Behind a tight security cordon, Bahrain formally kicked off a year of cultural celebrations at its National Museum on Thursday night with a glittering gala performance of song and dance.
For the next year, Bahraini officials are marketing the kingdom's biggest city as "Manama, Capital of Arab Culture, 2012" in an attempt to revive flagging tourist fortunes as a result of a year of political unrest here.
February 14 marks the first anniversary of protest and violence which has claimed about 50 lives. The Shia want greater political reforms from the kingdom's government.
Thursday night's concert went ahead as scheduled despite a buffeting cold wind on Manama's sea front.
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The concert featured the Path of Pearls musical production which combined local and international talent. Egyptian maestro Selim Sahab, the Arab Music Ensemble and the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra, and local artists participated. "A little wind cannot stop us," Abdullah, an audience member told Gulf News as he held his ghotra and agal with one hand. "What's that expression in English? The show must go on."
January was the month of art and featured exhibitions by the Institut du Monde Arabe as well as Jordan's Royal Society of Fine Arts.
Earlier on Thursday, Professor Mahmoud Sharif Bassiouni, author of a damning human rights report on the violence and the government's reaction, made a quick visit to Manama.
Bassiouni was checking on how the government is following through on his recommendations for reform which were fully endorsed by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa.
The Egyptian-born American lawyer met with representatives of Bahrain's political societies on Thursday evening in an effort to get greater buy-in for the political reform processes.
Gulf News made repeated requests for an interview with Bassiouni during his visit, but officials said he was not available to comment.
Late on Thursday night, security officials were forced to seal off part of a mall near the Gold Souq when a tear gas canister was detonated by a patron in a night club.
At the National Museum police and security forces maintained a tight cordon around the venue as Crown Prince Salman Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Culture Minister Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa and most of the kingdom's senior ministers and officials were in attendance.
Nearby, the security forces were engaged in quelling street protests and violence near Salmaniya Hospital as demonstrators set up makeshift barricades, lit fires and hurled rocks and debris at police.