We are Bahrainis. We are Arabs. We are British. We are Europeans. We are Asians. We are Americans. We are Indians. We are Australians. We are Pakistani. We all call Bahrain our home. These are our stories.
Over the past year, Bahrain has made a lot of news in the international press, news that has caused a lot of grief and hardship at home.
Violence does not represent us. Such bad news is not representative of the true Bahrain.
Bahrain is a beautiful, peaceful country. Our ancestors were pearl divers and fisherman. The name of our country Bahrain means “The Two Seas.” Today, we still make peace with these two seas, and try to live in harmony in a diverse and cosmopolitan community. While many of us were not born here, we all call it home.
Please read and enjoy our stories, stay a while, and even come to tell us your own.
Richard has always been interested in how something is represented visually.
Luckily for him, he has been able to apply this interest to his work in landscape design and in his hobby as a photographer.
Originally from Manila, Philippines, Richard moved to Bahrain in 2005, and considers the island to be his second home. He has been equally embraced by Bahrain, recently being awarded the third place in the Best of Bahrain talent competition for photography.
“I think it’s a great contribution to the local art scene in Bahrain,” Richard said of the Best of Bahrain competition.
Richard has watched as the art scene in Bahrain has boomed over the last several years, and he believes that the Al Riwaq Art Space has been able to offer a lot of people a venue to exhibit their talent.
“Art in Bahrain is getting more mature, especially in photography,” Richard said. “A lot of Bahrainis are taking is seriously, and a lot of them are very talented.”
Richard picked up photography in 2009, and has focused on fashion photography. He has primarily been interested in fashion photography because, like his work in landscape design, he feels one can always perfect a fashion shoot and go the extra mile.
He is also drawn to how unique the world of fashion is, from the clothes to the makeup.
“When I’m behind the lens it releases the best in me,” Richard said. “I combine my love for art and fashion.”
Richard hopes to continue growing his own photography portfolio and feels grateful to have the opportunity to do so in Bahrain.
“What I like most about Bahrain is the talent of the locals,” Richard said. “I am also building my base of contacts to become a more recognized photographer here.”
Ricardo Karam is a recognized TV personality in the Arab world. Additionally, he is the founder of the Takreem Arab Achievement Awards, which honors Arab excellence in various fields such as entrepreneurship, education, and philanthropy. In its third year after Beirut and Doha the ceremony was successfully held in Bahrain.
Manama was chosen to host this year’s Takreem Awards because it was named the Capital of Arab Culture 2012 and the significance of the city's cultural heritage to the mission in recognizing Arab excellence made it the best choice for this year's event, Ricardo explained.
"It was only fitting to host this event in this very cultural and special city," Ricardo said. "I simply love Bahrain and I have always found this country to be special.”
Ricardo spoke with passion about Bahrain, explaining his deep appreciation to the people here. According to Ricardo, "the warmth, the generosity, the accessibility and the culture of Bahrainis” is simply exceptional.
Coming to Bahrain has always been a pleasure for him because he has always enjoyed the ambiance of compassion and tolerance that differentiate this country from its neighbors. This aspect of Bahrain is not often depicted in the news and he wanted to share this appreciation with the world through Takreem.
Ricardo enjoys walking around Manama and feeling the spirit of the people. He is always amazed by the welcome he receives and this year was no exception.
Bahrain and the Ministry of Culture not only hosted the event, but also welcomed over 400 VIP invitees who arrived from all over the world to attend and celebrate Arab excellence.
Thanks to the Minister of Culture's efforts, all attendees left "delighted, enchanted and overwhelmed with the hospitality and the site seeing,” Richardo shared. He noted that the Ministry of Culture arranged for guests to visit the Muharraq old souk, the fortresses with the ancient historic sites and a tour of the National Museum.
"Bahrain is such a cultural hub with deep roots, and ultimately that's why it was the best place to hold Takreem in 2012,” Ricardo said.
Glenn doesn't consider himself a professional photographer, but his work says otherwise.
Working for an interior design company, photography has always been a hobby for Glenn. He first got started with photography when his father gave him a camera. He enjoyed photography so much that, as soon as he had saved up enough money, he bought himself a digital camera so that he could continue pursuing this passion.
Glenn’s dedication to photography has paid off. He recently won the Best of Bahrain talent competition’s photography portion.
One of Glenn’s favorite places to photograph is Bahrain.
“Bahrain represents the only country in the Gulf where a foreigner feels at home,” Glenn said. “Bahrain is a small country, but when you take photos of the island, it gives you unlimited resources in respect to places to shoot.”
Even though he has lived in Bahrain for eight years, Glenn said he is still continuously finding places around the island he has yet to shoot.
When it comes to his photography, Glenn is always forward thinking. He would like to start experimenting with time-lapse photography and hopes to use this technique to portray different locations around Bahrain.
“In three minutes you can show 400-700 pictures,” Glenn said. “No one in Bahrain has done it yet.”
Chandan is a civil engineer who has a way with words.
Chandan, the recent winner of the Best of Bahrain talent competition’s creative writing portion, writes poems in his spare time.
He didn’t always know that poetry was something that came naturally to him. In fact, the first time he wrote a poem it was to help his daughter with her schoolwork.
“When my daughter was four years old, she had to recite a poem for school,” Chandan said. “I wrote her the poem because I didn’t have any material to share with her.”
From there, Chandan began experimenting more and more with poetry and words. He also found enjoyment in writing about Bahrain and its people.
Chandon left Bahrain for a few years and returned in 2002, noting that it was the friendly people and the feeling of home he had felt in Bahrain that drew him back to the island.
“Even though people don’t know you, they greet you with a smile,” Chandan said of Bahrain. “That’s the difference. They make you feel at home. Bahrain is home for me.”
Chandan entered the Best of Bahrain talent competition with a poem about Bahrain, its nature and its people. This winning poem was initially based off of another poem that Chandan had written for his daughter.
Winning the creative writing portion of the Best of Bahrain talent competition meant Chandan was a published author for the first time in his life.
Winning this award, to Chandan, was not about the recognition it gave him, but instead was a celebration of the support his writing has received from family and friends.
Chandan has also had the chance to find a community of fellow writers in Bahrain, and he thinks one of the best parts about this community is its diversity. Members of the writers circle in Bahrain come from a variety of communities, including Indian, American and Europe, Chandan said.
For Chandan, the Best of Bahrain competition is just the starting point. He would like to continue writing and find more opportunities to publish his work. And while his writing is currently just a hobby, Chandan would like to see it take on a greater role in his life.
“My writing and professional career are evolving hand in hand,” he said.
Music has the ability to evoke emotion in people, and when Silverlake plays, the emotion they generate in people is excitement.
Silverlake is a six-person local band which includes; Hameed Al Saeed on vocals/guitar, Ammar Mohammed on guitar, Ali Al-Qaseer on drums, Ali Milad on bass and backing vocals, Hamad Dashti on keyboard and backing vocals and Abdulla Al-Qaseer, a temporary bassist.
The band’s adventure started in 2008 when Silverlake was just a duo, said Hameed. As the band grew to include more members, so did their repertoire.
One thing the group has always done is write their own songs.
“We all pitch in,” Hameed of the group’s song writing efforts.
Silverlake doesn’t like to categorize itself in one genre and their music influence spans from Coldplay and Travis to Pink Floyd. They believe that what differentiates them from other bands is their ability to mesh classics with a modern twist.
The band credits the addition of Hamad, their keyboardist, as the spark for composing more original music and beginning to perform at music festivals.
“It opened more doors for us,” Hameed said about Hamad’s addition to the band.
One of Silverlake’s favorite memories is when they headlined at the 2009 Reflux Festival in Bahrain. Held at the Bahrain International Circuit, the Reflux Fesitval is a metal and alternative rock festival, and the band was given the chance to listen and interact with the different participating bands. Silverlake has also opened for the Finely Quay- Bud Music Live Festival at Coral Beach in 2009 as well.
Recently, Silverlake has made it into the top 10 of the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Music challenge, Middle East edition.
Hameed first heard about the event a month and a half ago while he was working at Red Bull.
“We decided to go for it, and if anything we’ll have a video out of this experience since we had to film a video clip to register the competition,” Hameed said.
The ultimate prize for the competition’s winning band is recording an album at the Red Bull Studio in Madrid, Spain.
Hameed and Silverlake are grateful for all the support they have received from family and friends.
“It is truly overwhelming,” Hameed said. “We never expected to get this far. Everyone has been great and responsive.”
Dalia has always enjoyed sports and fitness, and now, as the first Bahraini Female to be certified by the American Council on Exercise, Dalia is hoping to share her passion with other Bahraini women.
Growing up in Bahrain, Dalia was always athletic and active in team sports. To her, working out meant time spent on the track or the volleyball court, not in the gym. However, when she went away to university, that mentality began to change.
At university Dalia joined the volleyball team, but had to drop out due to studying for a rigorous course. Team sports were no longer something she had time to commit to. As a result, she decided that the only way to get fit was at the gym.
“I wanted to get back into shape,” Dalia said. “The only thing I could do to keep fit was go to the gym.”
When Dalia returned to Bahrain after university, she began to get involved in weight training with the help of her training partner.
Then, after training herself for three years, Dalia decided she wanted to get certified as a personal trainer, so she could start helping other people see the same results she did, specifically in regards to weight training.
“I want to change the way women think about weight training,” Dalia said.
Dalia, who has a full time job, has done all of this on the side. She says that fitness is her hidden passion and something she enjoys educating herself on.
Dalia believes that people, specifically within the region, often do not acknowledge the importance of incorporating fitness as part of their daily lifestyle, and that people find excuses not to exercise.
Dalia hopes to change this mentality in Bahrain, especially among women, who she wants to encourage too hit the gym.
She must be doing something right, because she began accepting clients in July, and already has a full roster, and a waiting list.
Two years ago, Ahmed was a banker who enjoyed playing video games like Call of Duty and FIFA for fun. In his spare time he would record voice-overs and provide commentary on video games and post them to YouTube. Today, this extracurricular hobby has turned into his full-time job.
“I would do walkthroughs where I help the player navigate through the game, explain the nuances, and offer suggestions on the best way to finish the game,” he said.
These types of user-based peer reviews were already a popular trend in the West, especially in the United States, but Ahmed was one of the first to start doing it in the Middle East.
Naturally, it wasn’t long before he caught the attention of major companies, who noticed he was ahead of the curve in applying these techniques in the region.
“It feels good to be a Bahraini group that launched this concept. We feel blessed,” he said.
Ahmed currently works with Play Station Middle East (owned by Sony), as well as Microsoft and Samsung. He travels all over the world to preview and test games before they hit the market.
Down to earth, Ahmed never says “I” when he talks about his work. The group he refers to is DvLZ, which includes two of his friends that support and assist him in uploading the user guides. The DvLZ moniker was born of the registered squad name Ahmed and his friends used in multiplayer mode of “Call of Duty.”
The interactive nature of video games carries over into the business of promoting them as well. Ahmed communicates with his audience through Facebook and Twitter, and DvLZ’s multiple YouTube channels are endorsed by U.S.-based entertainment giant Machinima Community. His website, which has only been live for three months, has already won best blog at the Bahrain Social Media Awards, and best website at the Middle East Development Awards.
DvLZ is successfully combining grassroots entrepreneurial spirit with smart collaborations. They recently did a six hour session on YouTube, and are planning a “Call of Duty” marathon with Machinima.
“I had made a deal with my mother that if this doesn’t work after a few months I would go back to banking,” Ahmed said.
But so far, Ahmed has shown he is creative enough to explore “anything related to games” when handling a client’s advertising campaign, and pragmatic enough to keep sight of the bottom line – “We try to sell more games.”
Mohammad works as a parking security guard at Bahrain’s City Centre, and his best accessory is his smile.
Mohammad, who is a former officer in the Pakistani army, moved to Bahrain in 2008. The City Centre had opened its doors earlier that fall, and Mohammad decided to join the security team there.
Mohammad believes that it is his role to be welcoming, and his smile is so catching that people can’t help but give him one in return.
His personality has even gained him a following — drivers who see him frequently will shake his hand, thank him, and inquire as to how he is doing.
Mohammad’s coworkers at City Centre say he is special because of his personality. However, Mohammad returns the compliment:
“It is the people who make Bahrain special,” he said.
His favorite memory of Bahrain is the Eid after Ramadan. Mohammed explains that his colleagues always make him feel at home and he enjoys all the festivities that happen at that time.
While the Games of the XXX Olympiad might have concluded, it is too soon to turn one’s attention away from London just yet.
Take it from Fatema Nedhal, the Bahraini athlete who is in the British capital to compete in the 2012 Paralympic games.
“The atmosphere in London is electric,” Fatema said.
It has been a whirlwind Olympic season for the 45-year-old athlete. Although no stranger to international competition, her qualification in the Athletics category came as a surprise and with short notice. As a last minute wild card entry, she only had a month and a half to train for the discus and javelin events, but is determined to do her very best.
“I want to win, of course, and I’m ready, mind and body, to go as far as possible in these Paralympics and win medals for Bahrain,” she said.
Just this year, Fatema won gold at the Open Asian Championships in Kuwait in January. No doubt this was due in large part to the confidence she has built in herself.
“When I won my first medal in 2004, it was a pure blessing. I was overwhelmed, and I knew from then on that there are no limits to where you can go,” she said.
Fatema takes pride in her medals, but doesn’t claim to have done it without some encouragement, notably from her older brothers and family. She particularly credits her fellow Bahrainis for providing an overwhelming amount of support, and in return she capitalizes on every opportunity to promote the country she loves.
“Every time I meet athletes, I tell them they should visit Bahrain,” Fatema said. “We have nothing to envy, we have everything.”
She applies this philosophy to herself as well. Fatema sees no place for excuses and has this message for all young athletes: “You should believe in yourself and have the will. Even if you have physical challenges this should not stop you from making your dreams come true.”
She doesn’t just talk the talk, and in making her own dreams come true, is a testament to the power of mind over matter.
“I only think positively,” Fatema said. “This is how champions should think.”
