Tag 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.

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There’s Something Different About This House

With a view like this how could anyone complain?

It has been quite a while since I last posted and intended on doing so the past two weekends, but time and energy have been in short supply as of late.  But another problem has plagued me as well: what should I write about that I (and others) might find interesting beyond 2012 (assuming we make it past the Mayan calendar end date).  This blog’s purpose is in part to entertain (when possible) and in part to inform and finally yesterday, I finally decided on something that might be interesting years from now: how my living quarters in Bahrain differs from what we have come appreciate (or take for granted) back home in the States.

On the surface my apartment is not dramatically different than an apartment one would find in any large city across the U.S.  It sits comfortably on the fourth floor of my seven story building and has a nice balcony.  There are doors with locks that make sense, a kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a dining room.  The furniture provided by the embassy is all pretty standard, and despite being a bit outdated (design name = modern colonial), it is perfectly acceptable.  But, that is about where the similarities stop and the differences begin.

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The Bahrain-Doha Connection

So close, yet so far away.

Living life as a diplomat has its perks.  Living life as a diplomat married to another diplomat has its challenges.  The biggest challenge has been the distance.  Ok, disregard the fact that you can practically throw a paper airplane from Bahrain, where I’m posted, to Doha, where my wife is serving the last months of her tour, because it takes a lot longer to get from Bahrain to Doha than you might expect.  We did the math on the time it takes to get door-to-door: about two and a half hours on the front end, 30-45 minutes flying/riding the bus to the airplane, and an hour and a half on the back end (if immigration goes smoothly).  That adds up to a minimum of nine hours for the traveler to get to and fro on each visit.  I’ve gotten a Saudi Visa and driven the route that takes you across the King Fahd Causeway Bridge to Saudi and then up the Qatari Peninsula to Doha.  Believe it or not, it’s only about an hour longer on average (and that’s including a funny interaction with a Saudi border guard in which he asked me what I was transporting in a taped up box and, not knowing how to say Christmas decorations, I told him “Christian things”).   Continue reading

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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.

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