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On the weekend I conquered my fear of driving outside of Australia (we drive on the left side of the road) and hired a car in Bahrain. It only cost 13 BHD which is about $45 for the day! 20L of petrol set me back a further 1.6 BHD. A cheap day! I didn’t have any accidents nor even any hairy incidents and the other drivers were relatively sedate, probably because it’s the holy day. My colleague accompanied me and was the navigator.
We started by visiting Janabiya Royal Camel Farm where we saw about 600 camels. The camels are separated with males on one side, females and their calves on another, and the wounded or elderly in shaded corrals. I asked a farm worker if they are grown for flesh or racing and he said no they are just a hobby. We saw two other small groups of tourists but more camel farm workers. There is no gift shop, no guided tour, and no sign explaining the place. I actually wasn’t sure if we were allowed to visit but two armed security guards waved us in. It was interesting getting so close to so many camels but I felt sorry for the camels being tethered with no shade. Apparently at 10am one can get a litre of camel milk for free. I tried camel milk ice cream last time that I was in the region and had to run to the toilets many times the next day (up stairs and into the next building because so few women are in that workplace that female toilets are rare). It’s notoriously difficult for foreigners to stomach camel milk.
From there we headed south to Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre in the hope that it would be open. It wasn’t but the kind security guard walked out the back to gain permission from his boss for us to wander around. We saw workshops set-up with traditional tools for crafts such as making of engraved chests, boats, musical instruments, baskets, weaving. It was fascinating to gaze at the living cultural history of Bahrain. What a shame that it wasn’t open! But perhaps for the best because my carry-on luggage can’t fit much extra!
We headed south-east along the coast road and passed through police check-points, piles of rubble by the roadside, lots and lots of evidence of many burnt out cars and lots of graffiti. As we passed through Karzakkan my colleague joked about stopping for lunch but I had the excuse of needing to push on and find him a mosque to attend midday prayers. That village is not in good condition! I found him a mosque in Zallaq and I went and sat on some building rubble by the seaside. It was a degraded environment but still nice to be by the sea.
We were ravenous after our early start and nearly fell over ourselves to get into Fuddruckers for some lunch. I haven’t been there before but it was that or McDonald’s and I’m confident that we made the better choice. My salad was healthy and tasty. Our next stop was Al Areen wildlife park. I’ve had several previous opportunities to go there but always resisted because I find it upsetting to see animals in captivity, however my colleague was keen and we were passing by so we decided to have a look. It was very cheap to enter. It is quite small and I shuddered to see tigers. I can’t imagine how they cope in the summer. A sun bear was scaling the walls and shaking the bars trying to escape and a lion was lunging at tourists. I was amply reminded of why I don’t visit zoos. The worst was watching Arab kids behave badly, like hitting goats and not be reprimanded by their parents. I was itching to reprimand them myself!
We headed further south, past the Formula-1 track to Jazaer beach and enjoyed the late afternoon sun because it’s only about 20C without the persistent wind.
After dropping off my colleague at his hotel, I got a bit lost on big looping roads but finally found my way to my hotel. A lovely way to finish the day was sipping campari and soda by the pool. Not bad for a business trip.