Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sin Country

Or as some people call it, the Slut of the Middle East. These are just a couple of nicknames for the small island country of Bahrain off the East coast of Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain is the small green island in the center of the picture.
There are several reasons why this tiny speck in the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf has the reputation of that one 'easy' girl in high school. She's beautiful, easily accessible, and will let you do pretty much anything you want. The close proximity to Saudi Arabia's East coast (30 minute drive from Al Khobar) makes it Saudi's playground. With Saudi being such a strict Muslim country, most Saudis flee to Bahrain on the weekends to do anything and everything they can't do in their own countru. Such as:
  • Drink- alcohol is plentiful in Bahrain, while outlawed in Saudi
  • Random hookups- prostitution is legal
  • Go to the movies- there are no movie theaters in Saudi because it encourages mixing of the sexes (and in the dark?? heaven forbid!)
  • Try on clothes- there are women's fitting rooms in Bahrain (this explains why)
  • Women can drive
  • Women don't have to wear abayas in public
Basically, it is the most liberal country in the Middle East. And while most Saudis have this err, interesting strict interpretation of Islam in their country, apparently they think that God turns a blind eye in Bahrain.
So, this past Friday I decided to go check it out for a little change of scenery. Unfortunately, Al had to go offshore for a job, so I went with my neighbor May and her hubby Walid. I knew it was going to be a short drive, but was still surprised at how short it really was. From our compound it takes about 10 minutes to get to the King Fahed Coastalway, which is a bridge built over the water to connect Saudi with Bahrain. 
After a 10 minute drive on the bridge, we reached a man-made island denoting the border between the two countries. I heard that sometimes (especially on nights before a weekend) you can wait up to 3 hours at the border because of the crowd of Saudi's fleeing to Bahrain for the weekend, but we were lucky and it only took us a few minutes to get through the border patrol for each country. Another 10 minute drive on the bridge and there we were, in the middle of the captial city of Manama. 
Welcome to Bahrain!
With all the tall buildings and mix of beaches and city feel, it reminded me a lot of a mini-Dubai. And yall know how much I loved Dubai so I immediately took a liking to this place.
Cool buildings
Bahrain is a tax haven (residents and citizens don't pay income taxes) so I noticed there were a lot of giant bank buildings. After driving around the city (which took all of 15 minutes...it really is small!) we made our way to the City Center mall. It looks just like any other mall in Saudi, except it includes an indoor water park and movie theater. We ate lunch in the food court (Steak Escape!!!!) and then went to the movies and saw Dinner with Shmucks (hilarious!!). Then May and Walid wanted a few beers so we went to a great place called Trader Vick's close to the beach. There was a red carpet to the door, valet service, and all sorts of Bentley's, Audi's and other fancy cars parked out front (we were big pimpin the Altima...what what!). Inside was a large bar area then the restaurant area which had a nice view of the coast. It quickly got crowded with a hodgepodge of people from all over the place. Saudi's (and I swear it is SO weird seeing them drinking), Brits, Americans, Russians, Indians, you name it. People watching was very interesting and it made me wonder what all those people were doing in Bahrain. I mean what makes a mid-twenties British girl say "I want to go live in Bahrain"....?
May and I at Trader Vick's!
At 9pm a great Cuban salsa band came on to play and people started dancing. After a great dinner and a few drinks (virgin Mai Tai for the prego!), we headed back to reality. It was really a fun time and a nice change of scenery. I didn't realize how tired I was of looking at women in all black from head to toe, and it was nice to be able to be out in public without having to wear an abaya (I felt like 10 pounds lighter). Overall, I loved Bahrain and will definitely be coming here as often as I can...hopefully next time with my hubby!
Big thanks to my wonderful neighbors for a fun day!