Cultural Events, my trips, various0 comments

My next stop in Arabian Gulf , after trendy Doha, is Bahrain. Getting into the plane, which is just taking up to land in some 15-20 min, I can barely drink my champaign, served by Qatar airways smiling crew members. My trip coincided with Formula 1 and Bahrain was in news all around the globe. It is good to be there when such famous event is covered by the whole world, at the same time, is good to see also different Bahrain, to find something particular and not just cliche descriptions, known to all. Bahrain is more oriental then Doha, it is more ancient, this what one can notice immediately, upon arrival. It is the paradise on the Earth – Dilmun..  In Doha you feel everything is new, trendy, just built or being built. Bahrain is different, it is mixed, old and new, it is even more oriental then Doha. But it’s oriental style also different from the one you feel visiting Levant. Here the winds of Arabia cross with those from Iran, Pakistan, India and China. Even markets are as mixed, as the winds upon Bahrain itself. I am staying  in Novotel, which is just between Manama and Muharraq. I went out and decided not to take a car from the hotel and to walk in direction of Manama, walking by the sea-side. I shall admit that to walk in Manama or generally in Bahrain ( as my experience showed) is not so easy as it is not designed for pedestrians. Not at all! Large modern streets for all kind of cars but narrow side-walks, sometimes closed by some constrution works and if you are a pedestrian, you have to cross with cars, and just to be lucky not to be crashed on some turn. But the complication is not because of narrow side-walks, but absolute absence of traffic light for pedestrians, not even the road signs showing where the pedestrian can cross a street. I thought that it would be good to contact Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior, to ask them what is the reason of ignoring the pedestrians, is that because there are No such society members or there should be another reason. I have been walking for hours in Manama and would definitely need all the signs where and how to cross a street. After long walk from my hotel, I arrived to souq Bab el-Bahrain, here , where the market starts and it is really very nice place. It was a bit early and the shops where just opening, but I was there for walk and not shopping, and that made no big different, and later on shops started to open and streets flowed with people, tourists,workers, like blood flowes in veins and thus the life felt. As I entered souq Bab al-Bahrain ( Door of  Bahrain) I thought whether I am on my right path, and I asked for my way from a young man, he said yes, this is the way towards old market and he said he is going exactly there, and will accompany me. His name – Jassim, 18 years old, he was telling me about Manama, about his school, his father is from Manama, working in immigration office, and mother is from Philippines, a very handsome young man. Studying in American school and dreaming about a trip to US, which would have to be in June, as he said. When I arrived to the market, I thanked Jassim for his kind help and went further alone. Cruising in this oriental atmosphere of Arabic shops, watching the jewelry like from thousand and one night, made in India, the atmosphere in market itself is cosmopolitan. There are trendy shops and small shops that sell everything, so it is so mixed, even the aromas coming from each shop are different. While walking without real intention, I received call from home, talking to my husband, I even didn’t notice that all the 25 min I was talking about my adventures in Doha and then in Bahrain, there was a man walking after me, and when I closed the phone he approached me, and asked if I was a newcomer in Bahrain. I said: Yes, I am. He was speaking English to me, though he heard me speaking Arabic to my husband, however, we continued English and I said that I am new in Bahrain and for only two days and he offered me to show around old Manama, if I do not mind. I said, I wouldn’t mind, if you have time. …….He said: Yes I do have time, happily, today is Saturday and we have day off, he added: Is better we walk ahead. I am teacher and if my students will see me with a foreigner will have bad thoughts. I laughed. Was an interesting start. And we walked down to the street, called street of Shaikh Abdalla and moved towards the mosque,built for Shaikh Ali Bin Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, in old Manama. Our walking and talking with this old man, whom you can see on the photo from behalf, as he didn’t agree to be photographed, lasted for an hour or something, then I thanked him and when we arrived to the point where we started our trip in old town, I thanked him for his help and took taxi to drive me to the other part of the city… What I wanted to note from my conversation with this man, is that of his mentioning of religion. I have been living for many years in Syria, and in all its religious diversity one can rarely find a person talking about his religion without any proper reason, or to mention it. Showing me the old narrow streets of Manama, he told me that  one can see here second Karbala, when there are religious holidays, Ashura is specially celebrated, he said. Many from Shia community travel to Syria, to pilgrimage, to