Irish expatriates in Bahrain tell us what they miss about home
Time Out Bahrain staff
‘I work as a make-up artist and have done for many years. We moved here for my husband’s job last year, so this will be our first St Patrick’s Day in Bahrain. Unfortunately, I have missed many St Patrick’s Days in Ireland, as I have been living overseas for so long. I think the last St Patrick’s Day I was home was in 2005! Since then I have celebrated it everywhere from Spain to Australia, to the UK to Singapore.
‘I like the relaxed mentality in Bahrain and also the weather. As I am from Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, it is more often than not windy and wet most of the year. I think I was born to live in a hot climate, as I really hate the cold. However, I do miss the people from home the most, Irish people are so friendly and good natured, and obviously they like “the craic”, as we say.
‘I will probably be in one of the Irish pubs somewhere here for St Patrick’s Day – enjoying myself, and if I was at home I would be doing exactly the same. I try to get home at least once a year. Luckily my family visit me two or three times a year wherever I am, and so I am never too homesick.’
‘I have been working for the Alshaya Group Middle East for 10 years, and moved to Bahrain six years ago. Last October I became country manager for Alshaya Group in Bahrain. This will be my 14th St Patrick’s Day away from Ireland, so I am used to celebrating it away from home, and if I am honest it tends to be more fun, as you usually end up celebrating with a host of different nationalities. Everybody is Irish on St Patrick’s Day!
‘I am chairman of the Bahrain Irish Society, which promotes Irish culture here in the kingdom of Bahrain. The society has always taken an active approach in contributing to local Bahraini charities, organising events and working in partnership with the community of Bahrain. Our ongoing commitment is to establish a multicultural society from all walks of life and all age groups that can fuse together to celebrate a culture traditionally known to open its arms and embrace life in all its forms.
‘We go for a week of celebrations during and around the 17th, so I will be extremely busy – especially with the social event of the year: the St Patrick’s Day Ball at the Gulf Hotel. If I was at home I would watch the St Patrick’s parade on TV and have a few quiet drinks down at the local, so Bahrain will certainly be more eventful that week.
‘Bahrain is very like Ireland pre-Celtic Tiger, where things here are easygoing and the people are very friendly. The things I miss about home the most are not being at Lansdowne Road (now the new Aviva Stadium) for the Rugby internationals, or Croke Park during the Gaelic Football Championship. Home for me is the Royal County of Meath near Dublin, and I am actually married to a Dublin girl, Lorraine.’
‘I arrived in Bahrain in early 2007 after a chance email asking if I wanted to get involved in a new venture in the Middle East, spend a couple of years earning a tax-free salary and “get a tan at the same time”. Three years later, my tan is worse that it was during even the dreariest of summers in Ireland, but the new venture, t’azur Company, is now one of the fastest-growing insurance companies in the Middle East. ‘As fate would have it, I also met the woman of my dreams, fell hopelessly in love and am now happily married to Mona, a Bahraini who I met at work. I love the relaxed, family oriented way of life in Bahrain and indeed this is home to me now.
‘Home is Portadown in County Armagh, and St Patrick’s Day there was about spending time with family and friends. In Bahrain it has a completely different significance to me – a time of year to remember Ireland, get in touch with people and celebrate Irish culture.
‘Last year, I took Mona to the Bahrain Irish Society St Patrick’s Day Ball, to give her a first taste of the best (and worst!) of Irish culture, such as Irish dancing and music, which is of course what the Irish do best. There are so many Irish expats in Bahrain that it’s quite an occasion, and Mona loved that all the ladies shoes were piled up at the side of the dancefloor – and added her own to the pile.
‘This St Patrick’s Day has the potential to be the best yet. Our first child is due on March 23, so therefore only needs to arrive a few days early to be born on St Patrick’s Day 2011.’
Ireland’s history and culture have been shaped by its Celtic heritage, Christianity, and by successive colonisation. The Cromwellian conquest at the end of the 17th century, when approximately 600,000 people died, was a particular low point, as was the Great Famine of the 1840s leading to the deaths of one million people and the emigration of many more.
Colonial rule of Ireland by Britain ended in the ’20s and was followed by a bloody civil war. Even this did not end the island’s suffering. On the granting of home rule, the British-run state of Northern Ireland was formed for the loyally British Protestant population in the area. Many Catholics, with no allegiance to the crown, were also left in the north. Their grievances reached boiling point in the late ’60s, when a period of unrest eventually turned into a terrorist war known, euphemistically, as The Troubles. This only ended in 1998, with the Good Friday Agreement, which saw a powersharing government formed in the north.
A troubled history has not stopped Ireland’s rich, proud culture projecting around the world. Although all Irish citizens speak English, their native language is still alive in pockets of the country and is part of the national curriculum. This vibrant culture has led to many successful exports. Some are enduring: Guinness, literature (including the likes of Yeats, Swift, Heaney and Shaw) and some less so: Riverdance being an obvious example.