Bahrain has been one of the Gulf’s most important commercial crossroads for over 4,000 years. The word Bahrain means ‘two seas’ in Arabic, indicating how the country’s geographic position as a collection of islands has been important throughout its history.
As the land of the ancient Dilmun civilisation, Bahrain has long been a trading centre linking east and west. The country has benefited from its position at the centre of the Gulf’s trade routes and rich pearl diving industry. By the mid-19th
century, the country was the Gulf’s pre-eminent trade hub, emerging as a modern state. Merchants from countries across the Gulf and beyond estab- lished themselves on the islands.
Bahrain was the first Gulf state to discover oil, in 1932, and in the past 40 years has led the regional transition to a modern economy. Subsequently, as the first Gulf state to move away from dependence on oil, it has become the region’s most diversified economy. It has become the region’s leading financial centre since the 1980s. Since then manufacturing, logistics, communications, professional services and real estate have also become important sectors. Throughout this period, we have taken great care to build up the skills and talents of the Bahraini people.
In 2002, Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy, and a democratically elected parliament was established. This marked the beginning of a period of on-going reform. The country also has an established legal framework and respected regulatory system.
Manama is the capital of Bahrain and also its largest city. Manama enjoys a distinct reputation as a tourism and cultural hub regionally and internationally, as shown by its selection as the Capital of Arab Culture in 2012, and Capital of Arab Tourism in 2013, and Capital of Asian Tourism in 2014.
During the summer months, stretching from April to October, afternoon temperatures average around 37-40°C. In winter, temperatures range between 10°C and 20°C.
As English is commonly spoken around Bahrain, you do not need to learn Arabic to get by but a few words are always helpful:
Alsalam Alaikum – used for greeting. It literally translates to ‘peace be upon you’
Shukran – Thank you
A’fwan – you’re welcome (in response to thank you) Mafi mushkila – no problem
Ma’ Alsalama- goodbye
Kam (or cham in Bahraini dialect) – How much?
Bahrain is known for being open and tolerant and prides itself on welcoming people from all around the world. Although there is no official dress code, the general rule is to dress modestly in public – ie sensible-length skirts and shoulders covered when in public areas for females, while men should wear clothes that cover their knees when in public. It is a cultural taboo for many Muslims to touch or shake the hand of the opposite sex so if you are in doubt, don’t make the first move to initiate a handshake. One sign of polite refusal to handshake is when a person places one hand on the chest accompanied with a soft nod.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is one of the most important months for Muslims. During this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset when they must refrain from all food, drink, gum chewing, any kind of tobacco use, and any kind of intimacy. Those not fasting should show respect for those who are by not eating and drinking in front of them.
Music during the Call to Prayer (Athan)
It is considered extremely disrespectful to play music during call to prayer (Athan). It is also considered disrespectful to play music when passing by a cemetery.
• The crime rate in Bahrain is low and violent crime is rare. However, you need to follow general Health and Safety guidelines:
• Always follow local authority and police instructions and announcements.
• Go exploring in groups rather than alone. If you do go out alone, advise a friend of your whereabouts and what time you are expected back.
• Do not keep large amounts of money or valuables at home.
• NEVER drink and drive – Bahrain has ZERO tolerance to alcohol and drugs of any kind and penalties are very severe.
• According to Bahraini law, you must always keep a form of photo Id on you at all times.
• If you are worried about your personal safety or that of a friend, you should immediately inform University Security or relevant staff members.
In an emergency you should phone 999 (Ambulance, police, Civil Defence). If you are experiencing an emergency on campus, you must contact Campus Security at +97316660166.
You can obtain a list of embassies in Bahrain online through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
Students who hold a driving license and are planning on driving in Bahrain should make sure they have a valid drivers’ license in Bahrain and follow the regulations set by the Bahrain Traffic Directorate. Those students interested in renting a car should note that there are a multitude of rental companies available in Bahrain but that some may not offer rentals to drivers under the age of 25.
Bahrain does have an improving bus service, but public or private taxis may be a more reliable mode of transport and are in plentiful supply.
As is the case in so many Middle Eastern countries, malls are the focal point of much social activity and Bahrain is certainly no exception. A variety of these shopping complexes are located all over the country, with most containing a host of international fashion brands, restaurants, supermarkets and other services.
Among the most convenient to the university campus are City Centre Bahrain and Seef Mall in Seef, Seef Mall Muharraq, the Avenues and the new Mall of Dilmunia.
Souqs (Traditional Markets)
The Manama Souq remains the heartbeat of activity in the capital city and contains a vast market spread over a web of narrow streets. The Muharraq Souq meanwhile, is situated a short distance from the RCSI Bahrain campus and features a variety of boutiques, jewellery showrooms and abaya stores.
Areas of interest
Located in the centre of Adliya, block 338 is a charming pedestrian quarter rammed with popular restaurants and stores. Historical Sites worth visiting include Al Fateh Grand Mosque, Bahrain National Museum, Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain), Arad Fort and Muharraq Heritage Trail.
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Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday: Friday 29 September- Sunday 1 October 2023
Bahrain National Day: Saturday 16 December – Monday 18 December 2023
Winter Break: Refer to your academic calendar
New Year’s Day: Monday 01 January 2024
Labour Day: Wednesday 01 May 2024
Start of Ramadan: Sunday 10 March 2024
Eid Al Fitr*: Wednesday 10 April to Friday- Sunday 14 April 2024
*Please note: Dates of Islamic holidays may vary in accordance with the lunar calendar – The relevant government agency announces the official holidays through national media closer to the date.