Monday, March 15, 2004

I just came back from Bahrain. How much did I see? Not much really. Well actually I was trying to pace myself. I think we will probably will be spending more time there in the future. It’s the place to get “sane” or as someone says “to restore a sense of normalcy.”

Not since the first time I arrived in Canada, alone at age 21, did I experience such a huge culture shock. I remember that day still, I stayed alone at the hostel bed, looking out at the window. It was a rainy day. I was hungry and took a walk to the food court. Boy there was lots of white people! Never seen so many white people in my life! Duhh I was in Canada after all! What was I thinking? I could not bring myself to order food at the food court and sit amongst so many white people so I just bought 3 Reese Peanut butter cups from the vending machine and had them for dinner. Those gave me the runs.

Anyways I am digressing. The first thing I noticed upon arrival in Bahrain was that people stare! We went to Seef Mall. Which was a very nice Mall indeed. They had Debenhams and Marks & Spencer’s. I could be back in Bromley! Except of course its bright and sunny, the men were wearing white robes and the women decked in black, from top to bottom. Some had only their eyes showing, others none at all.

I was hungry so we went to the food court. It was crowded since it was lunch hour. If only I get a penny for every minute I get stared at. I did look down at myself quite a few times! I didn’t forget my bra surely? All I was wearing was jeans and T shirts. But the men were practically undressing me with their eyes! I never felt so violated! And the women stare too! I found out afterwards that they do that a lot … S.T.A.R.E.

We went to the Manama Souk the following day. Its at the Gateway to Bahrain. Boy it was crowded, with MEN! But somehow that souk reminded me so much of the market place I went in Mumbai. Perhaps the sheer number of Indian looking men? And they were in droves! Even most of the shopkeepers were Indian looking. I could have been back in Mumbai if I didn’t know any better.

We weren’t there to buy anything actually. Just to look at the wares on sale. Blankets. Plastic toys. Arab men dress garb. Arab women dresses. Gold. Silver. Yes I did buy myself an Abaya. I guess I am mentally preparing myself for the move after all. Mind you after all that staring at Seef Mall yesterday I think an abaya is a must! Even if they aren’t making it compulsory for me to wear it, I would wear it just so that I won’t stick out like a sore thumb. I guess when in Rome, do what the Romans do.

Of course technically I didn’t have to buy the abaya with the nice flower beadings that cost 19 Bahraini Dinar. But well I wanted something that at least I feel good in, and not feel like a walking in a black mosquito net.

Will write more about my thoughts about Bahrain and the gulf later.

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