I've been sorting through my holiday pictures and wanted to share these with you. They were taken at Bahrain airport just before Christmas and, to me, represent all that is good about this tiny Gulf kingdom.
Political correctness in the UK seems intent on stifling the Christmas spirit. Cards sent in December should now read "Festive Greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas" and people are asked by their local councils to tone down Christmas lights on their houses for fear of offending neighbours of other religions.
Yet here in Bahrain, a Muslim country, it appears the Christmas spirit is alive and well. The lady in the picture below was clapping along to "Jingle Bells" with her toddler and loving it.
And why not? I love learning about other cultures and religions, and so do my kids. It helps promote tolerance and understanding.
Bahrain has residents of many ethnic backgrounds and I have found people here are generally inquisitive about the differences between them rather than wary and mistrusting.
Yes, as residents we are expected to observe certain rules, particularly during Muslim religious festivals, but in return we are allowed freely to celebrate our own festivals, such as Christmas and Easter, whether that be through putting up decorations at school, performing plays at church or organising carol singing or Easter egg hunts.
All of which goes to show it is possible for a country to have a strong religious and cultural identity and yet still be tolerant and accepting of others.