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Discover Bahrain Journey - 2014 Issue 3

Welcome to our heart!

INSIDE Articles and Features, Delegate’s Impressions, Volunteer’s Reflections, Biographies, Sponsors, Event Schedule, Discover Bahrain in the Media, and much more...

PLUS Stunning photography throughout

Discover Bahrain sponsor

Investing for Future Generations Mumtalakat’s vision as the investment arm of the Kingdom of Bahrain, is to grow the wealth of Bahrain. With over 35 investments within its portfolio, Mumtalakat’s investment strategy is to drive value creation in the strategic non-oil and non-gas related assets of Bahrain, build a well diversified and balanced portfolio and position itself to achieve long-term, sustainable financial returns. MUMTALAKAT: INVESTING FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.



Discover Bahrain 2014

PDF 31.05.2011

Discover Bahrain

Discover Bahrain 2014 magazine This magazine has been compiled from contributions by the delegates and volunteers of Discover Bahrain, 2014. As far as possible, the format has been kept as originally submitted and in their own words, even if English wasn't always the first language for some contributors, just changing a few things as and where necessary for clarification and publication purposes. A very big THANK YOU goes to everyone who has contributed to this magazine and / or who has helped out with its content and development including: Ahmed Buhazza, Mishaal Yakub, Sean Connolly, Magda Bebenek, Katrina Tulloch, Brendan Harding, Chantel Brischke, Andrea Plebani, Karen Florence, Branka Lončar Mrkoci, Ivan Lowenberg Sainz, Nelson Carvalheiro, Tom Rooney, Age Ploom, Samar Salameh, Amal Aljowder and Sonja Miokovic.

contents Map Of Places Visited


Discover Bahrain Schedule & Management Team


Group Images At Locations Across The Kingdom


Who Wrote Our Story By Ahmed Buhazza

10 – 11

Pearls By Sean Connolly, Magda Bebenek


A King's Vision By Brendan Harding

14 – 15

Kindness That Moved Me To Tears By Katrina Tulloch


The Estonia - Bahrain Connection By Age Ploom


Photo Montage By Chantel Brischke

18 – 19

Grateful For The Opportunity By Andrea Plebani


Under The Abaya By Karen Florence

22 – 23

Much More Than Just A Visit By Branka Lončar Mrkoci Crazy, But Lovely Crazy! By Ivan Lowenberg Sainz

26 – 27

Bahrain... A Really 'Cool' Country! By Nelson Carvalheiro

28 – 29

My Favourite Day By Tom Rooney

30 – 31

Small Yet Overwhelming By Samar Salameh

Compiled by Robin Barratt and Published by Barratt and Associates Write: Typeset and Design by Louis Stefano DeMarco Info: © 2014 Discover Bahrain



Some Of The Delegates' Favourite Images

33 – 35

Some General Impressions

36 – 37

A Word From Some Volunteers


Discover Bahrain in the Media

39 – 43

Delegates Biographies

46 – 49

This magazine may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without written permission from the Discover Bahrain management.

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Map of places visited


3, 4, 5, 6


15 30


9, 12



21, 22

1, 2 11


23 29



1. Bahrain National Museum 2. National Theatre of Bahrain 3. Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research 4. Kurar House 5. Bu Zaboon House 6. Abdullah Al Zayed House 7. Qal'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) 8. National Charter Monument 9. Sacred Heart Church 10. Beit Al Qur'an (House of Qur'an) 11. Al Fateh Grand Mosque 12. American Mission Hospital 13. University of Bahrain 14. Ministry of Housing - Council Housing Project 15. Amwaj Tea Club 16. Diyar Muharraq private housing complex 17. Shura Council of Representatives 18. Supreme Council for Women 19. Camels at Busaiteen 20. Bahrain Journalist Association 21. Tamkeen 22. Bahrain Economic Development Board 23. Winners Football Centre 24. International Karting Centre 25. Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) 26. Tree of Life 27. Bahrain Development Bank 28. Alba 29. Gulf Petroleum Industries 30. Good Word Society

8 13 24, 25


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BAS Corporate Adv_full page.pdf 1 9/3/13 Discover Bahrain sponsor

BAS Corporate Adv_full page.pdf



2:02 PM

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With almost four decades of experience and a dedicated 3,000 staff, Bahrain Airport Services (BAS) is a fully integrated ground service provider accredited by ISAGO. With an uncompromising attitude towards safety & security and a passion for continuous improvement in quality, BAS provides a full range of airport services & ground support: With almost four decades of experience and a dedicated 3,000 staff, Bahrain Airport Services (BAS) is a fully integrated service provider accredited by ISAGO. • Airport & Ground ground Operations - Passenger, Aircraft/Ramp & Baggage Handling • Cargo & Warehouse Services With anHandling uncompromising attitude towards safety & security and a passion for continuous improvement in quality, BAS provides a full range of airport services & ground support: • In-Flight & Terminal Catering Services • Aircraft Line Maintenance under EASA Part-145 Airport & Ground Operations - Passenger, Aircraft/Ramp & Baggage Handling • Aircraft Engineering Training under EASA Part-147 accredited by EDEXCEL to award the UK Higher Cargo Handling & Warehouse Services National Diploma (HND) • In-Flight & Terminal Catering Services • Aircraft Line Maintenance under EASA Part-145 • Aircraft Engineering Training under EASA Part-147 accredited by EDEXCEL to award the UK Higher National Diploma (HND)


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DISCOVER BAHRAIN SCHEDULE and MANAGEMENT TEAM Schedule of Events DAY ONE Welcome Ceremony and Reception DAY TWO Bahrain National Museum National Theatre of Bahrain Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research Kurar House Bu Zaboon House Abdullah Al Zayed House Qal'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) Dinner at the Good Word Society DAY THREE National Charter Monument Sacred Heart Church Lunch with expats - NuAsia Beit Al Qur'an (House of Qur'an ) Al Fateh Grand Mosque Dinner at the house of Dr. Halal Jamal DAY FOUR American Mission Hospital University of Bahrain Ministry of Housing - Council Housing Project Lunch at Amwaj Tea Club Diyar Muharraq private housing complex Tea Break at Ahmed's house Beach barbeque at Jasra with the Good Word Society & Ebtesam Khalaf

DAY FIVE Shura Council of Representatives Supreme Council for Women Camels at Busaiteen Lunch at Um Hassan’s house Bahrain Journalist Association Dinner at the home of Safeya Kanoo DAY SIX Tamkeen Bahrain Development Bank UNIDO Alba GPIC and Fisheries Dinner at the Bahrain Economic Development Board DAY SEVEN Winners Football Centre International Karting Centre Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) Tree of Life Dinner in the Desert DAY EIGHT Closing Ceremony and Farewells

Discover Bahrain Management Team Ahmed Buhazza – Program Director Dr. Amal Al Jowder – Deputy Director Dr. Hala Jamal – Secretary General & Head of Media Salman Al Salman – Head of Foreign Relations Committee Ebrahim Akbari – Leader of the Program Committee Abdulla Murad – Head of Logistics Committee Yasmin Jamal – Assistant Leader, Foreign Relations Committee Shaikha Showaiter – Assistant Leader, Program Committee Yousif Janahi – Assistant Leader, Logistics Committee Sara Oman – Assistant Leader, Media Committee

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Discover Bahrain 2014

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Discover Bahrain 2014


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Who Wrote Our Story? The most touching stories in this world are stories which talk about emotions, values and people. Most stories start by describing the location, the atmosphere and then the glorious description of its heroes; what they did, how they felt, and of course, how the story unfolds leading eventually to its end. But, as they say; “Every end is a new beginning.” In our story, the location and destination is Bahrain, an island country in the Arab Gulf; the country that means ‘two seas,’ and this phrase of ‘Two Seas’ is written about in our holy Quran. As the Arab navigator, Ahmad Bin Majid described Bahrain when he visited in 1489; Bahrain is a country that is privileged in having a rich history. The pearl of the Gulf, where a man can dive into the salty sea with a leather water-carrier and fill it with fresh water, whilst submerged in the salt water of the sea, with pearl fishermen all around the shore. Bahrain has been blessed throughout history with an economy that is diversified, strong and continually growing. By the mid-19th century, Bahrain became the pre- eminent trading centre in the Arab Gulf, and even today still acts as a major and influential trading hub throughout the region. With its outline shaped like a praying woman, hoping for a peaceful world,

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Bahrain has always welcomed people from different origins and religions, and has constantly opened its heart to people from all countries, cultures and nationalities, even before they arrive! It is an island of peace, where the people are kind, generous, with great potential, and its culture is always welcoming, accommodating and respectful to everyone. Who are our story’s heroes? They are the delegates who were generous enough to both spare and dedicate their valuable time to this journey, arriving from twelve different countries with one main mission; to experience and truly discover Bahrain. Their seven days of exploring, learning and discovering Bahrain enriched them with so much information and different experiences and feelings while touring the country and experiencing the love, generosity and hospitality that it had to offer. Some memories are forever engraved

Ahmed Buhazza

Discover Bahrain in one’s soul, and our delegates felt and experienced the love of our country, so that each one of them has a great many amazing memories of all the different experiences they have been part of. We all have different emotional triggers, so throughout this magazine you will read and live the feelings of the almost everyone who was part of the Discover Bahrain delegation. This magazine includes their own personal thoughts, feelings and experiences of the trip, and what made it important and special to them. However, they all had one thing in common; they all left with beautiful memories, lots of funny stories and have built some strong friendships and relationships that will open a lifetime of future opportunities. And they are passing on their experiences and telling their own communities about the people of Bahrain and how friendly, genuine and kind they are; sharing with their own people and friends how welcoming Bahrain is; talking about its values and principles, and the glories and the opportunities that are here in this beautiful small Kingdom in the Arabian Gulf, yet potentially big in exploration and inspiration.

