- Bahrain is located at the North of Qatar and East of Saudi Arabia
- The country consists of 33 islands
- The population is around 1.3 million
- The official language is Arabic
- The majority of the people are Muslims
- Women do not have to wear a headscalf
- Women are allowed to drive
- Even grandparents speak English
About the journey
At the end of October 2011, I went to Bahrain for being Trainer at the 5th Gulf Conference. I got picked up at the airport from 5 Bahraini AIESECers – all guys. And I thought it’s just going to be a girl or maybe two because it’s a Muslim country. Well, the following days made me see common stereotypes disappear.
In Bahrain, the buildings are either wide or tall. And always with a lot of space. I had the honor to stay with a host family for the days before the conference. Already the first day, I was invited to her aunt’s house to have lunch with them. An amazing hospitality and incredibly nice people determined my stay in the country. Not even talking about the delicious food.
One has to get used to the fact that the landscape looks pretty artificial. They have huge investments in the construction sector going on, but, for me, it seemed that around 50% of the flats/houses were for sale/rent. Their national museum is a flagship place for all kinds of art.
Already during the first day, I noticed the fancy cars – everybody has one (or maybe more) and in an extraordinary design. BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari etc. – they (of course also every student) have the latest versions of them all. An AIESECer there told me that his final project for his Bachelor is building his own car (with 5 other students). All sponsored by the university – no limits in the costs. There are huge amounts of money and people show it there.
Talking about the conference, ourTrainers team included people from the Philippines, Taiwan, Jordan, Canada, Oman, Croatia, Bahrain, Austria and Poland (not even talking about the fact where people have their roots – one, e.g., was half Portuguese, half Indian but living in Oman for the whole life OR one person has 4 passports). We had loads of fun discovering Bahrain, ourselves, new cultures and going beyond borders. Bahrain is a Muslim country thus there is no alcohol allowed – incredible how many great & memorable conversations suddenly came up and even had more space. I will always remember sitting at 5am in the 8th floor of the hotel (it had 20 floors + a pool on the rooftop) with people from Oman, Dubai, Jordan, Poland and Bahrain together and discussing about religion. I got an insight into Islam which I never have gotten before. It was a discussion lead by the ground rules: don’t persuade, defend, or interrupt, be curious, be conversational, be real and listen. There were people who were Christians, Muslim and who had no religion at all.
Besides delivering the content and getting great feedback as well as leaving a legacy there, we had loads of fun going up and down in the elevator during the nights…with different other (non-AIESEC) people joining us. Already the initial spirit of the people created an amazing mood and power. Besides, the Organizing Committee was great. Everything was very well organized and planned. Probably the best planned conference I have been to so far.
Another highlight was the celebration of Eid. The plate you see below is for 12 people. Well, 12 arabic people. In Europe, such a portion would be enough for at least 20 people. Everybody eats out of this huge plate with his/her hands. It is a typical food for this feast day.
I got friends for life and found again places I can call home. The Gulf region is unique and precious. It’s up to you to experience it!