At 9:40 a.m. on Thursday, November 3, 2022, the papal flight, with Francis, members of his retinue and accredited journalists on board, departed Fiumicino airport for Awali Bahrain, where it landed at Sakhir Air Base at 4:45 p.m. (local time).
The pope alighted via the jet bridge and was welcomed by the King, His Majesty Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, three other sons of the King and a grandson. From there they proceeded to the Royal Hall, where a brief private meeting took place, at the end of which members of the royal family and the pope briefly greeted the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb.
Bahrain is a small island state, consisting of an archipelago of 33 islands off the east coast of Saudi Arabia and north of the Qatar peninsula in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain means “Kingdom of the Two Seas” in the Arabic language.
Its territory was an important crossroads for trade between Mesopotamia and India, inhabited by the Carmata, an Ismailite group belonging to the Shiite branch of Islam, who settled in eastern Arabia from the end of the 9th century. After coming under the dominion of the Portuguese, Persians, Turks and British, Bahrain finally gained independence in 1971. The new Constitution, promulgated on February 14, 2002, and revised in 2012, transformed the emirate into a constitutional monarchy, with an elected parliament of 40 members. It grants broad powers to the sovereign.