Life’s A Whirling Dervish: Bahrain Story #61


#100 Bahrain Stories is the beautiful brainchild of Tanzeel Jabbar-Khadir. As an Australian writer with Indian and Pakistani heritage, Tanzeel relocated to the small Gulf island of Bahrain several years ago and embarked upon a personal project to interview 100 people from all walks of life in her new home. TCK TOWN is proud and excited to be able to share the stories from some of the 100 inspiring people that were interviewed. These stories have even been published as a book. Take a look at the end of this article to find out where you can purchase it. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we do! 

"As an architect and an interior designer, I have a belief that space has an inherent cadence, much like an individual with their own story waiting to be discovered.

I came to Bahrain 16 years ago from India as an expat wife and new mother. In those early years, motherhood and family kept me busy. Bahrain was the perfect place for my cosy nest.

In 2009 I spent a year away from Bahrain in Canada. Stepping away from a life I was familiar with inspired me to write prose and poetry. The distance, different lifestyle, and landscape opened my eyes to the simplicity of Bahrain. This renewed sense of contemplation and colour culminated in me writing and eventually publishing my first book of poetry, Digital Footprint, in 2015.

I have realised that my heart is drawn towards exploring. I recall going to a dinner party a couple of years ago in Bahrain where a guest recounted his expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro. Fascinated by his story, I said, “I would like to climb a mountain one day.” The mountain climber turned to me and with sincerity enquired, “Which one?”. I couldn't answer his question. Before that moment I had never really thought about climbing one. That question, and my inability to answer it, made me realise that I needed to find my own mountain to climb.

Art has played an enormous role in my creative exploration and journey. Years ago when my children attended art classes, I was inspired by their teacher to pick up a brush myself. Through art, I not only learned about technique but also about how art is a fundamental part of who I am. Initially I worked on a series of figure paintings, then decided I wanted to depict more movement in my art. Upon my mother's suggestion, I painted a whirling dervish. Something about the movement of the dervishes intrigued and inspired me. Once I completed it, I painted another and then one more. With each painting came a revelation and a series of questions in my mind about the symbolism of the dervishes.

I read Elif Shafak's book, The Forty Rules of Love, which details Rumi’s backstory. This story not only provided background and context to the images I was depicting but it resonated strongly with me and I was inspired to travel to Konya in Turkey, the place where Rumi lived. Through a stroke of luck, my equally curious travel companion and I were able to witness an authentic Sema, a whirling dervish ceremony. In person, it was breathtaking. My interest in Rumi then led to an appreciation of Qawwali (Sufi spiritual music) and Sufi poetry. My favourite Qawwali singer is Abida Parveen. I am moved by her voice.

Once upon a time, I thought life was defined and laid out for me. Now I believe that life is a journey where what you see defines you.

I have now established my own interior designing company and I create inspirational spaces that energise people. I continue my exploration of art. I paint nudes, dervishes, musicians and dancers, conveying themes of meditation, music and movement. I am honoured to have recently had my work exhibited at the Khajuraho and Tansen art festivals in India, and am now looking forward to my forthcoming exhibition at the Nehru Centre in London.

I have graciously been included in Bahrain's vibrant poetry and writers' groups too. I owe my individuality, creativity and achievements to the gentle life I have been able to lead here. I continue to meet warm and talented people who encourage and inspire me to find my mountain on a desert island."

Interviewee: Preeti Rana from Mysore, Kolkata, Delhi, Daman, Mumbai & Meerut. Lived in Canada. Living in Bahrain.

The #100 Bahrain Stories book is currently available at Neo Books and Coffee and all Jashanmal Bookstores in Bahrain. If you are not in Bahrain and would like to order a copy, please email:

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