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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Weekend visitors. Sorry for the trouble.

Weekend visitors

Saturday, June 05, 2004
Another weekend gone by. In recent months it seems as though the weekend influx of Saudi and Kuwaiti visitors has been on the rise. Now I have no problem against our Saudi and Kuwaiti friends enjoying our island with us -- after all, I myself am a guest here (officially) so it wouldn't make sense for me to keep others out. However I am a bit concerned about the calibre of the personalities we attract here, irrespective of their nationality.

One afternoon last year I happened to be walking around in the diplomatic area. I noticed that there was one car that had been circling the same block several times in search of some place. The driver then stopped his Saudi-registered '92 Chevy Caprice next to where I was walking and rolled down his window to speak to me. He had a truly perplexed look on his face as he was not able to locate his destination. The man, a middle aged Saudi dressed in thobe and dishdasha, then asked me in the most sincere tone of voice: "wayn whiskey? wayn ga7ba?" ("Where is the whiskey? Where are the whores?") At the time I really did not know what to say so I directed him to the Saudi Embassy that happened to be close by, as I'm sure they would have had a better idea than me.

Now what people do in their own privacy is not really of much concern to me. But it worries me that hoardes of Saudis come here every weekend simply for the purpose of finding what the above-mentioned gentleman inquired of me. If I recall the numbers correctly, some 50,000 cars crossed over the King Fahd Causeway this New Year's Eve. (The population of Bahrain is about 650,000 I think). Sure, these guys (yes, guys) are not directly affecting my life in any way, but for these things to be taking place on such a magnitude, it must have a significant social effect.

Now I know that the government has been trying to crack down on the institutions that cater to these type of people. I'm glad they have at least attempted to draw a line between cultural performances, and those "performances" which are just a prelude to a performance of a whole different kind. Yet it doesn't seem as though they have achieved very much yet. One of the rumours that I hear often is that the Saudi government pays the Bahraini government to keep our "entertainment spots" open for the sake of bored Saudi citizens. My sources on this aren't very credible, so don't quote me on it, but these days it's hard to rule out anything.

But surely the most annoying thing about our visiting neighbours is their poor driving skills. Again, I don't mean to judge all of my Saudi and Kuwaiti friends. I'm sure they are fine drivers. However the Saudi and Kuwaiti drivers that are attracted to Bahrain appear to be in need of some lessons (driving, or otherwise). It's been a while since I last had to use my statistics skills, but the rate at which I observe Saudi registered cars driving hazardously in Bahrain is far too high for me to be able to say that it has to do with sampling error. Among their favourite feats are driving on the pavement, creating a fourth lane in the middle of a three-lane highway, parking so as to take up two parking spaces, turning left from the rightmost lane, and exhibiting their middle fingers if you choose not to let them enter your lane from the pavement. I cringe every time I read in the newspaper that some poor fellow was injured after getting hit by a Saudi or Kuwaiti car that was speeding, or broke a red light. Conspicuously, it is very rare to read that the Saudi/Kuwaiti offender was arrested and tried.

So why do we put up with it all then? Well for one thing many of our visitors are here for quite legitimate reasons, which also happens to bring in alot of money and jobs for the economy. As always, everything boils down to money at the end of the day. Are we willing to deal with the "immoral acts" and bad driving that comes part and parcel with the legitimate inflow of money? Right now it seems so. These tourists really seem to drive our economy... just take a drive through town on any weekend and count the number of Saudi license plates that you see while stuck in the traffic jam. Or go to any parking lot and see if you can find any Bahraini license plates at all. The owners of all these foreign vehicles have to eat and sleep and entertain themselves somewhere.

But there must be a way for us to be able to get a better deal. Is it not possible to charge each entering motorist a BD20 traffic levee for the additional hassle they cause on our streets. Yes, I'm against collective punishment too, but it seems in this case that its either us or them who have to deal with it. I don't think it will drive away too many visitors since Dubai is probably too far for most of the tourists that come to Bahrain for their weekend fun. This tax won't save any of the lives, or the inconvenience caused to residents, but it will at least make sure that we aren't paying the admin costs of trouble. Unfortunately, that's the best idea I can think of right now. Does anyone else have any better ideas about what might be done to limit the damage?

Finally, I just want to repeat that I hold nothing against Saudis or Kuwaitis... only those ones that cause havoc on our streets and engage in "immoral acts".
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3 Responses to 'Weekend visitors'

Anonymous Anonymous says:

I am glad that someone is finally talking about this disturbing issue to the public. I am a 20 yr old Bahraini woman and know exactly the trouble those "uncivilized" men cause. Troubles that go beyond traffic jams and poor driving! Yet instead of finding a solution to this growing problem our country plans on building a new bridge between Bahrain and Qatar, which opens a whole new door of issues about to come our way.    

Anonymous Anonymous says:

Well.. as a Saudi who visits Bahrain around once a month on the average I won't say anything other than .. you said the truth!. What you have mentioned reflects very negatively on all Saudis. In the same time, I think you forgot to mention that some other Saudis (not a very small minority) visit Bahrain to watch some movies and buy books (which are not available in their homeland). Bahrain is a beatiful place that doesn't deserve such BAD visitros!. Your government and businessmen are the only ones who can stop the flow of such examples you mentioned.    

Blogger Chanad says:

Thanks for your comments. You're exactly right that most of the Saudi visitors come here to catch a movie, read a book, have a drink, and wander around the malls checking out the ladies/guys (who are often also Saudi), all of which is perfectly legal and socially acceptable.
Unfortunately though, the trouble-making minority are so visible that it is hard to ignore them, and they do great damage to the reputation of people like you who just want to have a fun weekend.

But do keep visiting us!    

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