Bahrain, learning about the Islam – Km 69,860
From Kuwait, I tried to get the visa to cycle through Saudi Arabia, for it I visit its embassy, where I understood that Arabia is not a country opened to the western tourists, and that for visiting it I need an invitation from someone who take the responsibility of me, one sponsor. It was something almost impossible to get in few days.
This way, to keep going through the gulf, I had to fly to Bahrain and after a couple of days, my friend Haitham, who was beginning his vacations, brought me the bicycle and my bags by car, a real test of gentility which characterize to all the Arab people.
For it, when I arrived to the Kingdom of Bahrain airport I was received by Husam, a Libyan guy who is living in the country since several years and who made me feel like in my own house. Then other travellers from the site: couchsurfing.com arrived and Haitham too; so the Husam hospitality made of that house a real club of friends.
The kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands, which the main one is the Bahrain Island, with a hardly greater surface of 600 km square, that represents 85% of the total surface of the state. Its capital city is Manama, and it is where the main financial center of the Middle East settles, it is more important than Dubai and Qatar. Banks, insuring companies and agencies of stock market mix with huge and luxurious buildings of a space architecture. The World Trade Center has its own alternative power plant, with wind turbines that measure 29 ms of diameter. In the area of the construction, the country is also carrying out numerous multimillionaire projects that are based on the creation of artificial islands with chorale or fish form, where will be built sumptuous houses and hotels, offices, commercial centers, pedestrian strolls in front of the sea and wharves among other things. According to they explained me, to construct on the sea has became the fashion of the moment in the gulf countries. United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman have also begun ambitious projects in which the sea is displaced by the hand of the man. And I was really surprised when Luis, an Argentinean guy who is living in Bahrain since almost 10 years, told me that the Juffair district, located in Manama did not exist before. According to him, this gigantic project of land reclamation began in 1970, lodging to new hotels, residential restaurants and condominiums. This way one of the most important 5 stars hotels of the city which used to enjoy its strategic location in front of the sea, today it is to two kilometres far from the coast.
For it, when I arrived to Manama I did not find what I imagined. I thought that as every coastal city it would have a promenade and some beach. But I just found a lot of building constructions and the line coast taken by crane and trucks and not even a beach or a place to walk and to appreciate the sea. Nothing comparing with the photos which one sees in internet about Bahrain, where are only images of the ended projects, although there are many years until they will be finished.
After few days of my arrival to Bahrain, Clara arrived. She travelled from Italy to celebrate together the end of the year. But this time without her bicycle, for it, I got from Beboy, a Philippine guy, his bicycle to lent her for a couple of weeks. And to move inside city by bicycle was great, because Manama is a city where the taxis are practically the only public transport. This way those days in Bahrain became a honeymoon, although the place was not so nice. So Clara asked me to visit another place in the gulf; and how difficult is to say no to the woman who one chooses, who in spite of the negative of her family she travels to the “Arab world” again, and in an important date, as traditional as the Sicilian people is. Thus we left the bicycles in Bahrain, and we flew to Dubai and from there we travelled to Oman by bus. Two destinations that I am planning to visit by bicycle, but that, this time I decided to discover and to enjoy with Clara. So, during few days, we visited a lot of place, we felt as normal tourist, lodging in good hotels, and taking a lot of taxis, but most of their drivers always went around, so I got angry many times with them, and they always use to say that they were new in the city. Paquistanis.
To our return to Bahrain, Clara came back to Italy, but she promises to cycle with me, maybe starting from India. As long as I, was sponsored by the Marriott Executive Apartments who offered me 9 days of my stay free of charge, but it was so nice to enjoy it alone. And I was surprised, because in the last day the Marketing Department organized a media conference, and 30 people came, among journalists and photographers. So I made a presentation including pictures and videos about the trip and then they started to ask questions during another hour. For moments they made me feel as Maradona after the goals to England in 1986.
In the follow morning I was on the main media of the country, so when I leave the Marriott I discovered that someone had left a gift for me at the reception. It was the translation of the Koran to Spanish, with a message which said: “To the man who looks for peace”. The gift was sent by people from “Discover Islam” and for it days later I contacted them. This way I knew this association, which has as aim to introduce the true Islamic teachings to people and correct the negative image distorted and presented by the media. So Ahmed, Syed and Raifed were who introduced me to the Muslim traditions inside and outside of a mosque. And I loved speaking with them.
Ahmed, a Bahraini lawyer who is planning to get married soon, is a volunteer in the Al Fateh Mosque, and he is one of the guides who make a tour as longer as visitors wish. Dressed in an impeccable white and with his long black beard he told me about the most important mosque in Bahrain, its different sectors, the positions and the prayer times, About the Imam, the Muslim prayer leader and his function. About the Mecca, the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad. He also let me to record the call prayer, it is really moving. I wish some day I can edit all the material about the trip.
Syed is a retired geologist, a Muslim immigrant from India who lives in Bahrain since more than 25 years. He is also board member of Discover Islam. He works as a tour guide in the big Mosque too, but he also travels to abroad to train new guides according to the tourist program for visiting and learning about the Islam and Muslim traditions in the Mosques. “It is very important that people enter to a mosque to know us and to talk with us, they are welcome”, he told me. “The Koran explains us that the teachings of prophet’s Muhammad are not something new, in fact Muslims believe in the continuity of the same message which was preached earlier by Jesus Christ, and before Him by Moses, and before by Abraham. It also says that in wherever human civilization existed in the past on the earth, everywhere God has sent his representatives, his guides called prophets or messengers, to guide mankind to the way to God. The messengers exist from the man’s creation, but certain teachings no longer have the original form, because with the passing time they have gotten lost, forgotten or not well interpreted, maybe with good intentions. The role of the messengers was not to reject the previous messages, because all were sent by God, but purifying certain teachings that were contaminated with the passing time. This was the Muhammad’s mission who was the last and final prophet sent”.
Raifed took me to the Muharraq Island, and he told me that formerly the fresh water arose from the sea along the coast, for it their nascent have caused the development of wonderful pearls, transforming its trade into the main activity of the island during the decade of 30 and 40, what motivated an important immigration. Raifed is an Iraqi refugee who worked as pilot for the Iraqi Airlines, but after the economic embargo imposed to Iraq at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, he stopped to fly and he started to work as merchant. With the arrival of the North Americans in 2003, he lost part of his family and for it in 2005 he preferred to move to Bahrain with his 6 children and his wife. It was “too dangerous” he told me.
After my stay at the Marriott, I returned to the Husam house and through him, I met more people from the website for travellers. And I was surprised when I knew about M.H. an Arabic immigrant who told me that his father called him to return to his homeland to marry according to the Muslim tradition, with the daughter of a neighbouring family who he had hardly seen once. M.H. who had already travelled through Asia, Africa and South America didn’t want to marry, but neither could he refuse to his father who told him: “if you don’t marry, you must forget your family”. “In the Islam, if one refuses to his father he doesn’t go to the heaven”, he told me; “and deep down the family is the only thing that we have”.
Also during my last days Will became my friend, an aerospace engineer who at once to know about my project, asked me if I accept particular donations. I could not believe it; at the third time that I met him he presented me a new laptop to substitute my old one. It was great!!!!!!!
I also met Axel, Juan, Luis and Charly, all Argentineans who arrived to Bahrain looking for better opportunities. And there is nothing else pretty than to meet people from home.