Friday, February 18, 2011

With Love to Bahrain ~ Random Memory #24

With love to BahrainImage by smilla4 via Flickr

A collection of coffee pots from Bahrain.

Mubkharra, for the burning of incense.

Random Memory #24 ~ Bahrain

 The name Bahrain means two seas, although in ancient times this small archipelago was called Dilmun and legend supposes it might have been Eden, paradise on earth. Aquifers run from Saudi Arabia under the sea and across to Bahrain and in the old days, the island shimmered with the green haze of agriculture. Today, the skyline is that of a modern city.

This is not a political blog, but the week's news and escalating violence have made me sick with worry for the gentle people who live there and the friends we left behind. At home we say there are two Maines reflecting the economic differences between the southern and northern regions of our state. The same can be said of Bahrain, for beneath its tranquil surface there is another reality of discrimination and discontent which simmered for years until the explosive events at the Lulu (Pearl) roundabout.

The coffeepot and mubkharra, above, are symbols of the hospitality we experienced during the four years we lived in Bahrain. Our new home was a narrow bit of land just over thirty miles long. I remember, in those early days, how I used to open the thick curtains each morning out of habit. The sun, which rose at 4:00 a.m., was always the same, always shining down on the dun colored city of Manama. In time we adapted to the rhythm of a place most of the world never really thought about very much, in spite of its strategic value. Over the years we made excursions to beaches of shallow water that went on indefinitely, never seeming to reach our knees and hotter than a bath. We wandered through the souk, observed the date pickers climbing palms of dizzying heights and picniced in the sand desert exploring ruined castles left behind by the old sheikhs. There were trips on dhows, the captain unrolling his prayer rug, silhouetted against the setting sun as we made our way back to port. I loved the old city of Muharraq with its twisty lanes and traditional architecture with balconies of carved wood like lace....and our days punctuated by the beautiful call to prayer. I miss the ceremony of serving gawa, the cardamon scented pale coffee poured into small cups from pots with shapes that always made me think of pelicans. I miss our Bahraini friends and still remember the white rabbits that belonged to our neighbor's children. The wily rabbits continually escaped and, against all odds, cheerfully thrived in the vacant lot on the other side of our garden wall. I miss the sweet smell of oleander and jasmine that hung thickly around our front porch. I miss our friend Rahim who came and made vegetable soup for our children when they were sick with flu while we were away in Dubai. One more time, I would love to hear the joyful ululation of women at a wedding and I still carry the memory of Rahim's beautiful bride, Marziah, dressed in green and gold on their wedding day. They are all still there....and their children and grandchildren.

You can read other random memories of Bahrain here and here.


  1. Thank you Barbara...the news from Bahrain is breaking my heart.

  2. What beautiful words, Barbara. The bumper sticker on my car says 'war doesn't decide who's right, just who's left'. There is much suffering in so many places in the world, and often such abuse of power by those who govern. My prayers are with those who are looking for change through peaceful means. May your friends remain safe.

  3. I too am sad at the events unfolding in Bahrain, the emirate I called home for a year, in 1976. There was always an element of discontent because of the divide between Shia and Sunni, but I remember the people as being some of the nicest Gulf Arabs.

  4. Oh, I see you lived in Hong Kong as well. We lived there on and off from 1966-2000, with intervening periods in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia.

  5. I am touched by this and by in the span of the few days we had JCB's and Emile's blog friendship turn into a real one as they shared a day in a historic house, shared food and stories. In Lindaraxa's Garden, the Cuban who fled Cuba with her family talks to a woman who had been her teacher on that island and who remain there with a very different political world view, but the love has remained. And today I read this loving, gentle tribute to a country without seeing politics only people Memories forged in youth and friendship. All of these "random" events show the way we could be if only...

    ps my word verification was youpstle: you apostle?

  6. I apologize for taking so long to answer all your kind comments...

    spindrift ~ Thank you. The most difficult thing is waiting and watching with so few people able to get the news out. At least Bahrain is calm for the present, but Libya is heartbreaking.

    Columnist ~ Yes, Bahrain is more complex than it looks on the surface. We may well have passed one another on a crowded Hong Kong street! My daughter was there recently and assures me the Star Ferry is still the best bargain in the city!

    home before dark ~ Trust you to immediately understand that I wanted to give a face to the people in Bahrain, and not show a nameless crowd of protesters in a news clip. As the Columnist said, "they are some of the nicest Gulf Arabs." It's true that "memories forged in youth and friendship" are particularly enduring. I've always felt blessed to have those memories.

    I never would have guessed, a year ago, that clicking "create blog" would have opened to the door to so many wonderful people. I loved Janet's description of her wonderful day with Emile!

  7. me again...

    Carol--Although I am fairly new to the blogging world, I have been following your blog for several months, and I enjoy it immensely. The other day, someone who has visited me often in the three weeks since I have been blogging was kind enough to give me a Stylish Blogger award. I am passing one on to you in admiration of the work that you do, and in appreciation for being one of my inspirations for starting my own blog. Here is what I said about you in my last post:

    "Another frequent blogger from a small town between Lili’s home and mine. Beautiful indoor and outdoor photos of private Maine life, as well as occasional remembrances of other ‘lives’ she has led in various parts of the world."

    You probably have received one of these before. Each person who receives one of these is asked to do three things: 1. link back to the person who sent it to you in a post on your blog. 2. Choose 5 other blogs to pass the award on to and post on your blog. 3. Write 7 things about yourself and post these on your blog.

    You may not want to do these things if you are busy. However, I did want to let you know how much I have enjoyed your posts, and wanted to encourage others to visit you.

    ;o) mike at spindrift,maine

  8. Mike ~ You can't imagine how much I appreciate your award and comment. Your own blog flows as naturally as the seasons and it seems incredible to me that you have only just begun posting. What I am looking forward to in the coming months (and years I hope!) is seeing Maine through your eyes and enjoying a dose of plain spoken good sense.


Older posts you might enjoy....