Archive for September, 2010

Intentional layover in Bahrain

September 1, 2010

This will be brief because I am in the airport, about to board my flight to Amman. Two weeks ago, while booking a ticket to visit my friend Boris in Israel, I came up with a crazy ploy to squeeze in a few extra sights. The resulting itinerary is a beast:

  1. Sept 1: Mumbai -> Bahrain (9 hours) -> Amman (2 days)
  2. Sept 3: Bus to Jerusalem
  3. Sept 6: Bus from Israel to Jordan
  4. Sept 8: Amman -> Qatar (8 hours) -> Muscat (24 hours)
  5. Sept 10: Bus from Muscat to Dubai (24 hours)
  6. Sept 11: Dubai -> SFO
  7. Sept 13-18: MSRI workshop on Random Matrix Theory (Berkeley)
  8. Sept 18: Oakland -> Home

Anyways, the chaos started today in Bahrain. My 7 hours outside the airport exceeded all expectations. I must note that Gulf Air offered to bump me onto an earlier flight this morning, where I would have only had an hour layover. The convenience and certainty tempted me for a few seconds, but I am incredibly glad I thought about the regrets. I painlessly got my on-arrival visa and went to grab a taxi. I hate paying for taxis, so before doing so, I looked for expats with whom I could finagle my way into a ride, or other options. I ended up negotiating a STEAL with the owner of an empty rent-a-car place. I got a six-hour rental for the same price as the fixed one-way taxi fare into the city center! FREEEEDDOMMM!!!! I racked up 150km on my circuit around the island and through downtown. I broke many rules when I *MIGHT* have skinny-dipped at anĀ abandonedĀ beach. I went to the national museum. Walked around a massive mall. Watched the lunch prayer service at the Grand Mosque. I should also note that I am playing by the rules of the land today, and therefore fasting for Ramadan — all restaurants are closed anyways.

Some observations. This entire country is under construction. Much of which seems to be halted. I am not sure of the extent to which each of these factors contribute: Ramadan, the mid-day heat and global economic issues. Bahrain is known as being a very tolerant and modern country. This is evidenced by the many expats who now call it home. It was 110 degrees. The ocean is incredibly salty. I would guess this is because the air is so dry here, that the water would evaporate if the salt content were less — it has therefore reached some type of equilibrium between regional inflows and evaporation. On the same topic, it is so damn hot that I am astonished anywhere else on Earth can be cold — I thought the heat equation was more efficient — weather is crazy. As with everywhere else I have been in the Middle East, this place is driven by consumerism. Malls everywhere. So much in common with America and Americans, but we just can’t see it.

I am learning a lot and loving life. Amman in 3 hours.