Friday, 3 October 2008

Bahrain, Qatar and the "big thirst".

It's been a while since I updated here, since I last posted I've been doing a bit of work related travel. I spent a few days visiting our offices in Manama in Bahrain and in Doha in Qatar.

Bahrain is an island in the Gulf and is linked to mainland Saudi Arabia by a causeway. The north of the island is the main town, Manama, the rest is pretty much desert. It used to have a lot of oil and gas, but there is only enough left for their own needs. I'm told that they now generate most of their income as a tourist destination for thirsty and playful Saudi's and refining Saudi oil.

One of our site offices is on the southern tip of Bahrain where they are constructing a palm type structure similar to those off the coast of Dubai. This is Durratt Al Bahrain and will offer island style living. I only went as far as the site office which is in the desert on the mainland and couldn't see anything that might tempt me to buy or holiday there. It was mostly hot and dusty.

The drive down was quite interesting, we took an alternate route avoiding the highway and through the desert. The desert is covered with oil and gas pipes running across the surface, occasionally dipping underground where they cross the road. I expected to see large oil pumping operations, with buildings and compounds, but all there are are occasional unmanned "nodding donkeys" nodding away.
We drove past the Bahrain tourist attraction "The Tree of Life". This is a large tree which has been growing quite happily in the middle of the desert for the past 400 years.

The following week I went to our Qatar office in Doha. Doha is more like a mini Dubai in terms of development. It too is a country with one main city in the north and the rest is pretty much desert. I didn't get to venture out of Doha itself, but we did manage a touristy tour of the old souk [market] which has recently been restored.

The flight to and from Qatar / Dubai was chock-a-bloc and I couldn't figure out what the big attraction was in Qatar. It turns out that most passengers are transit passengers and Qatar Airways offer competative rates.

I didn't pick the best time for travelling and enjoying some of the finer aspects of these more liberal Arabian states. It was the middle of Ramadan. This is the muslim period of fasting. Nothing may pass the lips between sunrise and sunset. The fast is broken with the Iftar meal, which consists of a banquet of treats each evening, however food is scarce in the daytime and alcohol is more limited that usual. Dubai is definately the most liberal of all the states when it comes to alcohol, and while Ramadan is a lot quieter, bars do open in the evenings.

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