Riots may deal blow to Bahrain’s tourism industry
New Year’s celebrations in the Bahraini capital of Manama turned into a riot as hundreds of youths, reportedly Muslim Shi'ites, stormed through the city’s main street Exhibition Avenue, ravaging cars, stores, hotels and fast food restaurants and assaulted expatriate passers-by. The tiny Gulf kingdom went through a wave of Shiite-led political turbulence in December 1994, which left 38 dead.
At least 100 cars, mostly Saudi-registered, were reported damaged, as well as hotels—including the Hotel Frsan, Riyadh Plaza, Hawaii Plaza, Manama Tower and Exhibitions Hotel. The police arrested 41 people.
Rioters, many masked, entered the Frsan Hotel and Frsan Palace inflicting damages of up to 20,000 Bahraini dinars ($53,000), by smashing windows, signboards and furniture, damaging a computer and attacking the receptionists. The hotels’ guests, all Gulf nationals, hastened to check out.
These acts of vandalism will deal a blow to Bahrain's tourism industry and hit the country’s reputation, Frsan General manager Mahmood Ismail told the Gulf Daily News. The Exhibitions Hotel assessed damages at BD22,000, while Mamama Tower would require BD5,000 to offset damages and Hawaii Plaza—BD6,000.
The smallest oil producer of the affluent Gulf states, Bahrain is also considered relatively liberal. Tourists from across the region, mostly Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals, drive over via the King Fahd causeway, to enjoy Manama’s bars, nightlife and luxury hotels.
Constituting 65 percent of the kingdom's 650,000-strong population, the Shi'ite majority rejects the legitimacy of the Sunni regime, headed by King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, who succeeded his father in 1999. The new king is heading a national reconciliation plan, introducing landmark political and economic reforms.
Bahrain is also host to the US Navy’s Fifth fleet headquarters and has witnessed an outbreak of rage last year when locals attempted to rampage the US Embassy. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)