the smoothness and comfort of this journey. Program Coordination Team - Ebrahim Akbari; Shaikha Shuwaiter, Noof Almansouri, Ameena Lilo, Yaqoob Buhazza, Hayat Omar and Dr. Omar Alobaidli, All of whom made this program organized, consistent and creative. Relations Team - Salman Al Salman, Yasmeen Jamal and Ali Bucheri. All of whom were engaged in focusing on the interest of the delegates and their needs. Media Head and Secretary Dr. Hala Jamal and her team; Sara Omar and Amani Alnofei, Fadi Danoos, Khalid Mosa and the photographers. All of whom successfully covered our entire journey, day by day, detailing and developing a complete documentary for news and media channels across the region and beyond.

women with her wonderful sense of humour that added sweet Bahraini flavour to our program, and my mother, my wife and everyone else who were always there on demand... for Bahrain! Last, but certainly not least, the entire management of the Good Word Society and its Chairman Hassan Buhazza who, during the last three years that this program has been running, has always shown us positive support, dedication and enthusiasm. We are all devoted and dedicated to expressing our love to this country, and these are all our heroes too. This is definitely our story, not a story about us, but about our beloved Bahrain… Ahmed Buhazza Discover Bahrain Program Director

And of course my right hand and deputy Dr. Amal Aljawder, a wonderful Bahraini

I am sure each and every one of the delegates will miss Bahrain as much we will miss all of them. We will all have memories, emotions and relationships that will stay with us forever. The heroes in the Discover Bahrain story are also the committed organizations that allowed the delegates to truly experience this country by welcoming them with open arms and showing their facilities and their contribution to the Bahraini society, and our wonderful sponsors who were ready to give and express their love and loyalty to Bahrain with their generous support. And of course each and every member of the Discover Bahrain Team: Logistics Team - Abdulla Murad, Yousif Janahi and Sanad Rashid, Khalid Alamer, Dalal Alfuhaid, Moh’d Al Khayat, A. Razaq Almurasi, Mishaal Yakub, Abdulla alfadel, Abdulla Burshaid, Ali and the youngest, very committed and very dedicated Abdulla Buhazza. All of whom were well structured, alert and attentive, and assured

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Discover Bahrain sponsor

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Sean Connolly

Magda Bebenek

Pearls Magda Bebenek (POLAND) & Sean Connolly (USA) A natural pearl occurs unpredictably, and only where the sea nurses and nurtures its oysters in the most favorable of conditions. To find one, you could dive hundreds of times, open thousands of oysters, and still go home with nothing but a bad sunburn and a nose full of water. Bahrainis know the extraordinary value of a pearl, and are rightfully proud when they refer to their country as the ‘pearl of the Gulf.’ Even rarer than finding one pearl, though, is finding two. Or three. Or even twenty pearls, all of them nestled together in their shell. Yet somehow, that’s exactly what we found with Discover Bahrain. Twenty pearls, each with their own lustre and sparkle, each of them expertly selected from seas

across the world by the Discover Bahrain team, and each of them tossed into a tour bus together (yalla!) for a breakneck jaunt around the Kingdom of Bahrain. And as any experienced diver would tell you, when you find a pearl, you don’t let it go. We realized that even though our thoughts were continually returning to Bahrain, when it came to writing this piece neither of us knew quite what we wanted to say. We were two writers on two continents with two serious cases of writer’s block. It looked like we were going to be last on the bus once again. It was only then that we realized what was missing was each other, and that the biggest takeaway from our trip to

Bahrain was the extraordinary people we met - the twenty pearls brought together, laughing harder and shining brighter in each others’ reflection. But just as pearls glisten in the sunlight, so too, do they glow under the moon. Escaping our shells, we set out to see a Bahrain of our own - discover is a verb, after all! We shook with cold at Al Jazeera beach, sweated through our shirts at salsa night, coughed through the smoke at the belly dancing spectacular, choked with laughter more times than we can count, and sang our voices hoarse blasting through the desert in Fadi’s car. The winds of change blew us all together, and Bahrain nourished our friendships just as it does its pearls - only we’ve been given something more valuable than any gem. We are the pearls, after all, and Discover Bahrain let us see each other shine.

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Bahrain’s National Charter Monument – A King’s Vision By Brendan Harding (EIRE) Bahrain’s National Charter Monument – the brainchild of His Royal Highness King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa - is more than Brendan Harding just a stunningly visual architectural masterpiece which imposes itself on your imagination long before you enter its sublime interior, but as a vision of His Royal Highness, the monument embodies all that is good about Bahrain. A vision by definition is a dream. And it was the King’s dream to build a place where the past, present and future of the country could be illustrated to its utmost. A place which celebrates those that have gone before, those who still walk amongst us and most importantly, those who have yet to relish life. As I witnessed the monument for the first time it was obvious to me the care, the love and the attention to detail which had been imbued in its design, construction

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and fulfilment. The outside walls of the building immediately caught my attention, and when it was explained to me that the monument’s exterior has been carefully carved with the names of every citizen who voted in favour of, or against the passing of the national charter, it somehow managed to concrete in my mind the notion that Bahrain is a place striving for the unity of all its people, regardless of belief, background or political affiliation. Inside the monument this notion was enforced even further through the pride in which each and every exhibition-space tells the tale of a small island nation; its humble beginnings, its rich heritage and culture, its people and their daily lives, its economy and industrial foundations, its efforts to protect the environment while maintaining a comfortable quality of life for each and every Bahraini, and most importantly the story of its children and their vision for the future of their homeland.

I think my guide sensed my awe and admiration and matched my fascination with her own genuine and heartfelt love for her country. At each point of interest throughout my tour she would beam with delight as she explained the achievements of the past and the goals of the future. To later learn that this young woman, who had displayed her passion for her country so enthusiastically, so openly, was a volunteer in her guise as docent and guide, only served to further fuel the fire of my imagination and my admiration for the people of Bahrain - if that indeed was possible. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement which stops far short of the feeling I had been presented with. To say that I was amazed at the genuine embrace Bahrainis have for their country surprised even me, coming from a land where my compatriots believe that we love our homeland like no other. This realisation, which came like an epiphany within the walls of His Majesty’s dream,

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was a gift which will remain with me until my dying days.

"To say that I was impressed would be an understatement"

My final wish is that its doors will be opened widely for the whole world to see, and for the whole world to have their own personal first-hand experience of the warmth, the ambitions, the decency and the welcome which every Bahraini holds deep and cherished within their huge and giving hearts.

“the monument’s exterior has been carefully carved with the names of every citizen who voted in favour of, or against the passing of the national charter”

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Kindness that moved me to tears

“It’s rare to experience such a whirlwind of culture”

By Katrina Tulloch (USA) For me, the week was eye-opening and overwhelming in the best way. To meet so many people, see so many places and Katrina Tulloch learn so much, from dawn until dusk, pushed me far out of my comfort zone, and I’m grateful for that. It’s rare to experience such a whirlwind of culture. The Bahraini people I met wanted to share Bahrain’s growth and values and they didn’t hide their weaknesses. They answered my many questions and they willingly taught me history and words in the Arabic language. So many volunteers willingly spent their time teaching us about their country. To me, that shows how Bahraini people care about how the world sees them. They are open-minded, well-educated and they give a damn about their nation. I found that attitude both motivating and humbling. By seeing a range of homes and lifestyles (from government housing to a wealthy family’s mansion), I received a broad understanding of how Bahraini families live. It’s striking that whether a family had a small or large income, their dedication to accommodation was a top priority. Children of the Discover Bahrain volunteers constantly brought around trays

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of cakes, dates, nuts and candies. If I only took one or two pieces, someone would encourage me to take more. I never went hungry. I never felt thirsty; in Bahrain, my cup was always full. When I first saw the week’s schedule, I didn’t understand why two hours were scheduled for lunch. Now I know; mealtimes in Bahrain need a few hours to pack in all that decadent food and stimulating conversation. It was also wonderful (if a little intimidating) to meet the other Discover Bahrain delegates, who were extremely accomplished in their own fields. Learning about Bahrain alongside these brilliant, talented individuals only made the trip more fun and fulfilling. I’ll look forward to staying in touch with those ever-inspiring friends. By the end, I was asked to say a few words on camera about the experience. As I spoke about how grateful I was to the Discover Bahrain volunteers, the waterworks began. How silly it is to cry when you’re happy, but that’s why I tell people this trip has been overwhelming in the best way. It’s rare to encounter a family who accepts you despite your differences. That kindness moved me to tears. That kindness is unforgettable.

“How silly it is to cry when you’re happy”

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The Estonia - Bahrain connection By Age Ploom (ESTONIA) My favourite day was surely the religious day because I’m a PhD candidate in theology and I'm really interested in religious dialogues. Age Ploom However, the main point of interest for me on this trip was the people of Bahrain and how - in some miracle way - they are connected to Estonia. The first night I arrived at our hotel, I understood that the Irish in the delegation had an Irish pub to visit at the hotel, the Italian in the delegation has an Italian restaurant to eat in, just under our hotel, but as an Estonian I had nothing! I even wrote on my Facebook Wall; saying it wasn't fair, and that I also needed to find something here to connect Bahrain with Estonia. If you don't know, Estonia is tiny North European country that few people know about, and normally, when I said I’m from Estonia, people say; “oh, Australia.” No Estonia! Estonia has almost same population as Bahrain - around 1.2 million – and, compared with most other nations, this isn't a large population at all! The writer Ernst Hemingway was supposed to have once said; “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found." We in Estonia love this sentence, but in Bahrain, in some mystical way, it actually came true! One of our tour guides during the Discover Bahrain trip was Amina. Ahmed,

the Discover Bahrain Director, introduced her to me as Finnish. Finnish and Estonian languages are from the Finno-Ugric language group and quite similar, and Finns and Estonians can often understand each other. But when Amina started to speak, I could recognize that she didn't have a Finnish accent. Even though she had lived in Finland, she was in fact Estonian! Amina had converted to Islam and I’m writing my doctorate thesis about Estonian women who have converted into Islam and so, after talking to Amina for a while, it turned out we knew many of the same Muslims! Later that same day we had a meeting with church leaders on the island and Amina introduced me Pastor Jim, a Christian pastor based in Bahrain. Suddenly he said to me; “tere,” Estonian for “hello.” I was thinking that was probably all he could say in Estonian, but I was astonished when he continued to speak Estonian without any grammar mistakes. I asked; how can it is possible? He was American, not Estonian, yet he was speaking such good Estonian. He told me he had worked in Estonia for seven years as Pastor at a Baptist church. I was also a Baptist when l was a younger, so once again it turned out we knew many of the same people.

said he had been there too. I asked him if he knew any Estonian Muslims, and he told me about Aivar who was his student in Malaysia and Aivar is also one of my Muslim friends! This world is so small! On the first day I was little bit sad because I didn’t have anything to connect Bahrain to Estonia, but after just a couple of days I had found my Estonian connection with some of the people living and working here in Bahrain, and when I look back at that particular day, I can just see how different religions in some mystical way can connect different countries and people together, without any rational explanation. And no matter whether we are Muslim or Christian, we all love God and the people around us, and this is what really counts.

