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Manama, A Culture of Trading Routes.

Situated in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula, Manama has a rich culture and old history which has been influenced by the trading route 114. The city’s history has allowed Manama to become a culturally diverse city, home to multiple religions and ethnicities, influencing everything from music to cultural sites. Within the mandate of the Culture the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), an affiliate of the Ministry of Culture, is the responsibility to develop and support the existing cultural infrastructure, but also to broaden the cultural engagement. Although small in size, Manama has a thriving financial technology (FinTech) industry115, allowing innovation to become a driving factor on the cultural vibrancy of the city.

Manama, the capital of Asia’s smallest country116, is home to a total of 53 cultural infrastructure points. There are 10 “sites and landmarks” seven of which are religious institutions, ranging from temples to mosques; including one synagogue. The city is home to one of the largest mosques in the world, Al Fateh Mosque117. Manama has a small Jewish community, around 50 people, whom were traders from Iraq and Iran that began to settle on the island around the 1990s118. Also, as part of the city’s cultural landscape, is a 200-year-old Hindu temple. The Jewish and Hindu presence is a further testament to the impact that the trading route had on the cultural make-up of the city. Manama has a total of nine “fairs and festivals”, six of which are either purely focused on music or have a music element to their program. The history of music on the island stems from the rich folk music that was popular amongst pearl divers in the past119, further exhibiting the effect that the trade route has on the cultural landscape of the city.

Governmental policies have also had a significant impact on the cultural vibrancy of Manama. Established in 2015, BACA manages and promotes a total of six cultural infrastructure points in Manama. Its “mandate includes overseeing the culture sector in the Kingdom, the Culture and National Heritage Sector [and] is responsible for setting all plans and programs related to culture, arts, and heritage in the Kingdom of Bahrain, with a vision to update and develop the cultural infrastructure, and activate the role of culture in social and economic development.”120 In addition, the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Tourism aims at enhancing the tourism sector’s effect on the country’s economy, which has successfully resulted in Manama being awarded the Capital of Arab Tourism for the second time, first in 2013 and again in 2020.

As for the innovation clusters, Manama has a total of 22. Although Manama is 38 square kilometers122, it has one “urban district”. With a population of 329,510123, the city has eleven “incubators and accelerator” and ten “co-working spaces”. The significant number of “co-working spaces” as well as “incubators and accelerators” in comparison to the small population size illustrates Manama’s role as a regional financial center, specifically in fintech. “In November 2017, the Bahrain Economic Development Board, and Fintech Consortium, launched Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB) claiming that it will be the largest fintech hub in the Middle East and Africa.”124 Between the involvement of the government in enhancing the cultural sector, the city’s geographical location and the thriving fintech industry, Manama’s cultural vibrancy reflects the city’s diverse and young population.

The research was concluded in December 2019


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