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The kingdom is a firmly Muslim country, but unlike Saudi Arabia you can buy pork in special rooms at the back of a few supermarkets. Going into a ‘pork room’ is reminiscent of going into the R18 section of the old video shops, you know it's legal but you feel very shady!
Unlike Saudi Arabia, alcohol is also available in some restaurants and hotels. It may be a drive of up to seven hours with border checkpoints and immigration but it is a popular destination as people go away for parties and Friday brunches.
The journey itself is through a desert, or as some signs say, a ‘dessert’. This normally triggers a series of bad puns when we see them i.e. “the drive is a piece of cake” and ‘thanks for pudding up with us”! There are some service stations along the route and you soon learn which ones have western style bathrooms rather than a ‘hole and hose’.
As usual you see camels along the way, and you will occasionally be overtaken by them, while they ride in the back of a ute!
There is also a rather incongruous abandoned Ferris wheel halfway along the route.
We always try to time the journey so it is entirely in daylight as visibility can drop dramatically when a sandstorm comes in. At night it can be very cold and being pitch black it is a very hostile environment. If you break down on the way from Dunedin to Waipiata, at some point someone will stop for you and you can ask for help. On the desert highway people will also stop to help, but the chances are that they won’t speak a word of English and straying from your car by yourself could be fatal as it is easy to get lost in the dunes. While at home we have gravel piles along the Pig Route for gritters, along the desert highway you see many bulldozers to clear the shifting sands.
My wife spent time as a young girl in Bahrain as her father was in the Royal Navy. The country has seen huge changes in the intervening years. The causeway has made it far more accessible and the city has many new artificial islands and is home to major events such as the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Bahrain makes a great destination for a weekend break and we visit three or four times a year. Especially as there are no visa issues if we want to meet up with family and friends.
A weekend in Bahrain will be the subject of an upcoming article.
Peter and his wife Deborah have a home in Waipiata and in this blog he aims to contrast life in Saudi Arabia and Central Otago.