Kingdom of Bahrain

Flag of Bahrain with Manama skyline in the background

Location: Middle East, archipelago in the Arabian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia   map of Bahrain

Capital: Manama

Climate: arid; mild, pleasant winters; very hot, humid summers

Religion: Islam

Government: constitutional monarchy headed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa

Legislature: bicameral national assembly consisting of the Shura Council, and the council of Representatives.

Population: 1.234 million, of which more than 50 percent are non-nationals. Bahraini population is mostly Muslim. Shia represents the majority, Sunnis the second largest group and a very small Christian and Jewish minority.

Language: Arabic is the official language of Bahrain, but English is widely spoken and used in business. Among the non-Bahraini population, languages, such as Farsi, Urdu, and Hindi are commonly spoken. Arabic is spoken by almost 300 million people in 22 Arab countries. It is the language of the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam; the second language of millions of Muslims around the world, of Arab poetry and literature, and one of the six official languages in the United Nations. While spoken Arabic may vary from country to country, classical Arabic has remained unchanged for centuries. In the language, male and female entities are distinguished. Although state radio and television in Bahrain are broadcast primarily in Arabic; TV channels, radios, newspapers, and magazines in English and in other languages are available.

Culture and Society

Islam

Islam is practiced by the majority of Bahrainis and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Islam originated from what is today Saudi Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad is seen as the last of God's emissaries (following in the footsteps of Jesus and Moses) to bring revelation to mankind. He was distinguished with bringing a message for the whole of mankind, rather than just to a certain people. As Moses brought the Torah and Jesus the Bible, Prophet Muhammad brought the last book, the Quran. The Quran and the actions of the Prophet (the Sunnah) are used as the basis for all guidance in the religion.

Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day - at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Expect to hear Azan (call for prayer) five times a day, during which, Muslims rush to mosques for prayer. Mosques are almost in every neighborhood. They play an active role in the society; provide a place for social gathering, spiritual enrichment, sense of community, unity and cooperation. Prayers can also be performed at home or in places that are considered clean. Friday is the Muslim holy day; the weekend is observed on Friday and Saturday.

During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. In public, respecting the local customs is expected; therefore, eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum in public are prohibited by everyone. Each night at sunset, families and friends gather together to celebrate the breaking of the fast (iftar). The festivities often continue well into the night, and many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Shops may be open and closed at unusual times.

The Family

• The family forms the basis of both the social structure and individual identity.

• Family has a fine equilibrium of rights between husband, wife, children and relatives.

• Patriarchal, where father represents authority.

• Hierarchical, elders dominate.

• Loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships.

• The family is very private. Prying questions should be avoided.

• It is ordinary for large extended families to live close to each other in the same house, compound, or village.

Women in Bahrain

• Women are more publicly active in Bahrain than in many Arab countries.

• Many Bahraini women are not completely veiled; however, some still wear a head-covering in public.

• Bahraini women are highly educated and are well represented in all of the major professions, as well as in various women's societies, organizations and in public life.

• There are also female members of the parliament, and several hold key government positions.

Bahrainis and their Customs

• Bahrainis are very friendly.

• Greetings are with a sense of enthusiasm and they delight at seeing you again.

• Smiling and direct eye contact is important.

•  Men shake hands and kiss each other on the cheek.

• Women generally hug and kiss close friends.

• Male-female interaction in public is guided by societal limitations. It is okay if prior knowledge was established, i.e. relatives, friends, etc It is NOT okay if a male stranger is provoking an unwelcome conversation with a female, asking for phone number, name, residence, etc

•  Bahrainis greet each other and take their time to converse about general things.

• Bahrainis do not require as much personal space as most westerners.

• Bahrainis are non-confrontational.

•  Elderly are treated with respect.

• Bahrainis often touch others while conversing to enhance communication.

• It is common to hear Bahrainis swear during conversations.

• Under no circumstances should you slap a Bahraini on the back or point at them with your finger.

Using Titles

Titles are important. Use the honorific Mister and any academic or political title and the first name. 'Sheikh' is a good title to use for old men, or 'Hajj' for those who have undertaken the religious obligation. Do not use only the first name until expressly invited to drop the titles.

Holidays/Days of Observations in Bahrain

Hijri Year (Islamic New Year)

Leylat el Isra awal mi raj (Ascension of Prophet Muhammed)

Eid el Fitr (at the end of Ramadan, the fasting month)

Eid el Adha (after pilgrimage)

Prophets Birthday (milad el nabi, or mawled el nabaoui el Shareef)

Ashoora (Shiite days of mourning, last for ten days)

National Day

Labour Day

New Year

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