"But miracles didn’t finish happening that day"

But miracles didn’t finish happening that day; at the Beit Al Qur'an (House of Qur'an), Ahmed introduced me to a scholar who was to be our next tour guide. When I said I'm from Estonia, he

"I also needed to find something here to connect Bahrain with Estonia"

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Images of Bahrain By Chantel Brischke (CANADA) Chantel Brischke

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The best way for me to describe Bahrain is through some of my favourite images.

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Grateful for the Opportunity By Andrea Plebani (ITALY) When I first received the invitation from Discover Bahrain, I assumed the program was another ‘public diplomacy’ exercise Andrea Plebani aimed at cleaning the post 2011 image of the Kingdom. I thought the initiative would have stressed the security of the country and the absence of significant ethno-sectarian divides, as well as of the dynamics usually associated to countries with the ‘Arab Spring’. I had not many expectation at the beginning, but I hoped to take the chance to see with my own eyes the situation on the ground. I have to admit that the limited time at my disposal did not allow me to fully understand the extent of the fractures affecting the country and the grievances of the opposition. On the other hand I had the opportunity to meet incredible people who really love their country and are working hard to preserve its identity, and to present its beauty to the world. Even more important, I met people who dedicated their time and efforts to improving their society and to help people in need. Volunteers proud of their traditions and culture and able to

let me feel at home and between friends. While I consider this a feature typical of the Middle East and of the beautiful countries I had the pleasure to see during my travels, Bahrainis’ hospitality was somehow incredible as it is the ‘two seas’ country. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to meet them and I hope their efforts will help Bahrain restore national unity, and to bridge the sectarian divides which are threatening not only the island, but the whole region. I particularly enjoyed the visit to the great mosque and the Bayt al-Qur’an. I strongly believe that inter-faith dialogue is the most important weapon we have to prevent the so-called ‘clash of civilizations.’ In Bahrain I met people who did not refrain from presenting their faith and discussing it with us and I would have loved to spend more time with the Shaikh of the Grand Mosque or with the guide who accompanied us inside Bayt al-Qur’an, and I really hope I will have the opportunity in the future to keep in touch with them. I loved also the visit to the fortress and to the museum, but my favourite moment was the party on the beach with Ahmed and the other friends. These images will remain with me forever.

"I had the opportunity to meet incredible people who really love their country"

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Under the Abaya By Karen Florence (USA) To understand something, it is better to experience it than simply observe it. This was true on my recent to trip to Bahrain when Karen Florence our group visited the Grand Mosque in Manama. Everyone had to dress properly; men and women alike. Dressing properly means the men had to wear a thobe, which is a traditional garment worn by Arab men in the Arabian Gulf region; think ankle length tunic and you will have a good idea of what a thobe is. Thobes can be very formal, with starched collars and cuffs, or more casual, and are usually made of white cotton. The old adage ‘clothes maketh the man’ is very true when it comes to men wearing the thobe; a thobe can make any man look very distinguished and important, and the men in our group made a quite the handsome lot when dressed and ready to enter the mosque. For women, there is no more a controversial garment on the planet then the burqa. This is what many Westerners think when imagining what many Muslim women wear in the Middle East. Westerners are not thinking about just clothing though, they are also attaching preconceived ideas and judgements about what it means to wear a burqa, and what they think the lives of the women who wear them must therefore be like.

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However, let us put these preconceived ideas and judgements on the back-burner just for a moment and take a look at what women in Bahrain actually wear, if they choose to cover. Yes, you heard me correctly; I said: ‘if ’ they choose to cover because for most women this is a choice, as Bahrain is a free and open society; there are no laws that require a woman to cover, or indeed to wear any particular type of clothing. And yet most women willingly choose to cover, and this made me very curious. Why would any woman cover if she was not forced to? So now we are back to those preconceived ideas and judgements. In the West, we only tend to hear about women who are forced to wear burqas. For Western women, forcing a woman to hide herself under a burqa is about as bad as it gets. Western women baulk at the thought of submitting to a man. In Bahrain however, most women can choose to cover, or indeed, not cover at all. She can choose to cover her face completely, or choose to just wear an hijab - a scarf that covers all of a woman’s hair - the idea is that a woman’s hair is part of her beauty and when you cover, you are saying your beauty is for your husband (or future husband) only. Or she can wear an abaya, a loose long-sleeved, floor-length black robe that covers her regular clothes, and is worn with an hijab. In Bahrain, a woman has a choice. This notion that women in

the Middle East must always submit by covering was quickly disputed by a trip to Center City, a shopping mall where I observed all manner of dress. I particular I was surprised to see husbands with covered wives walking through the mall holding hands, laughing and shopping. In fact, the men I spoke to said it was their wives who ruled the roost! Don’t let that cover fool you; women in Bahrain hold strong opinions and are active in all parts of society, from business to government to charity work. Now back to my visit to the Grand Mosque. I knew I was going to have to cover and to do what was required to be respectful just as I did when I covered my arms and head to enter St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. All the women in the Discover Bahrain delegation were helped into an abaya and a hijab to cover all of

Discover Bahrain their hair, although I was having a hard time with that and had some hair sticking out, but this was quickly rectified by Maria, one of my fellow delegates. When we were ready, we were ushered into the main hall of the mosque. I was transfixed. Silently we walked the stairs to the upper level where we could observe prayer. A strange feeling began to come over me; it may have been the combination of the clothes, the sacredness of the grand hall and the prayers that were being said, but I began to notice that I was feeling a bit different. As a Bodhisattva (In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is an person who lives their lives in benefit of others), I work hard on being an open observer. There is so much more information available to us if we observe without judging, and what I began to observe in myself was astonishing. I felt a peacefulness within myself beginning to emerge. In the West, indeed in most cultures, men and women dress to attracted mates. When we find that mate, most of us continue to dress in the same manner. There is no denying that occasionally we dress in provocative ways. Our shoes, our hair, the length and tightness of our skirts or trousers, how much of our bare skin is showing and where it is showing; it really is all about attracting a mate. In our Western culture, we are taught from infancy that

we must be attractive and we spend lots of time, energy, and tons of money on this pursuit. I invite you to pause for a moment and really think about that; how much of your time and thoughts are spent on your appearance so that others find you attractive? For a brief moment, I had the opportunity to step out of that pursuit and into an experience of not needing to impress, attract, or be anything to anyone! All the outer display, all the thoughts about how do I look, all the worry about appearance slipped away. What remained was me... just me. Completely free. Hidden from observation, from judgement. For those few blissful moments, I was free. It was like being in the Buddha field. I could do what I loved most; I could be silent, I could have solitude, I could feel the sacredness of my surroundings, I had the choice of simply being. Shockingly, I liked being covered which made me very curious, so over the next few days I began talking to the women of Bahrain about covering. As it turns out, there are as many views as there are women. I met women who began to cover at the traditional time, in adolescence, when a girl becomes a woman. I was surprised to find out that they could hardly wait to do it. I met women who did not cover at all and then made the decision to cover later in life. I met young women in their 20s who cover because they don’t like the way men look at them when they are not covered; they feel objectified and prefer to keep their beauty hidden for their future husbands. I met women who dress in Western style clothes and covered with brightly coloured hijab. But make no mistake, all these women took great care

in their make up and under those abaya were beautiful clothes. I found the Bahraini women to be quite beautiful. I don’t want to paint a picture for all Muslim women. We know there are countries where there are strict laws about women and what they can wear. We also know there are men who dominate their wives and this happens in all countries around the world, and I am certainly not condoning or ignoring these social inequities. As in all issues, there are many complex layers to covering. It is important to not let the fear of what is not familiar to us cause us to take action against those whose traditions are not like our own. We must not write laws restricting long-held traditions without understanding them. We need to think for ourselves and not take our education on these matters from the unbalanced media. We appear very concerned about women being forced to cover and equally fearful of women who choose to cover. Experience is the best teacher. Learning about each other, thinking for ourselves… travelling to meet each other leads us to understand and respect each other. This is what matters. At the closing ceremony for our trip I wanted to do something to honour all the powerful and misunderstood women who cover either by choice or by force and so, on stage and in front of all the delegates, the volunteers, the Discover Bahrain sponsors and the media, I asked my new friend and our tour guide Sonia Hadrich to cover me. She covered me with a simple black abaya and white hijab. Standing there completely covered, I knew what they all knew: covered or not, we are all powerful women. It is not what is on our heads but what is in our hearts that counts.

“there are no laws in Bahrain that require a woman to cover”

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Discover Bahrain

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Discover Bahrain

Much more than just a visit By Branka Loncar Mrkoci (CROATIA) Discover Bahrain offers much more than just a visit to a country. It is a versatile program with maximum Branka Lončar Mrkoci immersion covering topics from heritage and culture to education, media, religion and economy. Such a diverse and extensive program enables participants to gain a real firsthand experience of all aspects of the country, but Discover Bahrain is much more than just that… The path that led us in our discovery of Bahrain was the path through the hearts and minds of its people. I must admit that in all my travels I have never encountered such warmth of people, genuine human kindness, love for the country and open hearts like in Bahrain. Also, I have never ever in my life been welcomed with so much warm hospitality. It was a unique and amazing experience to witness deep devotion and passion for this project from the side of the organizing team, sponsors and contributing organizations which made this journey possible, as well as enthusiastic volunteers who dedicated their free time to enable the delegates to discover the soul of Bahrain. Our dedicated hosts did

not spare any effort to make us feel at home and among friends and family, they truly opened their hearts to us and gave us access to their homes and personal lives. It is them who made this journey an experience which deeply touched our hearts and which will never be forgotten.

