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Back From Bahrain

Dewey the Dog

Dewey, my friend’s Arabic speaking dog. Rescued because people bring their pets to Bahrain and leave them there.

Tiny Kingdom’s Riots are Puzzling

by Tasha Banat
posted May 16, 2011

“We interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news from Manama, Bahrain. Riots are occurring at Pearl Square!”

Why Bahrain?

  1. Their economy is good.
  2. Their king is quite liberal.
  3. They practice parliamentary democracy, and even if it is a Sunni minority over a Shiite majority, the economy is good.  For example: if you are paid 1000.00 Bahraini dinars per month, the amount is equal to $3000.00 (American dollars). 
  4. They have great medical health benefits, actually including eyes and teeth, along with all other parts of the body.  
  5. They have virtually no taxes. 
  6. They even have the BSPCA (Bahraini Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals)!  My friend’s Arabic-speaking dog, Dewey, was rescued by the BSPCA because people bring their pets to Bahrain and leave them there, and Dewey had been left behind.
  7. They have a Harley-Davidson shop.  (I once ordered Amaya’s husband a tee shirt from there.) 
  8. I know how beautiful it is there; I tried to work in Bahrain as a travel agent, but at 63 years of age, I am really too old for that type of occupation.  It is one of the few times in my life that I would love to be able to turn the clock backward!

Bahrain mapOf all the beautiful places in the world to visit or live, the Asian-Arab lands are the most personally exciting to me. If I may, let me dissect what is currently happening there (in my opinion, of course!). I am now going to give you the Belly dancer’s version, which I believe is more accurate, if less dramatic, than the news. (This is under the hip-band.)

Fundamentally, there are two types of democracy in the Arab world (not including a few dictatorships).  They are either a monarchy or a republic, depending on whether or not they were conquered by the British or the French.  Most of North Africa was known to have the French Foreign Legion. (Remember them?)  The British, of course, had Lawrence of Arabia, and if you saw the movie, it pretty much explains that movement.

The only place that was considered different was Palestine by virtue of the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which Great Britain promised to create a state named Israel on that land. I think that is pretty simple and straight forward as well. (However, for the sake of this article, I do not care which side you believe is right in that struggle.) Nevertheless, why should any Belly dancer care about Arabic culture?  Regardless of whether you are studying the dance for fun or profit, you represent the face of a culture that is constantly in the news, usually not portrayed in a positive light. Whatever facts you have about the culture can only help us Arabs (as a people) and help you (as dancers) with some understanding of where the art originated.

Approximately at the same time as the invasions of the French, British, etc. upon the Ottoman Empire the art of Belly dancing was introduced in cabarets of Egypt and Lebanon, as well as Turkey (Istanbul).

Once ruled by the French, Lebanon is still the only Christian-ruled country in the current Arab world. By constitutional law, the president must be a Maronite Christian.  The vice-president must be a Sunni Muslim and the prime minister must be a Shiite Muslim.  The rest of the cabinet is made up of people from the minority religions.

Costume of Bahrain
Bahrain Costume demo from wax museum

Jordan has a monarchy, meaning that it has a king, a vice-president, and a prime minister, as well as a cabinet. Even Israel has a president, a prime minister, and many minorities, making up a kinesset (cabinet). Generally, all countries in the Arab world have two or more parties, representing the people in some form of cabinet. All of the Arab countries practice capitalism and none are communist.

As a result of trades made in the United Nations on their behalf, many countries became republics or monarchies after World War II for many reasons, mostly involving wealth and power rather than indigenous interests. Nevertheless, each country has its own reasons for recent Middle Eastern upheavals, and most of them are fairly straight forward to understand. Poverty breeds violence and dictatorships are not acceptable, even if capitalism is practiced in each one of these places such as Tunisia, Egypt, or Libya.

Apartment buidlings in Jafar
Apartment buildings in Jafar, Bahrain

Having said this, I want to comment on the subject of Bahrain because that is a different situation completely.  Bahrain is a country that is not poor, and its king is liberal in almost every sense of the word.  Again, there is wealth and reasonable freedom for all the people living there, and their Sharia law is relatively lax in comparison to other places around the world. Bahrain is not opulent or bigoted; women are free to dress for their occupations as they see fit (within reason). 

For once, I am truly perplexed!  It can’t just be the Sunni minority over the Shiite majority; there has to be something else going on…

Perhaps only time will tell, but if the Shiite Muslim population were to come here from Bahrain, I doubt that they would want our problems because, even here in the US, poverty breeds violence. We pay dearly for good health, and as far as education goes, as students at the university level, we are generally broke before we even start our first career-affiliated job, thanks to owing for student loans, car insurance, health insurance, as well as books and tuition (just to name some of our individual debts).

Perhaps I should not complain, except to comment that, as a Belly dancer, I have experienced some of the best and worst of both worlds, yet I am not a know-it-all, nor do I pretend to be one. I just want all of us, as Americans, Europeans, Japanese, or whatever, to continue to do our thing, but while we are having fun, to recognize that arts, visual or otherwise, have no borders, not even in Bahrain, a tiny island kingdom of the Middle East.

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  1. Mark Balahadia

    May 17, 2011 - 09:05:40

    This article is highly misinformed. Please read this for a real view into Bahrain:

  2. Barbara Grant

    May 20, 2011 - 04:05:52

    As someone with zero experience of Bahrain (or any Gulf state),  I note that the comment from Mark (and linked text)  is at odds with Tasha’s perspective.
    Is there perhaps a discussion that should go on here?

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