Bahrain: An Oasis in the Desert

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Bahrain: An Oasis in the Desert

As I was growing up in the 80’s, the Middle East was witnessing an oil boom. Many people from the Indian sub-continent wanted to go over there and enjoy the tax-free income. Somewhere I too harbored that desire, and in the mid 2000’s I finally got an opportunity to work in a beautiful country called Bahrain.

In the first few months of living in Bahrain, I started interacting with locals working with me and found them to be friendly in nature. My superior told me “whenever you meet any local always greet him by saying as-salaam ‘alaykum, which means peace be upon you.” I also picked up a few more words, which were useful for my daily communication.

Although Arabic is the local language, people can understand and speak English. I never faced any language barrier while communicating – except once when my driving instructor told me to “give petrol, give petrol.” I looked around and could not find a gas station and then I realized what he meant by “give petrol.” All he wanted me to do was to accelerate the car and I was looking for a refueling station. Oh boy, that was fun!

Getting a driving license in Bahrain was as hard as getting a university degree. People used to celebrate when they passed because the test was very tough for people coming from the Indian sub-continent.

My first car was a Toyota Corolla and I loved it because it had an automatic transmission, so I did not have to worry about the clutch – brake – gear issue. When I went to the petrol station, I got the surprise of my life. In my country, petrol was priced at $1/litre, but here it was only 20 cents/litre. No wonder high-end cars like BMWs or Mercedes were a common sight on the road.

Bahrain, being an Islamic country, was more liberal – on par with UAE. You could find churches and temples in the capital city of Manama. Most local women prefer to wear a black “abaya” in public places, but the same is not applicable to non-locals. Foreigners can dress up in the attire of their choice. In this way, the country is more liberal in accepting people and their preferences.

I lived for six years in Bahrain before I moved back to my own country. However, the pleasant memories of this beautiful country are still fresh in my mind as if all these things just happened yesterday.

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Non-Muslims can purchase alcohol from designated outlets. I occasionally used to order meat kababs and a big round bread, called a kaboos, to go with it. You will be offered some sliced onions and lemon along with it. It’s good enough for a dinner. “Umali” was my favorite sweet dish, which I tasted for the first time in Bahrain. It is made of puffed pastry, milk and pistachios. One of the restaurants, Al Waha – All Day Dining, at The Gulf Hotel Bahrain offers the best Umali in town. If in Bahrain, you have to try this delicacy.

Generally during the period of Ramadan, when the Muslims observe their fast, the working pace in most offices slows down. It is prohibited to eat food or drink water in public places during this period. As a bachelor, I had to try my hand at cooking in my flat else I would have to go without food since all restaurants were closed during the day. They would open only late in the evenings after the fast is over. The supermarkets used to remain open during the fasting period, so one could go and pick up daily essential items and bring them home.

The biggest sporting event in Bahrain during the month of April happens to be the Formula1 Grand Prix. The race track, better known as ‘Bahrain International Circuit,’ is about 35kms from Manama. The buildup before the race is amazing and the city is dressed up in a festive look. Motor racing giants like Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda host promotional events with race drivers at different public places. These are most often held at malls or company showrooms. You can book tickets for the circuit online or at different counters, which are open at prominent malls.

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Bahrain – Winners of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix in 2008 PIC: AD

It is a three-day event and if you can manage to get hold of the tickets for the whole event, you should go for it. Friday is the weekly day off in Bahrain. Most offices are also closed on Saturdays and so you can drive with your family and enjoy the atmosphere at the circuit. There are many entertainment programs lined up during the three days. You can get an opportunity to take a picture of yourself with one of the race drivers at the event. I was fortunate to witness this event twice, once in 2008 and one in 2010. I also got a picture of myself inside an F1 car.

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Bahrain International Circuit PIC: AD

As they say, all good things have to come to an end and so it did here. In the year 2011, Bahrain experienced their version of the Arab Spring. There were massive protests throughout the country, which resulted in the military being called in. Overall, businesses suffered huge losses and the economy was not doing well. In those trying times, I decided to move back to my country.

I lived for six years in Bahrain before I moved back to my own country. However, the pleasant memories of this beautiful country are still fresh in my mind as if all these things just happened yesterday.

Anthony Dcosta

Anthony Dcosta

Anthony D'costa is a marketing professional who loves to travel to different places. He has travelled across Asia, Middle East and Europe. He is also a huge fan of Football, Cricket and Formula1.

1 Comment

  • AA

    Did you end up upgrading to a high-end car for yourself? 🙂

    July 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm
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