“this was indeed a once in a lifetime experience that will be forever remembered”

American Jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said that “a mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Thank you Discover Bahrain team for giving us this opportunity for expanding our minds and enriching our hearts - this was indeed a once in a lifetime experience that will be forever remembered and cherished. Our longlasting friendships and deep memories will also open a lifetime of new opportunities to be explored. I personally feel deeply honoured and immensely grateful for having had the privilege to participate in the Discover Bahrain program. A big heartfelt “shukran” to Ahmed Buhazza – the heart and soul of this project, a sincere “shukran” to the Good Word Society, the whole organizing team and all committed Bahrainis who made this program possible. Finally, my warmest “shukran” to Bahrain – a small island with a huge welcoming heart!

“I have never encountered such warmth of people”

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Discover Bahrain

Crazy, but lovely crazy! By Ivan Lowenberg Sainz (MEXICO)

Ivan Lowenberg Sainz

I think I had first heard of Bahrain when I was little; I was at school learning the capital cities of the world and I found a little trick in order to remember Manama, the capital of Bahrain: Manama sounded pretty similar to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. And this was how I could remember the two capitals, which really worked out because since then, Manama is one of those strange capitals of the world I have always known (seen from the perspective of someone who lives in Mexico, pretty far away of Bahrain!). After that I had studied the country a little and so I already knew it is a very small island Kingdom in the Arabian sea and whose main religion is Islam. But it had been many years since I last looked at the country in books or on the Internet so, when I actually arrived in Bahrain with the Discover Bahrain delegation, I finally got to know the country a lot more. Before I left Mexico, people warned me to be careful, saying that some people in Middle East might be crazy, and indeed, some are, but in a very different and much more fascinating way!

“the most fascinating face of Bahrain's architecture is actually the cosy old towns�

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The first thing that surprised me was the kindness and friendliness of the Bahrainis. In Latin America we are seen to be a very nation and very friendly to tourists, but if this were a competition, I'm sure Bahrainis would be way ahead of us; we were constantly spoiled with food, coffee

Discover Bahrain

and tea, and everyone seemed genetically predetermined to smile at all times, even when we were not following the schedule, or on time, or when things went wrong! They were always smiling! A very tasteful thing I found about Bahrain, is the overwhelming percentage of foreigners living there. I read that interestingly around 53% of the population is non- Bahraini, which might be one of the few countries in the world having such a social phenomena. Initially I wasn't able to imagine how they could all coexist together, because in my country we are taught that Muslims didn't generally or easily interact with others, but this was not true at all; they mingle easily, and they mingle a lot and in very different ways, and it was very clear to me that the complexity of Bahraini society is both much bigger and deeper than you would ever expect from such a tiny archipelago. And the continuous flow of foreigners makes it even more unpredictable. When I arrived I was expecting a big, über-modern city with lots of oilcrazy-millionaires-superiority-complexskyscrapers, and I'm glad it wasn't like that. Of course there is a lot of construction going on, and you can see some modern skyscrapers, but the most fascinating face

of Bahrain's architecture is actually the cosy old towns and their beautiful houses. I was even glad to see the neighbourhoods, where there are not so beautiful houses; just old and kind of neglected. This adds - from my point of view - another dimension of what the country is, and its many faces, which makes it even more fascinating. I must say I wasn't really expecting a lot in terms of history. I mean, how much history could there been in a small archipelago that is 90% sand? Well, I was very wrong too! As we all know, Bahrain means 'two seas,' because it has both salt and fresh water in its sea, and this was one of the main reasons why, thousands of years ago, people once thought it was sacred and the land of immortality, and everyone in the area wanted to be buried there. It was also a commercially strategic territory, and the Greeks and Portuguese at one point controlled the island. It was hard to believe how much history there was in such a small place. You wouldn't think that going to a Muslim country there would be much in terms of entertainment either, but yes, indeed, Bahrainis know how to entertain themselves! Aside of being one of the main cultural places in the region, with lots of

international arts festivals, it seems Bahrain is also an ideal place for learning how to dance… salsa! They are crazy about it! I remember the first time we went out at night to a salsa night club, I was joking with one of the Discover Bahrain delegates about the odds of actually finding a good partner to dance with. Shame on me and my Latin blood; they danced as if they were raised by Ricky Martin and Shakira. They even knew how to dance in rueda (many dance couples at the same time). But salsa is not always needed, sometime just a drum will do; hit it for five seconds and you will have a Bahraini moving his shoulders. Aside from dancing, Bahrainis also like to go to the International Bahrain Circuit for the racing, as well as to the International Karting Circuit where, once again, they showed us how crazy they are driving fearlessly around the track. Although, in the end, non of the above was actually needed because Bahrainis are very friendly, talkative people, and sometimes just a non-alcoholic drink and a sunset would be enough for a long and entertaining night. And if you are lucky enough to hang-out in a desert camp, even the better. Bahrainis are crazy, but lovely crazy!

“Bahrainis are very friendly, talkative people”

“The first thing that surprised me was the kindness and friendliness of the Bahrainis.”

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Discover Bahrain

Bahrain... a really 'cool' country!

“The restaurant and food scene was very surprising”

By Nelson Carvalheiro (PORTUGAL)

Nelson Carvalheiro

For those of you that are not familiar with the Kingdom of Bahrain, it is a little island in the Arabian Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia on the west and Qatar on the east. Found it in Google maps? Great! Most people know it only for being the place where the Tree of Life is located, or where Bernie Ecclestone organizes a F1 Grand Prix every year. This being said, Bahrain is not like any other Arab nation. Nowadays, Bahrain is not only one of the most open-minded and liberal Islamic countries within the Arab world, but it is certainly is the coolest! Why so? What makes it so special you might ask? Firstly, laws and regulations in Bahrain are not based on a strict interpretation of Islam as in many other Arab countries, and secondly, Bahrain’s culture and heritage date back millennia and, besides being once a British Protectorate, it was also settled by the Portuguese during the Discovery Ages. What strikes me most - from a foreigner’s point of view - is that it has very relaxed rules and customs when it comes to its religious beliefs. Women are allowed to drive, and not mandated to wear a burka, or a niqab, an abaya or even a hijab. This is very empowering for Bahrain's Arab

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women, which means that they can indulge themselves in walking in broad daylight with full makeup and hair-dos. The Arab men appreciate it! Moreover, in Bahrain women are also business owners, with state provided help through a special business incubator for women's start-up projects. Also, there are presently over twenty-five faiths and respective churches in operation, and about 60% of its population are expats, so the cultural diversity is immense. The discovery of oil has led to rapid modernization of the Bahraini way of life, and within a few decades people went from living in desert tents to indulging in the comforts of the Western world, inside new three-hundred plus meter-high skyscrapers, which are rapidly changing the Manama skyline. Contrary to its neighbouring cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Doha, Bahrain enjoys a deeply rooted history and set of traditions which go back thousands of years, when the Dilmun civilization believed that this little island was the land of eternity and immortality. This lead to as many as 200,000 burial mounds being created on the island over the following millennia.

Also, due to its fresh water natural springs under the sea and pearl fishing, Bahrain has been a constant target of interest by armies and empires through the ages. Persians, Greeks, Ottomans, Arabs, Portuguese and more recently the British, all played an important role in the history, culture and heritage present in Bahrain today. The Qal'at al Bahrain fortress, built by the Portuguese, along with the Bahrain Pearling Trail are both Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO. They even have the Beit Al Qur'an, the only museum in the world entirely dedicated to the Qur'an and where you can see the entire surahs (chapters of the Qur’an) engraved in rice and peas dating from the 14th Century. There are two main souqs (Arab markets); one in the capital al-Manāmah (Manama), and one in the second largest city, alMuharraq. While the one in al-Manāmah is mainly populated by expats from the Indian subcontinent, the one in alMuharraq offers a very valuable insight into Arab trade, food, produce and basic daily life of local Bahrainis. I went for breakfast with Ahmed Buhazza to an old 1920s coffee shop, which had its walls lined with the photos of Arab leaders, both from the present and from the past. Even one photo of Saddam Hussein holding an RPG!

Discover Bahrain “every weekend almost 100,000 Saudis cross the King Fahd Causeway”

“it has very relaxed rules and customs”

The restaurant and food scene was very surprising for me. I had the opportunity to experience a world class oriental meal at fine dining establishment, street grilled beef tikka, a traditional home made nasi mandy (Arab rice with roasted lamb), and the most succulent and perfectly spiced minced chicken shish kebab at an Iranian restaurant. Not enough? Bahrain has its own version of McDonad’s too, perfectly titled as Jasmis, where they serve only halal fast food and are open 24/7. The best one for me is that alcohol is widely available. If anybody had ever told me that in one of Bahrain’s sky bars, a man wearing a thobe, a ghutrah and an agal would lecture me on the differences between new and old world wines, I would say that they were crazy! Well certainly enough it happened before my

eyes, and I have to say that when money is not an object, one can certainly fine tune their palate to the flavours and bouquets of world’s finest wines. And cigars! How incredible is this! Not surprised enough yet? Wait until you check out the salsa dancing scene in the bars and clubs. Another surprise to add to the list, and the last place on earth where I would dare to imagine salsa was danced. Arab men and women in very intense Latino movements, get a chance to put into action last week’s dance lessons, often going into dance-off with other couples.

liberty and freedom for themselves, unimaginable in many other Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Not only are some of these dry nations, but their religious beliefs do not allow for the freedoms that are available in Bahrain. And yet, at the end of the day Bahrain is still an Islamic country, where the large majority of the population get up everyday at sunrise for morning prayers, where the words of prophet Mohamed and Allah are deeply rooted into society, the legislative and the judiciary of Bahrain. And that is what makes Bahrain so special and so cool!

