New bid to revamp Manama suq
Manama, March 10, 2012
A new bid to revamp the Manama suq has been launched by the Manama Municipality's joint investment committee to attract more shoppers and tourists.
The area has been hit hard by unrest with traders complaining that customers have been scared away by violent anti-government protesters.
It was already suffering as a result of competition from nearby air-conditioned shopping malls, which have become popular shopping destinations.
Authorities are now hoping to breathe new life into the traditional shopping district with plans that include new public toilets, a multi-storey car park, proper roads and sewage networks and a renovation of shops near Bab Al Bahrain.
The Manama Municipality's joint investment committee is behind the initiative, which is designed to complement efforts by the Culture Ministry to enhance the area's tourism value.
These include turning Bab Al Bahrain post office into a museum showcasing the history of postal service, along with turning a section of the nearby police station into a permanent photography exhibition depicting the history of Bahrain's police.
There are also plans to restore the Bab Al Bahrain archway to its original condition in the 1940s and convert it into an information centre for tourists.
However, Manama Municipal Council vice-chairman and investment committee vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor said more must be done to support business in the area.
"Is the place just historic or an actual market that people should be buying from?" he asked.
"The Culture Ministry's efforts to preserve its historic importance are highly appreciated, but the place is missing customers most of the day.
"Improving trade is not the Culture Ministry's responsibility, but it's the government's role to ensure that the suq isn't abandoned in coming years.
"There are problems that are far more important than renovating the post office, the police station or the archway - they are concerned with what makes a market attractive (to shoppers)."
He argued a more holistic view was needed to tackle problems facing the market, accusing different ministries of working on their own.
"The suq needs a collaborative effort to help revive it and unless real solutions are presented, we will go nowhere," he said.
Mansoor, who is also the council's financial, administrative and legislative committee chairman, argued that while superficial improvements were being made, important infrastructure facilities were missing.
"The suq doesn't have adequate car parking and is in need of multi-storey car parking," he said. "It doesn't have proper roads or sewage networks and, worst, it doesn't have public toilets," he added.
"The suq's renovation that started a few years back has tended to stop with a couple of shops and didn't resume to include the Bab Al Bahrain's stretch as originally planned.
"Those contributing factors, alongside bad promotion - except from the Culture Ministry - have meant the place depended only on tourists who would jump off a bus, buy a souvenir and then hop on a bus again without doing any real shopping."
He said the Manama Municipality joint investment committee would co-ordinate with all relevant bodies to revive the suq.
"We know that it is difficult bringing everyone together for the good of the suq, but we are working hard to achieve some of our ambitions in restoring the area's real value as the main market in the country," he said.
"Under Vision 2030, we still have time, but in reality the moment people forget about a place, it is dead," he added.-TradeArabia News Service