Still in Bahrain...Wiki Info ManamaWiki Info Bahrain Natl Museum
Still in Bahrain:Concord Hotel
Dhows, pearls, water, date palms, and burials...the national museum! It is amazing to me how much the discovery of oil has changed the entire culture of the area, especially this ancient one here in Bahrain! Since 1932 when oil was first discovered until 1980's it seems to have slowly eroded what had taken 100's if not several thousand years to evolve. However, it has taken just the past couple decades to completely irradicate and replace that history and culture from view! In fact, most of the construction of buildings/high rises/highways has been accomplished within the last 10 years!
We have encountered only ex-pats, mostly Indian, and have no real clue how 'real' Bahrain is live/work other than what our guide, Alfred, told us yesterday. He said the Bahrain I citizens can 'buy' a home for half of its cost (the king pays the other half), and borrow the rest at low interest. If they make their payments regularly for 10 years the king forgives the rest and they own it! traditional Bahraini 'homes' are actually walled family compounds where married children add 'apts.' on top of their parent's but just a second floor. Of course, these homes are very large to start with so many children can add apts. to the original one story home. Also, gasoline for cars is only .27 / liter (less than $2.50/gal.) and natural gas for home use is free - a byproduct of the oil fields. Another benefit, if you can pass a French fluency exam, anyone can attend a French university for free (not including room & board). Another comment Alfred made was that the only reason Bahrain still exists today (and in his words, 'Not part of Iran!') is due to the presence of US 6th fleet.
Bahrain is definitely a step up from Kuwait I would say, you don't see the grunge at ground level. Also, Bahrain doesn't seem as conservative as Kuwait, there is definitely more a 'party scene' (as Mari puts it) here in Bahrain.
We went to Gold City as well as the Gold Souk to see the natural pearls that Bahrain is famous for...not really impressed although we were there during their traditional 1 to 4pm closed time...just window shopping anyway since these things are priced for a different class of people, ha!
Just waiting for Concord Hotel airport shuttle and 8:20pm flight to Doha...
I must say the service at the Concord was superior to any we've as yet experienced. They truthfully bent over backwards for us! The internet use was free, printing copies of all our flight reservations/tickets no charge, transport to/from airport gladly provided, hot water for the thermos in the room anytime, and all personnel friendly and helpful.
The plane was a stopover flight from London so most passengers had been on board already. We barely got in the air and the pilot was announcing our landing. There were hundreds of people arriving on other flights as well so the Immigration/Customs lines were looong. This being Qatar's only airport and having been recently (2011) completed, it was constructed to handle a major amount of traffic i.e. we were transported from the Brit Air plane by bus to the terminal and it took 10-15min to get there (a long ways away) passing a row of perhaps 50 new buses parked for future use. The passport/visa control check went very quickly, much faster than in Bahrain where there were less than 50 and it took 1 1/2 hours! They charge 100 rial = $25 US for visa which supposedly is good for Oman as well, we'll see. But outside it was a bit confusing since there are no buses only taxis. We got hooked with a guy kind of slyly whispering, Need a taxi? and not seeing any others around we followed him until it was obvious he was NOT a government taxi. Luckily, a woman heard us talking about needing a taxi and she pointed the way around a corner where they were all lined up. Our driver (from Karnatica, India - said most services provided by Indians, Sri Lankans, or Nepalis), helped us find a hotel, drove us to 4 before we - actually, I decided - on one, Al Nakheel Hotel
. I don't think it was a big mistake, although the two sisters were not happy it being small 2 beds - I slept on the floor. Mari, who hates air con slept on the floor as well claiming the cold air came right down on her which it didn't but she had wanted to book something ahead all along so I don't think the air con was the issue here. With the huge increase in expenses I am certain that it is creating major stresses for/between all of us. That and the fast pace we must travel at times to see/do what we came for and not drain all our resources. Needless to say, "on edge" would be a good description of each of our behaviors. Highly defensive and not amendable to constructive solutions at times. Some who have traveled with us will understand what I'm describing so it is not necessary to go into detail. I see from a perspective which is too involved so not unbiased but still, over 10 years of long term travel does afford some insights I should hope. Perhaps we are all too close for too long to allow any emotional distance.
Again, this could describe faulty relationships everywhere, perhaps even between countries but especially where resources are scarce or people are in competition for them for their livelihoods. Maybe I'm taking the analogy too far?!
4-25Al Nakheel Hotel
breakfast was very good, similar to buffet in Kuwait! Making plans for going around here and onward to UAE....After getting information at the front desk, mostly from a guest standing there who said the only way to UAE on land is to go to a travel agency which would get visas and arrange transport. We went to 2 and both said, Not possible! only by air. Bon had checked online and flights to Dubai were $90-100 with at least 4 different flight times beginning at 9:30am and last at 10pm. So we decided to stay another night here at Al Nakheel even though Mari went to the Palace Hotel just down the street where a larger room was $450 rial, same as here, but no breakfast! Inertia and no breakfast kept us here...we have begun to rely on the buffets for supplemental food for the rest of the day so it pays to get breakfasts!
This country is known for its shopping experience, something Mari has no interest in....today we go to The Mall in City Center, ha! Great walk back along the coast with views of Doha skyline and Qataris walking/jogging along the walkway by the sea in late afternoon breezes. In eve since we sacrificed most of the day enjoying what Doha has to offer, when we attempted to book air flights to Dubai all the cheap flights Bon had seen in the a.m. were gone for tomorrow! Now we must look to Friday (we checked 2 travel agencies and they found the same result other than 9 am tomorrow which would mean missing a lot of why we came here)! The agent said it was because Friday & Saturday are 'weekend' days so many go to Dubai for their weekend. Went to another internet and Bon & Mari arranged flight for Friday, 12:10pm to Dubai.
It took so long making reservations that we found ourselves in the rebuilt, modern Souk at 10 pm just when Bayern vs R. Madrid were playing their semi-final soccer/football match. Mari couldn't miss that so...the game lasted past midnight and Mari came away very happy, Bayern had won in a shootout. Not caring one way or the other, I felt I had 'lost' since I was way too tired from our walk. It seems that Mari & Bon have a penchant for late nights, I on the other hand have trouble keeping my eyes open beyond 10!