This being said, and the main reason why tourism is one of the main drivers of the Bahraini economy, is that every weekend almost 100,000 Saudis cross the King Fahd Causeway in order to enjoy Bahrain’s

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Discover Bahrain

My Favourite Day By Tom Rooney (AUSTRALIA) Prior to being accepted as a delegate for Discover Bahrain 2014, my knowledge of Bahrain was rather limited. I was aware Tom Rooney the country is situated close to the United Arab Emirates and is a potential stopover on long-haul flights. I was also aware, of course, that the Gulf region in general is booming, and the demand for foreign workers throughout the Gulf is at unprecedented levels, but this Discover Bahrain adventure provided me the first opportunity to explore the region. The political unrest arising from the Arab Spring in 2011 filtered into the Australian media, but overall there were gaps in my knowledge that this trip would help to fill.

"this Discover Bahrain adventure provided me the first opportunity to explore the region"

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Upon arrival I was greeted by one of the organisers at Bahrain International Airport. The delegates settled into the centrally located serviced apartments, and there began a unique adventure getting to know nineteen delegates from around the world, the organisers, and the local Bahraini people, We also got to learn as much as possible about this warm and friendly island country, home to just over a million people. I was keen to get to know the local people and learn more of the culture and traditions that make up the heritage of Bahrain. The Discover Bahrain programme entailed eight full days of discovery; we piled into the coach early in the morning and headed off for different adventures each day. I have

chosen to focus my attention on day three of the programme which, personally for me, was a very interesting and rewarding day. We started early and headed out to the American Mission Hospital; an institution in Bahrain operating for over a hundred years and built from very humble beginnings. We were treated to an excellent movie and presentation by senior staff about the operations, the history, and the future plans of the hospital, which was started by two American missionaries in the early 1900s, and still today remains focussed on meeting the future health needs of the people of Bahrain.

Discover Bahrain Our day continued as we were invited to lunch at the home of the Discover Bahrain Director Ahmed Buhazza, an honour for the delegates and typical of the overwhelming generosity of the Bahraini people. Our group was already forming a strong bond, as we continued sharing a new life experience together. After an enjoyable and relaxing lunch, we climbed into the coach again and headed out to the University of Bahrain, where we were greeted by senior members of the university, then explored the grounds of the university, and treated to an excellent movie and presentation in the main

auditorium. Staff members were happy to stroll with us and chat as we explored the university further, which included paying a visit to a fully operational television studio. What fun we had in the studio, hamming it up for the cameras and doing mock interviews... just like the professionals. Our day was not complete though; the coach then headed out to a new Government funded housing estate and another typically friendly local greeting from the workers at the site. This government funded initiative ensures high quality housing is available to residents of

Bahrain with an environmentally friendly focus, and the display houses are of highest quality. Every day in the Discover Bahrain programme was similar to day three, and we really got to enjoy all that the island has to offer. I won’t forget the warm welcome and fascinating culture of Bahrain, the island of a million palm trees. I look forward to returning to Bahrain to visit my new friends in the near future.

"I won’t forget the warm welcome and fascinating culture of Bahrain"

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Discover Bahrain

Small yet overwhelming

"the kindness and generosity of the Bahraini people and their unconditional love"

Samar Salameh

By Samar Salameh (CANADA)

Bahrain; that small-sized country with an overwhelming personality that keeps you engaged in its richness of culture and history, and amazed in its roots going back thousands of years. Its unique social structure with its harmonious blend of various existing religions and their sacred spiritual houses and buildings, coexisting naturally together.

country has to offer you every time you visit, or get the chance to learn about!

Bahrain; it overwhelms you with its ancient graves, seemingly standing still to state a particular statement of connecting past with present, or perhaps offering the spiritual protection from the ancient soles to Bahrain throughout time!

In my Discover Bahrain trip I loved all our everyday programs and visitations, I loved the food and the sceneries, but above all I most enjoyed the visiting Supreme Council of Women and the Women's Support Program, which is so special with what it has to offer; its professionalism, its seriousness and the small businesses incubator made to offer protection and support women in setting up their own small business. Needless to say that I got inspired myself to start my own creativity and work of art!

Could it be the sea moist tender breeze that brings you softness of texture and breath! Or is it the kindness and generosity of the Bahraini people and their unconditional love and commitment to Bahrain that captures your heart? Or many more areas of wonder that this small

Yes, it hasn't been my first time to Bahrain, but yet it keeps me attached, amazed and amused every time I visit. I could only expect more of everything every time I visit, because of the will of the people to never stop developing and enriching their land.

To Bahrain and the Bahrainis I say: Who's in the heart? Say who? Says Awal Says Taylos Says Delmon I say they're all Bahrain We came with all eagerness We came with overwhelming joy To find Bahrainis' kindness and sweetness above all Least to say Heart-full and children laughter is the face of Bahrain Bahrain's glory is in the unity of the people In few words, There are no words, More than the sweetest greetings to you all To everyone visited and embraced it all Remember it and gracefully tell about it Not passive .. But active Initiate, create, fascinate about the beauty it beholds To you we are grateful Your hard work counts Your hearts and the land testify for the number of times you made it happen For the number of people you brought to your hearts With you, Discover Bahrain will celebrate many returns We wish not to miss any chance To be in Bahrain .. For is Bahrain's beauty is within you all With God's will In'shallah it'll shine and it'll rise With you the kingdom shall magnify Who's in the heart? Our Bahrain is in our hearts.

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"it keeps me attached, amazed and amused"

Discover Bahrain

Just a few of the delegation's favourite images from Discover Bahrain 2014

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Brendan Harding

“I have been lucky enough to have been to Bahrain before and so I was very happy when I was invited back this time as part of the Discover Bahrain delegation. In its own very special way, I do find Bahrain quite beautiful. Beauty is, of course, subjective; each and every one of us has our own personal idea of what beauty is, or of what we find beautiful (or indeed not), and for me Bahrain's beauty is not aesthetic, it is not visual - it's beauty is much deeper, hidden, and much more personal. Bahrain's beauty, for me anyway, is its way of life and the friendliness and compassion, and openness and warmth of its people which was highlighted to me even further during the trip. Bahrainis respect each other and other cultures and nationalities more than many other countries in the region, it embraces the world, because the world embraces Bahrain; people from almost every other nation love calling Bahrain their home. And, unlike the West, in Bahrain there is little vandalism, very little crime, the streets are clean, strangers smile and greet you every single day, people are helpful and polite - without any hidden agenda - and you can feel comfortable without ever feeling threatened or intimidated. And this I also find wonderful about Bahrain. Oh, and coming from England, another thing I really think is beautiful about Bahrain is of course the weather! So coming back to Bahrain was a wonderful way for me to reexperience the country and its people and to understand even more that Bahrain will always remain in my heart. I miss you!”

“For me, despite being a travel writer, Bahrain had never featured heavily in my thoughts. With hindsight I presume I saw the country as just another place in a certain geographic part of the world where many people I know have gone to work in search of a better and more lucrative lifestyle and future. Whenever Bahrain did briefly cross my mind, I had images of sand, and heat and expats hiding behind the walls of their ‘compounds’ away from the world in which they didn’t belong and didn’t fit in. Until my first encounter with another Arab nation - Jordan - and if I am to be honest, I believe I was most likely a ‘closet’ Islamophobe. Having finally had the firsthand experience of visiting and ‘touching’ Bahrain, I now feel somewhat ashamed I harboured such thoughts in the past. I have always believed myself to be open to new cultures and new experiences, but secretly I was most likely only paying lip-service to these notions. But now, all of that has changed greatly. Bahrain and its people have shown me that I should have listened to my heart and realised that people are basically the same the world over except for some minor cultural, religious and moralistic beliefs as the foundations in their lives. I know longer think of Bahrain as being ‘bunched together’ with the other nations of the region. Bahrainis have shown me that they indeed are a special people; a people whose openness of culture and welcome has been formed and moulded by centuries of interaction with peoples from many diverse lands. I am also overjoyed to state that I have found the loving side of Islam which I had never contemplated before. I have seen Islam as all-embracing, both in religion and in the lifestyle it nurtures. I don’t think I have ever met a people who so warmly merged their spiritual lives with their daily interactions and outpouring of generosity and welcome. I am pleased to admit how wrong my preconceptions have been. I learned so many new things, met so many new and engaging people, learned so many vital life-lessons and witnessed first-hand what welcome ‘really’ feels like? Was is just

Age Ploom “I haven't felt as welcomed in any other country as I have felt it in Bahrain and I'm amazed how Bahrainis love their country and how they give both their time and money to develop it, we Estonians has much to learn from them. Bahrainis opened their heart to us, and welcome us into their heart. I want to come back , and I'm sure I can organize a tourist trip from Estonia to Bahrain, to show others more of this lovely country and its people.”

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a week in which I made friends from all around the world? A week in which every newly forged friendship was conducted within the gaze of our ever-smiling, everoptimistic hosts from Discover Bahrain? Was it just a week in which I learned to walk streets in safety again? Was it just a week when I tasted the delights of every Bahraini home I visited? And was it just a week in which I learned of cultural and religious tolerance as exemplified by every person who took the time to stop, shake my hand, wish me peace and happiness and smile me on my way? Was it just a week? For me what I most love about Bahrain, and something which I will carry for the rest of my life is the realisation that there are people who have the capacity to offer a genuine and heartfelt welcome to strangers, no matter from where they come, in what they believe or in the colour of the skin, and these people are Bahrainis. I am deeply touched and honoured to have seen this first hand and to have carried it away with me in my heart. Shukran Bahrain.”

