Some readers have asked me "how is life in Bahrain city". Others have enquired where it is on the map. Some others want to know if I have to wear burka or not...
So I think its worthwhile to mention some facts about Bahrain.
Kingdom of Bahrain: Bahrain is a country. Its not a city, its not a province in Saudi Arabia, it is an independent kingdom/country/nation. It is an island country in the Persian Gulf officially known as the Kingdom of Bahrain. Manama is the capital city and chief commercial center. We live in Juffair, a few miles East of Manama.
Area: Area-wise it is smaller than New York City, so it is hard to locate on google or yahoo maps without really zooming in 3 or 4 times. This is based on data from wikipedia, where you can also get the exact figures.
Governance: His Royal Highness King Hamad bin Isa Al Khaleej is the ruling king of Bahrain. Bahrain is a constitutional hereditary monarchy with a bicameral parliament consiting of an elected House of Deputies and a Shura Council appointed by the king. The Executive Branch of the government consists of the king, HRH King Hamad, HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khaleefa and the Prime Ministed, HH Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.(Yes, I copied that from a book. I could possibly not construct those sentences by meself!)
Names: I am told that "bin" actually means "son of", so you can see that the HRH King's name is Hamad bin Isa Al Khaleefa (son of Isa. Al Khaleefa is the family name) and his son is HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khaleefa, and so on and so forth.(He who shall not be named is probably son of Laden) Also, whenever you speak of the king, you always say HRH before taking his name.
Attire: No, I do not have to wear the burka/abaya. Although a lot of the local women do wear them, it is not mandatory for all women to wear them. This is a fairly liberal place and one can dress up as per one's wish. However, you don't get to see skirts, shorts and sleeveless tees here that much. It is a conservative society after all and the dress code is mostly jeans, long sleeved shirts, kurtas and salwaar suits. I personally am more comfortable following the conservative dress code because one can feel horribly underdressed in a crowd where even the men are wearing 'ghutra' (head gears) and thobes (traditional long white robes which cover them from till the toes). The Complete Residents Guide to Bahrain also states "Visitors and expatriates are advised to show respect for the local culture when it comes to dress. While sleeveless and tighter-fitting outfits for women are increasingly seen, particularly in clubs and restaurants, it is advisable to dresss more modestly in souks, malls and pleaces where there are a lot of Bahrainis or Asian expatriates, if you don't want to have people staring at you"
The other day I saw a designer abaya store with the most gorgeous looking abayas (burkas). I was so tempted to buy one. This was in one of the more modern and stylish malls where every woman was out to do the others with her beautifully embroidered tailor-fitted abaya. Some wore head veils lined with sequins, others had patterns embroidered with silk and golden shining threads. And don't get me started on the makeup and accessories. Women here carry the most bling bling handbags, footwear and watches and wear the most nicely done eye-makeup I've ever seen.
Religous Freedom: Though Islam is the official religion of Bahrain, freedom of worship is permitted to other faiths. There are quite a few Hindu Temples (including the ubiquitous ISKCON temple), Gurudwaras and Churches. The majority of Bahraini population are followers of the Shia sect of Islam, but the ruling family follows the Sunni sect.
Formula 1!!!: Bahrain is the only country in the Middle East which has an International Circuit. There are a few F1 stars, whose names I can't remember right now, but they are the current heart throbs, and look handsome even in their thobes (one of them endorsed a breast cancer awareness event and was looking really cool in a pink thobe).
Electrical Appliances from the US: most of them work here, some have blown up. Luckily the laptops and hair-dryer have been working fine till now. The plug points have weird shapes. There is no standard shape and type, either for the plug points or for the appliances. They all come with plug pins of different shapes and sizes. I think its because everything is imported from different parts of the world. So we've had to buy adapters for every plug point in the house.
Not Made in China: Unlike in the US, you do get stuff that is not made in China. I was surprised to see that England and France also do a bit of manufacturing! And though their products are expensive, they are of good quality.
House help: is readily available and affordable. I have employed a part-time maid to help me with the household chores and it is such a bliss! She does everything! Cooking, cleaning, laundry, folding and ironing the clothes, baby sitting - everything you can ask for.
Despite the falling Dow Jones index (not that it affects my non-existent portfolio), there is peace and diversion to be found in these little things that I am discovering in this little island country.
Will write more - probably in a week.