famous religious monuments in Syria like Sitt Zainab mosque, where the daughter of prophet is buried as well as other sites, holy for Shia community. I asked the taxi driver ( Abu Hassan) to take me to Muharraq, the other part of the city. Abu Hassan is local, Bahraini, and he asked if I am Lebanese, I said no. I am used to it. With my good Arabic but foreign look I can pass only under Lebanese, as I do not have traditional Arabic look. I said I am not Lebanese but from Damascus , and smiled. He looked at me from mirror and said, then you should be Christian. I said , yes, I am. In this man oppinion women from Damascus would have more oriental look and only a woman of Christian community would look different, that was logic talking, I thought and smiled again. I walked down to Muharraq market, it is not exactly like in Manama, but something similar, I asked before going down, where I can eat a good fish, which is so famous in Bahrain, and got a restaurant address. I arrived to Grand Mosque ( see the photo), and then I wanted to visit the House of Shaikh Isa Bin Ali, the ruler of Bahrain, his Majlis from where the country was ruled. Here it is, built in 1800 by Shaikh Hassan Bin Abdallah Bin Ahmad Al-Fatih, who lived there and after him his sons and grandsons. It is situated in the heart of old capital of Bahrain – Muharraq town, it was taken as a residence and Government center by Shaikh Isa Bin Ali Al-Khalifa in 1889, who ruled Bahrain for 63 years. It is divided into four main areas: 1.Family Quarters, 2. Shaikh Quarters, 3. Guests quarters and finally4. Servants Quarters.
Now the house has been restored and open for visitors and tourists.
From House of Shaikh Isa, or Majlis, like Bahrainis call the place, I went walking down the old city where another old house is placed – Siyadi House, which is not open to visitors, as it needs to be restored, but the fine work of it is evident and once open, it would attract even more tourists then the Majlis of Shaikh Isa Bin Ali itself. I will soon put more fine photos from both sites in the gallery, that I am preparing for photos only. I thought that I can postpone the visit to Arad Fort, that was built by Arabs in 15th century and one of the best known sites for Bahraini tourists. I heard that it is beautiful in the evening, when illuminated, so I thought to visit it in the evening. 

The fort is fully renovated and excavation works are on the way to discover the exact past of the site, as little is known of it’s history. I went to the restaurant, that was advised by the driver, and as it was lunch time, I thought I will never find a taxi back home, but, when I went out, I saw young taxi driver with a little boy ( probably his son) was due to move, and I waved him. He was kind enough to stop and asked where I am going. I said : To Novotel. He said that is just close where I live, so I will take you there. Lucky me! He said, he used to be in the army, and now retired, enjoying his free life and sometimes driving this car. I said, 20 years in Army, but you look like a young boy! He loughed, though that was not just compliment from my side, he did look like young boy, but he enjoyed what I said, and was just happy, telling me about his family, his wife, that never eat until he comes back home, about his life in Bahrain, and… about his religion, again religion… I thanked him for his kindness and went to rest! When traveling, I always find the prove of old saying: The world is small! Indeed it is. When in Bahrain I met friends, whom I get to know in Doha and they invited me to spend the evening with them and to introduce me to their friend – Dr. Fahd Al-Dawsari, originally from Saudi Arabia. This respectful, extremely intelligent man, used to teach in university in Saudi, now retired and living in Bahrain. It was great pleasure to know him, to talk and as there was a pending invitation for a concert and nobody wanted to join me, Dr. Fahd expressed his willingness to do so. My visit to Bahrain coincided not only with Formula 1, but also with Spring of Culture festival, organized by Ministry of Culture for 5th strict year, that has very interesting program and you can read more about what they have in the program on their official site. Me and Dr. Fahd were lucky to see My Dream by CHINA DISABLED PEOPLE’S PERFORMING ART TROUPE a world-wide famous troupe, I saw them once in Austria some years ago. They are amazing, and what they do is really heart-breaking. When we came out from the concert, I saw tears on Dr. Fahd eyes, he couldn’t bear that anymore, the beauty  of the dance and music that these young people create is bigger then imagination. I have been invited to dinner to Dr. Fahd, which was more then amazing, the fish was really as good as it was said. It is the best fish in Gulf and rightly so. Salad, that was prepared by Doc. himself, also with sea-food, was very delicious as well. After some time I will publish another article about Dr. Fahd and our conversations, which is something very special and I need time to prepare it. This interesting personality added great charm to all what I have seen in the country and whom I met, and finally, in the evening I took my plane back home, and flying all the night along ( with short stop over in lovely Doha) I landed in Vienna, where I was met by the freezing cold that brought me back to the reality.