Bahrain’s Small Businesses Adversely Affected by Coronavirus

by Hasan Ahmad

Thu, 11 June 2020

Bahrain’s Small Businesses Adversely Affected by Coronavirus

While large-scale companies like banks and firms making headlines when it comes to those affected by Covid-19 on a financial scale, it is the temporary loss of the more homely businesses in Bahrain that have made the most impact to the community as a whole.

The onslaught of the pandemic has rendered several locally-owned businesses with no option but to shut down until the virus ceases, resulting in a hefty loss of income for owners. More importantly, however, we will be without some of Bahrain’s most iconic establishments so long as restrictions over social distancing continue to be put in place. It is these establishments that make Bahrain the beautiful island it is, and can only go on to exist so long as the community provides their undisputed support.

Among these establishments is the iconic Bahrain Ballet Center, co-owned by Zilia Monteiro. It was a pivotal moment in Bahrain’s art scene when the center first opened in 1982, offering classes in dance, fitness, creative arts & more. Its 38-year history is a testament to the creative industry in Bahrain, offering services to a generation of students who are superseding their parents before them. 

Alas, the hands-on manner in which such arts is taught means that the center has been temporarily shut down since the first week of March as a result of social distancing. Zilia expressed her concerns over the financial implications this has caused, stating that “anyone in this industry can tell you just how painful it is to even have one day's loss of income, so imagine months!”

Steps have been taken to ensure the center is still somewhat running, with virtual classes being introduced as the new way of learning. “We initiated online classes in the middle of March, after learning that Covid-19 was not going anywhere just yet. These classes are open to kids as well as adults at a nominal rate. We have even attempted to hold online competitions during the month of Ramadan giving away free lessons, but had a very poor response,” Zilia said.

The lack of response to a virtual environment as opposed to a physical one is only natural, but it's a step in the right direction to see Bahrain Ballet Center take the fight back to the pandemic. Zilia encourages new enquiries to engage in the online lessons. It’s unprecedented times for everyone, but it’s crucial to maintain the lives we had pre-pandemic, even if it is in a virtual environment. Businesses like these, that have held an iconic stance in Bahrain’s art scene for a number of years, are the ones that need our undivided support the most. Without them, the homely aspects that make Bahrain the tight-knit community it is would be no more.

Venturing into more sporty territory, a recently developed business that has emerged in Bahrain has been Bahrain Koora, owned by Nayef Al-Najdi. Bahrain Koora connects a multitude of people across the island who are keen on playing casual football to their base pitch in Saar. Like Zilia, Nayef has had to temporarily shut down his business to maintain social distancing regulations. Football and sport in general is something that can unify a nation, which we saw when Bahrain lifted the Gulf Cup in December. Even on a casual basis, it unifies a community in which kicking a ball about becomes a weekly routine for people. Nayef’s passion for the sport is shared by a plethora of young footballers in Bahrain, and the only thing he asks to help his cause is to “keep this passion burning”, in spite of the current circumstances.

While experts say Covid-19 is something we’ll have to contend with for the next couple of years, perhaps Nayef’s approach to the situation is the best way to support businesses. We can continue to provide financial support by engaging in a virtual environment if provided, but remaining positive in spite of the challenging situation we are in ensures the transition back to normalcy will be as smooth as possible. As is said, tough times never last, only tough people last. 

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