Most public holidays are dates that are of importance in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar started from the year 622AD, the year of Prophet Mohammed’s journey (Hijra) from Mecca to Medina. The Islamic year is called the Hijri year and denoted by AH. The Hijri year is based on lunar months and is 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Religious public holidays therefore fall upon different dates in the Gregorian calendar on a year-to-year basis (approximately 11 days earlier each year).
As the start of religious holidays are based on the sighting of the moon, quite often holidays that occur at the beginning of an Islamic month are only announced officially 12 hours before the start of the holiday. This often leads to great uncertainty on the part of schools and business establishments, and has occasionally resulted in one or other of the neighbouring countries deciding to start the holiday a day before the rest of the Gulf states, which leads to all sorts of confusion.
Holidays such as New Year and National Day follow the Gregorian calendar.
Bahrain is host to many conventions and high level meetings but has limited recurring annual events. The main two are National Day (16 December) and the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix, which is held during the first quarter of the year.
Various celebrations take place on National Day, including sporting, cultural and leisure activities. The day ends with an address by HH King Hamed at the National Stadium, accompanied by various national displays and a massive fireworks display. The Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, the only one in the region, is the highlight of the sporting calendar in Bahrain. This international, world-class event lasts three days, Friday to Sunday, and attracts people from all corners of the world. The Bahrain authorities relax visa requirements for the event and make every effort to streamline the organisation and ensure the success of the race, although track-side facilities still leave much to be desired. The circuit, which first opened for the 2004 event, also hosts a number of other racing events throughout the year.