Darlene Burke and her sister, Sue Burke, took the opportunity while living in Kuwait to visit another Middle Eastern country, Bahrain—a visit made extra special because of a connection with members of Bahrain’s extended royal family.
My sister and I had the opportunity to live and work in Kuwait for three years, working at a private girls’ school. We explored and learned about the rich history of Kuwait and also travelled to nearby destinations. Kuwait is a city state that became very rich in the mid 1900s with the discovery of oil. Since then, it has become a very modern country with all the amenities that come with wealth. The country is famous for its high-end shopping malls and it is not uncommon to see expensive vehicles on the road.
There is a large ex-pat community in Kuwait and my sister and I enjoyed living “the good life” that comes with that experience and meeting and working with people from many different countries. Since Kuwait is located at the tip of the Arabian Gulf, it is a great springboard for travel and something many ex-pats take advantage of.
Bahrain – ‘the kingdom of the two seas’ and known for its natural pearls – is a chain of approximately 30 islands in the Arabian Gulf. It is country with a strong interest in preserving its architecture and history, and is an excellent introduction to Arab culture. While staying in the capital city, Manama, we toured the many diverse souks and enjoyed the friendly local citizens. The countryside is very lush for a desert climate and there are many flower gardens and beautiful parks. The “modern” is very aesthetically tied in with the “traditional”.
Our trip to Bahrain was enhanced because one of our students is a member of the extended royal family and her mother assisted us in seeing places in Bahrain not open to everyone. The Sheikha (the student’s mother) and her sister are dedicated to restoring historic properties and they had their chauffeur take us to some of these sites and watch the artisans at work, which was very enjoyable. One property was Al Jasah House where a former king had lived for many years. It was intriguing to listen to the Sheikha relay her family history and show us artifacts from that era.
Another unique experience we shared with the Sheikha was spending a day at a winter desert camp. The highlight of the visit was enjoying a traditional meal with other members of her family. Before leaving the desert, we went to the Tree of Life which is a very large, very old mesquite tree growing in the middle of the desert where there is no other vegetation around.
For two sisters, it was a memorable trip and a wonderful introduction to another Arab culture. At that time (2005) it was a good country to visit and safe for women travelling on their own. I was saddened to hear of the recent unrest in Bahrain as they struggle to resolve their domestic issues.
Photo credits: Darlene Burke
© Riding the buses 2011