From Bahrain to Cyprus

Click here for the audio version of this post.

If you know where Bahrain is, or have even heard of it, you are way ahead of most people I know.  Bahrain is a tiny island country in the Middle East.  In fact, it’s the smallest country in the Middle East, connected to Saudi Arabia by only a bridge.  It’s a very new country and only declared its independence in 1971.  It was the first Persian Gulf country to discover oil and start drilling.  So, like the other Persian Gulf countries, it’s an oil rich country full of wealth.  And that’s obvious with the architecture and prices of food, taxis, and so on.

Bahrain has, however, been a total unexpected breath of fresh air for me!  I had less than 16 hours in Bahrain; I was on a long layover from Kuwait to Cyprus.  I had planned it this way as many ‘country counters’ do.  There’s not much to do in Bahrain – you can drive across the entire country in an hour – so I felt I was able to see most of the sights.  But like everything, hindsight is 20/20 and I wish I would have spent more time here and less in Kuwait.

Bahrain is a bit more liberal than the rest of the Persian Gulf countries.  Both the women and men are less conservatively dressed, although they do respect their religion.  The men are generally less pushy and I didn’t get the glances from people as I strolled down the street or through the airport.

Before getting something to eat, I had a lovely taxi driver bring me to the Royal Camel Farm.  I had discovered this through one of the bloggers I follow and read that the camels were on a farm to roam free and that we could meet with them and drink their milk.  Well, for anyone who might ever make it to Bahrain and to see the camels, you should know that they are not roaming freely.  They are tied down by their ankles with very little space to move around.  They cannot get near each other and there’s no milk to drink, which is totally fine since it feels wrong to harvest this from innocent animals.   There were literally no other tourists and I felt bad for these animals; had I known, I probably wouldn’t have gone.  None the less, I did get pictures that are a memory, if nothing else.  It was also free, so I don’t feel like I was financially supporting a poor cause.

My taxi driver was a wonderful man.  He was from the Middle East, but spoke English very well and had spent some time in the UK.  He was polite, courteous, and I didn’t get that creepy vibe from him like had in a few other situations.  He even offered to stay and help me through the Camel Farm.  There were few taxis in the area so I agreed and he pushed me through the rough terrain and took my photo.  Like so many things, being in the right place at the right time can make or break your experience.  He was wonderful and I am so appreciative that I got him as my ‘taxi driver’ for the day.  It ‘made’ my experience.

Everyone else that I crossed paths with was equally as great.  I received the upmost respect from everyone I encountered – at the airport, at restaurants, in taxicabs.  Really, this was the experience I needed in the Middle East and I’m grateful that I was able to squeeze this in on my Middle Eastern tour.

My flight for Cyprus left at 4:30 am the next day, and given the time I would need to be at the airport, around 2 am, I decided to forgo a hotel room and save some dollars.  I spent the night at the Bahrain airport, which is spectacular, by the way.  It’s comfortable, quiet, clean, and the WiFi might be some of the best I’ve had in the past month.

~~~

I arrived in Cyprus around 8 am, surprisingly less tired than one would expect.  The influence of Europe was evident.  I’ve made my way around the world in a rather rapid speed, and it’s been incredible to see the cultures mold and merge together.  I experienced something similar in the Maldives, where there was Asian influence but Middle Eastern culture.  And here in Cyprus, I’m feeling the Arab influence, Turkish vibe, and European culture.  I suppose this is how we ultimately get to a melting pot of the world…someday…if it’s possible for us all to live together peacefully.  More thoughts on that at a later date…

I started my morning with a Cyprus coffee.  I had no idea what it was when I ordered it but it’s very much like Turkish coffee.  It’s served in a small cup and it’s very thick.  The bottom of the tiny mug was full of grounds when I finished.  It’s very unlike the Nescafe I’ve been drinking in other parts of the world and it’s a refreshing change of cultural coffee pace.

I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around Larnaca, Cyprus.  It’s a very cute, little town that sits on the coast.  The coastline is lined with a beach and beach restaurants.  And for the first time since I left for my trip, I started to fit in.  I wasn’t the only blonde anymore.  Yep, I was definitely heading back to the Western world.  My adrenaline was starting to wane as I realized there was less adventure, or is it risk, in traveling to parts of Europe.  Believe me, I’m not done with other parts of the world, but it’s an interesting realization to feel how important experiencing vastly different cultures is.

I’ll be spending the next few weeks in some new, and some repeat, places in Europe.  I am greatly excited about them, but I have also realized that there is a large part of me that needs the stimulation and experience of some of our Eastern cultures.  I can’t really understand or explain what it is, maybe I’ll get there someday, but something about experiencing those parts of the world helps me to make sense of the human life experience.  I’m still piecing this all together.  It’s been a whirlwind of cultures in a few short weeks, but I do know that I need those experiences in order to piece together something much larger in by brain.

So, Europe, watch out, I’m coming for you the next few weeks!  And the rest of the world, I’ll be back, don’t you worry.  You’ve got too much to teach me!

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