Bahrain is the only island state in the Middle East. It is located on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia, south of Kuwait and 30 kms to the north of Qatar. The state comprises of 33 islands of which Bahrain is the largest at 50 kms long and 16 kms wide with a land area of 695 sq kms. There are several other larger islands with substantial populations including Muharraq where the airport is situated and Sitra the main industrial area. These islands are linked by causeways and Bahrain is also linked by a 24 km causeway to the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia.
The population of Bahrain is approximately 1,657,112 with a substantial number of expatriates comprising perhaps 20% of the population. There are sizable numbers of western expatriates and Indian and Pakistani minorities who have lived in Bahrain for generations. As Bahrain has long been a major trading centre it has a very cosmopolitan mixture of nationalities and religions with 15% of the population non Muslim.
Riyadh is the capital city. 50 years ago it was a mud walled town two or three days camel ride from the coast. Today it is a sprawling modern city with a skyline to rival many in the world. It is the centre of government, the ministries and since 1980 the embassies (which were moved from Jeddah). One third of the population are non Saudis.
Riyadh has all manner of modern facilities and all of the marks of a major city with goods from around the world in ultra modern shopping centres, international hotels, six lane carriageways, flyovers and underpasses and as with many modern cities it was build with the car in mind. It is not ordinarily a place where one walks and such is the pressure of traffic driving is approached with caution. In addition to the modern there are traditional souks selling most kinds of items and sections of the city of particular historical interest. More than any large city in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is the place where there is a sense of modern and traditional existing side by side.
Manama is a truly international city whilst retaining some of its uniquely Bahraini character. Manama has numerous western style shopping centres and merchandise is on sale from across the world. There are a number of international hotels and familiar names.
The Bahraini currency is the Dinar(BD) There are BD 0.46 = £1.00 and BD 0.38 = $US 1.00. There are exchange controls in taking money out of or bringing money into Bahrain. Time Bahrain time is 3 hours ahead of GMT.
Bahrain is a Muslim society and is conservative despite its relatively relaxed attitude. Women can drive in Bahrain and expatriates can dress as they wish whilst respecting the sensitivities and customs of the hosts. In Bahrain one should also bear in mind that although a small island, attitudes in the smaller towns and villages, even within 15 kms of Manama can be vastly less acceptable of cultural differences. Each larger town will have a full compliment of restaurants and places to relax. Alcohol is freely available in hotels, eating places and clubs and all sporting activities are available. With expats being established for some time communities have developed having their own clubs, societies and social gatherings. Bahrain is a popular holiday and weekend destination for those living and working in other parts of the gulf particularly Saudi Arabia. Schooling is readily available in Bahrain with a number of larger and smaller British schools and an American school through grade 12. There is a boarding school for western children and a British school taking children to age 18. Indian and Pakistani schools are also available.
This information is selective. It provides background and useful details on aspects of the United Arab Emirates. It should not be considered the definitive source and further sources should be referred to for other specific information.
Bahrain is essentially outward looking in attitude. Its coastal regions have long had contact with other societies and cultures and although Bahrain was the first gulf state to discover and produce oil, its relative lack of the resource and low production levels have meant less reliance on oil as a source of revenue than most states in the region. Other sectors of the economy have developed and large quantities of Saudi Arabian oil is refined in Bahrain. Several diverse non oil related industries have developed and Bahrain has a sophisticated banking and financial sector. The trading history of Bahrain has made Manama a very cosmopolitan city and peoples of many nationalities have settled over the years to make a diverse mix and an openness that is reflected in the relaxed attitudes to those of other beliefs and cultures.
Bahrain has a sophisticated telephone system. There is an English language newspaper, Radio station and TV station.
Using bottled water is advised.
An allowance or free accommodation is provide by employers in Bahrain. Employees on single contracts will usually be provided with accommodation close to the workplace with others on single contracts. Married employees may get an allowance and practical assistance to locate appropriate location.
Mild winters and hot summers are characteristic of the gulf region including Bahrain. Summer temperatures (May – September) average 35 degrees centigrade and can hit 40 degrees. Winter temperatures can dip to 10 degrees on some nights and daytime between 18 and 24 degrees. Humidity is high but less than more southerly gulf states.