May 09, 2007
Jul 03, 2007
To quell everyone's fears, no I have not gone to Iraq haha. But I have taken a quick side trip to another Shia Muslim dominated country, Bahrain. Look closely at your maps for this one, its a TINY island just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, to the west of Qatar. It is actually a Kingdom and it evident through the myriad of posters and photos of the king that are displayed around the city and countryside. It is a quint little place, but let me start from the beginning. My plane left at 2:55pm from Dubai and arrived here at 2:56 (no the countries are not THAT close, there is an hour time difference haha). On arrival the differences between Dubai and Bahrain were evident, rather then the immaculate taxis lined up by the dozens that greeted me at Dubai's airport, instead a menagerie of old run down cars with taxi signs on their roofs. Each jockeyed for my business and I settled on one guy, he offered to take me for 6 dinars, I laughed at this knowing that no where in the city should cost more then 5, so I talked him down to 4. I probably still got ripped off, but he had the advantaged of knowing the distance to my hotel. The drive to my hotel was nice, fairly short and as it turns out my hotel is in a very good part of the city. I checked into my hotel room without any problems, tidy-ed myself up and hit the city. I can best describe Manama as a Dubai 10 yrs ago. The major construction projects have only begun here, but they are really trying to keep pace. They are building these twin towers that stand close to each other with gigantic fans in between them to save on energy costs. I headed out with a good idea of where I wanted to go. I cut through neighborhoods and various souqs, some more sightly then the others, although overall, much of the city is pretty trashy. For most travelers I would not recommend Bahrain as a visit, maybe a stopover on a connecting flight, otherwise its really not worth your time. There are a couple of minor sights to see, but the tourism industry really hasn't fully been developed yet. But I was not here to ride camels, dress in robes, or smoke shisha, I was here for more of a cultural experience and there was plenty of that to be had. Bahrain is much more authentic then Dubai, Souqs spring up naturally, rather then the artificial "souq recreations" in Dubai. And much of the urban and suburban housing is in shambles. Furthermore, another difference is quite evident here, the Shia majority. I knew I was in a Shia quarter of the city by the Black Flags and posters of the Iranian Ayatollah that checkered the buildings walls. The Ayatollah is virtually a god to these people, and the admiration they have for him is ridiculous. I question their loyalties, if they lie with Bahrain or Iran. This entire time, mind you, I was being stared at the whole way, I was the only westerner that had stumbled into this section of the town in a long time. I made my way to the famed Fish Souq and other various markets that surrounded it. Most of them had closed up shop for the evening, but I plan on getting back to them soon. I walked about half way back to my hotel and decided that 3 hours of walking in 105degree heat was enough for one day so I began to haggle with some taxi drivers. Unlike Dubai where every taxi is metered, here you have to fight for every penny to get where you want to be without being ripped off. Of course, the color of my skin indicates one thing, money. They always start off with 5 dinars, I start yelling at the guy "I walked here, like hell am I paying 5 dinars, 1 and a half dinars at best." They play up some BS government rule that says the have a minimum to charge and I just laugh it off. Then they tell me its usually less, but the traffic is bad now. I tell them, fine you can sit here with no business and make no money or you can take me and at least make something. They come down to 3 dinars, I start walking away. They begin to bicker amongst themselves and finally one settles for 2 dinars, and thats how I got home last night. I was exhausted from a day of exams, planes, and walking and passed out around 8pm. Over and Out.