Sitting in the Persian Gulf among its much larger neighbors is the Kingdom of Bahrain, a collection of more than 30 islands. While oil has been a key part of the Kingdom’s economic picture, it has worked over the past few decades to diversify, given it cannot rely on its oil reserves beyond another 10-15 years with current known reserves. It has been successful becoming the leading banking center in the region and tourism is a major industry now in Bahrain.
- Bahrain has a population over 1.4 million people, of which, immigrants account for almost 55%.
- 2/3 of the population is male and 1/3 female. This disparity is attributed to the influx of immigrants. The 0-18 years of age population is almost 50% male and female. The disparity is dramatic in the 18-54 year old age group which would widen the disparity further for this age group.
- 46% of the population is Bahraini, and an almost equal amount are Asian.
- The Muslim religion accounts for about 70% of the population. Christianity is the next largest religion in the country with almost 15% of the population.
- Arabic is official language of Bahrain.
- English is a secondary language taught in schools and used in business. It is also alongside Arabic on public signage.
- ‘Salaam’ means ‘peace’ in Arabic as is a common formal greeting used by Muslims.
- ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’ means ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’.
- Women in Bahrain do not follow a dress code, but tend to dress modestly in public.
- Men and women socialize in public together at cafés and restaurants.
- Arranged marriages are still common, but happen later than in the past when the female has completed her education and may have a job. Married couples are more and more living on their own and not with the groom’s family as have been the cultural tradition.
- The arts are important to Bahrain culture. Poetry, literature, craftsmanship, music and dance are well regarded in the country. Ardha is a dance in which men use swords while dancing to the music of drums and the words of a poet/singer.
- The flag of Bahrain show 5 triangles which represent the 5 pillars of Islam.
- One Bahraini Dinar is worth approximately (at this writing) US $2.65.
- While the cost of living is considered lower than in the United States, looking at the typical costs of grocery and typical household areas of spend the costs appear to be similar. Here is a site that provides an overview of prices in Bahrain: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Bahrain.
- 90% of the population is connected to the internet, with 10-30% having shopped online.
- Ecommerce sales are reported to be between EUR 100M to 500M.
- Bahrain will continue to influence the region as a banking leader. Earlier this year, Bahrain initiated steps to close down an Iranian led bank due to heightened risks Iran was bringing to the business sector.
- It is expected that the political unrest within the Kingdom will continue through at least 2020.
- Bahrain will need to develop skillsets for their future economy and industry focus areas as they move aware from their oil/energy based economy.
While among the smallest countries in terms of land and population, Bahrain wields its influence with its much larger neighbors in politics, banking and business. While the Kingdom is not afraid to pass judgement on Saudi actions, they also are closely aligned with Saudi Arabia which provides them most of their protection from outside and inside opposition forces. As goes Saudi Arabia will go Bahrain, to continue to grow its tourism and banking industries and move beyond what has been their oil based economic dependency.