Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shopping in Manama, Bahrain

We celebrated Easter on the ship. Look at the wonderful display that the chefs and kitchen staff created!

Tremendous detail…

This huge chocolate egg was rotating.

Beautiful birds…

On the left you can see a chocolate chef!

A fantastic job!

Here we are advancing up the Strait of Hormuz. The stars represent the ports in the three countries we will be visiting next...Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

We passed this ship which was bringing cranes to the port for loading and unloading containers.

After three relaxing sea days, and a chance to recuperate from India, we were ready to go in the port of Manama, Bahrain. (When I hear Manama, Bahrain, in my mind, all I can think of is the Sesame Street song "Manamana.") It’s hard to believe we are in this part of the world.

Bahrain is the smallest and oldest Arab state. It consists of 33 islands strategically located in the center of the Arab world. It was the capital of Delman, the first civilization in the Arab peninsula from 2500 BC to 539 BC. Bahrain had the first formal education system in the Gulf States with a girls' school in 1899. In 1932 oil well No. 1 was drilled in Bahrain, leading to the first discovery of oil in Arabia.
Bahrain’s main economy, until the discovery of oil, was pearling. The whole community was involved in one way or another and Bahrain’s pearls are amongst the rarest in the world.

Bahrain was a protectorate of Great Britain until 1908. In 1971 it achieved total independence although a strong relationship between the two countries continues. Queen Elizabeth is said to be a regular visitor.

Currently, Bahrain is working to develop a more diversified economy with major construction work underway. It refines a large quantity of Saudi oil, which it receives through undersea pipes.

This US troop ship was in port when we arrived.

And these US navy boats were keeping watch on anyone approaching. It's always a comforting sight!

We had some guidelines to follow about our dress for the day, but also our behaviour. You certainly wouldn’t want to be openly gay in this part of the world.

There were a couple of ship’s tours to take, but there was also a complimentary shuttle bus to take you to a local mall, which we decided to do. Don't be late!

We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we got a huge welcome inside the port. A lady with beautifully henna-ed hands was passing out sweets, and a gentlemen was offering Bahrain coffee. We were told it is considered rude to turn down the coffee, so we all made sure to take a cup! There were lots of photographers snapping our pictures. We were a little puzzled by all the activity, and then we found out it was the first time the Pacific Princess had been to Bahrain. I think they were very happy to have tourists!

There were lots of treats inside the terminal…like we need more food! I love Arabic writing.

The first thing we noticed (after how clean it was) is that there was a tremendous amount of construction going on.

And many uniquely shaped buildings.

This building has wind turbines…

Very modern architecture…

Wow! This will remind you who's in power...

The Grand Prix (Formula One) was going to be here from April 20-22, and there was lots of promotion for it, including checkered flags all down the streets.

And then we arrived at the mall. What a mall! These two seem to like it!

And we did too. Fantastic shopping, not that we did a lot…

I guess this is how you spell Sephora in Arabic. I got a new blush and lipstick.

After visiting a bookstore (I got my fix of magazines), a supermarket (it was so big they call it a hypermarket!) a pharmacy and a coffee shop, we were happy to head back to the ship. That was fun!

We wanted to visit the water park called Wahoo! in the mall, but you needed to buy a ticket. It looks like it would be quite an adventure.

Wonderful highways…

More unusual buildings…no square shapes here.

I believe this was a cultural centre.

This is the Al-Fateh Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world.

These huge boulders are ready to absorb any water that might come over the breakwater.

And then we were back to the port. We were stopped at the port and a US marine got on the shuttle bus with a port official to check us out. He got a warm welcome. Nice to know they’re looking out for us!

The photographers were still there snapping photos as we got off the bus, and Jim and I were interviewed by what we think was the local TV. They asked us what we thought of Bahrain, what the people were like and if we would come back. Our answers to them..."Beautiful and modern. Very friendly. Yes!"

Manama was a very pleasant surprise!