Jenny was born and raised in Bahrain, and after leaving to study in India, returned to the country she calls home. Below Jenny shares with Bahrain Stories in her own words what Bahrain means to her and why she came back.
"Little did I know that a tiny dot on the map would grow on me so much. The memories that Bahrain has given me would last a lifetime. The first steps I took, the first word I spoke, the school where I spent my entire childhood, the people I have met, the friendships I treasure – it all happened here!
To see the most beautiful fireworks, to see a road crowded with people screaming after winning a game, to eat the yummiest shawarmas, to see the extravagant pearls and the pretty tiny colored gems, to the long walks on the beach, to being part of the vast and rich culture; all this and more I have experienced living in Bahrain.
While studying at the Indian Institute of Planning and Management in Bangalore, India, I was inspired to start something up that would capture the growing opportunities in Bahrain. So I came back, joined hands with my father and started a business consultancy firm called "ValueTree Consultancy W.L.L" that undertakes primarily economic, business and market research analysis and reviews.
I am back in Bahrain for an exciting road ahead of me, I have no regrets.This island will never cease surprise me!"
Ammar is an interior designer whose impressive list of past projects sets him apart in his industry. He has designed spaces for everything from royal weddings to private events in Washington D.C., and a café in Bahrain.
Ammar tackles each project with passion and soul. Give him four walls and he will give you something special.
Ammar kicked off his career in London and six years ago founded his own company. In Bahrain you can see his designs in the front windows of the Moda Mall boutiques, hotels and private residences.
All of this work has turned Ammar into one of the most covered designers in the region.
Ammar has had a knack for design and everything visual. At 15-years-old he held his first exhibition – a collection of artwork on glasses and mirrors.
He lives for a challenge and loves to stand out. His latest project was to design the Thuraya Ramadan tent at the Intercontinental Regency Hotel in Manama. With this project, his goal was to steer away from a cliché Ramadan tent and display his unique creativity.
“We wanted to give this feeling of, ‘I want to come back’ to people who visit the Thraya tent,” Ammar said.
Ammar is always keeping an eye on evolving trends and new fads and styles in design. However, whatever the project, Ammar’s goal is always to stay true to his identity as a designer.
When Maryam Yusuf Jamal won the bronze medal in the women’s 1500m final at the 2012 London Olympic Games, she also won herself a place in history. Maryam is the first Bahraini to win an Olympic medal.
Maryam has always had a winning attitude, and her new medal shows she can win on the track also.
Before winning her bronze medal, Maryam suffered a serious injury in May that prevented her from training for the critical two months leading up to the games.
“I never gave up,” Maryam said. “I always promised myself that I would give 100 percent.”
By the time the track and field portion of the Olympics kicked off in the later half of the games, Maryam was ready to go get a medal.
“I kept telling myself that I’m doing this for Bahrain, and that I want to bring home a medal,” Maryam said.
This positive attitude paid off, as the world watched Maryam steadily advance through the qualifying rounds leading up to the final race.
Maryam was always confident she would make it to the 1500m final. After all, she is a two time world champion in the event.
“In my mind it was all about having this 100 percent positive attitude,” Maryam said of her mental state leading up to and during the games.
Maryam is also excited to be sharing her success with the people of Bahrain.
“I owe it to the Bahraini people, to the Olympic committee and to my teammates who did a fantastic job in London,” Maryam said. “I just want to say thank you.”
The Olympic Games may be over, but don’t except to see Maryam resting. She is already eyeing the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio Di Janeiro.
“I’m sure Bahrain will win more medals there,” she said.
Nisreen and May help show people what the spirit of Ramadan is all about.
Nisreen and May started the charity initiative known as “Ramadan Boxes” six years ago, after meeting while working at a university.
For Ramadan Boxes, Nisreen and May assemble boxes of food that are then distributed to families and those in need. The two women do everything from collect money to buy the supplies and distribute the boxes.
“Each box contains the basic ramadan necessities, because we want to make sure that the box can last the families throughout the entire month [of Ramadan],” Nisreen said.
The women rely on friends and contacts to help tell them who is in need of a Ramadan box, and this year they distributed 120 boxes.
This year the women were able to make a deal with a supplier who gave them market prices, allowing them to buy their supplies in bulk.
Some people, who cannot contribute financially to Ramadan Boxes, will devote their time instead.
“Once a student called us and he offered to help with the logistics because he couldn’t afford to help financially,” Nisreen said.
It is this interest and spirit that helps keep them going. Both women work full-time in schools, and Ramadan Boxes is their way of trying to make a difference. They even have been able to impart the spirit of charity on some of the students, who have helped them make calls to families asking them what they need.
After all, as Nisreen and May have discovered, it doesn’t take much to make a difference.
Nazli, and the other members of the New Dawn Society for Women, know a thing or two about helping other people.
Created in 2004, the goal of the New Dawn Society for Women is simple—to do charity work, and help people and organizations in need.
“There was already a lot of women’s society in Bahrain, but nothing that fit our age group, which was 20-30s,” Nazli said. “So we had to establish our own.”
The group’s first project was to collect donations to buy respiratory machines for the cancer wing at Salmaniya Hospital. The group collected enough money and bought the machines, impressing even themselves.
After this project, the group decided they needed to formally establish themselves in order to build confidence among the community. It took a year and a half, but in 2006 the New Dawn Society for Women became an officially recognized organization.
“Help is always wanted,” Nazli said. “There are more than 500 registered charities in the Kingdom and some of them are inactive. Only a few are making a difference today.”
The New Dawn Society, which started with 12 members and has now grown to around 40, is one group that continues to make a difference. They hold two major fundraisers per year, have a database of families in need, and select a different charity each year to support.
Recently, the New Dawn Society has been taking its considerable talents outside Bahrain as well.
“We are branching out to other societies regionally,” Nazli said. “We met with a fellow organization in Qatar, and are now in touch with another one in Turkey. My goal is for New Dawn Society to become global.”
At the age of 16, Sara is already competing on the biggest stage in sports—the Olympic Games.
Sara will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, an event that can be over in as few as 25 seconds.
Sara was living with her family in the United States when she first started swimming. After moving back to Bahrain in 2002, Sara admits she preferred other sports, like basketball, and never thought of competing in swimming professionally.
However, two years ago, that changed when the Bahrain Olympic Committee was looking for swimmers to compete in the International Children’s Games.
“They wanted girls to compete in those games, and so I tried out,” Sara said. “Afterwards the committee asked me if I would like to join the official Bahrain Olympic Team, and ever since I have been swimming professionally.”
Sara participated in the 2011 World Championships, which automatically qualified her in the Olympic Games.
In preparation for the Olympics, Sara trained every afternoon in the pool and the gym, sometimes juggling a strenuous school course load as well.
“I didn’t take off school,” Sara said. “Instead I trained extra hard because the Olympics are not something you’d want to miss out on.
Sara is the only female swimmer from Bahrain, and feels proud to be representing the country.
“It’s an honor to represent Bahrain at the Olympics,” she said. “I feel that participating is great accomplishment in itself.”
Sami is an airline pilot, but the skies are not the only place he flies.
A former member of the Bahrain Olympic Sailing Team, who competed in the 2004 Olympics, Sami also flies across the water.
Sami comes from a family of sailors and got involved in the sport at a young age. Both of his parents were involved in the sport and his older brother is an established sailor as well.
“My first memories are on the beach at the sailing club, and I started sailing on my own at a young age,” Sami said.
Sami had been a member of the Bahrain National Sailing Team for four years leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games, and qualified to make the Bahraini Olympic Team a few weeks before the games.
Sami calls walking into the Olympic stadium representing Bahrain the proudest moment of his life.
“Representing your country at the Olympics means more than anything to every athlete who had the opportunity to compete at the games,” Sami said. “It is the largest sporting event you’ll ever be a part of. It’s a rare time when the whole world comes together and puts differences aside. It’s about celebrating humanity.”
Sailing also helped Sami decide on a career as an airline pilot.
“In some ways [flying and sailing] are very similar. Sailing taught me how to be dedicated and motivated, which I believe flying requires,” Sami said. “I also loved travelling when I was sailing full time, and now flying takes me all over the world to new exciting destinations. Flying planes is my career, but I still sail and race in my spare time. It’s great to be able to do both.”
Sami believes that being involved in sports at a young age helped teach him the skills he needed to not only excel on the water, but off the water as well. Now, he has advice for young athletes who also aspire to compete under the Olympic rings.
“Never give up and set your goals high,” Sami said. “It can, and will, be extremely tough at times, but if you have the talent and you apply the right dedication and training you will be amazed at what you can achieve, not only in your sport but in life.”
When Shub’s friends persuaded her to start a blog, she didn’t know where the venture would lead.
Now, several months later, Shub’s blog, “Dimpled Fairy Diary,” has grabbed the attention of the social media world in Bahrain as well as an enthusiastic base of followers.
The Dimpled Fairy Diary covers all things that Shub is passionate about — fashion, beauty, health, travel and art.
“I studied Business Management & fashion design in Oxford, UK and have always been a source of advice for my friends,” Shub said. “I’ve always been fascinated in fashion, history and art "
Since starting her blog, one of the greatest rewards for Shub has been the ability to interact with her followers.
“I inspire girls who are curvy to dress in style,” Shub said. “There’s been so many girls coming back to me saying, ‘I didn’t know I could wear that, but after seeing you wear it, I went and bought the same,’ I feel happier when I receive such feedback.”
Shub also enjoys that challenge that her blog presents. As a fashion student you always have to come up with the next best creative thing, Shub explained. She stressed the importance of needing to have new ideas and the ability to think outside the box.
The Dimpled Fairy Dairy was the winner of the Vogue Eyewear competition, which required Shub, and other competing bloggers, to come up with several different looks surrounding a pair of Vogue sunglasses. Shub also placed third at the Bahrain Social Media Day awards for best personal blog.
“For someone who’s been blogging very recently I think it’s a great way of being recognized,” Shub said of the awards. “I was the only Fashion Blogger nominated in the Best Personal Blog category.”
Muna wears her style on her wrist. An up-and-coming designer, Muna focuses her artistic talent and passion on watches.
However, the design isn’t the only important thing to Muna. She painstakingly researches the factories where her watches are produced to ensure the highest quality and standards go into creating each watch. Muna places a premium on quality, and her watches prove it.
For her first collection, Muna released 10 watches of different colors. Her creations, which are bright and multicolored, instantly grab people’s attention.
Muna formally announced her first collection on May 9, and was happy to see that it was met with a positive response. An additional success was that the branded t-shirts Muna made as part of the launch sold out quickly.
Even with a successful launch behind her, Muna remains humble, and notes that there is great room for her to grow.
“It is a terrific feeling to see my designs come to life,” she said.
Muna finds the inspiration and humor for many of her designs in the blend of local Bahraini culture and the fast pace of the modern world.
A designer by trade, Muna studied in London before returning to Bahrain. She held design internships in New York, and was inspired to pursue her own art form, that art form turned out to be watch design and she hasn’t looked back.
When designing garments for women, Hebah is always thinking about three elements; uniqueness, comfort, and versatility.
Her label says, ‘made with 100% love’ and while listening to Hebah talk about her work, it’s obvious that this is true. Her collections represent her colorful personality, as well as an ‘East meets West’ aesthetic. A practical woman, Hebah’s goal is to create an outfit that can transition from a day at work to an evening on the town.
“I began my career in design as an interior designer, followed by working with my family in their jewelry business. I was inspired to go into fashion, when I was studying interior design at Parsons School of Design,” Hebah said. “An inherent love for fashion and joy in creating dramatic outfits since I was a child, topped with living in fabulous New York City can bring that out in you eventually, I guess.”
In 2004, she launched her first collection, which coincided with the first Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix. Her love for her country, along with her excitement about Formula One coming to Bahrain got her creative juices rolling, Hebah explained.
For that first Grand Prix Hebah created a fun and colorful collection, made out of t-shirts and bright novelty ‘gitrah’ fabrics in just a couple of months. There were 250 pieces in the collection, and each piece was completely unique. She even gifted team members and racers pieces from the collection.
“Mash’Allah, I sold out during that weekend! The best part was attending Formula One, and seeing my pieces pop out along the crowds,” Hebah said of her first collection.
Hebah’s motivation comes from her love for everything creative. As Hebah gained experience and popularity, designing clothes turned from a creative outlet to a growing business venture. Thrilled by the response to her designs, Hebah credits her success to being true to work and knowing her clientele and understanding what they want.
“AlhamdulilAllah, because I create unique limited pieces I am always asked to recreate the piece for my clients. Still, I pride myself on creating unique personal pieces, so I will never recreate the exact same piece. I re-design the piece using different colors and touches. I love attention to detail, and it excites me to have to work around the puzzle. Also this makes people happy, because nobody wants to look like anyone else. I despise commercialism and cookie-cutter like results,” she said of meeting the needs of her clients.
Every year during Ramadan, Hebah showcases her ‘HazaH’ collection, which is a mix kaftans, dresses, tops, and jumpsuits that show off her personal flair. She will start with one perfect piece that will be become the heart of the collection. This piece will then influence the other pieces she creates. One can always see the “HazaH” touch throughout all her collections, but she works hard to make sure each collection always has its own unique personality.
In the past her work has been showcased at various different exhibitions and shops. Hebah now sells her collection at her own shop, Darjee Tailor-House.
Hebah, who proudly calls Bahrain home, feels fortunate to be able to pursue her passion of designing clothes.
“Alhamdulil’Allah, you can pursue whatever dream you have in our beautiful tolerant country,” she said. “I have always gained much support, and am thankful for being able to use my talent in something I love so much.”
When confronted with a challenge, some people just hope for a solution while others take the initiative to create the solution. Rana is someone who created a solution.
Rana saw how many great local events were happening around Bahrain and felt that there was a lack of promotion for everything that was going on. There was simply no central source for information on the great things happening in Bahrain every day.
Rana met this challenge with her blog, Bahrainivents. Along with her colleague who is behind the sisterblog Bahrainipreneur, they diligently compile a Google calendar with all of the happenings in Bahrain, updates it daily and circulate the list for all subscribers to access.
