The Manama skyline, with fishing dhows silhouetted in the foreground
By A Staff Writer
Here is a quick overview on Bahrain, its people and lifestyle.
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy, governed by the Al Khalifa family. The present Head of State is His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
The Al Khalifas have ruled Bahrain since 1783, overseeing its development to its present status as a major commercial and banking centre.
Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands in the Arabian Gulf, situated between Saudi Arabia's east coast and the Qatar peninsula.
Bahrain island is the largest of the islands; at about 48 kms long and 16 kms wide it covers some 586 sq kms. By contrast, Muharraq, the second largest island, is only 21 kms square.
Manama, the capital, is where much of the business is concentrated. It is easily accessible from all parts of the country.
At the centre of Bahrain is its highest point, Jebel Dukhan. The majority of Bahrain's oil wells are to be found in this area.
The main island has the valuable asset of an adequate supply of fresh water, unique in the region. There are extensive date gardens to the north with irrigated vegetable and fruit gardens.
Valid passport for at least six months required by all. Visas are required by all except nationals of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The visa fees vary depending on length of stay.
Nationals of EU countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and USA may obtain visas on arrival for touristic or business stays of up to two weeks. The fee for nationals of these countries is BD5.
Other passport holders should apply for a visa in advance at the nearest Bahrain embassy.
The country's total population is just over 600,000, with a significant percentage of expatriates of various nationalities. This makes Bahrain a highly cosmopolitan society. Bahrainis themselves are a very friendly people.
Language and Media
Arabic is the national language. English however is widely understood and spoken, and commonly used in business.
Islam, the state religion in Bahrain, is followed by a majority of its population. Other religions also have their places of worship and are permitted to practice freely.
Many international newspapers and magazines are available at hotels, bookstores and supermarkets.
Bahrain has six television channels, including two in English. The choice widens to more than 50 international channels for subscribers to satellite TV services. Radio Bahrain is broadcast in English 24 hours a day on 96.5 and 101 FM, playing mainly mainstream pop.
Currency & Business
The national currency is the Dinar, with each dinar divided into 1,000 fils. Notes appear in denominations of BD20, 10, 5, and 1, and 500 fils. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 25 and 10 fils.
The dinar has been officially pegged to the US dollar at the rate of $1 = BD0.378 (378 fils). The reverse conversion works out to BD1=$2.65.
Currency can be changed at the airport, hotels, banks and exchange houses. Rates at exchange houses are generally better than you might get at the airport or at hotels. There are no restrictions on currency movement in or out of the country.
Most Bahrain businesses work a five and a half day week, from Saturday to Thursday, with Friday the weekly holiday.
Twenty-four hour ATM facilities are available at most banks.
Shops generally stay open from 0830-1230 and from 1530-1900 Saturday through Thursday, and 0830-1230 on Fridays. Credit cards are widely accepted.
The souk in Manama must be the most cosmopolitan area in the world. You can see pretty much every nationality here, shopping, mingling with each other, and generally enjoying themselves. What a lovely advertisement for world peace!