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BAHRAIN    INFO & DIARY

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The Kingdom of Bahrain is an Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, covering 765 square kilometres in- the Persian Gulf. It is the home of around 1.380.000 citizens, of which 70,3% are Muslims, 14,5% Christians, 9,8% Hindi and 2,5% Buddhists.
The currency are Bahraini dinar, worth 16,70 Danish Krone and 2,24. The GDP is US$34.,310 billion.
Bahrain features an arid climate. Bahrain has two seasons: An extremely hot summer and a relatively mild winter, which I aim for.
With only 17 species of mammals as well as 14 species of reptile, the birdlife with 340 species are the main fauna. Hare are a few Golden jackal, Canis aureus, Arabian oryx, Oryx leucoryx and Goitered gazelle, Gazella subgutturosa.
195 species of higher plant have been recorded on the islands. The soils on the coast are home to salt-tolerant plants, many of which can secrete salt from glands on their surfaces. One of the commonest of these is the dwarf shrub Zygophyllum qatarense, which has many adaptations to suit the harsh environment. Further inland, perennial plants adapt to arid conditions by being dwarf or prostrate, being deciduous, having deep root systems, reducing their leaf surface area, and having thorns and hairs. Annual plants appear when rain falls, and pass through an accelerated life cycle to flower and set seed in a few weeks. I will not be looking for any in particular, but the biomer in general.

DIARY
Despite I had a nice hotel in Dubai, I failed to sleep. In the airport, they spot my tiny bits, and confiscate them as "tools". I manages to hold on to my customise Mac-bit and the special short handle. My half litre of water and scissors passes right through. Catch-up with office-work while waiting - and breakfast.
After one hour in the air, and 25 minutes on the ground, I have visa, local cash and a car. It is a slightly older car, and it have small scratches all over: My kind of car! Within long, it get two big dents on the driver's door from something picked up by another car. I drive through the capital; Manama, which is significantly less pling than any Emirates. That said, it is quits modern, and many real fancy towers are scatted around.

The first sight is Barber Temple, which roughly speaking is a a gathering of square boulders and four big holes in the ground. What make them interesting is, they were made around 2100 BC, but none know why? I do a tour around without meeting anyone.

Money here is a bit strange: You draw 100.000 (one hundred), worth around  225. Then you pay 25.00 (twenty five), worth 5,60. At first, I thought everything was extremely expensive, but removing a digit helped considerably.
I find the Farmer's Market, which should be next to the Botanical Garden. Accordantly to the guard, it is within the market, which is only open Saturday and Sundays.
The next sight; Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre is closed as well. Not only is it Friday in a Muslim country, it is also a national holyday.
But some have goods to sell. I passes line of sheets, selling plants and related stuff. We exchange photos (somehow, they insist on making selfies with me), and I head on.
A big, wall-less hall is Waqif Central Market. Within are open stalls and shops with clothing, fruits and bikes. Out in the back, all kind of birds are found. Lovebirds, turkeys - you name it!

While driving further on westwards, I see a truck with people in the back. Other places, people are just hanging around. You will never see that in the Emirates! I reach Aali Burial Mounds, dating back to the Dilmun era; 3200 to 330 BC. They are just piles of the gravel found on the ancient limestone, and here are quite some trash. On the bright side; the aria is fenced, and the herbs are not goat-hazarded. Here are five different succulent herbs, and I do a extensively hike in the area.

It is still not lunch time, and I'm half way my four-day sight list! But I'm so close to King Fahd Causeway; the 26 kilometre bridge to Saudi Arabia. Somehow, I get to drive it, and have to turn around at the border.  It passes several islands, and long parts are dams.
A bit south, Bahrain International Circuit is found. I missed the Emirates F1 track, but now, I got the time. It turn out to be closed, but by exchanging a selfie, I get to walk (not drive) around by my self. A bit tame without the racers, but you cant get it all.
Outside the area are some unspoiled nature, and I botanises - without finding anything new, except a grasshopper. On the way back, I spot some low limestone formations in the else so flat landscape, and I have to investigate. Later, I learn is is the Mountain of Smoke (Jabal ad Dukhan), Bahrain's highest peak; 134 metres. Then I pass some oil-pumps in a else so barren desert. Well, strangely enough, the local (Indians and Pakistani along with other Asians mainly) sit in the middle of nowhere and barbeque.

