Every major player in this world has someone they can turn to whenever they want to feel better about themselves; a younger, acne-prone step-brother of sorts…
Switzerland has the EU, China has the World, the United States has Mexico (just kidding amigos!), and Saudi Arabia has the Kingdom of Bahrain. Being California born-and-bred living in Saudi Arabia, it was only a matter of time before I made the trip next door. And what better time than during Eid, the week of celebrations following the end of Ramadan?
For those of you who’ve never heard of this island off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, don’t be discouraged. There are only two things you need to know about this country smaller than the airport I flew into:
1. There are three liquor retail stores in the entire country (supposedly)
After spending nearly two months inside Saudi Arabia, you find yourself living in waves of forgetting and longing for the things you left behind in your previous life; it really depends on how much you decide to immerse yourself. Regardless of where I may have been on the wave when we arrived in Bahrain, I was not ready for what was to ensue.
Lines a mile long at the liquor store, nightclubs with names like Tabu, Ground Zero, and Wrangler (which was more like a high school dance in Atlanta fused with an Asian brothel), and cab drivers who used whatever calendar necessary to demand “weekend rates.”
Not to give the impression that this trip was all about “Making it Bah-rain” (only 80% true), we did take part in Eid festivities for expats and non-Muslims at the national mosque and visited a few mud “forts” to satisfy the cultural requirements.
It’s interesting to look at Bahrain in relation to the big ‘n rich neighbor Saudi. There’s a certain fascination that the Saudi youth and Expats have with this playground that naturally draws you to it. When talking about Bahrain their eyes light up like a kid at Disneyland; describing the water parks, night clubs, and most often “the chance to see girls.” The Indian cab driver on the way from Saudi confessed with pride and a puff of a cigarette that he’s, “only a Muslim when he’s in Saudi Arabia;” and upon returning to the Kingdom, every question and response I received inquiring about my trip was met with a wink…
In all fairness, I was more impressed by the hospitality and high spirits of the locals (except the cab drivers, don’t get me started) that I met who were able to live a normal life in the middle of this abused “fantasy land.” For the record, finding a local in Bahrain is like playing Where’s Waldo with real people.
Trying as hard as I could to appreciate the freedoms of Bahrain as a resident of Saudi Arabia, I was ready to “come home” after just three days of vacation. I’d had enough freedom in three days to last me three weeks; when I just so happen to be heading to Egypt…
That’s right, I just called Saudi home.