Have You Ever Thought About Teaching in Bahrain?
If you’re looking for a mix of Arab culture and Western conveniences, then you might want to check out Bahrain. With the highest literacy rate in the Arab world and primary school attendance nearing 100%, it is a sure bet to say that Bahrain embraces education.
Furthermore, there are many popular international and bilingual schools and programs (nursery school, primary, and secondary, and post-secondary), mostly in the larger cities. Some follow the U.S., Canada, UK, France, or Australia/New Zealand curriculum. One of these just might be what you are looking for.
Bahrain is made up of 33 islands, including the islands of Bahrain (the main island’s name as well as the country), Muharraq, Umm Nasan, Sitrah, An Nabi Salih, and the Hawar Islands.
Bahrain has remained an independent country since 1971, when the British who ruled the country for more than 100 years granted independence.
Its population is roughly 1,234,571 with about half of those residents being non-nationals. Most of these “non-nationals” are from Asian countries, primarily India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Bahrain is the fourth most densely populated sovereign state in the world with much of its population in the north. In fact, the north is considered one large metropolis.
The country is relatively flat (the highest point 445 ft./135m above sea level) and quite small (an area of 765 sq. km), making it the third smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. It is situated between the Qatar Peninsula and the northeastern part of Saudi Arabia to which Bahrain is connected by a causeway. Over 90% of the land is desert.
Daily Temperatures and Weather
Bahrain receives very little rainfall and has high humidity. The high humidity especially in summer may irritate those with asthma or bronchitis. November through March months have more pleasant weather with evenings somewhat cool. The summer months, May through September, are very, very hot and humid. Rainfall is minimal and mostly occurs in winter.
What’s there to see?
Beaches, souks, Middle Eastern culture (mosques, temples, architecture & art & museums), camels, and ancient history (forts) are on some key features.
The Hawar Islands are a breeding ground for endangered falcons and the Socotra cormorant. In the winter months of December and January, thousands of birds nest on the islands.
Camping is permitted in the southern part of Bahrain with special police permission.
The golden-white sand beaches of Jirada (to the east of Bahrain) and Al Baina (between Al Khobar and Bahrain) are worth a visit. You can catch a two-hour boat ride to either beach. The trip usually includes fishing and swimming, and of course, lunch.
Pearls, brassware, jewelry, gold work, traditional coffee pots, tailor-made clothing, Middle Eastern antiques, and handicrafts are much sought-after items, and they are sure to please shoppers. You can expect to haggle in the markets, but not at the more expensive stores.
Shopping hours are from Saturday through Thursday. There may be a few markets and smaller shops open for a short time on Fridays.
Foods and Restaurants
Alcohol was once only for expats, but now there are modern bars and night clubs open to greet patrons of age.
A wide variety of international foods and particularly Indian, Thai, Filipino, and Chinese can be savored at deluxe hotels. These hotels routinely offer theme or specialty nights and highlight such treats as Caribbean barbecues and medieval banquets.
You’ll find the local dishes at small diners and restaurants. Sweet dates (the country’s largest agricultural export) is a popular treat. And don’t forget the teahouses for a cup (or two) of sweetened tea or ghawa (an Arab coffee flavored with cardamom).
It is customary to pay 10% in restaurants if a service charge is not already included on the bill.
Safety and Health
Similar to the behavioral standards of other Muslim countries, you should not get drunk in public, partake in any illegal drugs, and not be involved in any illegal sexual activity (i.e.., encounters with prostitutes, homosexual acts, or open displays of affection in public). There are severe punishments for doing so.
You will find the country quite safe, even after dark. There is little crime other than an occasional pickpocket. But it still pays to be observant.
There are ample modern hospitals and clinics. Before traveling to Bahrain, it is advised to ask your doctor if you need a hepatitis and/or typhoid vaccination.
Regarding the food eaten at restaurants, most hot and freshly cooked food should be safe to eat, but ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly. Avoid local dairy products. Before eating raw fruits or vegetables, make sure to peel and wash them. Do not drink water from the tap; drink prepackaged drinks or boiled drinks.
Because of the intense heat, especially in summer, make sure to wear and reapply sunscreen. Drink plenty of water and wear a hat and sunglasses.
Eye irritations are common from the sand and dust in the air.
It is advised that foreigners stay up on current events and the happenings in the Gulf area to ensure extra safety precautions.
Women need to dress modestly; short skirts or low-cut blouses are not acceptable. You will notice that Western clothing is quite common in the country.
Passports, Visas, and Sponsors
American and Canadian citizens need a passport, visa, and proof of why they are entering the country. Your employer can provide you the required letter to show your intent. There is an airport tax that is required to be paid in cash when you first arrive in the country.
When taking a taxi, have the driver turn on the meter prior to getting in the vehicle and negotiate a fair price for the journey ahead of time. It is customary to tip 10%. Remember that taxis are more expensive after nightfall and they are also more expensive if you get one from a hotel rather than from the street.
When flying in and out of the country, reconfirm the flight itinerary well in advance and make sure you have the required documents.
Bahrain International Airport is 4 mi/6 km northeast of the capital, Manama. You can also enter or depart from the country via the King Fahd Causeway, (15 mi/25 km), connecting the archipelago to Saudi Arabia. Typical transport is a bus that travels this way daily.
Public transportation also includes city buses.
You can also rent a car at the airport and at other locations. You will need your driver’s license and an international driver’s license. Most traffic signs are posted in both Arabic and English to help you better navigate, however, It is recommended that you take a paid tour around the city to better acquaint yourself before driving.
Additional Facts to Know
In 1999, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded his father as emir, then he turned the country into a constitutional monarchy.
The country was one of the first in the Gulf region to discover oil. Eventually running out of oil, Bahrain has now turned to other industries: banking, aluminum, fertilizer, shipbuilding, and tourism. This makes Bahrain one of the most diverse Gulf countries as far as their industry.
There is a U.S. naval base in Bahrain that enforces an early curfew for the sailors to deter any potential happenings especially at local bars or night clubs.
Don’t photograph women without getting prior permission.
Observe Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, by not eating, drinking, or smoking between the sunrise and sunset hours. These behaviors (if done) are illegal and will be seen as disrespectful.
You can exchange money at exchange bureaus, banks, or at the airport. There are many large financial institutions in the country’s capital, Manama. Most shops and services will accept international debit and credit cards. Banks are open Sunday through Wednesday; some may be open Thursday morning as well.
There is a native Christian community in Bahrain.
For More Information
- Bahrain does not have diplomatic representation in Canada. Canadians will need to contact the Embassy in the U.S.
- S.: Embassy of the State of Bahrain, 3502 International Drive, N.W., Washington, DC 2008. http://www.bahrainembassy.org
- Foreign Embassies in Bahrain include:
(Canadian – contacts vis Saudi Arabia) Canadian Embassy, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). Phone 966-1-488-2288. Fax 966-1-488-1361.
(American) U.S. Embassy, Building 979, Road No. 3119, Zinj District, Manama. https://bh.usembassy.gov/ Phone 973-273-300. Fax 973-256-242