Monday, July 2, 2012

Manama; the Fascinating Capital City of Bahrain

Road, towers and sea in Manama
Manama (Arabic: المنامة‎ Al Manāma) (Urdu and Persian: منامہ) is the capital and largest city of Bahrain, with an approximate population of 155,000 people. Long an important trading center in the Persian Gulf, Manama is home to a very diverse population. After periods of Portuguese and Persian control and invasions from the Al Sauds and Oman, Bahrain established itself as an independent nation during the 19th century period of British hegemony.

In the 20th century, Bahrain's oil wealth helped spur fast growth and in the 1990s a concerted diversification effort led to expansion in other industries and helped transform Manama into an important financial hub in the Middle East. Manama was designated as the capital of Arab culture for the year 2012 by the Arab League.

History:

Manama was mentioned in Islamic chronicles at least as far back as 1345. It was conquered by Portugal in 1521 and then by the Persians in 1602. Since 1783 it has been under the control of the Al-Khalifa dynasty. Manama was declared a free port in 1958, and in 1971 it became the capital of independent Bahrain. 

Bahrain Fort
The north of Bahrain’s main island, which is dominated by Manama today, has seen human activity for roughly 5,000 years, as is indicated from the remains around Bahrain Fort. Early inhabitants are often associated with the historical Dilmun Civilisation though the historical records of Dilmun are scanty. The islanders were soon, however, disturbed by a series of invaders, beginning with the Assyrians during the BC period and ending with the Arabs. During these many centuries Bahrain was a trading post whose importance fluctuated depending on which empire dominated.

Manama and its inhabitants were first introduced to Islam during the 7th century and by the 9th century began to lean to a more conservative almost socialist belief system that caused considerable friction with the surrounding Muslim lands. The Qarmatians, as this group was known, ransacked Makka Al Mukarramah in 930 during the sacred Hajj, killing hundreds before escaping with the much revered Black Stone. A feud with the Baghdad-based Abbasids less than 50 years later saw the Qarmatians leave the town. 

Manama by SPOT Satellite
The next major foreign intervention in Bahrain came at the beginning of the 16th century when the Portuguese naval fleets arrived, quickly crushing the small local population in Manama and the surrounding areas. Bahrain Fort was built during this era, probably to keep out the Persians who nevertheless managed a series of invasions as the whole island alternated between the Portuguese, Persians, and Omanis for the following two centuries. Once the Persians eventually forced the other two out, it was not long before the Al Khalifa family appeared from nearby Qatar, to take control of the whole of the island at the end of the 18th century. The new rulers, whose dynasty continues to this day, sought protection against the Persians from the British Empire, which by that time had established its hegemony in much of the Middle East, and Manama entered a period of colonial influence. Colonial interest only increased when petroleum was discovered 30 km (19 mi) south of Manama in the centre of the island and first extracted in 1931. After World War II, Bahrain moved slowly towards independence and eventually in 1971 the British pulled out leaving Manama in charge of its own affairs. This was the beginning of a period that has seen it grow and flourish primarily due to the considerable wealth accumulated through oil production and processing. 

Bahrain Manama Souq
Geography

Historically, Manama has been restricted to what is now known as the Manama Souq and the Manama Fort (now the Ministry of Interior) to its south. However the city has now grown to include a number of newer suburban developments as well as older neighboring villages that have been engulfed by the growth of the city. The neighborhoods of Manama today include: 
  • Manama Souq 
  • Fareeq el-Makharqa 
  • Awadhiya 
  • Adliya 
  • Bu Ashira 
  • Bu Ghazal 
  • Diplomatic Area 
  • Ghuraifa 
  • Gudaibiya 
  • Gufool 
  • Hoora 
  • Juffair 
  • Mahooz 
  • Noaim 
  • Ras Rumman 
  • Seef 
  • Seqaya 
  • Sulmaniya 
  • Umm Al Hassam 
  • Zinj
Seef Mall, Manama, Bahrain
Law and government:

Manama is part of the Capital Governorate, one of five Governorates of Bahrain. Until 2002 it was part of the municipality of Al-Manamah. Councils exist within the governorates; eight constituencies are voted upon within Capital Governorate in 2006. 

Economy

Manama is the focal point of the Bahraini economy. While petroleum has decreased in importance in recent years due to depleting reserves and growth in other industries, it is still the mainstay of the economy. Heavy industry (e.g. aluminium smelting, ship repair), banking and finance, and tourism are among the industries which have experienced recent growth. Several multinationals have facilities and offices in and around Manama. The primary industry in Manama itself is financial services, with over two hundred financial institutions and banks based in the CBD and the Diplomatic Area. Manama is a financial hub for the Persian Gulf region and a center of Islamic banking. There is also a large retail sector in the shopping malls around Seef, while the center of Manama is dominated by small workshops and traders. 

Road in Manama, Bahrain
Transport

Road network: 

Manama is the main hub of the country's road network. At the moment the city's road network is undergoing substantial development to ameliorate the situation of traffic in the city. Due to the fact that it is the capital and the main city in the country, where most of the government and the commercial offices and facilities are established, along with the entertainment centers, and the country's fast growth, vehicle population is increasing rapidly. 

