The "Arba'een" is the 40th day of Muharram, the month of mourning amongst Shia'a muslims. They are mourning for the death of the Imam Hussein and all his supporters who were slain at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Every year since then, processions that include self-flogging and chants go down the streets of many countries around the world. In Bahrain, this is an especially eventful time of year as for the entire month (or 40 days) the matems (Shia'a holy places) are busy with extra events and more sermons.
I was in Muharraq on the night of the "Arba'een"(literally translated: the 40th), one of the bigger, more eventful nights of this holy month. Warned that I would not find any parking in Manama because of the processions, I stayed in Muharraq to watch the events. I took some shots of video (below). It was relatively uneventful and my camera work is pretty shoddy (bad light for bad camera); but it was all very moving, most particularly the soulful way that each group's leader was singing (although 'singing' is not the correct word for this practice). The apparent soul in the people partaking in the walk was remarkable and awe-inspiring. The sound in the video (below) is luckily much better than the image and conveys the energy caught in the rhythm of the songs and the pounding of hands on chest in unison.
When I say (above) "relatively uneventful", what I mean is relative to what was happening in Manama. In the last two days, I drove around Manama and saw a lot of remains from the big night. Lots of stalls, flags, people still sitting around having tea and eating the aash (a legume stew that gets handed out to everyone around by the people of the neighborhood).
Regardless of all the colour, reenactments, dressed horses, and what seemed like probably lots of food and noise happening in Manama, I was happy to be at that subdued part of town in Muharraq's suq area. While there I was thinking of how much more pleasant it was than any carnival or fest, religious or not, that I have ever been to. People were friendly, the cops were friendly, organizers from the matems were giving out cake and juice to everyone. This mix of hospitality and spirituality created a warm effect about the event.
Next year, however, I do hope to go to Manama for it!