Discover Bahrain

Katrina Tulloch “I had a couple of friends go through the program on previous years, so I had already heard a bit about Bahraini culture. Before arriving I did expect 1) Bahrain to be kind and welcoming, I also knew that, unlike Saudi Arabia, 2) Bahraini women can drive, I knew that 3) Bahraini people spoke Arabic, that 4) the country is oil-rich and 5) its capital is Manama. These things I already knew, but Bahrain far exceeded my expectations; it is the most welcoming, generous place on Earth! Just once I mentioned how I hoped to buy some postcards to send to my friends and family back home, and the next day Salman, one of the Discover Bahrain volunteers, brought me twelve beautiful postcards as a gift. What an delightful surprise! In the U.S., everyone drives everywhere and we see it as independent and empowering but I learned that many women actually still preferred not to drive in Bahrain, even though they can, since traffic can be a problem in Bahrain's main cities. I also heard the Saudi people have a reputation of wild driving when they come to Bahrain, so many women prefer to stay off the roads. I learned Bahraini Arabic has a different, more conversational accent than Arabic in other countries and many people were kind enough to teach me some

words in the language. My favourite words were 'yalla', 'chibbin' and 'mashallah'. I also learned that interestingly oil doesn't drive Bahrain's economy the way I thought it did. Instead the kingdom plays a major role in processing petroleum, carbamides and aluminium and has a rich history in the pearl-diving business. Lastly, I learned Manama wasn't always the capital; it used to be Muharraq! But what I love most about Bahrain is how genuinely happy the people are. I grew up in New York, where many (not all) people complain; about work, the weather, their families, etc. Complaining is normal. Many people also don't seek to better themselves or their community, choosing instead to be bored, lonely or stuck in a routine of work. In Bahrain, so many people smiled at me and really mean it. There is so much to admire about that genuine happiness. It comes from within. Many other cultures could learn a lot from Bahrain.”

Sonja Miokovic “I knew very little about Bahrain before embarking on the Discover Bahrain journey. In my minds eye it was a dusty and historic island surrounded by warm blue waters. Given the limited coverage of this small country’s happenings in the international media, my impressions

before experiencing it first hand were based on an amalgamation of experiences from the region. After a few short days, it became apparent just how little I knew about the country’s beauty, progress and prosperity. I was happy to experience the mix of history and modernity. Bahrain fascinates with the breadth of her cultural insights and offerings. There are some architectural gems, both old and new, which rise unexpectedly along the skyline. I was impressed by the diversity of culinary offerings, especially from a tourism perspective. You can eat traditionally on the floor with your hands one day and the next be an a five star Asian fusion restaurant. Manama can offer you many different experiences. I wasn’t expecting to learn about the progressive policies and initiatives supported by the government and foundation bodies, particularly when it came to the incubator for female entrepreneurs and start-ups. This was a nice surprise. One gets the feeling that there is lot happening, and Bahrain is on it’s way to great success. But aside from all of this, it was the warmth of the Bahraini people that made the trip so memorable.”

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Discover Bahrain

VOLUNTEERS REFLECTIONS By Dr. Amal AL Jowder - Deputy Project Manager and Mishaal Yakub

Dr. Amal AL Jowder

Mishaal Yakub

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“It was an honour to meet the delegates of Discover Bahrain 3, and I am pleased to be a member of the voluntary team working on this unique project. My work with the Discover Bahrain project has given me several opportunities; to meet new, exciting peoples, to see new places for first time in my beloved country, to promote Bahrain and to renew the loyalty I have to my homeland. The best part of my experience with Discover Bahrain is hearing the delegates describe their positive feelings about the Kingdom; it is in moments like these that I realize how Bahrain is different to many other countries. Bahrain may be a small island but it is huge in many other aspects such as, but not limited to; tolerance and coexistence, rich heritage, a deep rooted civilized population, the welcoming nature of Bahraini people and, most importantly, a very promising

future. Such a combination gives Bahrain its characteristic taste and unique flavour amongst the other Gulf and Arabic countries. This has been my second year volunteering with Discover Bahrain and I look forward for the next time I get to enjoy this opportunity, as I have enjoyed and benefited a lot from my previous experiences. Discover Bahrain is one of the many ways of implementing public diplomacy in the Kingdom and it is our responsibility to uphold it as proud Bahrainis. All in all, after my involvement with the Discover Bahrain project, I can surely say that if I was not born a Bahraini, I would have wished to be one.” Dr. Amal AL Jowder Deputy Project Manager

“It is said: 'The only thing we know for certain about the future is that we don’t know what it brings'. Freshly graduated and new to Bahrain, while job hunting I stumbled upon Discover Bahrain! I could not have been more pleased. I was simply fascinated by the Good Word Society's concept and scale of the event - to promote and showcase Bahrain, in person, to an impressive international audience! I was assigned the role of Project Coordinator and thoroughly enjoyed working with the Discover Bahrain family. Over the course of the planning and preparation phase, I experienced first-hand the warmth, dedication and loyalty of Bahrainis towards the country - the volunteers in addition to their day-job/studies, worked round the clock, and the sponsors who took a genuine interest in giving back to their country. I couldn’t wait for the delegates to feel the same way! As an expatriate I was equally proud to show off how good a lifestyle, and how enjoyable Bahrain was for me. The journey was filled with learning experiences, long lasting friendships and memories that will last me a lifetime. Along with the delegates, over the course of a week I got to experience and

learn about the Bahraini history, culture, education, religion, and much more! I came to understand that Bahrain is a beautiful country where traditional values and morals coexist alongside a modern landscape and lifestyle. But the part of the journey I found most fulfilling was getting to know the delegates and witness their excitement at each discovery. It was personally very rewarding to see the positive effect we had on our guests; it made all our efforts worth it! On every visit someone or other would come up and exclaim 'WOW! I never imagined Bahrain to be like this!' By the end of the trip we were all one family, volunteers and delegates alike. Saying goodbye was difficult (there were tears!) and I think that goes to show that we gained their trust and respect, both invaluable.” Mishaal Yakub

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Discover Bahrain 2014 in the Media Just a few of 60 plus national and international publications Discover Bahrain 2014 has been featured.

Alayam Newspaper, January 2014

Alwasat Newspaper, January 2014

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Albilad Press, January 2014

Daily Tribune News, February 2014

Daily Tribune News, February 2014

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Alayam Newspaper, February 2014

Alayam Newspaper, February 2014

Albilad Press, February 2014

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�� February ���� | THE NATIONALIST


Bahrain – blessed be thy name As a guest of the Kingdom of Bahrain, travel writer BRENDAN HARDING and his colleagues from around the world were invited to explore the country’s religious and cultural tolerances which should act as a lesson to the rest of the world


EVER in a million years could I have pictured that moment. Not for one hair-splitting millisecond of my existence had I ever envisaged that someday I would be standing in the prayer room of a great Mosque, dressed in an anklelength white cotton Arabic thobe, facing into the Mihrab – a semicircular niche carved into its wall, facing in the direction of Mecca’s sacred Kaaba – while being urged to loudly proclaim the words “Allahu Akbar” – God is great. But there I was, and there I filled my lungs with warm January air and released the prayer. The Al Fateh mosque in Bahrain’s capital Manama is a grand affair. Its exterior is simple in its cube-like construction, but yet somehow displaying a pious and dignified intricacy: twin minarets stand proudly against the city’s super-modern architecture, its many domes of differing sizes capping the holiness of its presence like gilded crowns. As one of the world’s largest places of Islamic worship, the Al Fateh mosque is a structure worthy of inclusion whenever and wherever religious buildings, regardless of denomination, are mentioned. But what was I doing there? Bahrain, like most of the Arab world, has had its problems in recent years. There has been unrest, sedition and violent conflict – all now lazily bundled together as a collective by the world’s media and referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’. In an effort to dispel the notion, perceived by far too many, that all Arabs are dangerous, that all Arabs are terrorists, Bahrain has taken an industrious and globally encompassing step forward. Under the banner title Discover Bahrain, I and �� of my journalistic colleagues, gathered from around the globe, were offered the golden opportunity to first-hand experience everyday life in the kingdom. Delegates from Estonia, the US, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Lebanon, Mexico and further afield were brought together by the project’s director, Ahmed Buhazza – a man possessing

regality, foresight, charm and ability in equal quantities – and his army of ever-willing, ever-smiling, ever-welcoming volunteers (yes, volunteers). Skeptics may add that you only see what you are shown. In many parts of the world, this may be true, but here in Bahrain, and without the knowledge of the programme’s organisers, myself and two of my colleagues, armed with only a thirst for discovery and a badly folded map, set forth into the streets to get lost. For six hours we wandered blindly – and I always, and stupidly, assumed I was good with maps – through the capital’s streets in shadows created by high-rise buildings more normally associated with cites like New York, Shanghai and London, greeted by the stares of drivers in the stream of Friday afternoon traffic. You see, the fact is simple: not many people walk in this land of scorching sun and sand. At one street corner, confused by my fumbling directions, we

The Nationalist - Ireland, February 2014

stopped to consult the oracle of cartography when a man approached. “Salam Aleikum, you look like you need some help,” he said, and pointed us on our way, his finger following the contours of the map, his arm around my shoulder as if we had known each other forever. It was like that again in the Manama Souk, where its tiny lanes and alleyways burst with products and produce delved from the depths of even the farthest imagination. There were spices and fruits, black hijabs and bolts of colourful cloth, handcrafts and Chinese-made sweatshirts, toys and teas and everything in between. The owners of these makeshift stores invited us to treat, but never once pushed too far. Our smiling declinations were accepted as hands were shaken and teeth were bared beneath the curves of a hundred smiles. Only once, when we ventured too bravely past a point where the stalls had ended, did we encounter any possibility of threat.

