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No colleague noticed the unusual routing through Bahrain and the 12-hour layover.
I generally find something to like about every country I visit. Bahrain took some effort.
The visa on arrival process is surprisingly slow for first-time visitors, nearly a half-hour while officials in the back room processed visas for the half-dozen Bahrain neophytes. Good that it was a Gulf Air flight with few needing visas. Payment for the visa is in Bahraini dinars, and there is a Travelex booth happy to take their fat cut. It feels like surrender to do business with Travelex. Too late I learned other Gulf currencies are accepted.
No Emerald Aisle treatment at National either, that process took another half hour before I was out in the heat, testing my car. If there were other customers the who system would have been overwhelmed.
The afternoon I spent in increasing frustration, circling Bahrain for the Tree of Life in the south and UNESCO-listed Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) on the north side of Manama. I saw many secondary sights along the way but each time in trying to approach my two main targets the road signs led me astray or gave out when most needed. The whole south is taken over by oil refineries and new construction. And then those exasperating roads, many miles at times between roundabouts to turn back. Heading out from Manama I made three attempts to reach the fort, each time the exit was wrong and had to go over 10 km, nearly to the bridge to Saudi Arabia, before reaching a place to return to Manama and try again. Maybe I should have plunked down for a GPS.
Bahrain’s historic pearl industry is newly UNESCO-listed. I did have not time for the museum but tried to purchase a wife appeasement gift. Gold City had only one holdout pearl retailer left, the rest of the stores given over to the brazen gold pieces favored by the large South Asian guest worker population.
The climate the way it is, Bahrain is shopping mall country. Locals’ waistlines are in the same expanding predicament as in Kuwait. With my few dinars left I too indulged in grossly unhealthy food before catching my flight.
Tomorrow, a few of the old gems…it looks better now that I am out of the heat.