“We do it out of love and passion,” Rana said.
Rana finds motivation to support this initiative because of her passion for Bahrain. She is originally from Egypt, and moved to Bahrain in 1998, where she immediately felt at home.
“Home is Bahrain for me, people are so kind. I never felt like a stranger, even when I just moved here,” she said. “This is a unique and open society. People are open-minded and they respect you.”
Now, through Bahrainivents, Rana has found a way to give back to the community she is so thankful to be a part of.
“I love Bahrain so much, it is easy to want to be a part of this,” she said. “Moving here was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Throughout the past three years, Julian has explored his new home in Bahrain. He moved here from London and has never looked back.
Julian finds that the greatest perk to living in Bahrain is the interaction with Bahrainis. He loves their sincerity, admires their passion and appreciates their willingness to befriend a stranger now living in their country.
He spends his days as a marketing professional but always finds time to continue to explore his new surroundings.
“There is a lot of exploring you can do,” he said. “Just spend a day exploring and you can get a feel for the warm hospitality.”
Overwhelmed by the friendliness and openness of the Bahraini community, Julian loves each day he spends on the island. Many of his friends ask him about his experience in Bahrain and he raves about the warm society. He feels safe and secure in everyday life here.
“I am safer here than in London,” he often remarks.
Julian finds Bahrainis are wealthy people. Not wealthy in assets or possessions, but “wealthy in terms of historical connection to where they live.”
Bahrainis are proud of their heritage and proud to be Bahraini he explains.
When Hinda hits the stage, the lights, the sounds and the crowd overcomes her in ways she could never have imagined. From a young age, her passion for music led to countless concerts with her bedroom mirror as her audience. Finally, after much encouragement from her friends, she joined her first Jazz group in Sussex, United Kingdom. Here she discovered a love for Jazz and would later combine that with her passion for hip-hop in truly innovative ways.
Born in Tunisia, Hinda moved to the UK when she was four. Surprisingly, she has never studied music, rather textile design. Her music combines her jazz roots with hip-hop and house music, seamlessly blended into a one-of-a-kind audience experience.
Hinda recently held her first performance in Bahrain at Mezza Luna restaurant in Adliya. She felt welcomed by Bahrainis and is motivated by their kindness, and is thrilled to be able to bring her unique music for Bahrainis to experience and enjoy.
"Everyone here is welcoming. There's a beautiful energy here and everyone is so friendly. I've had the best time,” she said.
Hinda’s goal of being a billboard selling artist is within her grasp. Not motivated by fame or money, but by taking her passion as far as her talent allows.
“I do music because I love it,” she said. "I am not doing music for fame, but because it’s who I am.”
Born and raised in Riffa, Ali is a social media guru. His passion and expertise grew organically as he jumped around the fields of marketing and consulting before landing in a career he loves.
Ali studied at the undergraduate and graduate levels in England. He earned a bachelor’s degree in multimedia computing and an advanced degree in economics and management. His extensive experience in these areas positioned Ali to understand the technical specifics of his job, as well as ensure profit maximization.
“Sometimes diverse backgrounds make the best backgrounds,” Ali said. “I found that to be the case in implementing social media platforms and campaigns.”
Ali’s strong social media skills led him to develop a unique career. From the beginning of widespread social media use in Bahrain, he was one of the first people to commercialize the concept of social media. From his online presence and expert reputation, Batelco tapped Ali to lead their social media efforts.
Batelco challenged Ali to reinvent its social media strategy which proved both difficult and rewarding. He implemented a robust strategy, and utilized all relevant interactive platforms.
“I get inspiration from everywhere. I work to connect Batelco with our customers and connect our customers with Batelco,” he said.
Ali is happy to be doing a job he loves, in a country he loves.
“I could not imagine living anywhere else. This is home,” Ali said.
His favorite spots include Al Barr, in Sakhir, and Howar, a beach an hour away by ferry. Ali enjoys escaping to nature and looks forward to seeing gazelles at Howar.
Ali also feels a deep connection to his community.
"We are not raised to live on our own. We are a community. Bahrain is where the heart is.”
Why does Adel love Bahrain? His answer is simple.
“Home is where the heart is, and this is where my heart is,” Adel writes, describing his relationship with his homeland of Bahrain.
Adel believes that Bahrain is the most liberalized country in the region. He also finds it is not just Bahrainis that call the island home. Adel has seen how people of countless other nationalities prefer to live and work in Bahrain instead of their home countries around the world.
“A leader in education, industry, banking, and information and communications technology, it’s heavy for opportunities,” Adel writes of Bahrain. “Here you can get the best education, work in your dream job and live the best quality life ever. And, as a bonus, everyone in Bahrain knows each other. It’s like being a member of a very huge family.”
Now, Adel is actively involved in connecting that family online.
Adel has noticed an increased interest in social media in Bahrain over the past year. He believes media is constantly evolving, from one-way communication to full interaction with audiences via text, photos, audio and video.
Through his job at the e-government authority and as a board member for the Social Media Club Bahrain, Adel is dedicated to promoting social media. He hopes to raise awareness between his countrymen and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries on how to best use social media and utilize the tools it offers.
Dilraz will say that although she is technically not Bahraini, she considers herself one just the same.
Dilraz is an Indian expat born and raised in Bahrain’s Riffa area. She is a trained Indian classical dancer, and grew up performing at the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam, an Indian expatriate club in Bahrain.
The fact that Malayalam, her family’s dialect, is spoken everywhere in Bahrain makes her feel at home. Dilraz also noted how she grew up enthusiastically celebrating every Indian festival or holiday.
“In Bahrain there is something to accommodate every culture,” she said. “I love that life is awesome here. Not too fast, not took slow. People from all backgrounds, accepting each other. It’s just the feeling of belonging, of being home.”
It is this feeling of inclusivity that Dilraz loves most about Bahrain. She explains that every person you meet in Bahrain will have friends from difficult cultures, and every office will have people of different ethnicities.
In her job, as editor of Sabaya Magazine, Dilraz has the unique opportunity to meet a wide range of people. She shared how when covering the Air Show for the magazine she even had the opportunity to shake the hand of His Majesty King Hamad.
“I was on top of the world,” she said of that experience.
Additionally, she believes that the warmth of the people in Bahrain, both citizens and expats, is something you can’t find anywhere else.
“The people here are warm, and friendly, and open minded,” she said. “They won’t judge you on your race or religion and they are far more accepting than any other place.”
Always wanting to document things, Ali has carried a camera with him since he was a kid. Now, what was a hobby at age 10 has become his career.
Ali, a photographer, bought his first professional camera in 2000. Having gone to school to study accounting, Ali is a self-taught photographer who worked in insurance before becoming a full-time freelance photographer in 2009.
“It’s a passion of mine that I knew I had to follow,” Ali said of pursuing a career in photography. “So far it’s been worth the risk.”
Ali’s goal is to capture feelings and emotion in the pictures he takes. He tries to transmit life through photos and believes that a photo is all about the moment it captures, not whether or not it is technically perfect.
“If I am shooting buildings I don’t consider them as objects, everything has a meaning. The Muharraq causeway is not just a causeway for me,” Ali explained. “It links people, it is not only a structure.”
Before making the decision to launch his own company Ali analyzed the photography market in Bahrain. He found that while Bahrain was home to many talented photographers, not many of them were doing photography for their profession.
Ali is a proud Bahraini. He believes that people in Bahrain are unique as they highly value and appreciate talent. To him, Bahrain is all about culture and friendship.
“I had the option to be based outside of Bahrain, but I don't want to leave my country and my friends just for the sake of money,” Ali said. “I am a photographer who serves its countrymen. I am not into it for money or fame.”
Annelise has made it her mission to make those moving to Bahrain feel comfortable.
“I get people settled in,” Annelise said. “I hold the hands of expats moving here.”
Annelise moved to Bahrain from the U.K. with her husband just over three years ago. Four months later, along with a fellow expat, she founded the company Expat Angels. The idea for the company came from Annelise’s own experiences as an expat and the ways she felt she could improve the experience of those moving away from home.
To do this, she figures out what a person needs prior to and upon their arrival in Bahrain.
In advance of a person’s move, Annelise conducts sessions with clients to determine what type of accommodations they are looking for, explains the Bahraini culture to people, and determines what else they may need to make a smooth transition.
She then work with clients to find them housing, sets up their utilities, makes sure they are met at the airport, and will often times have a mobile phone ready and waiting for them.
Annelise also takes people on an in-depth tour of Bahrain, tailored to individual interests. She calls Bahrain “a hidden gem” and finds joy in sharing all the things she loves about her adopted homeland with others. She will take people to try the food at Coco’s, introduce them to her favorite tailor in the souq and encourage people to enjoy the benefit of island living by getting out on the water.
Annelise, who often keeps in touch with her expat clients, finds that more often than not people quickly fall in love with Bahrain the way her and her husband have.
“You either stay here one to two years, or the next seven,” she said.
As for Annelise, her time in Bahrain isn’t over yet.
“It’s home to us,” Annelise said. “It took a while for me to say it, but it’s home to us.”
Waddah learned to cook from his mother. With all sons, she decided to bestow upon them the skills she would have otherwise shared with a daughter.
The result is Badawi Lebanese, a Lebanese restaurant Waddah opened up in Manama a year and a half ago. Based on the restaurant’s success, it is obvious Waddah’s mother succeeded in her cooking lessons.
“The goal of this restaurant was to create five star food at a reasonable price,” Waddah said. This concept, along with his use of fresh ingredients and his insistence that everything he serves is homemade, has won him a loyal customer base.
However, Waddah’s first career was not as a restaurateur, but as a pilot.
Waddah grew up in Bahrain and went to the United States to study aviation, where he worked in commercial aviation for seven years.
When his career in commercial aviation ended, Waddah started an Italian restaurant in Daytona Beach, Florida, which ran successfully for more than 3 years. When gambling became legal in Daytona Beach, people began buying property at a frantic pace, and Waddah sold his restaurant for an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The decision to move back to Bahrain, to be among his family in the country he loves, was not difficult.
“The reason I love Bahrain is that although there are so many places in the world that it would be nice to live in because of certain perks, sights or culture, nothing feels like home like this tiny little island,” Waddah said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, once you live in Bahrain, you feel the melting pot of love and family culture.”
Now, happy to be home, Waddah is enjoying the opportunity to cook good food for people he cares about.
“I’ve done so many things in life,” Waddah said. “I believe you do what you love, and success will come in time.”
As president of Social Media Club Bahrain, Ali’s goals are to educate and enlighten people when it comes to using the Internet.
Started in the United States, Ali and several others founded Bahrain’s branch of the Social Media Club last year.
Now, with approximately 160 members, Social Media Club Bahrain is the most active chapter in the region. As recognition of this, they were recently named head of the Middle East chapter, allowing them to oversee all Social Media Club branches in the area.
The group has monthly workshops and social gatherings, goes into schools to teach about responsible use of the Internet, and has brought 25 speakers to Bahrain in the last six months. They also hold “social media camps,” which are open to anyone. During these workshops, they teach people how to use Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and how to create a blog.
“What we need as the Social Media Club is to promote the good uses of social media,” Ali said.
Ali’s enthusiasm and about the use of social media came from an early interest in the Internet.
As an electronics and engineering major in college, Ali became familiar with the Internet. After college Ali and some friends started their own development agency and became some of the first people to be building websites in Bahrain.
Now, Ali is happy to see how important the Internet and social media has become in the lives of Bahrainis. When asked why he thought Bahrain had a such a high percentage of social media users, Ali felt it was because the small country was already so interconnected.
“Bahrain is totally different than any other GCC country [in their use of social media] because of the bonding here,” Ali said. “You are never a stranger here.”
When he was 6 years old, Altaher moved to Bahrain from Egypt with his family. What he remembers most about the first day in his new home was the way his neighbors treated them as one of their own.
One of the neighbors that greeted Altaher and his family with open arms was Auntie Fatima.
“She is an amazing person,” Altaher wrote. “Her house was always open for me anytime.”
Altaher especially remembers that the first time he tried majboocs, a traditional Bahraini dish made of seasoned rice and meat or fish, was when Auntie Fatima cooked it for him. During Ramadan she would send his family Arabian coffee and kabab, and her house was first place that Altaher would visit in Eid, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan. To this day, Altaher still calls one of Auntie Fatima’s sons his best friend.
When he was in high school Altaher became very sick and the doctors thought he may have appendicitis. At the time, his family did not have a car, and he remembers how Auntie Fatima stayed with him and his family in the emergency room for the entire night.
“She was telling me, ‘Get well soon Taher and I will cook majboocs for you,’” he wrote. “When I went back home, the majboocs was waiting for me. This is the Bahrain I know.”
For Mahmood it is finance by day and flour by night.
Mahmood works in finance as a banker, but runs his own dessert catering business on the side. He originally began baking as a child because his grandma used baking as an activity to keep him busy and behaving.
“I was a naughty kid, so my parents would send me to stay with my grandparents. My grandma found that the only way to control my temper was with Betty Crocker,” Mahmood said. “She would say, ‘Mahmood, go read what’s on the box and gather the ingredients.’ So I would help her stir and mix. Gradually baking at her house out of the Betty Crocker box became my responsibility. It was known as Mahmood’s task.”
Mahmood eventually left Bahrain to study in Australia. Far away from home, he began experimenting with cooking and baking, often making dishes and foods that his friends craved. However, it was only when a cake he baked for a friend’s birthday party received rave reviews that he realized he might be onto something.
When he returned to Bahrain, Mahmood continued to feed his friends, and soon people began asking him if he catered. Now Mahmood’s products are in high demand and he runs his own catering business, Mahmood Janahi – Cakes and Bakes.
“I cater for a niche of people, it is high quality baking,” Mahmood said. “I bake with passion so quality comes first, before profitability.”
The Betty Crocker box now far behind him, Mahmood’s signature dessert is the “crownie,” a mix of a cookie and a brownie. To try the “crownie” one doesn’t even need to contact Mahmood, as it is currently on the menu at Blaze Restaurant in Adliya.
