My husband and I married in Manama, Bahrain, on October 15, 1992. Bahrain is an island nation off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. We met in Saudi Arabia where we worked, but Saudi Arabia permitted no open church that could perform our marriage ceremony.
Bahrain allows freedom of worship and is located across a causeway from the oil-rich, eastern province of Saudi Arabia. We discovered an evangelical congregation there which began as a mission church in the 1890s.
One of the pastors, an Egyptian Christian, married us. The church conducts services in Arabic, English, Filipino, Korean, Urdu, Tamil, and Telugu. Many temporary workers in that region are from Asian nations, leading to a diverse local culture. The United States maintains a naval base in Bahrain for its Fifth Fleet, responsible for operations in over two million square miles of ocean, including the Gulf.
A Haven for Expats
We spent a long weekend on honeymoon and later returned for visits. Like other Western expatriates, we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of this small sheikdom. Hotels, restaurants, and businesses crowd the modern downtown of the capital, Manama. Some workers in Saudi Arabia from developed nations lodge their families in Bahrain, where women can drive and enjoy more freedom. A marriage in Bahrain also figures into my novel Singing in Babylon. But that is another story.
However, Bahrain, like other Arab countries, has been shaken by the Arab spring. This movement, begun in Tunisia early in 2011, has spread even to this corner of the Middle East. It seeks better economic opportunities and more participation in the political process for ordinary citizens. In Bahrain’s case, the majority Shia Muslim population has grown unhappy under the Sunni Muslim rulers.
Before me is the coffee table book about Bahrain, Pearls in Arabian Waters, by Peter Vine, that we bought on our honeymoon. In it is a photo of the causeway that we traveled so many times from Saudi Arabia: over fifteen miles of curving pavement skimming a sea of turquoise, beckoning one to this semi-tropical island.