Shoppers returning to Bahrain malls
Manama, April 4, 2011
Life is slowly returning to normal in Bahrain's most popular commercial area after seven weeks of disruption.
Shoppers and film-goers are starting to return to the Seef District, which was among the areas hardest hit by a month of protests and the subsequent security crackdown.
Meanwhile, a new curfew introduced between Seef and the Diplomatic Area yesterday has allowed malls and cinemas to extend their opening times.
'Business has definitely been increasing and it's very pleasing,' Seef Properties marketing head Ali Zaman told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN) yesterday.
'In normal time we'd see about 20,000 to 27, 000 visitors (at Seef Mall) on an average during the week and this dropped to about 2,000 to 3,000 people (during the unrest).
'But we've seen last weekend that it's on the rise. We've seen close to about 20,000 people in the last weekend.
'(Saudi customers) play a huge role, especially in the shopping area, and we're very pleased with the growing number of shoppers.
'When the earlier curfews were announced, we'd see people at the mall till about 5pm or 6pm, but last weekend people have been coming out during the later hours.'
A spokesman for Bahrain Cinema and Film Distribution Company's (Cineco) screens at Bahrain City Centre and Seef Mall said he believed Bahrain audiences were back to their normal levels.
However, he said the absence of Saudi visitors meant that total audience figures were still down.
'We're doing pretty well in terms of local moviegoers, but we're still waiting for our Saudi customers to come back,' said the spokesman.
'The levels of our Bahrain customers has reached 100 per cent of what it was in the pre-problem era.
'Our schedule has been planned in such a way that the last shows end at 11pm.'
Country Mall manager Andy Hinson agreed that Saudis - who are not allowed to come to Bahrain unless they have a CPR card, university or work ID - were being missed.
'People don't seem to be doing their shopping later on in the evenings,' he added.
'There's less people going to the mall as a recreational activity, but it should gradually go back to normal.
'People are still going out to shop for essentials, but most malls are affected by missing Saudi customers.
'During the day it's not so substantial but numbers are still down in the evenings.'
Those sentiments were echoed by Al Rashid Group chief operating officer Santosh Pai, whose company operates the Oasis Centre, in Muharraq, Marina Mall, in Manama, and Oasis Centre, in Riffa.
'We're not (at normal levels) yet, but it's still a big improvement and we're taking solace in the fact that it's not as bad as it has been in past weeks,' said Pai.
'Against normal levels business is down possibly by 20 per cent, but during the times of the protest it was down by about 60 per cent.'
Manama Municipal Council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor - whose constituency includes Seef, Sanabis and Karbabad - confirmed that life was returning to normal in the area.
He believed the curfew could be lifted altogether by the end of the month.
'It seems people have forgotten that Bahrain has seen unrest and a clampdown over the past two months and have returned to their daily lives,' he said.
'Business at malls and complexes in the area has picked up again and people are going on with their shopping, leisure and family programmes and things are improving day by day.
'By the end of this month I believe the curfew will be removed and the military will simply be present to protect the area. Hopefully, the curfew will be lifted even before that.'
The new curfew from Seef Flyover to the Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa Causeway runs from midnight until 5am and extends 400m either side of the highway.
'Protests and demonstrations in villages have now ended and even if there are odd cases, people continue doing their normal business as if it does not exist,' added Mansoor.
'I believe that the change to midnight is excellent considering that Bahrain is known to be a nightlife country.'
However, he urged authorities to take into consideration that morning prayers start at 4.09am, which could be an issue for people in the curfew zone.
'Adding an hour to the morning curfew timing is yet to be explained,' he said.-TradeArabia News Service