Now that things are settling down a bit, we decided to celebrate our 5 month anniversary here in the Kingdom by, well… leaving. We made our first international driving trip to Bahrain yesterday! Mark isn’t off on the weekends, so we kept the kids home from school on Monday & got on the road around 8:00am. It’s about a two hour drive including the customs stops. Bahrain is a sovereign island off the East Coast of Saudi in the Persian Gulf and the two nations are connected by a 16 mile causeway. One of the interesting things about Saudi Arabia is that you have to have an EXIT Visa to depart the country. Many of the workers here are actually required to surrender their passports upon arrival, so they are very much at the mercy of their employers as to wether they are allowed to leave the country or not. Mark and I have “Multi-Entrance Visas”, so we are able to come and go as we please, and I (as a woman) can travel without him (although this is obviously not the norm). So upon reaching the middle of the causeway, we cleared customs outbound, and then entered Bahrain!
It’s a small island but with some major differences from Saudi. Although most citizens are Muslim, the stores do not close for prayer (so nice!) and women are not required to wear an abaya. There is pork if you know where to go, and alcohol too, although we didn’t get a chance to find either on this trip. We did find a very nice mall and wandered around – had a cappuccino and the kids found a cupcake store. We are still trying to finish the house, so we were looking for some household items, but kept getting distracted by the kids wanting to go in all the different “fun stores”. We found an organic market and stocked up on some staples we’ve been missing, but food in general here is *very* expensive, and organic food is just ridiculous. It doesn’t help the the Bahriani Dinar is equal to .37 US Dollars, so the prices are a bit deceptive. We walked out of the store and realized that we spent $34.oo on Maple Syrup! It didn’t look so bad when it said “12BD”… We also found a grocery store that had canned green chills in stock, so we counted the whole trip as a success and will be making chicken tacos soon.
We headed back across the bridge about 7:15pm and ran into a small wait, but we’ve heard that some people have been delayed up to 5 hours – especially on the weekends. When it was finally our turn the customs agent made Mark and I get out of the car. He asked Mark, “You have any pork?” “No.” “You have been drinking?” “No.” “You are sure?” “Yes.” “I can search the car?” “Sure.” “You have confidence?” “Pretty sure, yes.” He searched it thoroughly – made LT get out of her car seat and he climbed all over it. He must have been trying to sniff out smuggled bacon —
Made it home around 10:00pm with three sleeping kiddos in the backseat. Overall, it was nice to get to a place that just felt “normal” – kind of like Miami (if you consider that “normal”), but we could see other women’s faces, use Western toilets, try clothing on if we wanted to, the drivers weren’t entirely horrible, and we were not constantly stopping our day due to prayer. We will definitely be going back soon!