A guide to serviced offices and office space for rent in Manama as well as general information that may be useful if you are thinking of renting office space in Manama.
Manama is the capital and largest city in the independent island state of Bahrain. There are roughly 150,000 people living across the city, including large numbers of people from other parts of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. There are almost three dozen islands comprising the Bahraini Archipelago, with the capital sitting at the northern tip of what is by far the largest island.
The areas around modern day Manama are believed to have been inhabited for tens of thousands of years and are thought to have formed part of the Dilmun civilization during the period of Mesopotamian prominence in the region. Since that time (a few centuries BC) the city and the islands have generally been subject to the rule of whichever empire carries the most weight in the Gulf region at a particular time.
Islam had risen to prominence as the most popular religion in the Arab world from the seventh century AD onwards but it took more than two centuries for Bahrain to be converted to the faith. A brand of Islam that would seem very unusual to most us today was eventually brought across to Bahrain at the beginning of the tenth century by the Qarmatians.
The rule of the Qarmatians in Manama was to last less than a century, during which time they sent armies to the great Islamic holy city of Mecca, resulting in widespread destruction and the theft of the very much revered ‘Black Stone’. The stone was later returned in less-than-perfect condition and towards the end of the tenth century the Qarmatians were defeated in battle by the more northerly caliphate of the Abbasids.
The Portuguese and the Persians
The Bahrain islands and their capital city were to change hands several times over the course of the next few centuries, with powerful tribes coming across from central Arabia and Oman, among other places. From the 16th century onwards the sea-faring European nations were to have an influence on the region as a whole and on Bahrain in particular. The Portuguese were the first to become fully embroiled in region-wide conflict and politics, falling out of favour with leading Sunnis and Shias alike.
Persian influence on much of the Gulf and the islands of Bahrain was then to persist for roughly two centuries after the Portuguese were initially ousted in the early 1600s, with various local tribes again jockeying for position within Manama. Descendants of the Al Bin Ali tribe were ultimately able to gain the greatest prominence as Persian ties were cut and Bahrain was increasingly settled by families from elsewhere in the region, primarily nearby Qatar.
Al Khalifa and the British
The ruling family of Bahrain has been the Al Khalifa since as far back as the late 18th century. The strength of their control on the country as a whole and on Manama as a city has varied considerably during that time however. The British were invited to and provided protection for the family and the islands as their power and prestige within the Gulf increased dramatically. By the 19th century British forces were in charge across great swathes of the Middle East and Bahrain was essentially colonised.
As with other parts of the region, Bahrain became an area of ever greater interest to colonial powers in the wake of oil discoveries across parts of the main island. Revenues from oil have been helping draw people to Manama and fund its development over the course of the past 80 years or so, with much of the national economy based or linked to the sale of fossil fuels.
Economy and architecture
The economy of Manama owes a great deal to the global demand for oil and to its own relative abundance of such a valuable commodity. However, there have been expansive efforts, particularly in recent years, to diversify the Manamanian economy and to encourage development in a variety of other industry sectors. The areas that have seen the sharpest growth of late have been banking and finance, with Manama being counted as an important centre for an Islam-friendly version of the industry across the Middle East, along with others like Dubai and Kuwait City.
Manama’s skyline is now punctuated with some of the most extravagant and eye-catching towers in the Gulf, with the likes of the Bahrain World Trade Centre and Almoayyed Tower reaching hundreds of feet into the air. The central business district is the base for much of the country’s economic activity in terms of business operations, as well as different strands of the tourism and retail sectors. Several hugely ambitious development schemes are also in the pipeline as efforts to make Manama a more globally significant city are stepped up.
There are hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space available for rent in Manama and new stock is consistently being added to the city’s overall supply. Demand for office space in Bahrain’s capital is being spurred by a steady influx of new workers in various fields and is being helped by the city’s status as the centre of Bahrain’s economic and administrative operations.
However, according to a report from real estate analyst Knight Frank last year, demand for Manama office space tailed off in the wake of the global financial crisis and there is something of an oversupply issue across the city. With new office blocks still being added to the skyline, tenants and prospective tenants are realising the strength of their position and negotiating more favourable arrangements with landlords.
As with seemingly everything else that goes on in Manama and many of the Gulf states, the scale of certain transport projects in the pipeline are almost unbelievable. A causeway already links Manama directly with the Arabian mainland to the west and plans are in place to establish similar road networks that would make Qatar accessible from Bahrain directly by car and vice versa.
In general, the main way of getting around in Manama is by car or by taxi and congestion is an issue of real concern as with most other cities of the world. Buses run right across the city and link the capital with surrounding towns and nearby cities like Muharraq. Bahrain International Airport is a regional air traffic hub and offers links to a range of international locations within striking distance.
Tourism and sport
Bahrain is among the most popularly visited tourist destinations in the Middle East, partly due to its relatively loose restrictions surrounding the consumption of alcohol. There is likely to be a dramatic influx of tourists into the country and the capital as the Fifa World Cup is staged in Qatar during the summer of 2022.
Football is the most popular sport in Manama and no doubt there will be a clamour for tickets for World Cup matches among the million or so Bahrainis when they go on sale prior to 2022. Beyond football, sport in the Gulf tends to take place indoors, given the often sweltering temperatures, with the exception of motor sport as the Formula 1 World Championship now incorporates a Bahraini leg which is usually held early in the season.