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Culture & Identity of Bahrain

Introduction

The way of life in Bahrain is quickly changing and the lifestyle one hundred years ago would probably not even be recognizable for many visitors to the country today, although the locals are well aware of their past. The culture of Bahrain is deeply rooted in this past and even today many parts of the culture is historically rooted, but the way of life is more dependent on technology and economic success than anything else.

Bahrain is rich in oil, particularly in oil refining and processing and this industry has urbanized the population while demanding greater education and technical skills. It has also brought new jobs to the country, which are filled by both locals and foreigners alike. This has led to the introduction of foreign peoples, cultures, and foods, while making the Bahrainis cling to their traditions. It has also brought economic success to the people, leading to the growth of new technologies, the importation of foreign goods, and nearly any modern amenity a person can think of.

The changes in the economy have shifted the way of life in the country. Today most people live in cities, particularly Manama, most people have jobs with regular hours, and the country has modern technologies from infrastructure and housing to cell phones and the internet. In fact without these items life would be almost unrecognizable in the country.

Recently, the country even changed their weekend to Friday and Saturday. This shift (from a Thursday-Friday weekend) was done to have more working days similar to that of Europe and much of the world. However, Islam's holy day is Friday and this traditional day off remained despite all the modern changes to the lifestyle.

In a way, Bahrain balances the past with the present. The Friday off of work is due to the culture, religion, and history of the people. Islam also affects the entertainment scene as alcohol not common (although it is available for foreigners), dating restrictions contribute to social situations, and modesty means the nightlife is on the quiet side. However, the cars, public transportation, sky scrapers, and cell phones are modern additions to the way of life that few Bahrainis could live without.

Identity

The people of Bahrain identify in a number of ways, but for most citizens they first identify as "Bahraini," which is an identity tied to the country itself (but not necessarily the ruling royal family). This identity is particularly strong due to the large number of immigrants and temporary workers in the country who serve as a contrast to the citizens and this identity.

The people also tend to identify in larger and smaller circles; for example, some people identify by their tribal affiliation or family ties on the local level when talking to other Bahrainis or other people from the Gulf States. On a wider level the people identify as both Gulf State people as well as Arabs, although this second term is rarely used by Bahrainis abroad. The Gulf States, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates dress alike, are all fairly liberal on Muslim standards, and have a similar history giving the people of these countries unifying traits. Despite sometimes identifying as a member of the Gulf States, Bahrainis prefer to be identified as Bahrainis.

This page was last updated: December, 2013