Along most bigger roads, police cars, armoured hummers and Wolfs are found behind yellow concrete blocks, sometime with 200 metres in-between. At least, they just sit here and sleep. Speed-control is done automatically - and often.
I have to save some sights for the next three days, and I decide to head to the hotel, hoping there are some shopping nearby. I had forgotten; it is a hostel, and I have a dorm for the four nights. It is right next to a huge stadium - and nothing else at all!
On the bright side: It is brand new, and it seem like I get a four-man room to my self. I change the temperature from 19 to 27C, do a bit of work, but freezes. Nothing else to do, but crack-open yet another sight: Muharrhaq Island. It seems like all the older, small shops are closed, so are the fish- and mead market. I find a few open malls, but head on to the capital.
Here, the small shops are open, and I sears for replacement tools - fruitless. It is mainly cloths and cell phones in this area, along with quite some restaurants and alike. The sun vanish at half pass four, but the shops don't close. At six, I have found supper, and head home to work - unto way too late.
Photos from the first day.

2. A good night's sleep in completely darkness and silence, and I'm ready for new experiences. The Farmer's Market should be open, and with it; the botanical garden in Budaiya. The market is popular, and here are way more Arabs, both customers and vendors, than I have seen before. In average, I see around 90% Pakistanis, eight % Asians and then a few Arabs. (Here should be 20% Bahrainis workers in general), accordantly to their national statistics). Unfortunately, they never ask for selfies. They have too much dignity - in a good way.
The market have numerous stands, and shopping cars are used. It seems like the entire market is fund within the former botanical garden, which only have a few, neglected areas left. Newer the less, the market is interesting, and I do several loops. Not only to see the plants, herbs and vegetables, but also the natives.
In the far end is a food court, and it is popular. I bit early for me, and I doubt leaving food in the car is a good idea.

I do a stop and a walk in Budaiya town. It is not fancy in any way, but quite cosy. I manages to find some bits to replace the confiscated ones with. Then a cup of milk-tea. It is one of the advantages with the Pakistanis: Tea is available everywhere!
My next sight is the Tree of Life, a bit further south. On the way, the road leads through some huge oilfields. The rusty tubs leads through the sand, the pumps are working and many refinements are found in the sandy desert. Despite all the activity, the remaining nature appears quite clean. I do some stops, but beside from the ancient coral reef, only a few species of plant make it here. And I can't blame the goats; here are none.
Then I reach a huge area with large tents. To judge from the lack of activity in the area, it must be the temporarily home for the Pakistani construction workers. It can't be refugees - I don't think they have any, and here would be people to see. It covers several square kilometres.
It is a bit windy, and occasionally, small sandstorms passes the area. Must be a tough place to live - summer or winter!

I reach a waste wall, surounding the area with The Tree of Life. It is a ten meter tall, and rather wide mesquite tree; Prosopis cineraria, around 4-500 years old. Not only is it the only natural tree here, it sits on the top of a hill! The sun disappears behind some light clouds, and I botanises while I wait for its return.
I don't find any new plants, but here are some old pottery scatted around. I start following the round wall, and here are signs, pointing out iconic trees from around the world, with the exact direction and distance. I had expected a bit more of a natural experience (and less tents).

In an effort to visit the different vegetations, I head further down south. It seems like here are only one road, and it is a highway. The military have occupied most of the southern half of the island, it seems, and they do not appear to be as hospitable as the rest of the Bahrainis.
I spot a rather dead but large tree way out on a plain, and start walking there. It is in a desert containing a bit of sand, covering ancient corals. Here are some yellow flint, which have been polished by the sand through times. Then I spot some a herd of Goitered gazelle, Gazella subgutturosa / marica, next to the tree. No chance I can get close enough for a descent photo, but it is great to see them.
Next to the tree is an ole concrete construction. It is a well and a camel watering trunk. I look into the well, and it is scary deep. I can't see the bottom, but a rock I accidentally push in continues till I can't hear it. 30 of 50 metres?
Inside the well lies a Hardwicke's rat snake; Coluber ventromaculatus. Must be great to have a retreat like this!

