Read Me/Disclaimer

Read Me/Disclaimer: This is a non-political/socio-political blog. It's a running tale of my Saudi Arabian adventure, great, good, bad, and ugly. It is uncensored, and I don't really care what you think of it, read it or don't. I don't care. I did not decide to do this as a means to an end, but rather to document the means with which I occupied my time while waiting for my end... All that being said, I'm an American Expat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The opportunity to help build this system and the salary that accompanied it were to good to pass up.-Geoff

"The views presented here are just the views of some asshole named Geoff, they are not necessarily the views of my employer, my co-workers, my family or anybody else. First hand knowledge and second hand accounts were used to compile the information. These are not scientific facts and figures. These views are not necessarily supported, endorsed or even appreciated by the KSA the USA or any other country for that matter and the author makes absolutely no claim that they are."**

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bahrani Break

I spent a couple of days this past weekend in Manama, the capital city of the Kingdom of Bahrain.  Bahrain is only 60 kilometers from my part of Saudi, its home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and is an Islamic Island Kingdom (actually an "archipelago of more than 30 Islands according to Wikipedia) situated between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar in the Persian or "Arabian" Gulf.  Bahrain, now a Sovereign Kingdom has been ruled by the "Persians", the Portuguese and is a former protectorate of the United Kingdom.  It is one of the oil rich Arab nations and is thus interesting to the rest of the world.**

What seemed so interesting to me was that Bahrain seems to pull off the mix of culture thing fairly well.  It is an Islamic state, but women are not required to be covered or segregated from men.  They can be though, it boils down to personal choice in most cases.  Shorts and skirts are commonly worn, Burkini's are not required to swim.  Alcohol is served in the restaurants and bars that are attached to hotels, and pork is served.  It seems that similar to the UAE and Qatar, Muslims are expected to follow the rules of their faith.  Therefore, only the "Westerners" or non-Muslims should be drinking and dancing with women they aren't married too.  The reality is quite far from that perfect picture of what "should" happen and the bars that we went to seemed to be at least split 50/50 Muslims and Non-Muslims.  And it should be mentioned that I can't tell who is from where in the Arab world, so who am I to say that drinking is "haram" for them or that they're even Muslims.)

The trip across the causeway was a little crowded, but pretty uneventful.  The customs officers seemed a little friendlier than they do at the airport but nothing special.  When we got into Bahrain though everything changed...traffic was much more controlled and traffic laws had to be obeyed.  Police officers in clean cars pulled people over and issued them tickets.  Seatbelts had to be worn and child safety seats had to be used.  Maybe strangest of all for me on the road was that women were driving!  

Leaving Saudi, entering Bahrain

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Manama which had received 4 stars from Orbitz reviewers.  The hotel was great and had a few different restaurant choices.  The room was nice, bed comfy as could be-I really, really enjoyed this aspect!  We hit the bar for lunch and a drink, found both to be excellent even if a tiny bit pricey. 
"Back off Brah..I'm on vacation!"
View from our 3rd floor room.

We found an appetizer with sausage and Ribs...Yum!

There are a few big malls (which is nothing odd for us coming from Saudi where the un-official national past-time is shopping) but in Bahrain you can actually find fitting rooms and a few other things not easily found in Saudi.  You can also shop as a couple if you so choose with no fear of the CPVPV (Religious Police) arresting you.  

Very "Sailor Jerry", except that its more Trader Vic's-y
Dinner was at Trader Vic’s which is attached to the Ritz-Carlton…Very Nice!  The hostess told us that without reservations, we’d probably be waiting at least 2 or more hours, however we could have a seat in the bar.  In the bar, we found excellent large tables with a beautiful view of the gardens and ponds at the Ritz.   The ambiance of the place was perfect, dark enough to feel romantic and exotic, light enough not to trip or have to squint at the menu.  The service was excellent, the rum drinks delicious, the Mojito’s were handmade Cuban perfection in a glass.  The four of us decided on the Chateaubriand for 2 (times 2) and while I generally consider myself a master chef when it comes to beef…the tenderness of these cuts blew anything I’ve ever made out of the water.  We washed it all down with another round or two of drinks, good conversation and a nice Cuban cigar.  

Shot from our table towards the enormous restaurant
How can you wrong with this many Rum Drinks?


The next day, I took the opportunity to sleep in and enjoy the room.  I headed downstairs about 10:30 and met up with friends in the coffee shop.  We all decided to indulge ourselves with the hotels enormous brunch…which also happened to be a champagne brunch…can you see where this is going?  I had initially said that all I wanted was a couple of last beers before the weekend ended…but instead ended up drinking Mimosas all day…and then having my last beers.  

The trip home across the causeway was again uneventful, and again the border security was at least professional and capable if not overly friendly.  

It was a great weekend; I made it to my 10th Country and had great travel companions.  I give the entire trip a 4 star rating and I only leave out the last star because I didn’t win a million dollars at a casino, or win a Mercedes in a contest or anything crazy like that).  I highly recommend checking out Bahrain, especially if you're in the Middle East already.

**Bahrain has also been the site of some pretty bloody clashes between the Shi'ite Muslim majority and the ruling Sunni Muslim minority.  Saudi has sent Emergency Forces and some troops to help Bahrain when the riots were at their worst during the "Arab Spring" that began 2 years ago in late 2010.  Along with these clashes, Bahraini authorities have been accused of committing atrocities and violations against prisoners in custody, including medical workers. Some international observers feel that the conflict in Bahrain is far from over and could possibly turn into full revolution if it weren't for the fact that Saudi is here to help the Bahrani Royal Family...and the U.S. helps Saudi and therefore is a de facto supporter of the Bahrani Royal Family and that actually were not de facto at all, that because of our agreements with Bahrain since 1991, we are a full legitimate supporter of the Government and not the majority of the Bahraini people...Ahh, but that's where it turns into the normal mess of foreign policy issues and whose right and whose wrong.  And the fact that the Shi'ite structure is based out of Iran and would therefore pose a potential threat to Saudi and definitely increase Iran's chances of actually blockading the Straight of Hormuz... Unfortunately with these things, a one size or one style fits all approach is impossible.  I'd venture to say that in order to speak intelligently on it and or pick a side, you'd have to be at minimum a middle east expert.  

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