Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year's Eve 2007

After not getting a visa to visit Iran over this Christmas period, I ended up staying here in Muscat for Christmas, then on the spur of the moment booked a trip to Bahrain. After all I won't be in the Gulf region forever, so I may as well see what's around here.

My first Bahraini purchase, after checking-in to my hotel, wasn't gold or pearls, both of which Bahrain is famous for, but was a pair of woolly gloves! Cold ? Not by UK standards, but I left 25⁰c, to arrive at 18 with a cold, cold wind - and it got colder as the sun set. Brrr.

It was great to be in a city that you can walk around, unlike Muscat which is NOT pedestrian friendly, and walked several kilometres over the 4 days I was there. Thursday afternoon was spent wandering around the souq. Friday afternoon, I walked over the causeway from Manama to the nearby town of Muharraq; wandering around the old capital and visiting an old Bahraini house, which was fascinating. Finally, yesterday I walked back to my hotel from the Grand mosque via a very cool restaurant where I had lunch, past the palace, through some seedy residential areas, and made a final stop in the Radisson for tea and cheesecake. Yum :-)

Saturday, I had taken the birthday cards that I'd received to open before breakfast, and received several texts throughout the day, which made me feel special. Thanks guys. After breakfast, I met with a private guide, a very nice Bahraini woman, and headed inland (although there's not really that far to go). I saw all the major archaeological and heritage sites, including the UNESCO listed Qal'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain fort). As with all tours I got mildly hijacked with a visit to a blind-basket weaver - as it was my birthday I bought myself a reed mat- and a pottery where I didn't buy anything.

Finally, yesterday I visited the Al-Fateh Grand Mosque. It's incredible as they give guided tours to non-Muslims, and was my first time in an Abaya and scarf... The abaya was a bit long and I nearly tripped over it several times. Oops. How do these women glide so effortlessly? Or is it just me who's a klutz? Our guide was terrifically knowledgeable, and had a fantastic voice; he sang the call for prayer and gave a translation. I've discovered that when I use the video part of my digital camera, I shouldn't turn the camera. I have a video of the guide chanting, levitating.

So now I'm back in Muscat, but you can check out the Bahrain pics on flickr in a few days time.
I'm looking forward to the year ahead, and the new challenges it will bring.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. Sx