As I continues south, military enclosures alien the road on both sides. The highway ends, and I have a hard time finding the trail I had planed. Every time I think I find a path, a 4WD is parked next to it, and I'm kindly asked to turn back.
The first turn-of is to Durrat Al Bahrain, a group of artificial atolls, occupied by rich people. I need an invitation to enter, and a selfie won't do it. Never mind, it look just like the isolated desert settlements: To floors, tine houses in endless lines. No room in-between, no gardens.

I pass some industrial areas along the eastern coast, as I follow the coastal road. The first place I can actually make it to the coast is in Al-Dur and next to it; Jau. They are not made for the wealthy, but look all right. I find a Pakistani diner in Jau, and get some delicious vegetable with long rice.
Then I made it to the beach - and disappointed I was. It is flat, almost swampy. A few oyster shells and some herons along with a single cormorant. A bit further up north, and slightly better beach is found, and then I spot flamingos. It is Greater flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus, and again, I could do with a 500 mm lens.

More and more industry appears, but one area is too swampy, and I get to see the plants. At one point, a few drops hit the wind-shield: This months rain? The road continues up to Manama over some islands, and the traffic intensifies. I stop in one of the suburbs to see the fruit stands and while I'm at it; get the weekly shave.
Then I drive to the old souqs in Manama, and enjoy the narrow streets, spices, fake Rolex and way more. Here are around five percent natives, but everyone is so friendly. I try to get more pictures of them, than they get of me. Some try to sell me fake Rolexs, which pale guys like me apparently are interested in. I find out the fastest way to stop that discussion is to say: "I got four genuine, why would I want a fake". Besides from them, only the ones wanting a selfie are approaching me.
Just before dark, I get a milk-tea, and then the mosques start praying. A single large fig tree is the home for numerous sparrows, while the many pigeons prefer buildings. It is getting a bit nippy this evening, and I should have brought my fleece jacket. I glad my room is left on 26C.
I have seen so many small restaurants, but now when I need one, they are gone? End up at a mall I parked at, and get a so-and-so pizza. Back at the hostel, I start on the photos and diary. It have been yet another great and adventurous day, but I am running out of sights.
Photos of the day.

3. Realising I only have managed to spend sixteen of the 100 dinars, I pay the last two days at the hostel in cash. And the car need petrol! Despite I constantly see oil-pumps and drive along half a meter thick pipelines, I have a unprecedented problem, finding a gas station! I saw one yesterday, but at a service-road I had passed the entrance to. The warning lamp stop flashing, the needle stop mowing, and I start to panic. Then, finally, there is a station on the other side of the boulevard. I make it back, but is is closed and filled with most of the fire-station's vehicles.
Well, there must be one in the town where I'm going to find the now open Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre. It is some crescent-shaped, new building with eight workshops. Pottery, model ships, viewing, metalwork and a few other things. I spend around one minute seeing it. Then I ask for a gas station. Third guy think I can find one five kilometres away, but the directions are way too blurry for me. My GPS know one ten kilometres away, which turn out to be fifteen after failing finding the first one. Anyway, the car make it, and I manages to spend 3.700 dinars on a full tank: 0,125 dinar/l (2 DKK/l - 0,28). Not that useful, spending my cash on!

