Category Archives: Bahrain

TLA’s Best of Bahrain

My colleague and former office mate runs a blog called Two Crabs.  It’s a professional operation he’s got going on over there.  Book recommendations, a travelogue, thoughts on work life, the blog is a real powerhouse among Foreign Service blogs.  Just before his departure from Bahrain, he posted an exhaustive list of just what the title of this suggests post suggests: the best of what’s out there to do in Bahrain.  There is no way to top that, but as I reread his post I realized we differed on as many of our opinions about this little island as we agreed upon.  This is not the first time my colleague and fellow blogger has been featured on this blog.  Perhaps you remember Peace Out Man, where I semi-roasted my brother-in-bureaucracy.  Here’s my take (with minor variations to the original work) on his epic project:

Presenting the first (and not necessarily last) TLA Best of Bahrain Awards!  TLA is off to new horizons, to lands unknown, but not without first imparting a little of my less than expert institutional knowledge gained spending over 22 months on this rock on the Western edges Persian Gulf.

RECREATION

Best Friday Brunch: Meh…  If I’m really honest about it, I didn’t much care for Friday brunches.  It was overpriced, over-boozed, and overrated.  You end up spending half the day eating and drinking, and then you end up unable to do anything with the rest of your day and to kick you’re able to enjoy a headache that lasts well into the next morning.  I can think of better ways to spend my Fridays.

Best Beach: Al Dar Island is an under appreciated spot with great views (albeit mostly of oil refineries) and good times.  It’s nice to grab a beer and food and lounge on a beach cabana.  We wanted to rent one of the overnight cabins with some friends but never got around to it.  Honorable Mention: There is a little public beach down on the south western coast called Al Jaza’ir that was a lot better than friends described, and my wife and I sat on a piece of cardboard (it’s more ground up seashells than sand) and ate cheese, salami, and crackers one afternoon.

Al Dar Island

Al Dar Island

Best Tourist Attraction: Qa’lat Al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) is by far the most spectacular historical monument in Bahrain.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to five forts on the seafront and ruins of civilizations that date to times B.C.  However, the most striking remnant of the past is the Portuguese-constructed fort whose minaret-shaped turret is hard to forget.  It is also a great place to people watch, as Bahrainis of all stripes converge there each evening (especially in the fall and spring) to enjoy the walking paths, ride their horses, and dip their feet in the waters of Persian Gulf.  Honorable Mention: Another newly-christened UNESCO WHS, the Pearling Pathway, traces its path through the northern island of Muharraq.  It is difficult to find and hard to follow, but for the adventurous traveler, it is worth the time and energy.

Qa'lat Al-Bahrain

Qa’lat Al-Bahrain

Most underrated tourist attraction: The Manama Suq is a fun spot to frequent if you live in Bahrain, but if you wind through the suq, passing all the gold and trinket shops, as well as the tailor shops and remittance brokers, you will finally reach the intersection where a number of the most important Shi’a religious centers face each other in a perpetual stand off, unwilling to give any more sacred ground to the others.  It is the site of the most fervent of the bloody Ashura processions each year, and the crossroads of an uprising.  Make sure a protest is not planned for your visit.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reflections on a First Tour

I’m nearly done here.  It’s time to move on.  My replacement has arrived and she is learning to take over my responsibilities.  This is the nature of this business; you move to a place, finally settle down and begin to understand what motivates the people that live there, and then it is time to say goodbye.  As the days begin to pass more quickly and my colleagues begin positioning themselves to manage our office’s responsibilities without me, I find myself clinging to relevance.  A relevance that is likely imagined, but seemed real every once in a while.  I realize now that I am in no hurry to relinquish my life as a Political Officer in Bahrain, but I know that is exactly what is happening, whether I like it or not.

Bahrain Fort @ magic hour

Bahrain Fort @ magic hour

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

10,000

That, my friends, is the number of miles I have driven on an island a little more than three times the size of Washington DC. In a year and a half I have traversed a distance equal to driving across the state of Texas more than 11 times! It’s no small feat, especially considering that nearly all of the island’s population is concentrated in the northern third of its territory and due to security concerns more than half of that area is not recommended for exploration.  Thankfully, the gasoline is so wonderfully subsidized that it’s practically free.  There is some solace to be found in this seemingly crazy number of miles traveled over the course of a year-and-a-half by motor vehicle: it is actually a very small amount of miles to be traveled over the course of a year-and-a-half by motor vehicle.

The Tree of Life: the jewel of Bahrain’s deep south.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Just Another Journal

This is, I guess, just another journal.  I find that I’m incapable of forcing myself to write in a little book about the happenings of my life, even though it’s likely that I’ll want to remember these heady days when I’m old, crabby, and trying to recapture the glory of an earlier life.  So, what better way to save some of these images, thoughts, and experiences than by blogging about them for all to see… Well, I know, it’s a bit exhibitionist, but I guess it will open a window into my life for my family and friends who are at least vaguely interested in what a cookie-pusher does.

Ancient and modern, Bahrain is full of contradictions.

So, here I begin, somewhat appropriately, nearing the end of my first tour as a diplomat in Bahrain, a country so full of contradictions, history, and promise, with enough personal experience to begin to have something to say.

Tagged , , ,