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Trip Report Bahrain, Hooray For Bollywood

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Like many others on my flight, I arrive in Bahrain with a plan to get a visa on arrival. Handing over my passport I am asked by the Immigration Official if this is my first time to Bahrain. Since it is, he informs me that they will have to check my documents then he directs me to an area to take a sit.

While waiting I meet another American who is traveling here for the first time. He informs me that he thinks they are checking our passports to see if we have been to Israel in which case we may be denied entry into Bahrain. If this is the case then I may be fortunate as my passport has been renewed since I visited Israel.

About ten to fifteen minutes of waiting and I am called back to the Immigration Officer booth. A US$15 fee and I am allowed entrance into “The Kingdom Of Bahrain”.

Leaving the airport in a rental car I head off towards Manama to find my hotel for the night. After driving up and down one way narrow streets and alleys even getting stuck behind a working garbage truck eventually I find The Awal Hotel. I think even Magellan would have had a hard time finding this address.

After a quick settling in, I set out for a night walk in the area of my hotel but I do not get very far. The sounds of a unique music beat escaping from the building across from The Awal captures my curiosity and I step inside to soothe it.

With posted signs of “No Photos” allowed, a stage filled with women and a floor area filled with men, I think I have just walked into a “Gentleman’s Club” of sort. Ordering a beer, the price of which confirms my suspicion, I take a seat at the bar.

From my vantage point I observe some interesting things going on in the room. Men purchase flower strings like lei's and present them to the women who dance “Bollywood Style” for or interact with them.

At one point, one of the patrons even does a karaoke duet from his seat with one of the performers on stage.

The performers on stage remain fully clothed but what seems more odd than that is the fact that there are large tissue boxes on each table. As drinks are ordered it is noted on the box by the waitress. I presume the tissue is used to help stop the crying when the final bill arrives.

Welcome to Bahrain, Bollywood Style!

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    Lunch Time

    Although The Awal is an older hotel it's comfortable bed and my late night Bollywood experience makes for a late start for my day to tour a bit of Bahrain.

    This area of Bahrain seems to have a high population of Indians and when I spot an Indian restaurant filled with patrons (all men), I stop in for lunch. I am somewhat excited by the dining experience that I am witnessing as there are no utensils on the table. Everyone is eating from tapas type serving dishes and they are eating with bare hands. Cool.

    I order up and I am a little disappointed when my meal comes with a fork and knife. I thought I had the waiter fooled into thinking I was a local. Obviously, my “Mar ha bah” did not work. Following what I saw others do earlier, I get up from my table and walk to the back of the restaurant. There at a basin I wash my hands and return to my table.

    Admittedly, it is a little easier to dig into rice with your fingers than some of the other dishes others are eating. However, I think my act is still not that convincing and I eventually return to the fork. However, I did pick a part a fried fish with my fingers like a local. As an Islander this is something I have been able to do most of my life.

    One custom I pass on is finishing your meal by drinking milk. Milk is then poured onto your plate to sop up whatever is left behind.

    Filled from lunch, I retrieve my car from The Awal free parking lot and set off to discover one of the mysteries of Bahrain.

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    A Mystery

    I leave Manama and I head across the desert of Bahrain south on the King Hamad Highway. As I look out across miles and miles of sand one thought keeps occurring in my head, it must be miserable here in the summer.

    Even with written instructions I feel lost as the highway seems to go on forever across a desolate land with only a few buildings scattered around. Most of these I am sure have something to do with oil and gas production here.

    Eventually, I see the sign I am looking for and make an exit from the highway. I drive for miles along a road with pipe lines laying on both sides of it. At one point as far as the eye can see there is nothing but oil fields and small tent communities that I assume are for the people that work out here.

    I know I have gone too far for my planned destination and I proceed to make a U-turn. From a gathering in the distance, I spot what I am looking for. I exit the paved road onto a gravel and sand one as I follow a truck that I think is going where I want to go. However, the road turns to more sand and I start to get a sinking feeling. At one point my car loses traction and I think it is time to do another 180.

    Finding a more solid portion of the road I park my car and begin walking through a wall construction area and then over a small barbed wire fence I climb a sandy hill to The Tree Of Life.

    Somewhat a symbol to the Kingdom Of Bahrain, The Tree Of Life is a 400 year old or so cedar that has managed to survive in one of the harshest environments for plant life. It's source of nutrition and water is somewhat of a mystery.

    For the Kingdom, most are proud that like The Tree of Life, Bahrain has been able to survive harsh conditions and remain a sovereign nation in this part of the world. For somewhat a symbol of Bahrain, The Tree of Life has not been kept in the best condition.

    Visiting here is worthwhile if you want to see another part of Bahrain and you are the type of traveler who can enjoy the journey as much or more than the destination.


    Video:http://youtu.be/nNxmg-qYlSk

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