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National Day
Bahrain

National Day 2017 and 2018

Bahrain National Day is the celebration of Bahrain’s independence and of the accession to the throne of its first post-independence monarch.

YearDateDayHoliday
201716 DecSatNational Day
17 DecSunNational Day
Holiday
201816 DecSunNational Day
17 DecMonNational Day Holiday

After a U.N. survey and the withdrawal of British troops that had been stationed there, since Bahrain was a British protectorate, independence came on August 15th, 1971. However, National Day is celebrated on December 16th instead because, on that date, the first Bahraini king was coronated.

The history of Bahrain preceding 1971, however, is long and complicated. It was first the site of the ancient Dilmun Civilization. Then came the conversion to Islam and a period of Arab rule in the 600’s A.D. Next, in 1521, the Portuguese took control, followed by the Persians in 1602 and the Bani Utbah clan in 1783. During the 1800’s, the British gained influence that ultimately amounted to control. Even after the British left, however, a treaty of friendship was signed. In recent years, there has been unrest among some in the Shia population due to the regional “Arab Spring,” but no serious threat to the regime has yet emerged.

In 2013, however, during Bahrain Tamarod, which means “Bahrain Rebellion,” peaceful protests calling for an end to monarchical rule and various democratic reforms erupted during National Day celebrations. This movement was connected to the Arab Spring that had swept Mohamed Morsi into power in Egypt. The government arrested some and cracked down, however, and the movement now seems to have fizzled out.

National Day celebrations are very long and widespread in Bahrain, extending through the entire month of December and including a wide array of events in every part of the island. There are fireworks displays, impressive lights shows at night, colorful decoration of public monuments, flags set out all along the highways, folk dancing and singing, carnivals, “air parades,” heritage shows, and numerous speeches praising the accomplishments of of Bahrain and its citizens. Also on the day, in a show of his generosity, the King is accustomed to pardon a number of prisoners.

Events

Thus, there is a month-long celebration of freedom and patriotism in Bahrain every December, and events are nearly endless. Some specific events to attend, however, include the following:

  • The Fireworks show in Hananiya Park. The explosion are truly spectacular, and there will also be a National Carnival in the park named Eid Biladi, meaning “My Country’s Festivities”.
  • There is also often a 10-minute-long fireworks display by Al Estiqlal Walkway. It is free to attend, and there are usually games for kids, clowns, folk dances, and free Bahraini flags distributed.
  • The Aerobatics Air Show in Muharraq. The pilots do various stunts for an hour over the nearby beach. This is only one of several such “aerial parades” and air shows to be seen during this time.
  • The Governorate School will typically put on a student-performed operetta at Budaiya Beach. You can also expect there to be other family-oriented events and competitions taking place along with the operetta.

Should you be in Bahrain in December, you can experience how a “very patriotic” nation intensively celebrates its existence for a full month straight. The difficulty will not be in finding something to do but in selecting the best events and keeping up the pace.