When you arrive in an Islamic country for the first time in your life, being warned by friends and family about the “terrible” things you will encounter, there are a couple of things you might end up expecting: hijabs and non-revealing clothes everywhere, grumpy people, bad and unhealthy food, having to spend the night in a wooden shack in the desert, and perhaps the occasional dangerous guy with a gun shooting random people. Something that is not on that list, however, is arriving at the villa you’ll be staying at and seeing a group of people drinking beer. Perhaps those stereotypes weren’t so true after all.
Now, admittedly, drinking alcohol in public IS illegal, and you wouldn’t see it much unless you ended up in a villa with a group of internationals, but that doesn’t mean that any of these warnings I received were based on truth. Bahrain has stores just like European countries do, not just with vegetables and a bunch of live chickens they’ll slaughter right in front of you, but with pre-packaged food, Dutch cheese and shelf upon shelf of different variations of cereal to the point that you wonder how the combination of a bit of grain and chocolate could possibly lead to so many different kinds. Additionally, people are certainly not more grumpy than anyone else (although admittedly Ramadan hasn’t started yet…), plenty of people do wear T-shirts and shorts, I have yet to see the desert and as surprising as this might be, I haven’t seen anyone getting shot yet.
Then again, it’s only been four days…
(Sorry about that mum, I promise I won’t get shot!)
The most, and probably only shocking thing so far was the heat. I arrived at the airport at 11 PM, but the moment I stepped outside of the air-conditioned area, I almost flew back in surprise. Even without the burning hot sun the heat is ridiculous, reaching well above body temperature and enveloping you in a dense, humid kind of wind. It was quite the shock the first time I went outside during the day. Interestingly enough, though, you get used to it very quickly. Just yesterday I went out for a good half an hour, which was easily bearable and led to only some mild sunburns… you know… not yet turning me into a tomato… more like a lobster…
This post sure wasn’t as passionate and to the point as you might be used to from this blog, but I think the message is clear: stereotypes can be awfully wrong. I dare say particularly in the Middle East. Bahrain is not a dangerous country. It’s different, of course, but so are Asia and Europe, North and South America, Australia and Africa. Different is just different. And different is usually good.
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See you next Monday!
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