We arrived back in Bahrain on the 21st December after an admin trip home to South Africa, unsure what to expect as we headed towards Christmas in the Middle East. Our flight touched down in the evening and to our surprise Manama was ablaze with red and white lights.
The 16 of Dec is Bahrain’s National Day and the Island State goes big! Every inch of the city-scape is lit up – including the palm trees.The national colours, red and white… add to what feels like a Christmas atmosphere: This included an enormous Santa and his full crew of reindeer splashed across the side of a skyscraper! Eric pointed out this rather Christmas like theme to Anif, our driver, who insisted that these where National Day lights, not Christmas…but somehow it is hard to ignore 30 meters of the ‘Man in Red’ flying across a building.. Perhaps someone ordered the wrong box…but luckily red and white !
The Middle East or certainly Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar celebrate the Gregorian New Year too, perhaps due to the influence of their huge expat populations? Dubai currently holds the number one position for ‘Place to Be’ with all number of events and rocking parties taking place on the 31st, at some seriously rocking prices.
Since our arrival last year, Bahrain seems to have rolled from one celebratory event into the next..Shortly after landing we noticed the atmosphere warm up for Eid-al-Adha, an Islamic festival commemorating Ibrahim’s (or Abraham’s) obedience. There is a festive spirit in the air competing with the smell of goat, used by certain Southern Asian Muslim communities as a part of a sacrifice re-enactment ritual which might account for the increased presence of these creatures on the back of bakkies (pick-ups) at this time.
Eid is rapidly followed by the Arabic New Year. Lunar based, this date changes a bit each year and coincidences with Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca – considered the largest yearly gathering of people world-wide. Along the coastline of Bahrain, little baskets of plants can be found washed ashore – a Bahraini tradition created for the children who stay home while their parents take the holy journey. The seeds, planted at the beginning of the journey, begin to sprout around the time of the pilgrims return. These baskets are then sent off in the water in the direction of the holy place with love and wishes for a safe journey back.
While many of the Arabic Elite spend this holiday period time hanging out in smart hotels with private beaches – where you will find gorgeous young bikini clad Arabic girls racing their wet bikes – or perhaps on the tracks racing their thoroughbred camels,
the general populous let their hair down in simpler ways…
The water-parks and Malls are packed out and as the weather cools in the early evenings families arrive to picnic and swim.
Boys and their toys come out to play, including a bit of horse dipping,
and as the sun sets the families pack up and the evening crowd arrive filling up the large stretches of empty land along certain parts of the coast line as the Bahrani gather for a bit of drag racing…
as if there isn’t enough dust already..
And now that 2015’s final quarter of festivities has come to an end, the post season sales are on and Bahrain is celebrating yet again with a 30 day shopping festival. SHOP BAHRAIN runs from late December through to the end of January and includes an outdoor Ice Rink among the attractions and sales that I suspect give London a run…
all of which culminate in the final blast – The Bahrain International Airshow.
So that’s how it rolls,this side of the Gulf, come year end, and as they say: A Very Merry Everything and a Happy Ever After…
Celebrating Festive Occasions where-ever you may be…January 2016