This week we head for Bahrain with Christians Aware for 8 days. We are staying with a family and meeting a number of the ex-pat community. This is an interesting time to go as a Bahraini court has just sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of the opposition group Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, and Sheikh Hassan Sultan, and Ali Alaswad, members of the same group, to life in jail for spying for Qatar. This is just before the elections on the 24th November. Bahrain, one of Saudi Arabia’s closest allies in the Gulf, imposed a boycott on Qatar last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and backing the Muslim Brotherhood. The country is predominantly Shia but led by a Sunni royal family. The regime has made progress in ending modern slavery.
A few basic facts:
- The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centred around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway.
- Bahrain’s population is 1,234,571 (c. 2010), including 666,172 non-nationals
- It is 765.3 square kilometres (295.5 sq mi) in size – nearly twice the size of the Isle of Wight
- Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century.
- Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, in 628 CE.
- Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521, who in turn were expelled in 1602 by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty under the Persian Empire.
- In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain’s first hakim.
- In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom.
- In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. Formerly an emirate, the Arab constitutional monarchy of Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.
- Bahrain had the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf.
- Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors. Many large financial institutions have a presence in Manama, the country’s capital.
- Bahrain under the Al-Khalifa is a Bahrain under the Al-Khalifa is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. King Hamad enjoys wide executive powers which include appointing the Prime Minister and his ministers, commanding the army, chairing the Higher Judicial Council, appointing the parliament’s upper house and dissolving its elected lower house.(p15) The head of government is the unelected prime minister, Shaikh Khalīfa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the uncle of the current king who has served in this position since 1971, making him the longest-serving prime minister in the world. In 2010, about half of the government was composed of the Al Khalifa family.
We shall be staying with an ex-pat family and have a varied programme of visits as well as some free time to investigate the country. More to follow…………………………..