be used to showcase the Arab culture to the world. This anyhow gave me the right opportunity to be at the right place at right time to see much more than I could have otherwise achieved.
Bahrain has a old history and there are many places to be seen which can represent the Arab culture history very well. The modern shops, hotels, cafes and malls are also available in their full glory to be of great appeal to the local public as well as the tourists. Though there may be many places to see but I shall discuss here basically three main places that I suggest as a must to see for any person planning to go Bahrain. Though I had limited time in Bahrain but these 3 places gave me a lot of insight into the place.
The National Museum
Most of my friends who had been earlier to the place suggest that I must not miss the National Museum. So, I went there and let me say that they were very right. The museum has very rich collection to detail the long history of Arab culture and very informative. All details are given in Arabic as well and English thus enabling me to get a good feel of things without the need of a guide or translator. The place was conveniently designed and fully air-conditioned, a big relief as Bahrain is a warm country with temperatures going as high as 50 Deg C.
Bahrain’s International Circuit
After Museum, I went to the Bahrain International Circuit, where every year the Formula 1 Car race is organized. Besides the annual event there are always some small races of events being organized, the day I went a bicycle race in environmental awareness theme was being organized. The pace was designed and decorated such as to be the window of the Bahrain culture and to shed light on its developments. The occasion was a really good eye opener for me. There was facility for the guided tour of the place and I used the opportunity to see the track.
Bahrain City Centre
After the Formula1 race track I went to see the Bahrain City centre, a great place for the shopaholics. I was surprised to see that there was everything under one roof and in just mega number and size. Like 20 screen cinema, almost 340 fully occupied shops, about 50 restaurants serving all kinds of foods and snacks from all over the world. The centre of attraction is the huge water park (in both indoor and outdoor formats). There were duty free shops selling all kind of things especially the gold and diamond ornaments.
By the time I was through with the Bahrain City Centre the time was up and I was supposed to move to Airport. I bought few items as souvenir for my friends and family. Thankfully, there were many moneychangers available in the Bahrain City Centre so that I could convert my currency to local currency and easily bought what I wanted.
So, when I was sitting in my flight and waiting for it to take off, I realized that the time spent in Bahrain was really great and I thanked myself for my decision to come here to take part in Marathon Running which in the end proved to be only optional.