As I have too much time on my hand, I go for a drive down the western coast. On the way, I pass some black houses. The ground is clean, but one of the massive pipelines right next to the house must have had a leak in the past! And yes; the oil is black.
A single road leads south, and only branches out to private lots. Most of the coastal side is behind tall walls while de desert to the inland-side have fences. I find a few places I can explore, but the vegetation bring nothing new. Before I reach the end of the road, it is closed for private use.
On the way back, I find an area with more vegetation. It seems like it is a dry salty swamp, and the ground is covered in small sea-snails in some areas. I find a much used canine-trail, which could be the one from the Golden jackal, Canis aureus - or a domesticated dog, although I have seen none.
A bit back the road, and a village give access to the water. I see the beach, made up by mainly the tine sea-snails - and trash. Some boats seems to be used by fishermen, and I find a group in the shadow, making a new net. I find a line of "restaurants", who only serve take-away, and nothing without meat. I order a milk-tea, but get a Orio-smoothie. Not exactly lunch, but it taste good.

As I head back up north, I get to an area with huge and numerous trees along the road. Someone is surely using a lot of water! I am heading for another bonus sight; Riffa or Shakh Salman Bin Ahmed Alfateh Fort from 1812. It look exactly like it should, being a desert fort. There are not much inside, but it have just the right balance between restored and original.
Behind is the old part of Riffa, and I start walking the narrow, crocked alleys. I find the old main-street, where around half the shops are Sunday open. I finally find a restaurant, not lunch-closed, and get some delicious vegetables in gravy with fried rice.

It is only three, and I have to entertain myself for some more hours. On the northern shore is the 1600 Portuguese Fort, and I give it a go. It is actually quite impressive. Just the deep mould surounding it, not to mention the walls! Around it is excavations of older fortresses, dating back to 2200 BC. Inside the walls, remains of other buildings are found too. Again, there are no entrance fee of souvenir shop. They just don't have tourists?
I head home through the intense traffic, and can't be bothered with finding supper. I have some bisques, and that will do.
Photos from the day.

4. It is Monday, and I hope the en gross marked in Manama will be open. It is, and a huge area is designated to fruits, vegetables and alike. Here are even some of the locals, although not more than ten percent or so. Next to it, I find the fish market. It is in a big hall, and surprisingly enough; completely odourless!
As with the vegetables, everything are so fresh. Some of the shrimps are still kicking, while some fish are gasping. I get some photos, although the light is not good. Next door is another huge hall, this one with meat. No live animals, but everything just as fresh. As no surprise, most in these three markets are imported.

Not fare from the market is the old Arad fort from around 1500. Several rulers have used it, thinking it would protect them better than the one the conquered it from. Again, it look just as it should.
Next to it is the huge Seef Mall, and I give it a go. It seems like this is where the native go shopping for original merchandise. Not my cup of tea.

Muharrhaq island, on the other hand, should be one big souq, and I head for the narrow, crooked alleys. Here are still a few, original buildings left, and a lot of small shops. A new, fancy library stands out, but I try to find the old souq - if there is one? 
Despite I don't see many natives, I find a tea house with a group in front of. I ask for permission to make a photo, and only one ask me to delete it. Where the Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshis are like photoing rocks, the native Bahamian are like gazelles - in the night - or at least shadow. Well, I tried!

Then I am approached by three guys in long robes, warring other kind of headwear. They are Omanis, who want selfies. Some goes for a group of Bangladeshis, playing their traditional game of Bob.
I see a lot of shops, but fail to find a true souq. On the way out, I passes a house, covered in a vertical garden. A bid odd to see here!
I find my way back to Manama souq, which offered some great motives the other day. It still does, and I find some new corners, like the second-hand market. I stop for tea and lunch - several times, and at four, I head home.
Photos of the day.

5. Early up and into the airport. There are no traffic, and the car is still full. I get plenty of time for breakfast and boring while waiting for my Oman flight.

Bahrain have been interesting, although I had hoped for way more desert adventures. In a matter of fact, I could have done with only two or three days, as it is a small island, and the military have so much of the south, for them self. I have driven 511 kilometres and taken 599 photos. The THE HIGHLIGHTS of Bahrain. At least, it have been a really cheep experience:
 

EXPENSES DKK
Flight 1.015 136
Insurance 75 10
Car 687 92
Petrol 87 12
Stuff 117 16
Food 244 33
Bridge 42 6
Hotels 800 107
  3.067 411

Next stop: Oman

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