The glossy travel magazines sure do seem to go ga-ga over Dubai these days.
Perhaps because they think their readers will 1) be impressed with all the glitz, and 2) be interested in a Middle Eastern country that doesn’t seem “so scary.”
I watch all this with bemused interest, since I spent a few years living in Bahrain as a preteen, had my 12th birthday in Iran and then returned to Bahrain for a brief visit as an adult. Middle Eastern nouveau riche excess is not new to me and the Middle East as a whole is not particularly scary.
As with other places in the world, the most interesting thing to see in the MidEast is examples of both how things never change, and how they change tremendously.
As a kid, I vividly remember when the first fresh meat (not frozen) was shipped into Jawad Cold Store in Bahrain. It was fresh lamb from New Zealand, and all the expat housewives went gaga. My dad cooked up a lamb roast with fresh mint leaves tucked inside, and to this day that’s one of my favorite dishes.
When I returned to Bahrain as an adult, the island was completely transformed. Jawad’s Cold Store is now the Jawad Dome, a massive, brightly-lit behemoth in downtown Manama (the capital) with a Dairy Queen out in front of it.
Yes, travel all the way to the Middle East and have a DQ Peanut Buster Parfait.
If you’re interested in travel to the Gulf area of the Middle East, consider skipping overly-hyped Dubai for Bahrain or Oman. Bahrain in particular has long been relatively relaxed and it’s friendly to visitors; it was a British protectorate until the early 1970s and still has a large expat community.
I know that Saudi Arabia is trying to be more open to tourism and I would love to go there personally, but as a woman I’d have to be prepared for a lot of hassle.
Links of interest about Bahrain:
- Global Voices Online – Bahrain (blogging voices from Bahrain.)
- The Gulf Daily News Bahraini newspaper
- Bahrain on Lonely Planet (they call it an “easy introduction to the Middle East” for Westerners.)
Pickings were slim for much in the way of online travel articles about Bahrain; anyone out there want to hire me to go back there and write one? 🙂
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