Manama – A Cultural Oasis in the Middle–East

Bahrain means two seas. It is a collection of 32 islands strewn between the coasts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The largest of these islands is Bahrain, which constitutes 83% of the total area. The thirty two islands span an area of 691 square kilometers, while Bahrain Island extends 572 square kilometers. It is a Muslim state with 80% of the population following Islam. The country’s system of governance is a hybrid of monarchy and elected representatives. Women too have voting rights.

Manama is the capital of Bahrain. Though a fervent Muslim community, many things are different in Manama in comparison to its neighborhood. The very large population of expatriates and the cross cultural influences have lent Manama a distinctly colorful hue. Nearly one third of the population is non-native and Manama is truly cosmopolitan or international in its outlook and spirits. The business language is English and most people use Arabic and English liberally. Lots of researchers from the US are residents of Manama to do fundamental research in Arabic Culture.

Manama in fact reveres such outwardness and pluralism. It venerates its new entity that has been imparted by this diversity in culture. Though there may be sporadic instances of anti-Americanism, still it is nowhere near the extent one sees elsewhere in the Arab world or in the other Muslim states in the rest of the world.

Manama’s climate essentially comprises two phases. In the first phase, a hot summer extends between April and October, when temperature may reach over 45 degrees Celsius and are very uncomfortable. The blowing of southerly hot winds called the qaws during these months carrying sand dunes make it further painful. However in the second phase, Manama’s {climate} changes for the better between November and March, when the temperature ranges between 10 degrees and 20 degrees Celsius. During December to March, humid winds called Shammal blow damp air with 90% moisture. However Manama has hardly a seven centimeter rain fall annually.

The Bab el-Bahrain souk is a major shopping attraction in Manama. It distinctly maintains its heritage in the midst of a deluge of modern day shopping malls in the city. The souk is filled with a maze of lanes filled with all kinds of merchandise and merchants. Each lane specializes in certain merchandise and there is one for money changers, one for the jewelers, one for perfumes etc. The other shopping paradise is the golden souk, where traditional Arabic ornaments as well as modern designer-ware ornaments are sold to suit every pocket. The GOSI Shopping Mall situated near the Windsor Tower is yet another place worth visiting.

As may be only expected, hotel and tourism is a major industry in Manama. Many world class and 5 star hotels have their premises in Manama and chief among them are the Windsor Tower, Mercure Grand Hotel , Seef 4Radisson SAS Diplomat Hotel, Ramee International Hotel, Delmon International Hotel, and Al Safir Golden Tulip Bahrain.

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