Ella, a self-taught artist who was born and raised in Bahrain, knew early on in life that painting was her passion.
“I started painting at the age of 12,” Ella said. “At 15 I knew I wanted to paint as my career.”
At age 18 Ella decided to joint the Bahrain Arts Society, which was founded in 1983 and promotes the development of fine arts in Bahrain. The group holds 2-3 exhibitions per year, and it was at her first exhibition that Ella sold her first piece of artwork. The buyer was the Ambassador from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, and Ella still has the receipt of purchase and the letter the Ambassador wrote praising her work.
In the years since she sold that first painting, Ella has come a long way. She has shown her work in galleries around the world and in 2004 opened her own gallery in Adliya, where she now teaches art and displays her work.
Her pieces tend to be inspired by the community and country she grew up in, with many of her paintings depicting scenes from around Bahrain.
“I paint Bahrain heritage mostly,” Ella said. “That is inside me, and these are the thoughts in my mind that I paint.”
For inspiration Ella returns to the old streets of Manama and Muharraq, drawing on the childhood memories she has of these places. Many of Ella’s paintings also show the contrast between new and old Bahrain. One piece hanging in her gallery shows Bahrain’s current skyline with the new, modern buildings juxtaposed against a background of scenes from old Bahrain.
Ella is Indian, and although she visits India frequently and has family there, she will always consider herself a Bahraini.
“When I return to Bahrain,” Ella said. “It feels like home.”
Ghada may not have grown up in Bahrain, but she is very happy to be raising her family here.
“Bahrain is the perfect place to raise a family,” Ghada said. “It is cosmopolitan; kids are exposed to every culture. My daughter goes to school with 14 other nationalities; English, Egyptians, Japanese, Palestinians…her class is like a mini United Nations.”
Another reason Ghada feels fortunate to be raising her family in Bahrain is because she is able to have everything that a big city offers, but in a place with a small town feel.
Bahrain is also accessible in a way that many other places are not, Ghada notes. She loves that she can take her daughter out for lunch and do a fun activity without having to worry about being stuck in traffic. Everything in Bahrain is close together, making it is easy to see and do a variety of things in a short amount of time.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Ghada has lived in Bahrain since 2008. What she finds most special about her adopted homeland, besides the benefit of fantastic weather 6 months out of the year, are the people.
Bahraini’s, according to Ghada, are easy-going, down to earth and some of the most hospitable people she knows. She feels lucky that she has been able to establish relationships with everyone from the mothers of her daughter’s friends to the shopkeepers in the stores that she frequents.
“The human contact you make with shop owners,” Ghada said, referring to something that makes Bahrain unique. “They will tell you, ‘pay tomorrow, there is no need to pay today.’”
When Melissa moved from London to Bahrain six years ago, she immediately fell in love with the country’s culture, history and the mix of people who call it home.
“I love that it’s such a cross-cultural society,” she said, describing Bahrain. “It’s a real mix of East and West, and I have made friends with Bahrainis and people from around the world, so for my 40th birthday party, I had 23 nationalities show up. It was like a U.N. gathering.”
Melissa’s favorite spot in Bahrain is La Fontaine, a contemporary art center, spa, Pilates and yoga studio, restaurant, and performing arts space. When she discovered it tucked away in the village of Hoora, she was immediately taken by the exquisite traditional architecture and all that the space has to offer.
An experienced journalist, Melissa first wanted to write about La Fontaine. However, when the owner, Fatima Alireza, asked if she would be interested in helping out with PR for an exhibition by the award-winning Iranian photographer Reza, she jumped at the opportunity. Thereafter, she continued to work in art promotion, alongside freelance writing, when she later ran the grassroots arts club Elham.
Now Melissa has translated her curiosity and appreciation for Bahrain into a book called StreetSmart Bahrain, which is set to launch late February.
For her book, which is a travel guide to Bahrain, Melissa spent time walking the streets, exploring the villages and talking to locals. One place she will be encouraging visitors to check out is Bahrain’s former capital, Muharraq, which she loves for its historical houses and souq, which she describes as “a treasure trove where you never know what you will find”. One of her best discoveries was a sword-making shop called Depaj, which has been making swords for royals and dignitaries throughout the region for 200 years. While visiting, Melissa had the rare opportunity to hold an exquisite sword totally encrusted with diamonds.
“That is what’s cool about Bahrain, the accessibility,” Melissa said of the experience. “If I was in London or New York, there’s no way that they would let me even touch such an expensive piece, as someone who clearly couldn’t afford it. It’s the same with people; I’ve found everyone very welcoming and the door generally open, no matter who we’re talking about. That’s what makes Bahrain different.”
An art student who also works in a gallery in Manama, Tala grew up in Bahrain but has studied in various locations across the globe. After experiencing many different cities and cultures, what Tala finds most special about Bahrain are the people.
“The beauty of Bahrain is its people,” she said. “We are all a community. If your car breaks down, someone will stop and help you out regardless of race or ethnicity.”
One way Tala has witness the support of the Bahraini community at large is in regards to the National Women’s Football team, which she was a member of for five years. Since leaving the team a few years ago, Tala has been proud of the increased level of support her team, and other women’s sports teams, have received from the nation.
When asked to describe Bahrain in three words, Tala immediately mentioned, “friendly, cozy, homey,” and with a laugh added a fourth word —“dusty.”
Tala feels proud that the people of Bahrain have not lost their culture, explaining that young people in Bahrain still do activities, eat the same food, and have the same traditions as their grandparents.
When looking for some peace and quiet, Tala likes to escape to Jarada Island, which she describes as, “a little strip of sand off the coast of Bahrain.” Here, she said, when it is high tide and the water washes over the sand you get the feeling that you are walking on water.
Tala would tell anyone visiting Bahrain to make sure to go to the Adliya district for good food, visit Muharraq for real Bahraini art and culture, stop by the Manama souq for shopping, and to try to get to the beach to take in the impressive coastline.
Mohanna may have been born in Bahrain, but he spent much of his time growing up traveling the world as a member of the Bahrain National Sailing team. Despite having 7 a.m. practices in the morning before school, Mohanna is grateful for the experiences that being apart of the sailing team gave him.
“I am a born and raised downtown Bahraini who has had a chance to see the world,” Mohanna said, describing himself.
Now Mohanna is working to bring his passion—water sports and beach culture—to Bahrain. He is an Internal Kiteboarding Organization (IKO) level one certified kitesurfing instructor, and is currently working on his level two certification, which will allow him to be an internationally recognized certified instructor. It will also allow him to open his own kitesurfing school, which is his long term goal.
Mohanna believes that one of the best things about Bahrain is the way that the country is developing organically. He believes it is important that the country’s growth has been slow and steady over the years.
He sees Bahrain has a place where you can often find cities within cities. He recalled being younger and going to the Manama souq, where he found a guitar shop and bought a guitar on the spot. Laughing, he said that he probably got ripped off, but it didn’t matter.
“I was a 14-year-old kid discovering this place I had never been before,” he added.
Thanks to his travels, Mohanna has a wide reaching circle of friends and he often plays hosts to those who come visit him in Bahrain. According to him, whenever someone visits Bahrain, the thing they always comment on is how friendly and open the people are.
“People let whoever it is into their home; let them eat their food, and into their beds,” he said.
featured storyIsa Town
Reem is no ordinary community leader. At just 24 years old, she is the coordinator of the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM), Bahrain chapter.
“I have always had great interest in the environment, and in general love being in green places,” Reem said.
However, her interest grew once she started training as a biologist in South Africa and Indonesia. Living in the wild gave her a sense of how people in the most isolated villages and indigenous places on earth coped and lived with no electricity or any type of technology.
When she returned to “civilization" she was more aware of the environmental damage humans made to live the way they do today.
“Witnessing some of the effects of climate change like coral bleaching, places suffering from droughts and many others made me feel like I needed to do something to help,” Reem explained.
The AYCM started when a group of people from IndyACT, 350.org, GCCA and CAN decided to put together an Arab youth group. Applications were then called in to form and join an Arab Youth Climate Movement.
“I saw this as an opportunity to engage Bahraini youths, not just within Bahrain but also across the region,” Reem said. “Knowing that this has never been done in the region, I felt that Bahrain needed this at this moment in time – especially with the way we Arabs are being stereotyped.”
The goal behind AYCM is to create a platform where youths interested in global warming and similar subjects can come and learn by asking questions.
For Reem, AYCM represents a new beginning. Reem and Tariq Al Olaimy, her fellow AYCM coordinator, have many plans for the future. They hope to train and teach youths in Bahrain about the natural wonders hidden in Bahrain, and are confident that they can help save the little that is left and help bring back what was lost.
Another topic that makes Reem want to be more involved in the cause of global warming is the deteriorating coral reef 'Bu-I-Thamah', which is suffering from coral bleaching as a result of high temperatures.
“It upsets me to know that if this continues we will lose this beautiful, rich reef and will truly end up having a desert in the sea,” Reem said. “As a Bahraini and a marine biologist I feel a sense of responsibility toward conserving what we have.”
Reem and the AYCM will be participating in the Doha Climate Change conference in December. She hopes that the Arab governments end up being good influences during the negotiations and that countries raise their ambitions by deciding to lower their emissions at faster rates.
“I have high hopes for the conference in Doha,” Reem said. “I think the thing about youths in general is that they always hope.”
featured storyIsa Town
Hassan speaks with passion about what he does.
“I’m a developer. I create apps, games and websites,” he said of his job.
His adventure with the Internet and computers started when he was 13 years old. At first, exploring the Internet was just a hobby and the computer was just a toy for people to play with, he said.
It was in 2001, after graduating from university that Hassan began to get serious about turning his hobby into a career. That’s when he joined Bahrain TV.
Only four days after starting work with Bahrain TV, he was asked to develop a game for children that would be broadcast on television.
“This was my first game,” Hassan said of the resulting product. “Children would call in and they would have to fill the face of a clown with the features that were scattered on the screen.”
At the time when Hassan created the game equipment to connect a computer to a television was not yet available, so the camera had to film the game from the PC.
After the program’s success, Hassan was promoted and went on to develop approximately 100 different games, including the first Middle East versions of “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” to air in Bahrain. He also created a Middle East version of the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”
In 2003, Hassan created the first 3D game, which aired for three consecutive years on Bahrain TV and daily during Ramadan.
“I don’t have three or four people working with me,” Hassan said of his development process. “I do everything.”
His proudest moment came when he created a forum-based app for the Arabic singer Rashed Al Majid and launched it on the Android and iPhone platforms. This was the first Bahraini app to be launched on the App Store.
Hassan is confident about the future of digital technology in Bahrain.
“I have full confidence that Bahrain has the potential to go very far, and we need to make sure that as we build more apps, they remain friendly for people to use,” Hassan said.
featured storyIsa Town
DJ Outlaw started buying cassettes from artists in a language he didn’t understand. Now he collaborates with some of the world’s top artists in the hip-hop world.
His initial love for music came by way of Michael Jackson. Without understanding English, DJ Outlaw fell in love with the underlying beat, which moved him in a profound way. Over the next 20 years, he has made a childhood passion into worldwide success.
DJ Outlaw has performed across the Middle East and around the world, serving as Bahrain’s representative to the hip-hop music world. From G-Unit to Ludacris, DJ Outlook has collaborated with the best.
In testament to his hard work, DJ Outlaw’s organic progression through the DJ world is much to the credit of social media. He began DJing birthday parties and weddings for friends and family and expanding by word of mouth throughout Bahrain.
“Social media has helped 100 percent,” he said, explaining that it has allowed him to promote his music throughout the world and has given him the chance to make invaluable connections with international superstars through these platforms. “I can prove a point that you can be anywhere and make it.”
His music brings people together in a unique way. He always knows his audience and combines music of their interest with his originality and rhythm.
“I’m all about unity,” he said. “I try to bring people together to compile art and interest.”
Bahrain International Circuit
featured storyBahrain International Circuit
For Adeeb and Ali, karting is more than an afterschool activity.
Adeeb first got behind the wheel of a kart at the age of 7, and hasn’t looked back since.
“I have been riding professionally for 2 years now,” Adeeb said. “It’s my father who encouraged me.”
For Ali, the karting adventure began when he bought his own kart in January 2012.
“I met Adeeb through my coach and together we form the Bahrain 1 team,” Ali said.
Both Adeeb and Ali have big dreams when it comes to karting. Currently, they are competing in the Under-18 World Karting Championship, and the final will happen in Bahrain on November 9.
“It’s very exciting that the final is happening in Bahrain,” Adeeb said. “We’ve been waiting for it for a year now. It didn’t happen last year.”
Ali shares Adeeb’s excitement surrounding the event.
“Other drivers will have the chance to come drive on our karting circuit, which is very different and more challenging than European-type circuits,” he said, adding that the Viva karting track is considered a desert circuit and the weather conditions, like the dust and sand, can be challenging for drivers not accustomed to this type of weather.
Ali and Adeeb agree that knowing and being used to the weather and the track may help give them an edge.
In August 2012, at a race, Ali and Adeeb placed 15th out of 30 racers at a race held in France, part of the Under-18 championship series. This impressive finish has helped motivate them for the future.
Supported by their friends and families, Ali and Adeeb are working on practicing more and hope to participate in bigger events. In particular, there is a 24 hour race coming up in March 2013 in Bahrain, and they’re looking forward to it.
At the prospect of becoming professional drivers one day, Ali and Adeeb answered with a smile, “Why not?”
featured storyBahrain International Circuit
Ali has a unique perspective on the sport of karting.
From behind the wheels of his kart, to behind the scenes documentation of motorsports, Ali is at the forefront of changing how one experiences motorsport in the Middle East.
A karting driver and motorsports fan, Ali always wanted people to be able to share their best moments on the track with their friends or the viewers. This is how the idea for Karting Mania, Ali’s company, was born.
“We made a deal with Go Pro Camera and it started from there,” Ali said.
