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Reflections on the Gulf

Based on personal memories, Gerald Butt evokes the atmosphere in the Gulf at the dawn of the oil boom era

The stench of oil in the air is one of the things I remember most vividly from my childhood. At the height of summer in Bahrain the discharge from the Sitra refinery seemed to hang like droplets in the intense humidity. The sour stench wouldn't go away—at home in Manama, in the car on the way to school, anywhere. Bahrain in the late-1950s was the hub of the Gulf oil industry, as it was for regional diplomacy, trade and finance. So while my father was manager of the British Bank of the Middle East (BBME) in Bahrain, he was in charge of all the branches in the Gulf. The Gulf in those days was emerging from the shadow of Britain's imperial past. Having been administered from British India, th

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