“Are you lost? ” a smiling man asked timidly. “No,” we replied, “just wandering”. The man drew close to my ear. “Maybe it is not safe up there in the small streets; you are tourists and it is quiet.” He wanted nothing from us, just to know that we, the visitors to his land, were safe. “Stay in this area and you will be fine – lots of people. You know what cities are like,” he added, and shook my hand. Bahrain, I have learned, and learned well from my hosts, is a place of integration, a place of coming together and a place of acceptance. According to the ���� census, the kingdom’s population comprises �.� million people. Of these, ��% are Bahraini nationals; the remaining expatriates are drawn to the island by its fame as a place of racial and cultural diversity and equality and the chance to live in peace and prosperity. Mosques sit alongside Christian churches and the places of worship of a hundred other faiths without fear of conflict.

Religious and cultural tolerance is everywhere: in the schools and universities, the hospitals and factories, in the government and public offices; in fact, in every walk of Bahraini life. Women are empowered to be the best they can, to strive as far as their own limitations will allow. Children are encouraged to embrace all cultures and creeds, and those with disability have been given opportunities unknown in many parts of the so-called western world. It is for this reason and the vision of a far-thinking king, His Royal Highness Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, and the commitments of people like Ahmed Buhazza and his team at Discover Bahrain that I – a non-believer, an infidel – could stand in the great prayer room of the Al Fateh mosque, facing the sacred Kaaba at Mecca, and declare for all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, to hear, “Allahu Akbar” without fear and in the company of new-found friends. In Bahrain, God is indeed great.


�� February ���� | THE NATIONALIST


In the souk with Ali Strolling in the souks of Bahrain’s capital Manama, travel writer Brendan Harding and his good friend Ali greet and are greeted by all whom they meet


LI’S FRIENDS were everyone in the old neighbourhood. “Oh my,” Ali would say as another turned a corner and into his path. Each time I had tried to stand aside, to give these old friends time to reacquaint; time to talk; time to indulge in long-protracted handshakes and time to embrace and smile. I had no place as an interloper in their midst, so time and time again I shuffled my feet and made to take my leave. And time and time again my arm was taken gently in the hands of a stranger and guided back into the fold. “My dear friend Brendan,” Ali said. “Can you believe this? My best friend and I haven’t seen him in five years! Your presence is bringing all my friends to me once again.” I shook the man’s hand; he was small, portly, with greying hair and his wide, effervescent smile was framed perfectly by a playful grey moustache that danced as he spoke. He shook my hand and introduced himself. Immediately I forgot the name; another Abdullah, another Mohammed … I really should try harder, I thought, but time is short. “Come”, the man said as he ushered Ali and I into a small supermarket. Immediately, he went to a drinks cooler and asked: “What do you prefer, mango juice or water?” He handed us both our drinks. “Shukran,” I attempted. “You’re very welcome,” Ali’s best friend replied in perfect English. Back on the street, we continued our conversation as life went on around us. Men wheeled barrows full of whatever men wheel barrows full of so close to the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Women covered from head to toe trudged their weary path towards home, weighed down with the produce of the souk. The smell of fresh bread hung on the air like a sweet temptation, and the echoes of invisible, happy children bounced along the walls of Muharraq’s tiny alleyways. And back on the street, three men – one no longer a stranger – stood and spoke of the world, of sport, of the weather and of their love for

Ali, who guided Brendan around Bahrain’s capital

Bahrain. But why should I fall in love with this place? What magical thing was abroad, enchanting my soul so deeply? Why here? Why this dust-covered patch of land adrift in a turquoise sea? I found my answer in a place I had never imagined. Having left his friend with promises to meet again, Ali and I continued on our way through the old souk. But every sentence of our conversation was broken with the offer of more greetings and salutations to shopkeepers selling their wares, to craftsmen busy at labour in their sparking workshops, to old men as they stretched their tired legs in the cool of the morning, to the whole of Muharraq, it seemed. At a corner I stopped, my curiosity fully engaged at the sight of an old Bahraini coffee-house.

The Nationalist - Ireland, February 2014

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It was nothing special, but its worn nature and its simplicity called to me – this is the Bahrain you need to discover, it said; here is where you will find it all. Ali spoke: “It is the oldest coffee-house in the city,” he said, bearing a smile as if this plastershedding edifice was a thing of rare and exquisite beauty. “Come, let us take tea.” Inside the door, seated on a long and plain wooden bench, whose seat had been covered in carpet for a little extra comfort but now which lay bare and tattered, an elderly man was sitting quietly. Beneath a worn baseball hat, and in the dim light of the coffeehouse interior, the wrinkles on his face seemed carved from desert rock. The other men in the bare room also sat without conversation, their eyes fixed on an ancient television set where big men slammed each other onto the canvas of a wrestling ring. Even at the most audacious body-shots and blows administered by the TV

set’s combatants, their gaze never faltered. They stared straight ahead, lost in another world, their eyes drooping with sleep. Ali shook the old man’s hand while the two made their greetings and showed their respects. In quick Arabic, Ali introduced me to the man who, in turn, shook my hand firmly and wished that peace be upon me. It was then I noticed the wire running to his ear from a mobile telephone. He was watching something on its screen; something moved, something colourful and caught my eye. The old man whose name was Ibrahim, as Ali later told me, held the device forward for my inspection. On its small screen a video played; men within the gunwales of a bright blue fishing boat, floating on a bright blue sea drew lines from the water with their bare hands as fish of many hues flashed in the sunlight and were landed still thrashing on the boat’s wooden floor. “Ibrahim was a fisherman,” Ali said.

“I also love fishing” was all I could muster, but my smile told the old man that I had approved. He held the image closer and I watched as his sons trawled the ocean depths for fish to fill the stalls of Muharraq’s old souk. Ali and Ibrahim spoke as I tried to decipher their guttural words. “He is too old to go fishing now,” Ali said, “but his sons film their work on the boat every day so he may be with them in spirit.” I have no idea why this touched me as it did. The respect of children for their parents, perhaps; the sight of an old man no longer able to partake in a thing he loved so dearly; or my own memories of a father whose true happiness came with rod and line in hand. Whatever it was, this old man had encapsulated the love that I had discovered for Bahrain and its people. If I could put it in short words, it would be these: simplicity and welcome, no more, no less. So I say only this: thank you, Ali, thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your world.

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PEARL of the gulf Manama skyline, Bahrain. (Katrina Tulloch /

I S L A N D N AT I O N O F B A H R A I N E X T E N D S WA R M W I S H E S By Katrina Tulloch

If you have a good host, call him or her “more generous than Hataim.”  It’s a popular saying in the Arab world, referencing the Arabian poet Hatim al Tai, a well-known figure in the Middle East and India.  As the legend goes, Hatim al Tai is known for killing his horse in order to feed his guest. I’d like to unpack that old adage after visiting the Kingdom of Bahrain. Earlier this month, I traveled to Bahrain as part of a 10-day cultural program called Discover Bahrain. The program welcomed people from around the world for a crash course in Bahraini history, government, beliefs, economy and language. It was like study abroad for adults. I traveled with 19 other delegates, ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. They hailed from Australia, Croatia, Mexico, Canada, Palestine, Estonia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.  The trip was paid for by Bahrain’s Good Word Society. All of it. That’s the full disclosure. I had never been to the Middle East before. Apart from the miserable civil war in Syria, I honestly never paid much

Discover Bahrain delegates are welcomed at the Bahrain Winners Football Center with tea, coffee and desserts. (Katrina Tulloch /


The Post Standard - New York, February 2014

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DELEGATES BIOGRAPHIES A short biography of each of the nineteen members of the Discover Bahrain 2014 delegation. AGE PLOOM

Profession: Ph.D. Student, Tour Leader Nationality: Estonian Email: Skype ID: armastaevas Website/Blog: Facebook: Twitter:

My name is Age, I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Theology and my research is about Estonian women, who have converted into Islam. I’m also a tour leader and orthodox, so I chose my master's in Christian culture and history because I wanted to find out about, and see connections between different countries, religions and nations. To use the famous Miss World sentence; “I would like to make peace in the world”. I also have a dream to own a travel company, but until then I'm still digging and looking for hidden treasures by working for other travel companies and writing travel articles and blogs.

ANDREA PLEBANI Profession: Research Fellow and University Lecturer Nationality: Italian Email: Skype ID: andrea.plebani

Andrea Plebani is Research Fellow for the Mediterranean and Middle East Program. He is lecturer of Regional Studies and History of Civilizations at the Catholic University of Brescia. His research focuses on Euro-Mediterranean relations , ideology and evolution of Islamist movements, and security issues related to the broader Middle East. Before joining ISPI, Dr. Plebani worked at the Insubria Center on International Security (ICIS) and at the Landau NetworkCentro Volta (LNCV). In 2012 he earned a Ph.D. in Politics and Institutions at the Catholic University of Milan.


Profession: Press Journalist, Blogger and Traveller Nationality: Polish Email: Skype ID: asulewska Website/Blog:

A press journalist, blogger, traveller and mother. Anna has worked for different media in Poland during the last few years (longest with the Gazeta Wyborcza), and presently writes stories from other countries for Polish magazine Kontynenty and National Geographic Traveler. Since 2000 she was involved in the Young Journalists’ Association Polis and, for many years on an international level, the European Youth Press. She organises different media projects all over

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Europe, ran the Orange Magazine, took part in MENAC (Middle East and North Africa Committee) and was part of the board for its 50,000 person network. Anna is still not sure what she enjoys the most: organising and connecting people or writing. She is a mother of two little girls, and together with her German photographer husband, she travels and runs a blog: The Family Without Borders, read in 167 countries of the world.

BRANKA LONčAR MRKOCI Profession: Diplomat Nationality: Croatian Email:

I come from Croatia and work as career diplomat for Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, currently serving as head of division for coordination of European Union policies. My academic background is in economics and international relations with degrees from University of Zagreb, College of Europe and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I have lived, studied and worked in many places and spent seven out of the last ten years outside of Croatia so I feel like a global citizen. In my free time I enjoy travelling and exploring new cultures, learning languages, photography, reading and horse riding.


