The booming city of Manama perches on a small peninsula in the north-eastern corner of Bahrain. High oil prices and a burgeoning expat population have triggered significant growth in recent years, with condominiums and shopping complexes mushrooming across the city.
The city was designated the capital of Arab culture for 2012 by the Arab League for good reason. Manama’s cityscape is a tantalising tapestry woven from ancient relics and lively traditional markets interlaced with contemporary skyscrapers. The city’s relatively small population is highly international; one-third of its residents are foreigners.
Manama’s relaxed laws on alcohol and relatively liberal attitude (women won the right to vote in 2002) have made it a popular weekend destination among Saudis, both male and female. Unlike in Saudi, women can freely roam - and even drive through the city without a male chaperone. The city’s many restaurants, bars, clubs and beaches are a huge draw for Saudis and expats alike.
What is special or unique about your city?
Bahrain is a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia offering many of the qualities a foreigner looks for when living outside their home country. Life as an expatriate in Bahrain is very pleasant, thanks in no small part to the Bahrainis themselves. They are friendly and well-educated, possessing strong ties to their Islamic culture, which results in an exciting experience for any expatriate living in Bahrain. Bahrainis are very tolerant of Westerners.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Newcomers' first impressions of Bahrain are positive more often than not. Bahrain's modern infrastructure exceeds most expectations. There is a selection of great shopping centres and fantastic restaurants providing everything one might need in Bahrain. Obtaining driver's licenses and other essential paperwork can be time-consuming and a little frustrating, however.
Are these impressions likely to change?
The majority of newcomers' impressions do not change. This is largely due to the fact that the government of Bahrain has a long-term plan in place to increase tourism and attract foreign investment; an important part of achieving this goal is making sweeping improvements throughout the country.
What is the local language?
The local language is Arabic, although the majority of business is conducted in English.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
A very high percentage of Bahraini people speak fluent English, so any English speaker can get by with ease, even if he or she doesn't speak Arabic.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Sense of dress should always be considered in order to not offend the local Islamic people. Shorts, short skirts and anything slightly revealing should be avoided in public areas.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
From May to November, extreme heat can affect day-to-day life. Temperatures can exceed 50 degrees Celsius, which prevents many outdoor activities.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Bahrain is generally a relaxed city.