Monday, December 17, 2012

Bahrain (2). The North of the island

After visiting Manama in our first day in Bahrain, we decided to rent a car and see more of the island country on our own wheels. I could bargain really hard and get a very good deal for a 2day rent from a local dealer: 18 dinar or less than 4500 yen for a nice car.

After getting the car, we set off towards Qala'at Al-Bahrain, which is maybe the most interesting sightseeing spot in the country. It is an archeological site whose history spans almost 5000 years. The first constructions date back to around 3000 BC and the last one was a fort built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The place also has nice views of Manama skyline in the horizon and a nice history museum with artifacts found in the area.

The different ruins belonging to very different ages are next to each other and interesting contrasts can be seen: a centuries-old mosque structure, together with a 16th-century Portuguese fort and a modern city skyline in the background.

The fortress is actually pretty empty, but has many chambers we can get in and turns out to be an interesting place to wander around.

The second visit of the day was about archeology too. We continued driving towards the NorthWest and went to the Barbar temple, a pretty destroyed temple which was built around 2000-3000 BC. Only a few structures are left. Compared to the previous site, this one was a little bit of a disappointment, althought the archeological value may be also high...

More to the NorthWest, in the town called Sar, we came in touch with what political uprisings in Bahrain in the last year had been about. We were driving along the road and suddenly, the road was partially blocked with broken furniture. I did as the car before me did and dodged the blockage to find a really broken road with big fires on both sides and lots of people. As I drove along, there were some guys with covered faces putting up another road blockage on the other side of the road. It looked like protests were going to start at any moment, so we were lucky enough not to be caught in the middle. After passing that point, we could hear lots of police cars, etc... Just in time.

We had gone to Sar in search of one of the most particular burial sites in the island, some honeycomb chambers. Bahrain is famous in archeology because there are thousands of burial mounds. However, this kind of tombs are pretty unique in this area. Even though I asked locals and tried hard, it was impossible to find them. We did not have much time left for the day, so we just decided to give up on them and go to the next place we wanted to visit: King Fahd Causeway.

 King Fahd Causeway is a road in the middle of the sea which links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by means of many long bridges. It is a toll road and foreigners without a Saudi visa can go as far as the border, which is around half way in the road. The border area is a small island with some restaurants, customs and immigration offices and a high observation tower, which is the main tourist drag. From the tower, we can see the road getting lost in the horizon and the crowds trying to come back to Saudi.

Another interesting thing to do on the way to the middle of the sea is to watch people's behavior as they come back to Saudi Arabia! Saudi Arabia is an ultraconsevative muslim country and Bahrain is a very open-minded one. Alcohol, prostitution, etc are legal in Bahrain. Many Saudis come to Bahrain just to taste the forbidden fruits. However, when they come back home, they have to be careful not to bring along any proof of the weekend they have just enjoyed... the result is there are many cars stopped on the sides of the highway whose passengers are throwing bottles of beer, magazines, etc into the sea. Not the best way to treat the sea and keep it clean, by the way.

Sorry for all the light reflections in the previous photos... Actually, the tower glasses were kind of dirty and in addition, they are tilted in the perfect angle to make it impossible for photographers to take decent photos... ;)

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