For those people visiting Bahrain for the first time for the Formula One weekend, you may come with various misconceptions and confused ideas about Bahrain. Here are some simple facts which are worth you knowing:
Bahrain is politically very different from many of its neighbours. It is a Constitutional Monarchy – not an Absolute Monarchy – based on the Constitution (the National Action Charter) put forward by King Hamad when he came to the throne in 1999 and approved by over 98% of Bahrainis in a popular 2001 referendum.
There have been regular rounds of parliamentary and municipal elections since then (the latest in November 2014) and the powers of elected MPs have been progressively increasing.
Liberal and progressive culture
This is not a state where women are forced to dress head to toe in black, dress codes and cultural practices are relaxed and the equal rights of all religions are enshrined in the Constitution.
Bahrainis have been outspoken in their rejection of extremism. In a state where Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived alongside each other for centuries, Bahrain’s Islamic traditions are necessarily tolerant and inclusive.
Family-friendly tourist destination
As Bahrain diversifies away from economic dependence on oil, it is looking to international tourism as the main route for its economy. There is huge ongoing investment in the tourism sector and the recent easing of visa restrictions is just one example of how Bahrain is seeking to facilitate the entry of visitors from the region and around the world.
Bahrain is a vibrant cultural hub with a lot going on and a broad variety of tourism and historic sites to visit.
Safety and security
Most Bahrainis have moved on from the traumatic incidents of 2011 when calls for reform were hijacked by extremists who sought to overthrow the Monarchy. You will find a safe and relaxed country which is at peace with itself. There will be a small number of activists who seek to get their agenda heard, but in truth you are visiting one of the safest and most stable states in the region which is trying to put past events behind it.
Reforms & human rights
One of the reasons why casualties decreased sharply since the 2011 unrest was an intensive retraining program for the security forces; as well as new codes of conduct prohibiting torture and excessive use of force. This helped in managing civil disturbances with restraint, despite increasing violence from rioters.Such reforms are just some of the measures implemented as a result of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations.
A profile of the “most liberal” Arab and Muslimnationsputs Bahrain at the number one spot – far ahead of potential rivals like Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Jordan.
Welcoming island nation
Historically, Bahrain has always made its living from the sea – trade, fishing and pearling. Bahrainis instinctively look outwards and welcome all incomers. So much of Bahraini culture – food, dance, clothing, art and poetry – is a melting pot of the cultures that pass through Bahrain owing to its central location on the Arabian Gulf trade routes.
We hope you will enjoy your experience of Bahrain and will make our country your destination of choice in the future.