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Book Review: Tears on an Island - A History of Disasters in the Kingdom of Bahrain

Available in local Bahrain bookstores



Another local book that caught my eye; this 219 page book deals with Bahrain's history with regards to disasters. In this book, disasters are classified as :

  1. Natural and Physical Disasters
  2. Biological Disasters
  3. Man-made Technological Disasters
  4. Man-made Non-Technological Disasters
  5. Environmental Disasters
  6. Disasters due to Gathering
The book is written by a man who is not new to disasters, having been at the helm of the Medical Response Team to the recent ill-fated Gulf Air  in August 2000, he is Dr. Abdul Aziz Yousif Hamza ; Undersecretary of Health in the Ministry of Health, a former Chief of Medical Staff at the local Salmaniya hospital and is now a Professor at the College of Medicine at the Arabian Gulf University.


Here is my feedback:

Criticism:

  • The book only deals with disasters in the 20th Century and onwards, with very little pertaining to previous centuries,
  • The book lists several facts after the other, with very little link between them (akin to just jumping from one point to another),
  • Bias is evident in the book, especially when pertaining to politics,
  • Grammatical mistakes (a pet peeve of mine) are rampant throughout the book,
  • Since the book is arranged by type of accidents, it is not arranged in chronological order of all the disasters,
  • Some paragraphs are too brief and vague, they do not portray the message effectively.
 Positive:

  • The book covers almost every single disaster that occurred in Bahrain in the 20th century and beyond (although not the same level of information is given),
  • Excellent use of pictures of disasters, from the early 1920s till the 2000s, pictures from the 'Year of the Locusts' to the year when Bahrain went sub-zero !
  • Most disasters are well-explained, with many paragraphs (an average of 2-3) explaining the disaster.
  • The book reports on medical disasters, such as disease outbreaks like the typhoid fever outbreak of 1969,
  • The book touches light on all types of disasters , from rainstorms to building fires (such as the Jashanmal building fire in Manama)
  • An interesting insight is provided about Bahrain during wartime, such as the failed (in the sense of missing the target) bombardment by Italian planes in WW2 and the landing of a SCUD missile in Bahrain, fired by Iraq during the first Gulf War,
  • The book starts off with an introduction into Bahrain's 20th century history , (surprisingly) featuring the local regional politics,
  • A key to how the disasters are classified is also present.
 What I particularly like is the huge amount of photos used (especially old photos, one would think they'd be lost !) to help explain disasters from the 2000s blackout to the Seistan ship disaster of 1958.

Overall, this book is not at all perfect but it is the closest thing to it. To an old Bahraini who lived through it all, this would be a pleasant stroll through memory lane. To others, this would open their eyes to what Bahrain has been through, from the Dana Dhow disaster of 2006 to the BAPCO (Bahrain Petroleum Company) Oil Refinery Fire in 1983.

If you got some money saved and don't know what to spend it on, why not on this ? It costs around 15 dinars, the last time I checked (a few months so go so the price might've gone down!).

This should be mandatory in all Bahrain history classes (I'm not in any place to say this but I can dream!). A must-have for Bahrain history enthusiasts.

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