Go Pro is a versatile camera that people can wear, enabling them to live document their activities by wearing a camera. This technology allows karters to create simple documentaries by recording footage from behind the wheel.
Ali hopes to help karting drivers by using these Go Pro videos to connect them with potential sponsors. He wants to give hope to future karting talent that Go Pro can be a platform for securing professional endorsement.
The idea for this project was born out of personal frustration.
“I have my own kart at home that I’m paying for myself. It shouldn’t be like that,” Ali said. “Bahrainis are very smart people, but we need the rusty doors to be opened. I quit my job for this. I always say, ‘stop complaining just do it yourself,’ so I did it.”
Ali is confident that if more attention is given to the sport of karting from corporations and businesses, Bahrain will be able to endorse a future world-class Bahraini driver.
“Formula 1 maybe, yes! We have a track, so why not?” he said. “Karting is where the future drivers of F1 and World Endurance Championship are made.”
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For Ali, becoming a professional karting driver and champion has been a dream come true.
Ali describes getting behind the wheel and driving as something that has always been second nature to him. He never learned to drive professionally before he was scouted at the age of 17, while he was just driving for fun with a friend.
Now, Ali races with the Dark Knight Karting Team and enjoys sharing his experience with the younger team members.
“I’ve got the experience, Ali said. “I like to see others lead.”
Ali’s career as a karting driver has taken him around the world and given him a chance to try other types of driving as well. In 2011, Ali participated in an exchange program arranged by the U.S. State Department and NASCAR. Ali represented Bahraini drivers, had the opportunity to learn about NASCAR, and visited the NASCAR tracks in Charlotte, North Carolina and Miami, Florida.
Ali continues to engage people who are active in NASCAR and hopes to one day help bring NASCAR drivers over to participate in the Bahrain Speed Weekend.
Ali also hopes to help groom the next generation of karting drivers in Bahrain. His goal is to open a karting school to help teach and scout young drivers. He also hopes to see a Bahraini Formula 1 driver emerge in the future.
“We host the F1 every year, so we should have a local driver representing us,” Ali said. “There are a lot of talented drivers who have a lot of potential.”
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Bahrain Stories was on the ground at this year’s Gulf Air Formula 1 Grand Prix. We spent time in the stands, around the track and behind the scenes with the Bahrain Marshals Club. Read below for an on the ground account of race day at the Grand Prix!
10:15 a.m.: Bahrain Stories has been on the circuit for two days, but today is show time. Today is the culmination of four months of non-stop work. Planning formally began in September and evolved into a mad dash to organize in February.
11:00 a.m.: Despite a little rain, the crowd is not discouraged! Officials are expecting 50,000 spectators today. So far, the Grand Prix has been a success.
1:15 p.m.: The marshals take a moment to gather around so we can take a photograph to remember their role on this important day. Two pit marshals share with us their take on the day: excitement. “It's in two hours! We can't believe it's happening!” “We were here at 4 a.m. this morning. It has been adrenaline all the way.” They have poor poker faces, their expression tells all. They have been waiting for this.
2:00 p.m.: From race control, President of the Bahrain Marshals Club and course director, Fayez, is tweeting at us. "Let's show the world that we're ready. Great job so far marshals. Now is the time".
2:55 p.m.: Our photographer is on the ground snapping pictures of the marshals. Aside from Vettel, Hamilton and Schumacher, they are the stars of the day. They strike a pose for us, showing their flags and making funny faces. The race is set to start in 2 minutes.
2:59 p.m.: We watch as the F1 mechanical teams leave the starting line. The cars are warming up. The pitlane marshals are on full alert. We spot the radio marshals and sector marshals with their full gear, but they don’t look our way, their eyes are on the track.
3:00 p.m.: The race starts! Vettel (Red Bull Racing/Renault) leads the way. Bahrain Stories can see everything from our seats in the main grandstand and we are live-tweeting his performance.
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Bahrain Stories was on the ground at this year’s Gulf Air Formula 1 Grand Prix. We spent time in the stands, around the track and behind the scenes with the Bahrain Marshals Club. Read below for Bahrain Stories' on the ground account of day 1 at the Grand Prix!
10:00 a.m.: The Bahrain Stories team is headed to the Bahrain International Circuit to attend the 2012 Gulf Air Formula 1 Grand Prix! Everywhere we look we see the Bahraini colors of red and white. Many of the shirts display the phrases, “One Nation in Celebration,” and “I Love Bahrain.” People have come from all across the island, from around the GCC and the world to watch the only desert Grand Prix on the F1 calendar this year.
11:00 a.m.: Bahrain Stories heads over to the entertainment zone, where vending areas offer all types of food and drink, and where a stage is set up. The entertainment zone pulses to the sounds of Navi, the well-known Michael Jackson impersonator, who was flown in for the occasion. The crowd’s enthusiasm carries over into the next act — a Scottish bagpipe band whose remix of “Don’t Stop Believing’” has the crowd going crazy.
12:00 p.m.: We are excited to see some of our friends from the Bahrain Marshals Club who are strolling around and mingling with the crowd. They stand out in their green and orange overalls, and red t-shirts, and people snap pictures of them, wondering how their involved in the F1. Bahrain Stories heads over to speak with Mihfid and Mohammed, two radio Marshals who have been volunteer marshals for three years. “It is always great to be a part of this event,” they tell us. “We are proving to the world that we can do it.” We ask them if they have a favorite moment of the race so far. “That is a very hard question, we like watching the cars from the start to the finish line.”
4:00 p.m.: In between the GP2 and the F1 qualification Bahrain Stories runs into Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amjad’s two right-hand men, who he has nicknamed, “the jokers.” Dr. Amjad sends the two “jokers” everywhere during the race and they act as his eyes and ears. “We are getting anxious. The F1 is tomorrow so we’re making sure everyone knows that they’re doing. Tomorrow is the big day. We’ve been waiting for this; we are always ready for this.” Bahrain Stories walks towards the main grandstand. It is 24 hours until the big race and two of the chief Marshals ride by on their bikes, giving us the thumbs up. It is time to start and they must get to their posts!
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Hassan has turned his passion for motorsports from a hobby to a job.
Hassan began working at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) as a volunteer with the Bahrain Marshals Club, and two years ago joined the staff of the circuit as the maintenance manager.
Now it is up to Hassan to make sure everything at the BIC is ready for races.
“We are in charge of everything and make sure that the track is spotless before the Grand Prix and that all is in line,” Hassan said.
Hassan makes sure that things such as vending areas, tents are prepared, and that the painting all gets done. Additionally, he supplies the marshals with all of the equipment they need to do their jobs, such as bikes and ATVs.
“So now we’re down to the home-stretch,” Hassan said of the upcoming Grand Prix. “I am on the phone all day to ensure that deliveries are on time and that the equipment is here on time.”
During race day Hassan is on standby in case additional hands are needed on the track, and he also coordinates closely with the evacuation marshals.
Hassan is proud that Bahrain is home to major events in motorsport and believes that everyone at the BIC should be proud of the work they do.
And what is Hassan’s favorite moment during the Grand Prix?
“I love to see the entire race from start to finish,” he said.
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Samantha’s heart beats to the roar of the track. Her life is dedicated to the success of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).
“I am the first employee of the Bahrain International Circuit,” Samantha said. “I was here when the circuit was still a desert.”
Samantha is a founding member of a core team that worked tirelessly to conceptualize, build and oversee the first Formula 1 circuit in the Middle East. She currently leads all logistical efforts at the BIC. From managing the vending areas, to drama unfolding in the VIP lounge, to the water not working in the bathroom, she is the go-to person.
During the early days of the Bahrain International Circuit, there was a desert and a group of committed people charged with turning a dream into reality. She recalls hiring the first staff members, working out of a temporary tent, and watching Bahrain take motorsport to the next level.
Samantha has lived in Bahrain for 34 years. She was originally planning to stay six months, but Samantha fell in love with the culture and the people. Bahrain is home to her and her husband, whom she met in Bahrain.
“It’s happening; we’ve done it,” Samantha said, remembering the start of the first F1 race in 2004 as her most memorable moment. All of her hard work paid off. “It was here, and it was a success.” Samantha witnessed her commitment and dedication to racing all come together before her eyes.
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Ali H. and Ali B. are two friends who hope their new social media site, Racer Times, will fill a void they see in the motorsport community.
Their goal is to connect drivers looking for sponsors with companies who may be willing to take them on. Ali B. and Ali H. hope that within the next 2-3 years, Racer Times will become an online hub for motorsport enthusiasts.
Ali H. and Ali B. came up with the concept for Racer Times because they feel that while motorsport receives adequate news coverage, it lacks an online community.
“In Bahrain we don’t have the culture of sponsoring. I have worked with a motorsport magazine and drivers told me that if they don’t have sponsorships, they have to pay for everything from their pocket,” Ali H. said, explaining that he has seen racers who have been driving for years, but can’t continue due to cost.
Ali H. and Ali B. hope their site will enable drivers to secure necessary funding while also drawing attention to a unique advertisement opportunity for companies.
“We want to prove to companies that advertising through motorsport is actually cheaper and more effective in terms of exposure, because as a spectator you will get to see the sponsoring company on the helmet of the driver, his car, his suit, the pit,” Ali B. said. “So instead of spending money on a billboard, you get 30 to 50,000 people passing by it.”
Ali H. and Ali B. have both been passionate about motorsport from a young age. As Bahrainis, they are particularly proud that their country has the first racetrack in the region.
“[Bahrain] introduced F1 and the concept of motorsport to the Middle East audience, they made it popular,” Ali H. said.
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Fire chief by day and emergency services coordinator at the Bahrain International Circuit by night, Ayyoub commits himself to ensuring the safety of others.
Ayyoub has a deep passion for helping people, from bravely serving his community to keeping people safe on the track; he mixes lifesaving skills with passion for motorsport.
“We’ve got vehicles in eight different locations on the track for emergency response. If something happens on the track, we need to be on location within 60 seconds,” Ayyoub said, explaining the specifics of response procedure on the track.
Ayyoub leaves nothing to chance. His team practices their coordinated response to fire and medical emergencies. It is crucial for Ayyoub and his team to both tend to the patient and ensure a safe competition for the race.
This is a thoughtful process, involving the identification of areas of concern on the track, managing resources and gaining emergency vehicle positioning approval from FIA.
Ayyoub also is intimately involved in the selection process of the fire/rescue personnel.
“A fire marshal should be physically fit, brave, and not overwhelmed when an accident occurs right in front of them,” he said. “They need to help the drivers, and not become an additional causality.”
During the F1 Grand Prix, it is all hands on deck. Track emergency services require 150 fire/rescue personnel, 35 volunteers and civil defense staff.
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Bahrain is Abdel Aziz’s second home. He has been coming to Bahrain from his native land of neighboring Saudi Arabia for the past seven years to fulfill his passion for motorsport.
In 2004, Abdel Aziz’s passion for racing at the BMW-F1 in Bahrain was born, and he has been hooked on Bahrain ever since. “Bahrain is my second home,” Abdel Aziz said. He looks forward to each trip to Bahrain, and falls deeper in love with the culture and people each time he lands on the small island in the Gulf. “It is the hospitality and generosity of its people that make it a unique place,” Abel Aziz said.
Abdel Aziz credits Bahrain with spearheading the motorsport movement in the Middle East. Since the world famous Bahrain International Circuit was created, the spark of motorsport has spread throughout the Middle East.
Abdel Aziz got an early start in the Bahrain motorsport community. He remembers coming to Bahrain for training beginning at a young age.
“I came to Bahrain, and raced, and won, and this is what got me started,” he said.
By day, Abdel Aziz manages his family business, but by night he is loves being able to pursue his passion for racing. He has been in the Porsche GT3 category for a few years, and loves the community surrounding the division.
“All the drivers are a big family. We all meet here and it is like a big reunion,” Abdel Aziz said. “First and foremost, racing is about enjoying it.”
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Alban grew up in France, but is proud to be member of a Bahraini team on the racetrack.
Alban is a French karting champion who started professional racing at the age of 10.
“It worked well,” Alban said of his early years of racing. “I was the fastest on the team and this is where and why I am here today.”
Now Alban is one of several drivers on the Batelco team, which he has been on since 2005. It was another professional driver who introduced him to the team, Alban said.
Alban is based in Bahrain, and has come to appreciate the work ethic and the respect people show one another in the country.
“I love Bahrain because it is down to earth,” Alban said. “People know what matters. It is not opulent. There is money, but it is not everything. We share everything. If someone is smoking inside the pit, he has to pay a fine. It is all about respecting others, and this is what Bahrain is about.”
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Who makes a race at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) possible? The 1,000 volunteers who make up the Bahrain Marshals Club. Bahrain Stories went behind the scenes at the Porsche GT3 speed weekend on March 30 at the BIC and followed the marshals around as they made the race run. Read below for an account of a day at the track for a Bahraini marshal!
7:30 a.m.: Bahrain Stories is in the BIC’s Medical Center where Dr. Amjad, the chief medical officer, is about to conduct a pre-race briefing with his team. “Today is race day and we are not joking,” Dr. Amjad tells Bahrain Stories. “I want to make sure they are ready, although they did a good job yesterday at the drill. I just want to reiterate how important it is to respect discipline on the track.” Dr. Amjad remains calm through the briefing, but the excitement among the marshals is evident. For the marshals, this speed weekend event is the big dress rehearsal before the Formula 1 Grand Prix in April. “Today’s the day,” Dr. Amjad tells the marshals. “There is no tomorrow.”
9:30 a.m.: Bahrain Stories follows Dr. Amjad and his deputy as they go to inspect the track. All of Dr. Amjad’s men, the medical marshals, are in green jumpsuits and he points out how they are positioned at every turn. The track marshals, flag holders and those with radios are positioned behind them.
9:45 a.m.: Bahrain Stories meets up with Jassim, the head marshal who is known as “Big J,” in front of race control. He is smiling as he invites Bahrain Stories into sacred territory — race control. The only people allowed into race control are the clerk of the course, the FIA race directors, two stewards who convey messages from race control to the marshals, and the head marshals from the divisions of fire, emergency, rescue, medical, logistic, video and flags.