Profession: Multi Award-Winning Freelance Travel Writer, Columnist & Broadcaster Nationality: Irish Email: Website/Blog: Twitter:

Having spent the vast majority of his employment as a graphic artist and visual merchandiser, at the age of thirty-eight Brendan returned to university and completed a life-long ambition and a degree in creative writing with the goal of establishing himself as a travel writer on the international stage. Ten years on Brendan has succeeded in his goal and has seen his work published in many locations around the world; USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Kenya and online globally. Along with being an award-winning travel writer, Brendan’s short stories have been published in anthologies in the USA, the UK and in his homeland Ireland.The other great passions in his life are his work with endangered species in Africa and overseeing an eye-care project ‘Asante’ which he co-founded in 2006, working with the most disadvantaged peoples in the remote villages of rural Kenya. Outside of working hours he can occasionally be found on stage pretending that he can sing.


Profession: Teacher/Traveler Nationality: Canadian Website/Blog:

Chantel is an emerging travel blogger whose travels are inspired by the indomitable human spirit. Her accounts focus primarily on the unique stories that make us collectively human. She has lived in Canada, Costa Rica, South Africa, India, and currently California where, when she is not on the road, she works as a math and science teacher. Bahrain was the 35th country she has visited.


Profession: Journalist, Photographer, Videographer Nationality: Asian-American, USA Email: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram:

Katrina was overjoyed to travel from New York to Bahrain. She is a journalist at The PostStandard, the city newspaper of Syracuse, where she shoots videos and writes about entertainment, travel and culture in Central New York.



Profession: Director, Photographer and Screenwriter Nationality: Mexican Email: Skype ID: ivanesco_08 Facebook:

Profession: Author, Public Speaker, Avid Traveller Nationality: Polish Email: Website/Blog:, Facebook:

I was born in huge and vibrant Mexico City, 28 years ago, and am the youngest child of a family of five. I speak Spanish, English and German and my hobbies include some dancing and occasional karaoke singing. I have been lucky to earn my living by working in what I´m most passionate about: movies and documentaries. Although once terribly afraid of flying, my interest in getting to know other people, places and cultures always forced me to step into that winged metal tube anytime, to the point now that I don´t even try to resist anymore. There is nothing better for me than a cultural shock, new experiences and a good laugh.

Magda is a fun loving person who has worked in over 10 industries in the past 13 years. She is presently a recognized author of inspirational books for Polish women, with her first book's English translation coming out in the fall of 2014. The self-published book sold over a thousand copies in the first two months of sales and helped her get on stage to speak to women around the country about the power of passion and awareness in our lives. Holding a BA in Japanese Studies, Magda spent most of her adult life on the road. Following a trip to India, she started two blogs detailing her travel experiences, although she later switched to Facebook. She's planning to release three more books in 2014, and move to Hawaii in January 2015.


Profession: Executive Transformational Coach Nationality: American Email: Skype ID: karenflorencemcmullen Website/Blog:

Karen Florence - American, Buddhist, Spiritual Seeker, International Transformational Coach. Karen is a Certified Professional Coach and founder of Tabula Rasa Coaching, a coaching firm that specializes in transformational coaching for individuals as well as organizations. As an Executive Coach, she works with people who want to explore their lives in a deeper way to create change in their personal, business, and spiritual challenges. When working with organizations, groups, and companies around the world, Karen helps them clarify who they are and why they do what they do. Being a change agent with a deep understanding about what calls humans to do what they do, working with the way the brain works, and helping clients and their organizations live and work from that 'why' is the most rewarding work Karen can imagine doing. It is aligned with her own 'why', and purpose. Working from her own purpose 'on purpose' changed everything for her. And it changes everything for her clients as well.

MARIA D. R. PANIAGUA DISPA Profession: Co- founder of PR Firm and Blogger Nationality: Mexican Email: Skype ID: maria.rocio.paniagua Website/Blog: Facebook: Twitter:

Maria is passionate about technology and communications, she’s been involved in blogging and publications for years. In 2012 she represented Mexican women at the UN’s regional leaders forum, where she spoke about entrepreneurship, technology and gender. She currently covers the Mexican startup and tech scenes in TechCrunch, and is part of the StartupBus crew. Maria’s also a public relations and strategic communications maven and an avid traveler; she’s been involved with a few agencies focused on tech projects. Recently she co-founded Ronin Public Relations, a company focused on projects that want to enter the Mexican market. During her career she has lived and worked in Egypt, UAE, USA and France.

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I am a senior journalist for the pan-European News channel Euronews where I work as a news writer, duty editor and producer. I was born in South Africa, but left when I was four years old. I grew up in Lisbon, and graduated in Communication Sciences/Journalism at the Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa. The first steps of my career were in two main reference TV channels in Portugal (state-owned RTP and the private SIC). I have also worked and collaborated with some newspapers and websites but I gained my main experience in Euronews (a multinational channel with more than thirteen languages), where I started to work as a freelancer ten years ago. Besides that, I am also an independent reporter and cameraman (studied at school of journalism in Paris at the CFPJ). I have independently worked for several companies including Morocco and Saudi channels. One of my main future goals is to make documentaries and short movies. My first big independent project was a long report shot in Kosovo in 2012. I am aspiring to do great things in 2014. The visit to Bahrain will be the inspiration and the starting point for my 2014 quests.

Robin is a writer and author and has written hundreds of articles for magazines and newspapers worldwide and is a genre bestselling author of five non-fiction true-crime books, a biography, a self-help guide and has edited, written and published a number of industry specific manuals and trade directories as well as two coffee-table photographic portfolios. Recently Robin was commissioned to ghost-write and publish a tribute book about the former Chairman of one of the biggest merchant families in Bahrain, and in 2012 edited a travel anthology titled: My Beautiful Bahrain. Robin loves travelling, exploring and experiencing, and his all-time favourite quote is:“If you don't want to lead an ordinary life, don't do ordinary things!”

Profession: Senior Journalist Nationality: Portuguese Email: Skype ID: ciibereporter Website/Blog:


Profession: Travel Writer & Photographer, Boutique Hotelier Nationality: Portuguese Email: Website/Blog: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram:

I am all about passion for People, Travel and Food. I dedicate my writing and photography to the soul and sense of place of the locations I visit, the people I meet and the food I taste. My love for small personal ambiences knows no boundaries! It is what I look for when I am travelling. They are places, moments, people, objects, sights which show love and dedication, where one can experience a million different details all working together. The travels I share through my blog are mostly friend generated, as I feel that the best way to get to know a city is through an insider, who can share feelings and emotions about sites, food and people as passionately as I do.

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Profession: Author, Writer and Publisher Nationality: British Email: Website: Facebook:


Profession: Freelance Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker Nationality: British Email: Skype ID: s_amor

Sally is a Freelance Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker always on the move. She has hosted and assisted in many fundraisers for Syrian orphans and has completed a feature length documentary about the Syrian Revolution. She in in the process of publishing a book about the Middle East. An interesting fact about Sally is that she worked in casting for Ben 10 on Cartoon Network!


Profession: Feng Shui Master Practitioner Nationality: Canadian Tel. No: +9613422063, +9616434741 Email: Skype: atrennada Website/Blog:

Samar is a Canadian living currently in Egypt. She is a freelance Feng Shui Master practitioner and a Relationship System Coach with a master degree in Educational Technology. She had an interesting career history in both the education sector and education franchising business. She is currently involved in volunteering committees to improve the educational level for children living in slums in Cairo. She paints and soon have more involvement in art as she's planning to be the Art Director in a short movie.

Discover Bahrain SEAN CONNOLLY


Sean has been an English teacher in Somaliland, a student in Ghana, a writer in Mozambique, and a backpacker across much of the African continent. When he’s not discussing verb tenses, diplomatic recognition, or the merits of camel meat, you may find him riding in the back of a grain truck, sampling questionable local delicacies, or seeking out a country’s funkiest records. Raised in Chicago and educated in New York, Sean is a full-time culture fiend (read: anthropology graduate) and stays on the move whenever possible.

I am a career Public Servant working for the NSW Government in my hometown Sydney. My great passion in life outside work has been to travel the world. I have been fortunate to visit over one hundred countries in the last twentyfive years, and I bring my positive nature and natural enthusiasm to each country I visit, with a focus on promoting the joy and wonder of travelling to each and every travel destination. I am an award winning blogger of eight years standing, and have a large following right across the social media. I specialise in high quality writing, with excellent photographs to complement my writing style.

Profession: Freelance Author Nationality: American Email: Skype ID: sdc773 Website:

Profession: Travel Blogger & Public Servant Nationality: Australian Email: Website/Blog:


Profession: Global Director of Youthful Cities Nationality: Canadian Email: Skype ID: sonja_miokovic Website/Blog: Twitter:

Born in Kuwait to a mother of German-Polish decent and a Serbian father, Sonja often feels that she was born into a cross-cultural experiment. Reared with a mouth full of languages and surrounded by diverse cultures and customs, she learned to be open-minded, tolerant and flexible. Sonja has a degree in Journalism and a Masters in Global Studies. On the ground, she has worked on projects throughout Europe, Africa, India, Asia, Central & South America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Her portfolio holds multiple works in communication, project management, social research and business development in varying capacities. E.g. collaborating with a group of informal traders in South Africa; Ideating inclusive approaches to urban development through tourism in preparation for FIFA 2010; Rallying national awareness with UNICEF to create child-friendly cities across Serbia; Managing research design for the MasterCard Foundation's Youth Think Tank. Four languages and fifty-two countries later, Sonja is now spearheading the launch of YouthfulCities, a global social venture to rank the world's top 100 cities from a youthful perspective.

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“Bahrain is beautiful and unique country; it is our duty and an honour to serve the Kingdom, and to promote Bahrain to other cultures, nations and nationalities, worldwide.� Hassan Mohammed Buhazza Chairman of the Good Word Society.

Hassan Mohammed Buhazza

Good Word Society PO Box 13490, Muharraq, Kingdom of Bahrain Tel: (+973) 17 333 115 Fax: (+973) 17 333 117

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A Very special and heartfelt thank you to our sponsors who make this wonderful journey possible

discover bahrain Tel: (+973) 17 333 446 Fax: (+973) 17 333 115 Facebook DiscoverBH Twitter Discover_bh Email

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