TEACH Bahrain: Cultural, Historical, and Economical Sites

On the final morning of the U.S.-Arab Bilateral TEACH Fellowship, I awoke with with mixed emotions. I felt like most students do the very last day of school. First and foremost, I was excited! Excited for a day of what would include amazing sites in Bahrain. But I was also sullen from knowing the fellowship had reached an end.

Randy, Oktay, and I getting ready to enjoy shaurma, a 
Middle Eastern meat preparation based on the doner kebab 
It would be difficult leaving the other Fellows. We were a close-knit group of educators who shared similar interests and similar approaches to teaching and learning. Conversations while riding in the van gave me inspiration to continue pursuing professional development through field-based experiences. Programs like the Bahrain TEACH Fellowship not only gave me knowledge and understanding about new places, they inspire me to develop news methods for students’ exploration of the world.

Our last day in Bahrain included five site visits. Each outing enlightened me on Bahrain’s culture, history, and economics. These three subjects do not exist in isolation; they are interconnected. By approaching each site from a holistic view, I was able to formulate a better understanding of the site’s context within the Middle East and the world at large. Doing this for each of the five stops helped me make connections between all of the places I had experienced during the fellowship. This kind of interdisciplinary approach to learning is what I strive for my students to experience. Education should emphasize the interconnectedness among content and skills. In doing so, students will become better decision-makers and problem solvers who are ready for the world beyond the classroom.

Stop #1: First Oil Well
The First Oil Well in Bahrain is situated below Jebel Dukhan, and is the first oil well in the Persian Gulf. It was operated by Bahrain Petroleum Company. The oil first spurted from this well on 16th October 1931, and finally began to blow heads of oil on June, 2nd 1932. Bahrain was the first place in the Arabian side of Persian Gulf where oil was discovered, which also coincided with collapse of the world pearl market.

First Oil Well in the Gulf Region was in Bahrain @bilateralteach #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
360-degree image of the first oil well in the Arabian Gulf

Stop #2: Peninsula Farms
Peninsula Farms were established to grow fresh food for the people of Bahrain. They grow local food for local people. Peninsula Farms’ main objective is to contribute to the development of the agricultural sector in Bahrain as well as aiding the country to achieve its goal to be self-sustainable in terms of local fresh produce. In order to combat the desert climate, the farm has custom designed a closed loop cooling system and introduced new flatbed growing trays that have reduced the number of plants but vastly increased the yield.

In addition to sustainable farming, Peninsula Farms produces goat milk soap. Goat milk soap is wonderful for people with dry or sensitive skin, or conditions such as eczema. According to goatmilkstuff.com, “Goat milk contains alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic acid which help remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface.” Goat milk also contains high levels of Vitamin A, which is necessary to repair damaged skin tissue and maintain healthy skin. Besides the health benefits, goat milk soap comes in a variety of scents. I purchased a bar of soap made with frankincense and myrrh.

Stop #3: Tree of Life
The evergreen Tree of Life of Bahrain, or otherwise referred to as Shajarat-al-Hayat by the locals, is approximately 400 years old. It is believed to have been planted in 1583. The tree is covered with green leaves, despite being in the Arabian Desert. It is approximately 9.75 meters tall and a lone tree standing in the desert, with no other vegetation around it. Minimal vegetation can be spotted a few miles away from the Tree of Life. The tree is called the Tree of Life due to its ability to thrive with no obvious source of water.

Tree of Life in Bahrain - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
360-degree image of the Tree of Life

Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) is “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”. BIC opened in 2004 and is used for drag racing, GP2 Series and the annual Bahrain Grand Prix. The 2004 Grand Prix was the first held in the Middle East. The grandstand holds 70,000 spectators.

Bahrain International Circuit Motorway @BilateralTeach #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
360-degree image of Bahrain International Circuit
The Royal Camel Farm is home to over 600 camels of all ages and sizes. The farm was created by the King of Bahrain, Sheik Mohammad as a means of preserving camels in Bahrain. For many in the Middle East, camels are regarded as a symbol of power, wealth, and fertility. A camel’s hump stores up to 80 pounds of fat, which the animal can break down into water and energy when sustenance is not available. These humps give camels their legendary ability to travel up to 100 desert miles without water (National Geographic).

Royal camel farm in Bahrain @BilateralTeach #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
360-degree image of Royal Camel Farm

Stop #6: King Fahd Causeway
The King Fahd Causeway is a 16-mile bridge that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. The causeway is currently the only land link Bahrain has with the outside world, and it is a major contributor to increased Inter-Gulf trade. In terms of passenger traffic, it is one of the busiest in the Middle East. On average, 100,000 residents from Saudi Arabia cross the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain every weekend. After my delightful week in Bahrain, I can see why it is such a popular destination.

I departed Bahrain on the eve of America’s Thanksgiving holiday. I have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for the opportunity to explore Bahrain’s past, experience its present, and learn of its future. I experienced a special part of the world that many people never get to see first-hand. The memories I made in the Kingdom of Bahrain were made possible thanks to the U.S.-Arab Bilateral Chamber of Commerce and their generous sponsors. I am thankful for the memories made with the other nine TEACH Fellows. My understanding of the Arab World was enriched because of the conversations we engaged in each day. Through personal communications and professional exchanges, I have a new sense of purpose in teaching my students about the Middle East and its unique culture. I am eager to share my experience through lesson plans, community programs, education conferences, and personal exchanges.
What do you do when you have a 7-hour layover in London? Take the underground into the city, of course! My first stop was a walk through Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s residence. Next, I strolled through beautiful St. James Park toward Westminster. After taking time to admire the Parliament building, I went for a tour inside Westminster Abbey. At Westminster Abbey more than 3,300 people are buried, and the church has been the setting for every coronation (crowning of king or queen) since 1066. It was amazing to see markers indicating the remains of prominent figures like Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor, and Charles Dickens. After the tour of Westminster, I walked two miles along the Thames River. I ended my London tour by taking in the majesty of Tower of Bridge.

Buckingham Palace - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
360-degree image outside Buckingham Palace
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