As one of the Porsches makes its first turn, Fayez, president of the Bahrain Marshals Club and clerk of the course, raises his voice. “Red flag, red flag! To all points, to all points! Red flag, red flag!” The head marshal relays this information to the marshals on track via radio. “Race control to marshals. Race control to marshals. Red flag, red flag! Stop the race,” he says. Viewers in the stands hear none of this. Instead, they just see a man in a yellow jacket standing on the track, raising a red flag.
The race resume and the Fayez sends a message to the marshals, “remember guys, we are in F1 mode.”
10:05 a.m.: In a spare moment in race control, Bahrain Stories sits down with Big J and Fayez. “Even if we’re wired in you will see us crack a joke once in a while, but it is tense,” Fayez says. “Obviously this is nothing compared to the F1. On Grand Prix day everyone would be in their positions by 8 a.m., calm and focused.” The radio crackles, interrupting Fayez, as the head fire marshal sends out a message to one of his marshals. “Fire 5, fire 5. Can you please give me your exact location? We have a lot of wind. Keep an eye on the bouncing castles,” he says.
Bahrain Stories continues with Big J as he heads to the paddock and the pit, where the drivers and racing teams get ready. Here the mechanics are putting the final touches on the cars and the drivers are busy focusing on their race, mentally running through the course. Big J goes to check in with the racing teams of Batelco and Viva. Big J is friendly with the team managers, having worked with many of them before. “These are all my boys,” Big J says. “They are all ex-marshals.” Upon hearing this, the team manager of Viva responds, “No, no. We are still marshals, but this weekend we are taking care of our teams and drivers. I never stopped being a marshal.”
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Who makes a Formula 1 race in Bahrain possible? The 1,000 volunteers who make up the Bahrain Marshals Club. Bahrain Stories went behind the scenes at the speed weekend on March 31 at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) and followed the marshals around as they made the race run. Read below for an account of a day in the life of a Bahraini marshal!
10:00 a.m.: Bahrain Stories is in race control with the head marshals. Fayez, the clerk of the course and circuit director, and Big J, the chief marshal, pulls Bahrain Stories aside with a secret. As a drill exercise, a pace car will be burned at 1 p.m., aimed at surprising the marshals on their lunch break to test their response. “Usually in the event of a car crash on the track we close down the circuit to allow the marshals more freedom of movement and for their safety,” Fayez tells Bahrain Stories. “But there are many cases where the marshals have to evacuate a driver while the safety car is driving around.” This means that during the test the marshals will have to evacuate a driver from his car while there is a still a car on the track.
10:30 a.m.: Bahrain Stories has the opportunity to chat with the chief emergency coordinator, Ayyoub, who shares his insight on the pending drill. “You will see that the drill is actually very important to us because timing will let us know if the marshals are on top of our expectations,” he says. “My guys, the fire marshals, will be the ones jumping there first. They are the ones who are exposed to the victim and the crash, and then the medical team comes in. You will see it is very exciting, but for us it is all about getting ready for the F1. The more drills we do, the better we are prepared. It’s like what I tell them, ‘prepare for the worse and get ready for the best.’ My guys are all equal, there are no seniors.”
12:20 p.m.: Still in race control, the screens show a car on fire.
12:23 p.m.: Dr. Amjad, the chief medical marshal, and the chief track officer both get closer to their microphones. “To all medical teams please be on standby, on standby,” Dr. Amjad says. “Accident on turn 3, car in flames. I repeat, accident on turn 3.”
12:27 p.m.: The chief emergency marshal speaks into his microphone next. “Go ahead fire, go ahead,” he says. “Fire 1, fire 2, go go go. I repeat, fire 1, go on track.”
12:29 p.m.: Ayyoub tells his team via radio that the fire is under control. Now it is Dr. Amjad’s turn. “Medical, go go go,” he says. Nasser, the acting clerk of the course speaks next. “Recovery, recovery go, go,” he says. While the head marshals are issuing orders, Fayez is making sure the fire actually is under control. On the screens at race control one of the track marshals waves a yellow flag. Dr. Amjad continues to communicate with his medical team, ensuring that the patient is stabilized. The chief fire marshal, Ayyoub, pulls out a map, showing that it took his team only 45 seconds to get on track and begin to control the fire.
12:33 p.m.: The medical team has stabilized the patient and the recovery team is on standby to evacuate the car from the track.
12:37 p.m.: The recovery team is sent out onto the track. As this is happening, Dr. Amjad is talking with the medical center’s resident doctor to assess the patient’s situation. It is decided the patient will be transported via helicopter to Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC).
12:39 p.m.: A request is made to ready the helipad for transport of the patient.
12:41 p.m.: At the call, “all points green,” the track marshals raise green flags to signal that the track is clear.
12:50 p.m.: The helicopter is on its way to SMC with the injured patient safely inside, and the drill is deemed a success. “They did a good job, but of course we never say it is perfect,” Fayez tells Bahrain Stories. “We don’t want the marshals resting on their laurels.”
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Thanks to the Batelco Racing Team, Osama is able to combine two things that are important to him—racing and Bahrain.
“Batelco and motorsports are one,” Osama said. “Batelco has been endorsing the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) and motorsport in Bahrain since the beginning.”
Osama explained that motorsports in Bahrain were popular before the addition of the BIC. The Batelco Racing Team, launched 15 years ago, got its start in karting. This year’s speed weekend marked the first time the Batelco Racing Team participated in a circuit type race at the BIC.
Osama explained that in order for a racing team to be successful the drivers and crew must work together. Additionally, there is a strategy when it comes to how the cars can help a driver best perform.
As team manager, Osama is responsible for bringing knowledge and experience to the team. Osama started out as a karting driver and he has been able to apply that knowledge to the Bateclo Team since 2009.
Osama feels proud to be apart of the Batelco team. He is also very appreciative of the support the team receives from Batelco, as it means Bahrain is being represented in motorsports.
“At the end it is raising the Bahraini flag, that is what matters,” Osama said. “It is a Bahraini racing team, with Bahraini drivers and racing crew.”
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While racing around the track at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) the drivers are putting their lives in the hands of Dr. Amjad and his team.
Dr. Amjad is the Chief Medical Officer at the BIC and it is his responsibility to make sure there is a plan to evacuate and attend to drivers in the event of a crash.
With lives at stake, medical marshals take their jobs very seriously. They hold drills and simulation days in anticipation of every motorsport event held at the BIC and must comply with all Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) rules and regulations.
“If a hospital does not meet the [FIA] requirements then an F1 race cannot take place at all,” Dr. Amjad said. “Every year the FIA issues new rules and regulations and comes and visit our medical facilities. Their approval means everything.”
To describe how the medical team works, Dr. Amjad explained what happened during the simulation day in preparation for the Porsche GT-3 Challenge.
The day started with a morning briefing, to which every member of the medical marshal team must be on time. One of the marshals played an injured driver and an ambulance was brought on the track so the team could evacuate him. The mock injured driver was then transferred via helicopter to the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC). This year, the medical team did all of this in seven minutes, a great time in the world of racing.
However, the simulation did not end there. The doctors at the SMC were put on alert to be ready and waiting for the helicopter. During the simulation the doctors did not know it was a drill, as they too were being tested on their response time.
Being part of the medical team at the BIC offers unique challenges to all involved.
“Medicine motorsport is a very challenging field. You apply everything you know on the track and on the spot,” Dr. Amjad said. “There's not the comfort of the hospital. You don’t have the nurse next to you or the team. The marshals are one big family and every team completes the puzzle. But at the end of the day the presence of the medical team is core to the success of each grand prix.”
Although being the chief medical officer has its challenges, Dr. Amjad is happy to do his part for motorsports and Bahrain.
“Here I feel at peace despite the stress and the challenge and the last minute problems,” he said. “No matter what the problem is, I feel happy and a sense of satisfaction. This is what matters at the end of the day!”
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Some know him as the godfather of Bahraini motorsport marshalling, to his friends and colleagues at the Bahrain International Circuit he is “Big J.”
Big J began his commitment to motorsport marshalling in 2004, since then his passion has only deepened. As Big J explains, marshaling at a motorsport event includes all functions of ensuring the race runs smoothly. Big J’s team monitors the functioning of the track, manages all track radio communications, and serves at the lead for flag detail.
Together with five young assistants, “my brothers,” as Big J calls them, the group coordinates and organizes hundreds of volunteers in preparation for, and execution of, a successful event.
During the Porsche GT3-Challenge Big J’s team addresses any kinks in their system in preparation for the coming Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Big J’s most memorable moment in motorsport marshaling occurred a few years ago when an Indian circuit solicited the help and expertise of Big J’s Bahraini team.
“I was so honored that a country the size of India asked for the help of Bahrain. We are so small and they are so big.” Big J continues, “It was the proudest moment for me as a marshal and as a Bahraini.”
Big J is someone the group admires deeply. A team member remarked, “He never puts himself first. It's all about them, the marshals, not him.”
Through Big J’s leadership and dedication the Bahraini marshals are regarded by the world as an example of professionalism and passion. As Big J reminds his team, “Stay committed, stay passionate, be on time, and remember the ‘ABCs’ of your job.”
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While thousands of Bahrainis pack the stands at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) to watch the Grand Prix every year, Fayez watches to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Fayez is president of the Bahrain Marshal Club, a group of volunteers in charge of every detail of the race—from holding the flags on the track to scrutinizing the cars to make sure the cars adhere to certain regulations.
“A marshal is a volunteer official involved in running a motorsport event,” Fayez said, noting that the Bahrain Marshal Club has 1,000 members. All have been chosen because they demonstrate the qualities of discipline, logic and maturity.
Fayez added that these volunteers are made up of everyone from bank CEO’s to university students. They all make the time commitment for one simple reason, a love of Bahrain.
“At the end of the day they all do it for the love of their country,” Fayez said. “A marshal is someone who loves the sport and is willing to give the time.”
The marshals in Bahrain have been so successful in the races they have put on that other countries have invited them to help produce their races. Bahraini marshal’s have helped put on races in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and recently sent 160 marshals to help put on a race in India.
It is a point of pride with all of the marshals that emerging superpowers in F1 racing have asked the Bahraini marshals to come, help run their race, and train their marshals, Fayez explained.
Work on the Bahrain International Circuit began in December 2002 and was completed just 16 months later. Fayez has been with the Marshal Club since the beginning.
“In 2002 motorsports in Bahrain were all about rallies and rally driving,” Fayez said. He himself was a rally driver, before being asked by a group of local key officials to spearhead the marshals effort.
Fayez is proud of every race he has helped run, but there is one moment in particular that stands out at him.
“2004 and the checkered flag,” Fayez said, recalling the feeling of excitement he had as he watched the flag go down on the first Bahrain Grand Prix.
Sometimes all it takes to achieve your dreams is inspiration, and that’s exactly how Mohammed became a tennis player.
“I weighed 100kg, and one day I read James Blake’s book ‘Breaking Back,’ and everything changed,” Mohammed said.
After reading Blake’s book in 2008, while studying in Pennsylvania, he decided to get healthy and pick up a tennis racquet.
Mohammed notes that it was Blake’s attitude in battling back from a serious injury and rising to play professional tennis again, that inspired him in his own situation.
Now, for Mohammed, tennis has become a way of life. He plays with friends, trains and organizes charity-tennis events for community
After coming close many times, Mohammed won his first tennis tournament last December in Bahrain. Mohammed noted that every time he lost a match during a tournament he would be on the court the next day at 5 a.m. practicing.
“I reached two finals in the states, and one in Bahrain losing each time in straight sets. This doesn't mean you give up. You train harder, and the beauty of it was when I finally won it was on home soil,” he said.
What Mohammed likes the most about competitive tennis is the emotion of the crowd and how it impacts him. He explains that there is a very intimate moment at the beginning of a match when all eyes are focused on the player and it feels like the crowd can hear his every breath.
Mohammed plans on continuing to use his passion for tennis to have a positive impact off the court as well. He sees an advantage in the small size of Bahrain, which makes it easier to have a personal impact through one-on-one interactions. Next month he will be giving a talk at St. Christopher school to inspire kids to believe in their dreams.
“I started late,” Mohammed said of working towards achieving his dreams. “The things I couldn't see at a young age, I want kids to see. My message to them is this. Everybody has the capacity to be creative, they just have to find the medium that speaks to them. ”
Mohammed currently trains at the JC Academy, a professional tennis academy in Riffa’, and he hopes to see the sport of tennis continue to grow in Bahrain. He would like to see Bahrain develop national talent that could compete at international levels.
"I probably don’t have the most consistent backhand in Bahrain, but my heart is on full display every match." he said.
But those who know him, and have played tennis with him, confirm Mohammed has something that can't be taught — heart.
From the streets and highways of Bahrain to the stages of the Batelco Motorsport Show, Bahrain riders bring a passion and positive culture of motorcycle riding to Bahrain.
For Abdel Rahman, riding a bike offers a relief from daily responsibilities.
Abdel Rahman, president and founder of the Bahrain Riders Club, has been riding motorcycles for nearly 20 years. Riding his bike is a time for him to unwind and relax, he explained.
Abdel Rahman decided he wanted to share his love and biking with other avid riders, so he founded the Bahrain Riders Club in 2008. The riders club is a network of professional amateur riders and is one of two official biking clubs in Bahrain.
Now, the Bahrain Riders Club has 17 chapters located throughout the GCC and Middle East/North Africa region.
“We all speak one language, which is motorbikes!” Abdel Rahman said, explaining the group’s decision to expand outside of Bahrain.
Abdel Rahman feels proud of all that the group has been able to do in the past 4 years.
"It's such a feeling of accomplishment because other riders look to us as the experts,” Abdel Rahman said. “We are honored as Bahrainis to be the first to have taken on such initiative. We established this network.”
Abdel Rahman has also given Bahrainis a reason to be proud of the riders club. By advocating for safe practices while driving, the riders club grabbed the attention of the Ministry of Interior. Over the past couple years the two groups have collaborated on promoting and implementing road safety.
