The Bahraini Juxtaposition
Image by abcdz2000 on Flickr
Driving down the straight highways that take you from one side of the island to the other, you will notice how Bahrain’s ‘landscape’ varies extremely. On the one side you have modern people in designer suits sitting in towering glass skyscrapers which stand testament to the country’s recent financial developments. On the other you will see vast wasteland and unkempt beaches where elderly Bahraini fisherman chat and drink ghawa in their fishing huts reflecting Bahrain’s ancient financial heritage.
Keep going and you’ll come to areas where Bahraini families live in magnificent houses with multiple floors, Romanesque or Greek-style pillars, floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor pools, beautifully landscaped gardens and gold-plated furnishings.
Explore on and you’ll find yourself in the heart of a Bahraini village – a fascinating place to see but a seemingly soul destroying place to live. Playing kids kick footballs around narrow lanes that weave through white and grey paint-peeling buildings which look unsafe to live in. Tiny mosques and holy places (which may by now have been torn down), shops with no signs, posters of religious clerics or local MPs and small black flags are all dotted throughout. Poverty glares at you as you drive through, just that little bit further until you reach a town of expats.
A few main areas house professional expats and the options are growing each day. Large and spacious compounds with a fully-equipped gym, outdoor (and often indoor) swimming pools, Jacuzzi, steam room and children’s playground accommodate a whole host of families of different nationalities who have made Bahrain their home. For the young and single, luxurious high rise apartment buildings with all the same facilities and other perks call to them from the more cosmopolitan areas.
But not all expats live in these conditions for if you take a few slip roads and head into the heart of the city you’ll find the migrant workers and out in the suburbs you will see the labour camps. Yet more poverty watches you as meander your way through streets of stunted apartment blocks with reams of laundry draped over rickety balconies. Within the city you’ll find four or five to a room; in the camps there are countless men sharing countless rooms that they barely get to see because they work countless hours.
This is obviously a very general picture. There are numerous other routes you could have taken but seeing as you only had a couple of minutes I took you this way. Suffice to say the country is an ironic juxtaposition of living standards that will likely never change.