Perched on the edge of the bed in our Gulf Hotel room, the window is cast open, affording a stellar view of the main area of economic commerce for the archipelago nation of Bahrain; my momentum slows, knowing the end of this visit is nigh.
Whilst still at Udhailiya we met up with a group of teachers one evening to go to the sand dunes just outside camp. Off the paved roads, bucking and speeding to keep atop the crust of the sand, if we lose momentum we sink and settle.
Out past a Bedouin camp, as the camels were being brought in for the night. No herding dog or cowboys here; rather, a pearly white Escalade rounds them up and manages the procession toward the canvass tent. A paradigm of Cognitive Dissonance!
It seems that when ARAMCO came to the government seeking land and mineral rights, permission was granted, provided the open lands be left for Bedouin people to roam. Regarded warmly by the more experienced ex-pats, we heard tales of these people as we gathered around the picnic and fire.
We heard several stories of overnight desert camp-outs, when they would come ’round to check who has meandered onto their turf. Providing the right curiosity and timing, they will sometimes invite you back to their tents. “It can be a rather long affair which involves taking tea as the sun sets.”
The EMS nurses regard these people highly, “oof but they are tough,” they exclaim, relating tales of femurs snapped by a kick from a camel. A local explained, “The camel, you must be careful never to disrespect him before his wife. If you do, he will wait until his time and you can know he will make revenge on you.” Bedouin men: only as tough as their women and their livestock.
*Speaking of tough, we did in fact manage to get stuck on our way back from the bonfire. Imagine, if you will, 3 women, in the dark, pushing a Range Rover out of a sand drift. I’ve done it in snow plenty of times. I remember watching as a kid when the missionary van got buried on the beach. Extra play time.
A few days and a morning of bus rides later, Omi and I rolled onto the Ras Tanura beach. While resident ex-pats assure us beaches such as Half Moon Bay and Shark’s Tooth are much more ‘comfortable’ (ie-Western) we wore our most modest swimwear and I rather enjoyed witnessing the Saudi Families, out walking along the beach, introducing their tiny ones to the sea; squealing, dancing and photographing the scenery. Neither Omi nor I felt comfortable taking photos of people, as it is regarded as highly disrespectful; particularly when it comes to their women. So enjoy this picture of a jelly-fish, instead.
For two  days we lounged in the sun and sand, watching massive tankers take to the seas along an aquatic highway. I took myself for a long, romantic walk along the beach; filling up four  burlap sacks I found with trash (didn’t make a dent). The reward? Two  giant oil boogers on the sole of my feet. It took a lot of nail polish remover and elbow grease to scrub the stains out.
When I launched into the gulf for a quick swim, Omi was accosted by several lifeguards at once, begging her to call me out of the water. Their reasons: water is not clear, sting rays, sea serpents, and/or rocks. Fortunately, by the next day, all these things had cleared up, so we took a sanctioned, salty swim.
Another bus to taxi maneuver, through the desert and over the sea, across the King Fahd Causeway to Bahrain we go!
In the middle of the 6 mile bridge was an island built up for both sides of customs. 6 check points, a bit more bridge, and we stood staring at the towering Gulf Hotel. For 2 days we luxuriated.
I was fascinated to get to tour the Al Fateh Mosque, a new (younger than me!) and elegant place of worship, along side the Islamic Study Center.
It has been nearly 2 weeks since I returned State-side yet thoughts and impressions still aren’t synthesized; it was a lot to take in.
A simple one I can leave you with: potential for growth is commensurate to how far you are willing to step from your comfort zone.