"It's important that we train the new generation and make them more aware. Safety comes first.”
Ali has allowed his passion for music to guide his life, and it has taken him to many amazing places.
Beginning at age 12, Ali has been influenced by his father’s passion for rock music. When he is not hard at work in a regional bank, Ali is playing the guitar in his heavy metal band.
His time as a musician has varied greatly, from early days in a Ministry of Heritage sponsored flamenco band, to winning the 2011 Budweiser Battle of the Bands.
Ali has held many position throughout his career. He taught at the university level after graduating from university in the United Kingdom, held a public relations position at an international luxury hotel chain and later returned to the classroom as an instructor.
Ali reflects on his time in the classroom as the most rewarding experience of his life.
“I miss it,” he said. “Students still call me to tell me what they have achieved and how I helped them achieve it. It is a thoroughly rewarding feeling to know you have made an impact.”
Ali’s most memorable moment, of which there are many, occurred when he was waiting eagerly for the results of the Battle of the Bands competition. He listened as they announce the third and second place finishers. With anticipation, his heart pounded as the pause grew longer and longer in his mind before they announced the winner.
“I still cannot believe it. I was totally amazed,” he said. “It was an amazing moment and well worth all of the hard work.”
Mohammed has traveled around the world, but to him, there is no place like Bahrain.
“Bahrain is special,” Mohammed said. “It is one of the places where you feel relaxed.”
He believes that Bahrain has many qualities that make it unique, and one of these qualities is the kindness of society as a whole.
As far as comparing Bahrain to other countries, Mohammed has found that it is the friendliness and the openness of the society makes it different from any other country in the world.
“Maybe in other countries they have a higher income, but we have things that they don’t have,” Mohammed said, noting a respect for traditions, exposure to a variety of cultures, and a liberal mentality.
National pride is also something Mohammed associates with Bahrain.
When Mohammed looks back on growing up in Bahrain, one of the first things that comes to his mind are the fireworks that would mark the occasion of the country’s national day, which is December 16. .
“They had a parade they did when I was a kid, there was a carnival next to the national stadium and I remember everyone getting so excited,” Mohammed said. “The sixteenth of December,” he said, “that is what people from my generation associate with the past.”
One new addition to Bahraini culture that Mohammed believes has been positive is the annual Formula 1 race, which began in 2002.
Mohammed finds this event a good link between Bahrain and the international community, and like national day, offers another opportunity for all Bahraini’s to join together.
While playing football for her high school team in 2002, Hussa and her teammates realized that without a national women’s team they had nowhere to play competitive football once they graduated. The girls decided that had to change.
“We put on our high school football uniforms and went to the Ministry of Sport to ask for something official,” Hussa said.
The Minister of Sport was receptive to their proposal and arranged a match between another high school and Hussa’s. When the match took place, there was a notable spectator in the stands — the president of FIFA, who happened to be in the country.
A year after that match, in 2003, the Bahrain Women’s National Football team was born.
“If this was any other country in the gulf, this wouldn’t have happened,” Hussa said. “In Bahrain, because of our unique society, we were able to do this.”
The team’s fan base, which started out small, has expanded as well. Now there are men and women of all ages crowding the stands, Hussa said. The team has also gained the support of His Majesty King Hamad.
After the 2011 Pan Arab games, where women’s football was not an event, HM King Hamad said in a televised speech that he hoped to be watching women’s football in the next Pan Arab games.
When asked what about the women’s football team makes her proud, Hussa didn’t hesitate.
“The fact that we can have this, and that we have girls from all walks of life on the team,” she said. “And beating teams we never thought we would beat.”
This year the women’s national team launched an under 16 team for girls, hoping to continue encouraging the next generation of women’s football players in Bahrain.
If you find yourself at JJ’s Irish Restaurant on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, you might feel like you are at a private concert, watching the resident house band, The Noise. Three nights a week, the crowd’s attention is fixed on the corner stage where the band entertains patrons with their eclectic set list.
The Noise consists of Jo, James, Lawrence and Cem, who all hail from England and happened to not only find each other and form a group, but to obtain a prime spot on the local Bahraini music scene.
It all started with Jo and James who would come to Bahrain to perform at events, like New Year’s Eve in 2010 and Eid parties. They would regularly fly back and forth from the U.K. to Bahrain to perform.
It wasn’t long before they were offered a residency at JJ’s Irish Restaurant. Soon, professional drummer Cem and bassist Lawrence joined them, making The Noise complete.
Their residency at JJ’s was quickly extended – a testament to their talent and popularity, which is likely due to musical versatility. James and Joe are strong vocalists individually, but also complement each other and harmonize well. This earned the acoustic duo an additional residency on Monday nights at Camelot.
The band members took different paths to get here, but all caught the music bug at a young age. Cem studied physics for a year at university before deciding to pursue music professionally and
Lawrence has a background in economics and was working as a banker in London before shifting his attention to music full time.
However, for now, have all made themselves at home in Bahrain.
“There is less pretention here,” James said of Bahrain.
“People are positive, they have fun, they dance,” Cem added of the bands’ adopted home.
Jo admitted that they had checked out a lot of other bands in the country, and noted that there is a lot of talent to be found in Bahrain.
When they are not on stage, they are working on adding new songs to their repertoire. Each member is passionate about creating and producing original music.
“Everyone is good at something without trying too hard. My talent is writing music, it just comes naturally,” Lawrence said.
As far as their music style, they cover a range of songs and artists, and seamlessly transition from alternative to pop to rock hits.
They feed off of the crowd and love getting positive feedback. With that motivation, they strive to put on a lively energetic show, night after night, and to keep growing and improving.
“The best is yet to come,” James affirmed, looking forward.
Hailing from an illustrious artistic family, Rashed knew early on that he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I lived in color,” Rashed said, noting that art has been in his family for 70 years. “I drew my first mosque when I was three years old.”
Rashed describes himself as an expressionist who connects the history of Bahrain with the 21st century in creative ways and various mediums.
Rashed has been active on the local scene in Bahrain for two years, and is currently studying interior and spatial design at the University of the Arts in London.
His ultimate goal is to change the art scene in Bahrain. His uncle and father were avant-garde pioneers of Bahraini art, but Rashed favors untraditional art and finds inspiration in music and current events.
Rashed’s major piece to date is a series featuring prominent Bahraini leaders. It was recognized by the country’s royal court and went viral on Facebook and Twitter.
Aside from carrying on his family’s art legacy, Rashed wants to represent a new generation of art for all of Bahrain.
“History is cool and kids don’t see that. Bright exciting art can do that,” Rashed said, mentioning that his own appreciation for history came from his father and uncle.
He hopes one day to stage an unprecedented exhibition in Bahrain, which will go on to be featured in a contemporary art museum.
Since moving to London to study, Rashed has gained a new set of connections and people supportive of his work. The Bahraini Embassy even organized a private viewing of Rashed’s pieces for diplomats.
“It was amazing and I got so much feedback, it made me want to do more and more” Rashed said.
When talking about his future, Rashed is confident, yet realistic. One day he will take over his family’s business, but for right now he wants to get the most experience possible and be the best he can be.
Ali defines himself in a couple of ways, but first and foremost, he is Bahraini. Ali manages a useful and popular Twitter account to advise on all things Bahrain. He reviews places of entertainment, responds directly to questions, and informs his followers of new Bahraini establishments.
Ali loves his place in the “Twittersphere”, and enjoys having a positive impact on the way people - tourists and locals alike - experience Bahrain.
“There is so much diversity in culture. Day in, day out – there are still things to discover,” Ali says.
He looks forward to showing the Bahrain Twitter world great things to do, places to go to and see.
His passion lies in “food, movies, Apple gadgets and Bahrain.” Ali combines these tenants in his online reviews. In addition to his “hobby” as a source of information about Bahrain, Ali works in financial control at the Kuwait Financial House.
Ali’s commitment to Bahrain is a result of the people.
“This is the island of golden smiles. No matter how rich you are, how poor you are, people will always smile and be willing to help you. Whenever I leave Bahrain, I start complaining. I miss it,” Ali remarks. Bahrain is his home.
To Musab, the thing that makes Bahrain different from other countries is that Bahrain is a hub for civilizations.
“We’ve seen everything over the past decades and centuries; Arabs, Persians, Americans, Portuguese,” he said. “People are accepting and open-minded. We are cosmopolitan and we all look the same regardless of our ethnicity or religious backgrounds.”
Among his favorite places in Bahrain is Muharraq, where he grew up and still lives today.
“I am very attached to Muharraq, the land of our fathers,” Musab said. “It is where I have all my memories. Everything is within 2 km. It all feels like home.”
It is in Muharraq, Musab says, that you can really see the contrast between new and modern. He likes to wander around the old neighborhoods in Muharraq and watch elderly people, see children playing, and grab a coffee at one of the shops on Exhibition Street.
Musab also finds value in the fact that while Bahraini’s are open to change, they stay true to their traditions. He cites the majalis, traditional councils held in houses where people engage in conversation, as examples of this.
Bahrain is also a land full of opportunity, explains Musab, who believes that in Bahrain anyone who works hard can become someone, either intellectually or in their job.
“A Bahraini will always find a way to create opportunities for himself, fight for it, and never give up,” he said.
Musab, who started his career in Saudi Arabia, returned to Bahrain because there is a feeling of belonging in Bahrain. Musab believes Bahraini’s are kind, generous and welcoming, leading him to describe Bahrain as, “the land of love.”
Born and raised in Muharraq, Isa returned to the country after spending four years living in New York city. He returned to his home country because it was important to him and his wife that they return Bahrain to settle down and raise their son.
When asked what makes Bahrain special Isa didn’t hesitate, saying it was the kind people and the simple, easy way of life. Since Bahrain is an island, he noted, the people are softer, everyone knows everyone, and it is easier to get by.
One of his favorite memories of growing up in Bahrain was going to his father’s majlis (a place where adults gather for conversation). As a child he would go every Wednesday to absorb the conversation, and he explained that these visits expanded his education and allowed him to interact with a variety of people.
“It allowed me to get in touch with the world in a different way,” he said of going to the majlis, mentioning that going every Wednesday is a tradition he carries on today.
Isa would tell a visitor coming to Bahrain to go to one of the souqs, where a whole culture can be seen by just wandering around. He has also been excited to see that the area of Dohat Arad, which is a previously ignored area near Muharraq, has grown into an area with shopping and good restaurants.
However, his favorite spot in Bahrain is near his hometown of Muharraq.
“There is a spot in Muharraq between the two bridges on diving highway where the view of Manama is amazing,” he said. “You can see the whole city reflected in the sea.”
Rasha has a hobby that is helping her rediscover her hometown of Muhharaq—looking at the city through the lens of a camera.
When Rasha went on an exchange program to the United States she bought a good camera to capture the experience. Now, two years later, photography is her hobby and passion.
Rasha recently participated in a group exhibition and the photos she displayed were of Muharraq, where she likes to walk the streets taking pictures. Muharraq is also home to one of her favorite places in Bahrain.
“Inside the Muharraq souq, the people there are the real Bahrain,” she said, mentioning her favorite spot in the country. “You see the spirit of Bahrain, which is a simple, generous people.”
Rasha sees the spirit of Bahrain in action in many other ways while she is out taking pictures. One day in Muharraq she stopped to take a photo of an Indian woman who had lived in Bahrain for more than 30 years. The woman was preparing to move back to India and was upset to be leaving Muharraq because she felt there was no other place like it in the world.
“You see a different mix of religion and backgrounds all working together as a group,” Rasha said. “Everybody here is equal, and everybody is smiling and friendly. The people here are well educated, and socially everybody has a choice. This is what distinguishes Bahrain—you have a choice.”
Ali’s job may be as a photographer, but he would rather be called an ‘image maker.”
Ali, a self-taught photographer, says he fell into the occupation accidentally. Ali was working as a graphic designer and editing photos for the campaign of a fashion designer. As Ali explains, he liked the photos he was working with so much, he wished he had taken them.
From that moment Ali began to invest more time into photography. He traveled to Manchester for a special workshop, and was encouraged by people’s postivie response to his work.
Now, Ali specializes in fashion and beauty photography, employs four part-time employees and is set to open his own studio shortly.
As a photographer, Ali’s goal is to cater to the needs of his clients through his company. So he not only takes the pictures, he will book the sets and studio space and handle all of the logistics needed as well.
“We are a production company. I like to be called an image maker, not a photographer,” Ali said, explaining that all of his photo-shoots are then integrated into larger marketing campaigns.
Ali, who was born and raised in Bahrain, is excited to see how the opportunities and the art seen in Bahrain has expanded.
“The industry is growing everyday, and we are growing with them.” Ali said. “I hope that Bahrain become a platform for publications related to fashion and beauty.”
To Ali, what makes Bahrain different from other countries is that even with Bahrain’s small geographic area, they still have a high number of leading talents who have become known worldwide.
Ali also had no trouble sharing what he believes makes the Bahraini culture special
“People’s kindness and hospitality, receptiveness and tolerance among each other, and the love of arts,” Ali wrote. “Bahrain has always been a country for arts and culture.”
Need an idea for dinner, or just looking for a new recipe? Amy’s food blog, Appetite for Discovery is ready to help.
Amy had been working for an insurance brokerage firm for four years when she found herself at a career crossroads, trying to figure out her next step.
At the same time, Amy had begun to experiment with photography. This skill, along with a lifelong interest in cooking, led her husband to encourage her to start a blog.
After reading a few blogs, and working to build up a small backlog of posts, Amy launched her blog in December of 2011.
All of the writing, photos and recipes Amy posts are her own, although sometimes when she travels she will switch things up and post about a restaurant or cooking class she tried.
For Amy, one of the biggest rewards is interacting with the people her blog reaches.
“At the beginning it was friends and family following [the blog], and then strangers started following me,” Amy said. “I always keep Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter up to date in case I don’t post weekly on my blog, just to let my followers know that something is coming soon. I’m always doing something.”
