16 June 2024


Spent a few days in Bahrain. The first sight of it as we trundled over the desert from the King Faid Causeway Road from Saudi Arabia was skyscrapers. Lots of them. Apparently Bahrain is the Los Vagus of the Middle East. People come here for the nightlife, the availability of alcohol and, it is said, ladies and laddies of the night.

We stayed in a plush 4 star hotel after bushcamping for several nights. What a contrast! There wasn’t really a huge amount to do as the place is so modern with little remaining of history, outside of museums. The whole place was underwhelming but I’m glad I saw it, nevertheless.

I bought a bus pass, a Go Card, for 500 fils, about €1.25 and charged it up for 2 days travel and just hopped on and off buses as the fancy took me or when I saw something interesting. Nearly all the interesting places were South Asian. I visited the souk which again was staffed largely by non Arabs. I’m interested in lanes, rundown areas and places where the local people live, work and eat. I can spend hours rambling around these places and get very excited with I see something I’ve never seen before. This might be something as simple as a light switch or door handle. There’s lots of opportunity to get excited here!

I’m still a bit under the weather from that bug I had a few weeks ago, either Covid, MERS or just a touch of flu. My chest is very congested and I produde copious amounts of serious phlegm. I still get about and around but I’m a bit less energetic than usual.

Skyscrapers here in Bahrain, but also in the other Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited, seem so out of place here. They evolved in the west, not Arabia. I keep thinking of these words:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Meanwhile, the Sand is patient and says to the skyscrapers and the roads and the flashy cars and the perfumed, prancing, privileged, pampered princes and princesses dripping with glittery gold and sparkling jewellery: we know you, we know all of you, your past, all your constituent parts and your future. You are of us, we are of you. Once we were mighty mountains and bottomless oceans. We are the bones of your ancestors. Before that, we were stardust. One day we will be united, as one again, when human hubris will be history and only the silent still Sands remain. One day too, we will be no more.

But not today.

Info from Wikipedia:

Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made up of 50 natural islands and an additional 33 artificial islands, centered on Bahrain Island which makes up around 83 percent of the country’s landmass.

Bahrain is situated between Qatar and the northeastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the King Fahd Causeway.

According to the 2020 census, the country’s population numbers 1,501,635, of which 712,362 are Bahraini nationals. Bahrain spans some 760 square kilometres (290 sq mi), and is the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. The capital and largest city is Manama.

Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to be influenced by Islam, during the lifetime of Muhammad in 628 AD. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was ruled by the Portuguese Empire from 1521 until 1602, when they were expelled by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty. In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain’s first hakim.

In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1971, it declared independence. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared an Islamic constitutional monarchy in 2002. In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring. Bahrain’s ruling Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa royal family has been criticised for violating the human rights of groups including dissidents, political opposition figures, and its majority Shia Muslim population.

Bahrain developed the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf, the result of decades of investing in the banking and tourism sectors; many of the world’s largest financial institutions have a presence in the country’s capital. It consequently ranks 35th in the Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

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