Friday, July 8, 2011


This past weekend we took our first trip outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and made the trek across the causeway to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

It is amazing how a country so close connected by a bridge can be so different! Bahrain is an island in the Persian (or if you are in Saudi...the Arabian) Gulf. It is known for its oil and pearls and more recently for some protests as part of the recent Middle Eastern uprisings. We did see some tanks and checkpoint but things have died down and are pretty safe. We did check the US embassy for travel precautions and they have a list of areas to avoid and where to stay etc so we made sure to follow the precautions and the only issue we came across was the annoying detours due to tanks and roads being blocked to prevent gatherings at the Pearl roundabout where the majority of the protests have taken place.

Bahrain is so close but so different than Saudi...women were granted the right to vote and hold elected office in 2002, women can drive, they serve adult beverages, pork products, you don't have to wear an abaya and are permitted to wear western clothes, you can try on clothes in the store, there are no family/men only sections or entrances, women can and do work....I am sure I could find many more differences. Pretty much it is a welcomed break from Saudi!

We crossed the King Fahd Causeway (it is the third longest bridge in the world) which connects Saudi to Bahrain in about an hour which is pretty good as we have heard of four hour plus waits. You have to go through Saudi passport control, Bahrain passport control, Bahrain customs and then you are in!
We went straight to City Centre Mall. We went to get something to eat and had great chicken shawarmas. We mostly looked around to get a feel of what is there, bought a some shirts, looked at a bunch of home stores and I feel in LOVE with a couple of them, found an amazing artificial flower shop that has beautiful stuff. We picked on some Starbucks and then headed out. We went to Toys R Us to see what they had in comparison to Saudi and they had some more toys and more American brand toys which was good to know. We then walked over to another mall, Seef Mall, where we went to the Organic food store and got baby food for Graham for when he starts. They sell baby food in Saudi but it is all brands that I don't recognize and am not comfortable with giving Graham. I am planning on just making my own since you can't get anything here but I wanted to get some jars so when we are out I could have the ease of just opening a jar of food. I found Earths Best baby food which was what I gave Peyton and I was able to get 24 jars of assorted fruits, 12 vegetables and then 4 other random ones. I also found Oatmeal, Barley and Rice cereal. We loaded up and I am super happy that we found out about that place. We then headed over to our hotel to meet some friends for dinner, go stuck in traffic, was super thankful for our Garmin and made our way to our hotel where we went straight to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I had pretty good enchiladas and a real Margarita! It was wonderful! Some friends were in Bahrain for the day and so they met us for dinner before they headed back and it was so nice to be able to spend time with them and for John to actually meet someone I have been spending so much time with!

After dinner we finally made it back to our hotel and got settled in our room. We stayed at the Gulf Hotel and were very impressed. The service was great, our room was really nice and we will be back for sure. I forgot Graham's pack n'play so I pushed two chairs together, laid a blanket down as a sheet and made a bed. Peyton got to sleep with us in the giant king bed. We relaxed, watched cartoons, got everyone a bath, ordered room service (dessert and some wine) and then got Graham down to sleep and then we spent the evening cuddling with Peyton, watching TV and enjoying room service in bed. It was so nice to spend that one on one time with Peyton. John and I can't remember the last time it was just us three and Peyton was loving it. She loved the whole hotel experience, room service, sleeping with Mommy and Daddy and just thought this was the greatest thing ever! It was so much fun!
Everyone had a really good night of sleep. We got up, ordered breakfast since we got up too late to go out and eat and then I went to get my hair cut while John took the kids swimming. The majority of the women at Aramco get their hair done while in Bahrain. I have heard that the salon at the Ritz Carlton and the one at the Gulf are the most recommended. I went to La Mode at the Gulf and it was great. The guy who did my hair is originally from Lebanon and was in Bahrain for 12 years before going to Australia for 5 years and now he is back in Bahrain. I got my hair colored for the first time in 4 years! During my pregnancy with Graham my hair got so dark and I wanted it to be lighten just slightly so I got subtle blonde highlights. I also got my hair trimmed and a moisturizing treatment because the water in Saudi destroys your hair. I love my cut and color and was so impressed with the service and quality. A pain to go to Bahrain to get your hair done but worth it! After I was done I went to find John at the pool and they were just finishing up. There is this splash area complete with a large playhouse type structure, slide, water fountains for kids and it was great. They had a blast and I just wish I was able to play with them! We showered, changed, packed up and off we went for more shopping!

First stops were pet stores to hunt for dog food and a dog door for our house. We found two pet stores which both had a good selection of stuff. We found toys/bones/leash etc at one and pet food at the other but no dog door. The second store said to email them what we are looking for and they will work on finding one which is promising. We were able to save a good amount of money on dog food and it is reassuring that we are not limited to the one pet store we have found in Saudi. We headed back to City Centre mall to pick up some curtain rods that I found and then a rug for the kitchen and we surprised Peyton with a trip to Build a Bear. Both kids were amazing this trip and so well behaved and just went with the flow of things. Peyton was so polite and even when we went into stores or say toys she would never ask for anything and just so polite. We even passed Build a Bear the other day and she told us how she did that with G and Papa at the old house and explained the process to us and said it was so much fun but she didn't ask to go and do it or for a bear or anything. We decided that since she hadn't asked for anything at all and was being wonderful we would surprise when we left by taking her and she was so surprised and happy when we went. She picked out a camel and dressed her in a black and pink dress with pink heels. It was lots of fun and she just kept telling us what to do and how she did it with G and Papa and she can't wait to show them her camel. She also kept telling us thank you for her camel. It was fun!

We then packed it up and then we headed back across the causeway, put on my abaya and came home to Saudi.

It is amazing how much a weekend away helps! It gave me a break and made me have a little bit of hope that I can handle this. I also never realized how much it affects you to not get dressed, do your hair, make up and just get Saudi I don't take a whole lot of effort to getting pretty everyday since I just throw on an abaya over whatever I am wearing, am not supposed to draw attention to myself so I put on very little makeup and so I am never really put together. It felt so good to be able to be a girl! And I never realized how much the family section bothers me. When we went to Starbucks in Bahrain I commented on how nice it was, then I got to thinking....we have a Starbucks in Saudi.....why don't I like the Saudi Starbucks?.....oh....because I have to go in a small door and sit in the back section where it is cramped, dark and you have to sit in sectioned off booths and not look at Bahrain it was open, bright, you could sit and people watch in the mall. It was so refreshing!

We are already planning our next trip to Bahrain and are thinking about taking a trip just before Ramadan starts and we are stuck home for the month. We are hoping now that we have our first trip under our belt we will have a better idea on how to better use our time, save money and not need to shop as much and can relax and also explore some of the cultural things there. We are very thankful that we have this option so close to us!

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