Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blasting About in Bahrain

We like to get away to Bahrain occasionally. It's a four-hour drive North East through the desert from Riyadh. Once you get to the border, you are never sure how long it will actually take to get through all the checkpoints. There is nothing ominous about the checkpoints, it just takes time and waiting in line, or not as the case may be. We are talking about Saudi drivers here and Saudis for that matter. Saudis neither like waiting in lines, nor driving in lanes, so you can imagine that the "lines" are rather chaotic. I'm convinced if you unleashed a group of ladies from New York and New Jersey in Riyadh for a month or two, they would take care of the problem with line-jumpers and crashers in Riyadh. Never cut in line in New Jersey or New York, not if you value your life.

Speaking of lines and traffic, Bahrain traffic is actually pretty decent. It can be heavy, but you never really fear for your life. People actually do drive in lanes and there isn't insane lane cutting and they don't turn from the wrong lanes. I'm speculating that the reason that it is more sane is that women drive in the country. And you know we women folk tend to have a civilizing influence on men. Whatever the reason, it is refreshing to drive there. Not that I actually drive. But its nice knowing I could.

So back to Bahrain. We drive four hours through the desert to get there. I'm not going to put a Pollyanna spin on the drive. My kids are frequently awful and fight. The scenery is boring. You could count the trash on the side of the road, but no one can really count that high. We live in deadly fear of having to stop and use the restroom. Gas station restrooms are awful in any country, but are particularly awful in this country. I simply refuse to go and so only drink sparingly. I'm the mean mom who keeps her kids on the edge of dehydration to avoid the bathrooms. We've tried to stop on the side of the road before, but that only ended badly when we got stuck in the sand. Fortunately, someone pulled us out, but now we try to avoid stopping in any form. 

As for the bathrooms, my husband put it this way. "If you were rating bathrooms from 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst and 10 being the worst, Saudi bathrooms would rate a - 10." I would rate a bathroom we encountered in Germany a 10 where you pushed a button and the bathroom cleans itself totally ready for the next user. 

In Bahrain, we eschew culture and artistic experiences in favor of shopping, eating bacon, and relaxing. We stay in a nice hotel apartment suite with two bedrooms and a living room and relax.

The most important component of our vacation is procuring real pork bacon-not beef or turkey bacon, real pork bacon in all its salty, fatty goodness. Then we gorge ourselves on said breakfast meat, consuming a pound each morning. (Don't judge me. Consider how you would do in a country where pork products are outlawed, and then we'll talk.)

After an extremely leisurely morning lounging around our hotel, we may or may not take a jaunt around the Al Seef Mall where we shop, play at the amusement park, or just enjoy the sights. I personally revel in the feeling of freedom from wearing my abaya. Love it!!!!!!!! It is also delightful to see men and women eating together.

We also like to catch a movie or two at the cinema. This weekend we watched the Jack the Giant Slayer, which was enjoyed by everyone in the family. We like to eat at cool places. This weekend we dined on burgers, slurped thick malts, and danced to old tunes at Johnny Rockets. Good thing the muttawa doesn't reside in Bahrain, because I would have been picked up for unseemly behavior dancing to "Brown-Eyed Girl" with my little girl. Granted, the locals did a fair bit of staring at me but they didn't seem shocked or concerned.

We like to go to Wahoo and zoom down the waterslides, splash in the toddler-zone, try surfing, and race each other down the slides.

Because we can't get enough of swimming, we also hit the hotel swimming pool.

If we happen to be in Bahrain on a Friday, we like to attend church at the local LDS church in Bahrain. Bahrain's constitution guarantees freedom of religion which means that a variety of religions can and do meet in the country. Another cool thing about Bahrain is that the Bahraini ambassador to the U.S. is a Jewish woman. Bahrain even has a small Jewish community.

After all this fun and relaxing time, we return to Riyadh, refreshed and renewed, ready for the particular challenges of life there.


  1. At the beginning of this post I was wondering what could be worth piling the whole family in the car for the boring, long, hold-it-in ride. Now I see why you do it. It looks great!

  2. Is it all right if I use a couple of your images from the Janadriyadh Festival for some documentation I'm preparing (not for public)? Please let me know. Many thanks.

  3. Jennifer Tong, will you please email me privately so we can discuss use of my images. I am willing to consider it, but only certain images. Please contact me at