We speak to the rising stars of Bahrain about National Day 2010
Time Out Bahrain Staff
Jalal Jaffer musician
‘National Day tends to be a time of celebration, and the government always surprise us with a lot of programmes. There is usually a National Day concert, after which we head to the National Museum which often has a number of traditional exhibits and shows to coincide with the holiday. It is also a great time to hang out with friends.
‘The most important things about National Day is that it draws all Bahrainis together. We are a small country and there are not that many of us, and there is a certain amount of pride in what this country has been able to achieve. National Day also is a time when there are no sectarian divisions, and when we all reflect on the National Charter of Bahrain, which his highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa initiated. The charter sets out the rights of each and every Bahraini, which brings with it a lot of benefits, but also certain responsibilities, and in many respects it helps us and protects us and should be respected as such.
‘Bahrainis are a very hard working people, and then also tend to be well-educated. But what this country needs more of is education and opportunities for local people. We have a lot of raw talent here, and the potential of a lot of the younger generation here is remarkable, but we need to have the chance to prove ourselves and demonstrate what we can do.
‘I think Bahrain has a good, solid standing in the world, and I feel proud to be part of this country. I would like to see better planning for investment, to make sure that it benefits everyone and not just the few. It would also be good to see greater efficiency in the public sector here. Because in the end, I would like to see the standard of living for all Bahrainis to improve over time.
‘The government has done a great many things for the people, from providing housing, controlling the cost of living and encouraging business to locate to Bahrain, and we do have a lot of foreigners who like living here. I think this is mainly because Bahrain is a tolerant and open minded society which is respectful of all religions, backgrounds and types of people, which is why we have such a harmonious multi-cultural society in Bahrain today.’
Mohammed Almatrook entrepreneur
‘Bahrain National Day is a great day in Bahrain. There is usually a show of traditional Bahraini music in the Exhibition Centre here and the entire country has a carnival atmosphere. For many people, Bahrain National Day is a time to be with their families and celebrate the country that we live in. Eating is, of course, a big part of this, and families will tend to dine out on this occasion.
‘For Bahrainis, Bahrain National Day is a time to pay respect to our King, and to express their love for their country. Bahrain is a wonderful country, and I feel very fortunate to have been born here. The best thing about Bahrain is that it is an open country, much more so than the rest of the GCC, and this helps to attract people from all over the world. I don’t think I am the only person who likes Bahrain: I have a lot of friends who planned to come to Bahrain for one year and ended up staying much longer.
‘Bahrain’s best assets are the fact this it is an island, and it feels like a vacation spot. The sun and the sea combined make this one of the most beautiful places in the region. Though we need to do more to preserve the natural beauty of the country, and not develop it too much, as reclamation is not always a good thing.
‘The Bahraini people also make this place a great place to live. I think we are a pretty friendly people, and we are always willing to listen and to talk, which is not always the case in other GCC countries. Part of this comes from the fact we have a very small population, and have a tradition and heritage of welcoming people from diverse backgrounds, but it is good that this sense of hospitality has been preserved.
‘The major downside to Bahrain has to be the traffic. However many new roads the government builds, there seems to be no end to the traffic in this country. And if Bahrain does want to develop further, then solutions to this will need to be found. But the country does have a bright future, I’m sure of it. It is rich now, and I am only hoping that Bahrainis will continue to get richer.’
Ali Al Saeed writer
‘I’m looking up to the sky and I see these little parachutes coming down like rain on us, swaying in the cool December breeze. Attached at the end of them are little packages and boxes bearing treats, goodies and gifts.
‘Next to me my friends are yelping in excitement as they see the national guard parade passing by, followed by a fleet of decorated trucks. Bahraini flags, emblems and red and white confetti is everywhere. Later that day, we would be standing out in the desert, staring up into the starry night sky, waiting for the next firework to explode into a million tiny suns, in red and yellow and white and green. Everyone ‘ooos’ and ‘aaahs’ at the sight.
‘This is how I remember spending National Day. It used to be an occasion that we looked forward to as kids. The National Day parade was a memorable highlight, while the fireworks was something we’d wait for anxiously every year.
‘Bahrain has come a long way since then. It’d be naïve to pretend that nothing has changed. A lot has. For better or worse. The ever expanding economy, the aggressive development and influx of foreign influence has had a great impact in reshaping Bahrain and reinventing the definition of what it means to be Bahraini.
‘Being a Bahraini is to be accepting and tolerant of others, to be passionate yet moderate, shrewd yet understanding, receptive and adaptive. As much as we’d like to grumble about it, we have a lot going for us. Our country is small, but it has a lot to offer. My only wish has always been to see Bahrainis, the true born-and-bred Bahrainis, take a stronger initiative and a more positive approach in making it theirs. Our generation may have had its up and downs, but it’s the generation that will pave the way for future ones by setting an example. I remember when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out of this place. I felt that it was too tiny, too enclosed, and I wanted to explore the infinite possibilities the world had to offer. But as I grew up, I’ve become more fond and more protective of it. My father was right, he told me that no matter where I went and how long I went for, that I will always have one home. And that that home will always have a place for me.’