Amy has also found that participating in “blog hops” is a fun way to connect with various food bloggers and readers alike. Blog hops are a monthly “reunion” of food bloggers. A theme is selected, a blog post is written up for the theme and linked to other blog hoppers. Bahrain, Amy noted, has a huge blogging community.
Amy moved to Bahrain when she was eight. Her father is a pilot, which meant that her family moved around frequently during her youth. Amy stayed in Bahrain through the 12th grade before moving to Australia to continue her education.
However, it was on a trip back to Bahrain to visit family that she met her husband, that was there visiting friends. Eventually, Amy and her husband decided to settle in Bahrain and make it their home.
“Bahrain is a gem. I’ve been here nearly 20 years and I’m still discovering new hidden places. It always surprises you,” Amy said. “Everyone, whether an expat or a local, brings something different to Bahrain.”
Photography captures moments and frames the human condition. Andrew’s award-winning photography is dedicated to capturing all that Bahrain has to offer.
Andrew’s photographs explore the elements of Bahraini people and culture for the world to see. Last year, Andrew released “Between Two Seas,” a book chronicling moments of Bahrain. His book turned into an exhibit featuring those images.
“I wanted to make a book for me and for Bahrain,” Andrew said.
By education, Andrew is not a photographer. However, through practice and exploring the world, Andrew is now known for his photographs.
Andrew’s career is rooted in commercial photography, images for industrial and corporate clients. But Andrew’s true passion behind the lens lies in making beautiful images of people and nature, in line with his passion for travel.
Andrew moved to Bahrain 12 years ago and has never looked back. With its cultural and geographic diversity, Bahrain is the perfect playground for Andrew’s passion and career. He continually finds new images to capture and is never surprised to learn of a new site.
“If you look a little bit more and explore, you will find interesting areas,” Andrew said. “You might need a boat to get there or some other means of transportation. I shot some pictures from the helicopter.”
Andrew’s book was published last year and features the beauty of Bahrain. His vision for the project was to bring images from around the GCC and beyond to showcase the beauty of Bahrain to the world.
Although Sarah studied international business in school, her true passion has always been music.
"This is what I was interested in my whole life. I always knew I wanted to be in music,” Sarah said.
She discovered music when she was in 3rd grade, and was always curious about how the teacher could create such beautiful melody. The first song she ever played was on a keyboard—Britney Spears’ "Oops I did it again”.
While in school, Sarah also took courses which would help her develop her passion. Beginning with theory, she progressed through a rigorous music-driven curriculum. Sarah wanted to learn everything.
In further pursuit of her dream, she built her own studio, and is now surrounded by support.
“I am lucky to be surrounded by friends who are already in the industry, like DJ Outlaw. His advice has been invaluable,” she said, adding that he has been a tremendous asset to her progression in music.
Sarah also enjoys looking back on how she has improved since she first started producing her own music.
“The difference between the first beat I produced a few years back and the ones I produce now, you can tell I have improved,” Sarah said. “Music is about dedication.”
Now she focuses her efforts more on the production end of the music industry than creating her own works.
“I want to explore new artists and expose their work. I love making music and building a track,” she said.
Doctors are admired around the world for their commitment and desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Moe is no exception. As part of the initial team of doctors, he helped conceptualize and build the King Hamad Hospital in Muharraq.
He recalls watching the hospital getting built as one of his proudest moments.
“It was s quite an experience to watch the hospital come to life; to build an entire department from scratch and be part of it from the beginning,” Moe said. “When I walked in the hallways of the hospital [on the day of its inauguration], you got this feeling of achievement. It's different than hearing about it in the news. The sense of pride you get from doing so is amazing.”
King Hamad is a state of the art hospital. Top-class medical care is matched by the most up-to-date technology. Collaboration and enhanced patient care is a fundamental of the offerings.
As a Bahraini, Moe sees the country moving forward. Two world-class hospitals, clinics and countless specialized physicians define Bahrain at the cutting-edge of modern medicine.
“We were able to achieve it. We made it. We have the expertise and the human capital to continue achieving,” Moe said regarding the progress made towards higher standards of care.
Moe has also taken his talents as a doctor beyond the border of Bahrain by volunteering in Lesotho.
"It was a life changing experience," Moe remarked on his volunteer experience. “It's a beautiful country but it's tragic to see the poverty. It put my life in perspective. There are a lot of things that you have here like ‘lab results’ that we take for granted here in Bahrain. In Lesotho it would take us a week to get those results back.”
Moe plans to continue working tirelessly to bring medical care to those in need.
“Helping people is my greatest achievement,” he said.
As a banker, Ahmed’s day job is a career that people allover the world hold. However, his hobbies, scuba diving, biking and charity work, are something more unique.
Ahmed’s interest in scuba diving was sparked when he asked himself the question, ‘what does Bahrain offer for divers?’ What came to his mind was the pearls, so he went for it.
To find pearl beds, Ahmed explained that divers will go out with boat captains who know the pearl diving spots. However, the captains never disclose these locations out of fear that the divers won’t need their services anymore. With the captains, it is all about trust, Ahmed said.
Being a Bahraini, Ahmed prides himself with the things that make Bahrain a special place.
In Hidd town where Ahmad was born and raised, a neighbor’s house once burned down, and everyone in the neighborhood contributed to rebuilding the house. People in Bahrain relate and connect to one another and there a very special bond, Ahmed explained.
“You will never see this happen anywhere else,” Ahmed said.
Bahrainis’ desire to be helpful doesn’t extend only to their neighbors.
“I once spotted a woman at the airport who had trouble carrying her luggage, and I went to help her,” Ahmed said. “She asked me where I was from, and when she knew I was Bahraini, she smiled and said, ‘only Bahrainis would do that.’”
Ahmed is also a dedicated Harley driver. He is a member of the Bahrain Riders Club and HOGs-Bahrain. He has even gotten his Mom to love with his riding, and he taught her the signs Harley drivers use to communicate.
“[My mom] once spotted non-Harley drivers riding irresponsibly without their full gear,” Ahmed said. “She stopped the car and showed them the signs I taught her. It was very funny.”
As for his involvement in charity work, Ahmed credits his Mom teaching the importance of charity.
“My family and I are very involved in charity work. Our last project was to visit all the road workers and distribute bottles of water to them, we distributed more than 16,000 bottles,” Ahmed said. “My 5 year-old son asked me if we were doing it again this summer.”
Hassan’s job requires skills that can’t be taught in the classroom.
Hassan is a fisherman, and he catches everything the seas of Bahrain have to offer including fish, crab, shrimp and even jellyfish. Fishing is a trade Hassan has been working on learning since he was a kid.
“Our profession is something we learn from our fathers,” Hassan said. “There’s no school for it.”
One of the more unusual things Hassan fishes is jellyfish. Hassan explains that jellyfish “hunt” season generally goes from February through the end of June. However, the temperatures this year have permitted the season to run a little longer.
“Since it’s still not too hot yet we are still fishing in July,” Hassan said. “But usually we stop in June.”
There are 27 other sailors in Sitra who do the same type of fishing as Hassan. They all work long hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they work every day. However, for Hassan, he can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I love what I do,” he said.
Peace and tranquility enrich Weam’s passion and profession. For many years, she has found escape from the challenges of life in yoga. Her spiritual journey through yoga relieves common challenges of her generation: depression, anxiety and feeling lost.
“Yoga has become my way of life,” she said. The stressors and externalities once affecting her life have all but disappeared through her pursuit of peace through yoga.
Now, as founder of the yoga studio Namaste, Weam instills her passion for yoga with all those she teaches. She truly believes yoga is for everyone. At any skill-level, people benefit from an hour of peace and balance during a busy day, she explains.
Weam enjoys balancing people’s personal limits with always pushing forward the frontier of what individuals can achieve.
“Taking people to their own edges to allow for growth and to help individuals achieve their goals whilst respecting their bodies and its limitations,” she said.
When people attend one of her classes they tend to come back. She encourages everyone to learn their bodies and their potential through yoga.
“Seeing people come back to yoga is the best compliment I get,” Weam said, adding that she could not imagine practicing her art form anywhere but Bahrain. “Bahrain is home.”
Areej describes herself as a mother and painter, and she enjoys exploring the ways these two things can come together.
Areej has been interested in art since she was a child. When studying play work and therapeutic play at the University of Gloucestershire she began to see the ways art could be used for children’s therapy.
“I came to know that through art, one can get closer to a child’s character through his or her lines, colors and compositions,” Areej said. “Also, art being an expressive tool, could help in reaching out to a child with the needed help.”
Areej uses art as her own outlet for self expression as well.
“I link art to psychology,” Areej said, explaining that although she first started with painting portraits and still lifes, she has now moved onto abstract painting, which she feels has a greater psychological link.
“Abstract is about drawing your feelings,” Areej said. “That is my message.”
Areej has held two personal exhibitions on her work, and her method is to scribble out some concepts, before doing research and beginning to paint seriously. She has also opened her own gallery, Shades Art Center, where she has also been teaching art for 8 years.
Thanks to the tight knit community of Bahrain, and the discovery of social media, Areej has been able to connect and her work with a wide range of people.
“I was against social media at the beginning, but it ended up to be the best way to promote and market my work,” Areej said. “I follow art galleries from around the world and they do the same.”
Reza can be defined in many ways; teacher, competitor, entrepreneur, and overall inspiration.
Reza, owner and instructor at Reza’s Martial Arts Center, was formerly the head of the treasury in Bahrain before leaving his job four years ago to open a studio and teach jiu-jitsu, Thai boxing and mixed martial arts full time.
“If it doesn’t work, so what?” Reza said of his decision to leave a steady job and take a chance at opening his own center. “That job was just a paycheck, this job is my passion.”
However, his risk was well worth it — he now has around 150-200 students of all ages who come to his center.
Reza became interested in martial arts at the age of 13. He trained seriously until, at the age of 20, he broke his neck in an accident during training. Then, instead of focusing on his training Reza found himself working to relearn basic functions, such as how to walk and use his arms.
His recovery took two years, and since he was unable to pursue martial arts, he went to California to study graphic design. It was in California that he became interested in jiu-jitsu.
“[Jiu-jitsu] was kind of to help me recover and I just enjoyed it,” he said.
Although Reza went on to have a successful competitive career in jiu-jitsu, these days he is more focused on the achievements of his students and enjoys watching the positive impact jiu-jitsu can have on those he teaches.
“The way it builds confidence in people,” Reza said, mentioning one of the best things about jiu-jitsu. “Not just in kids, but in adults also.”
Rawia’s family moved to Bahrain from Lebanon when she was three months old. Her family thought they would be here for 1-2 years — they have now been in Bahrain for more than 32 years.
What has kept her family in Bahrain are the people and the sense of community.
“I met my husband and closest friends here,” Rawia writes. “The warmth of the Bahraini families whom I grew up with is what made our family feel at home, even though we don’t have a Bahraini passport.”
Rawia attended Bahrain School, an International American Department of Defense Dependant (DoDD) school, where she graduated from a class of 130 people. There were more than 32 residing nationalities at the time Rawia attended, exposing her to a variety of cultures.
Rawia’s favorite place in Bahrain is the Portuguese Fort, for its “charismatic theology and history,” and she believes one of the most special things about Bahrain is the sunset.
“I always found the sunset, with its myriad of colors, truly unique to Bahrain,” she writes. “The sun sometimes appears like a massive orange ball at eye level, which you can comfortably stare at.”
However, what she believes makes Bahrain truly unique is the people.
“They [Bahraini’s] are exposed yet humble, its hard to explain. Yet we often wonder why expatriates come here and stay on,” Rawia writes. “They all say the same few words, ‘we love it here. It feels like home.’ It could be the indigenous generosity that gives us all that impression.”
Rawia would describe Bahrain as conservative, humble and kind, and thinks these characteristics help shape Bahraini culture.
“Its simplicity and slow pace is what makes the Bahraini culture special,” Rawia writes. “We don’t get too intellectual here. We enjoy life. Again I think the constant sun helps.”
Arthur has lived in Bahrain for 26 years, and thanks to the kind people, variety of cultures, and interesting history, is proud to call the island home.
“The welcoming nature of the place, and the people, make Bahrain an ideal expatriate destination, a home away from home,” Arthur wrote.
He appreciates the variety of cultures that he has been exposed to here and is confident that the many friends he has made while living here will stay with him long after he leaves Bahrain.
Arthur also believes Bahrain is special because the country’s small size enables and fosters interaction.
“The cosmopolitan nature of Bahrain and the size of the country encourages more interaction between people from differing backgrounds, making it the perfect melting pot,” he wrote.
Arthur believes another quality that sets Bahrain apart is its history and traditions.
“Bahraini culture is steeped in traditions and thinking,” Arthur wrote. “That is very attractive in this modern consumer-driven world we live in.”
To understand Bahrain’s past, Arthur recommends going to Muharraq, where the city’s history and architecture have made it one of his favorite places in Bahrain.
And if Arthur had three words to describe Bahrain?
“Warm, bright, and inviting,” he wrote.
featured storyHamad Town
Nada, who was born and raised in Bahrain, is proud to call this island in the sea her home.
“Maybe we are just a dot [on a map],” Nada wrote, “but I would like to think we are not just any dot.”
To Nada, one of the things that makes Bahrain “not just any dot,” is the mix off people from all different backgrounds.
“On our little island there are different groups living together; Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, secular, ect.,” she wrote. “All these different racial and religious groups are in different circles. Put them together, you get a harmonious colorful spiral. That’s Bahrain.”
Nada also has many fond memories of her childhood growing up in Bahrain.
She grew up in Sanabis, but recalls spending much of her time with her grandmother, who lived in Riffa and then Isa Town. Nada also looks back happily on the times she spent in school with her friends, who she describes as, “the family she chose in her life.”
Nada also has special memories of old Bahrain.
“Before we had all these shopping malls I used to go to Manama old souq with my dad,” she wrote. “It was my Thursday evening ritual.”
She sees Bahrain as a place that has remained true to its heritage and traditions.
“From all GCC countries, even with modern life and all these skyscrapers, Bahrain kept its originality and is true to its culture and nature,” she wrote. “For that, I feel it represents me as I am always true to myself.”