The widening of roads in the old districts of Manama and the development of a national network linking the capital to other settlements commenced as early as the arrival of the first car in 1914. The continuous increase in the number of cars from 395 in 1944, to 3,379 in 1954 and to 18,372 cars in 1970 caused urban development to primarily focus on expanding the road network, widening carriageways and the establishment of more parking spaces. Many tracks previously laid in the pre-oil era (prior to the 1930s) were resurfaced and widened, turning them into 'road arteries'. Initial widening of the roads started in the Manama Souq district, widening its main roads by demolishing encroaching houses. 

King Faisal Road in Manama, Bahrain
A series of ring roads were constructed (Isa al Kabeer avenue in the 1930s, Exhibition avenue in the 1960s and Al Fateh highway in the 1980s), to push back the coastline and extend the city area in belt-like forms. To the north, the foreshore used to be around Government Avenue in the 1920s but it shifted to a new road, King Faisal Road, in the early 1930s which became the coastal road. To the east, a bridge connected Manama to Muharraq since 1929, a new causeway was built in 1941 which replaced the old wooden bridge. Transits between the two islands peaked after the construction of the Bahrain International Airport in 1932. 

To the south of Manama, roads connected groves, lagoons and marshes of Hoora, Adliya, Gudaibiya and Juffair. Villages such as Mahooz, Ghuraifa, Seqaya served as the end of these roads. To the west, a major highway was built that linked Manama to the isolated village port of Budaiya, this highway crossed through the 'green belt' villages of Sanabis, Jidhafs and Duraz. To the south, a road was built that connected Manama to Riffa. The discovery of oil accelerated the growth of the city's road network. 

The King Fahd Causeway
The four main islands and all the towns and villages are linked by well-constructed roads. There were 3,164 km (1,966 mi) of roadways in 2002, of which 2,433 km (1,512 mi) were paved. A causeway stretching over 2.8 km (2 mi), connect Manama with Muharraq Island, and another bridge joins Sitra to the main island. A four-lane highway atop a 24 km (15 mi) causeway, linking Bahrain with the Saudi Arabian mainland via the island of Umm an-Nasan was completed in December, 1986, and financed by Saudi Arabia. In 2000, there were 172,684 passenger vehicles and 41,820 commercial vehicles. Bahrain's port of Mina Salman can accommodate 16 oceangoing vessels drawing up to 11 m (36 ft). In 2001, Bahrain had a merchant fleet of eight ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 270,784 GRT. Private vehicles and taxis are the primary means of transportation in the city.
Bahrain International Airport, Manama Bahrain
Manama has a comprehensive bus service which is far more economical than other modes of transport with fares around 150 to 200 Fils (around $.50(US); £.30) allows you to travel by bus. Some bus routes link to other towns such as Muharraq and Isa Town. 

Air traffic:

Bahrain International Airport is located on Muharraq Island, approximately 7 km (4 mi) from the CBD. It is a premier hub airport in the Middle East. Strategically located in the Northern Persian Gulf between the major markets of Saudi Arabia and Iran, the airport has one of the widest range and highest frequency of regional services with connections to major international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. 

Ahlia University, Manama Bahrain
Education:

Manama has a wide range of universities, colleges and schools. 
  • Ahlia University 
  • Applied Science University 
  • Arab Open University 
  • Arabian Gulf University 
  • Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance 
  • Delmon University 
  • New York Institute of Technology 
  • RCSI-Bahrain 
  • Bahrain School
Manama in Bahrain Map
 Geography:

The city is located in the north-eastern corner of Bahrain on a small peninsula. As in the rest of Bahrain, the land is generally flat (or gently rolling) and arid. 

Climate

Manama has an arid climate. In common with the rest of Bahrain, Manama experiences extreme climatic conditions, with summer temperatures up to 48 °C (118 °F), and winter as low as 7 °C (45 °F) with even hail at rare occasions. 

Average temperatures of the summer and winter seasons are generally from 17 °C (63 °F) to about 45 °C (113 °F). The most pleasant time in Bahrain is autumn when sunshine is comparatively low, coupled with warm temperatures tempered by soft breezes. 

Street cafe in central Manama souq, Bahrain
Culture

The country attracts a large number of foreigners and foreign influences, with just under one third of the population hailing from abroad. 

Unlike many other Muslim countries, like Pakistan and Saudia Arabia, Alcohol is legal in the Bahrain, with bars and nightclubs operating in the city, however the government is proposing a ban for Muslims as it is explicitly and clearly declared Haram in Quran for Muslims, however it is allowed for non-Muslim citizens of a Muslim state to drink in an Islamic state. 

Bahrain does recognize women's rights, although it does not recognize Lesbians, Gay, Bu Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights. 

Football is the most popular sport in Manama (and the rest of the country), with 3 teams from Manama participating in the Bahraini Premier League.

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