TEACH Bahrain: Unforgettable First Day and First Impression

I traveled for over 7,000 miles to reach The Kingdom of Bahrain. As soon as I exited the airport and stepped out into the open air, I knew every mile was worth it. We arrived in the capital city, Manama, at 1AM. TEACH Fellow Randy Martin said it best, “You can taste the Gulf in the air.” He was right. Scent of the sea permeates the streets. Bahrain is an island country in the Persian Gulf or Arabian Gulf as Arab countries call it. The waters’ gentle waves and blue hues contribute to its serenity.

Other U.S.-Arab Bilateral TEACH Fellows and I rode in a van down the empty streets toward our hotel. My initial glimpses of the city intensified my desire to experience it. I felt overwhelmed with excitement and worried I would not fall asleep. Once my head hit the pillow, all my worries disappeared.

My first day in Bahrain began with a leisurely run along the streets surrounding the hotel. I simply could not resist 80-degree weather, especially when it is in November. It was quite the contrast from the snow flurries that bid me farewell just two days before in Kentucky. I rewarded myself for going on a run with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. It was my first taste of Bahrain, and I instantly knew that we were going to get along just fine.
Our first day in Bahrain included several cultural highlights. The outing was a great way to acclimate ourselves to the climate and time change while learning about Bahrain's history at the same time. The first destination was Qala’at Al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort). Archaeological excavations carried out since 1950’s have unearthed artifacts from an mound created by various groups from 2300 BC up to the 18th century. It was once the capital of the Dilmun civilization and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Lunch was our next “cultural highlight.” We went to a restaurant named, House of Coffee. I ordered a traditional Bahraini dish called Chicken Biryani. Biryani is meat and vegetables cooked on rice using Indian spices. Delicious! The cucumber yogurt that accompanied it made for a perfect combination. No Bahraini meal would be complete without a cup of Arabic coffee. Arabic coffee refers to a version of the brewed coffee of Coffea arabica beans. The drink is served in an espresso sized cup. It was so enjoyable that next time I will know to order two.

After lunch we went to the House of Qur'an. This cultural institution contains over 10,000 copies and manuscripts of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. We marveled at ornate copies of the text including a first edition printed in Germany in 1694 and the oldest translated version in Latin in Switzerland in 955.

Opening prayer of the Qur'an read by our tour guide.

Palace Gates
Day met night as we toured Bahrain National Museum. I could hear calls to prayer recited from a nearby mosque. Traditionally, Muslims are called to five scheduled daily prayers by a formal announcement, known as the adhan. Many people leave their homes or places of work and go to the mosque to pray. In Bahrain, there is a blurred line between religion and everyday life.

It was great reflecting on day one in Bahrain with the other teachers. Each Fellow offers a unique perspective to what we are all experiencing for the first time: Bahrain. I am in the midst of a highly talented group of professionals. If it were not for their amiability, I would be intimated. My first day in The Kingdom of Bahrain did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. I am thankful for the Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce TEACH Initiative. The program is giving me the opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel a small but very special piece of the Arab World.
TEACH Fellows 2018
Photo Credit: Sukejna Kovacevic
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