Sunday, 29 June 2014

My My it's July - Well almost

Ripening dates
So the 29th of June it is. Hard to believe the two months that have just gone by.  One in Australia and another back in Oman, since my last post with Ramadan having started today. Our third one in Oman, how time flies.

Well the Australian trip was an absolute whirlwind. A week here, a week there with a lot of driving and a lot of people. Splitting our time between Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne is going to be a fixture of our Australian sojourns now, as both Rufus and BJ live in Brisbane, our home is in Canberra and the rest of our families in and around Melbourne. Guess that's going to tie us to a lot of intra Australia commuting. Sigh. This time we hired a campervan, which was a good decision as while it was old and a bit clunky it got us safely from place to place with plenty of luggage space and on the occasion we needed it a bed for the night. AND it was cheaper than a rental car!   
Cheap and cheerful

We arrived home exactly a month ago, to an Oman where the temperature was on the rise. As we drove to the airport in Melbourne it was 14 degrees - when we left the airport in Muscat it was 45 degrees! And the temperatures have largely stayed up there since. Hot, hot, hot.

So what have we done this month? Not a lot to be honest. The first couple of weeks were spent getting back into the groove, letting the cats know we hadn't really deserted them and catching up at work. So no not a lot of out and about. Until these past two weekends that is.

Katrina storming Bid Bid Fort
Two weekends at home without going anywhere was a bit much. So on the third weekend we loaded up the 4wd and headed off for a place called Bid Bid. We were told it had a fort, the papers said it would be open and a blogg post or two said it was interesting - promising. Also only half an hour down the road. So after a quick Google Maps search the fort was located (not found said Google, but really rather obvious in the pictures!).  And then will wonders never cease the GPS said "yeah I know where that is..D'uh you don't?"

Omani Bucolic Idyll
Our drive to Bid Bid was rather uneventful. The fort was duly found and not unexpectedly closed! So we hung around the outside taking pictures of the fort and surrounding date farms and then simply drove off into the Wadi for some 4wd action before going home with a local pottery water barrel for the kitchen. It is date season here and the date palms were overburdened with fruit and really rather peaceful. The date grove was rather green and peaceful. Being towards the middle of the day it was also rather quiet, all in all very pleasant.

This weekend just gone we jumped a plane to Bahrain for the weekend, as an early birthday thing for Katrina. The original plan was to go to Dubai, but by the time I got to making the booking it was much cheaper to go to Bahrain and as we hadn't been there before it was a no brainer really.  Similar flight times.... SO Thursday night we hit the airport (Hint - Muscat airport has next to no long term parking now, luckily work is under 10 minutes walk away.) and but a matter of a few hours later we were in Bahrain, forking over a nominal sum for a visa and then off to our hotel, courtesy of their complimentary pick up. We can highly recommend the Palace Boutique Hotel in Bahrain, 20 rooms, pool, food, bar, restaurant....  But by the time we hit the hotel it was all getting a bit late so we took ourselves off to bed reasonably quickly, after a short study of the tourist maps.

Friday dawned, what else but bright, sunny and hot. Well it is officially summer after all. Breakfast was followed by more map study and the dawning realisation that we should have arranged a hire car. No problems the nice hotel people soon sorted that out and we had a Yaris for the weekend at a reasonable rate. Tally ho! And I swear I could hear the GPS calling from Muscat saying "D'uh Forgotten something?" Yes it has Bahrain maps which would have saved us a fair bit of mucking around.

Traditional Bahraini Garb

Trading Seals
As is pretty much our habit we started with the Bahrain museum. A nice, reasonable sized and very informative museum. Manama, the capital of Bahrain, has history dating back thousands of years. And the proof is there in the museum. It's a good first stop, because it tells the stories in a nice simple fashion, setting you up for the rest of Bahraini tourism, which doesn't have much in the way of informative information. Katrina was especially taken by the early (2000 odd BC) trading seals.  Interestingly the main floor of the museum has a map of Bahrain on it, which has lines running from points to various of the exhibits in the large entrance area. Really rather well done I thought.

From the museum we took off for Sheikh Khalifa's house. It's a rather large house laid out in traditional Bahraini style. A key feature of the house is the wind tower - an early form of aircon, absolutely essential in the climate. The wind tower has four air channels which allow breezes top blow into the room below, no matter the wind direction. Rather large wooden flaps can be opened or closed to allow or shut off the flow. It was stinking hot when we were there, but the gentlest of breezes coming through the wind tower made the room significantly cooler than anywhere else in the House.
Wind Tower outside
Wind Tower inside

But by then, after struggling with the back streets and the museum Katrina's knee said called time and we headed back to the Hotel and a couple of refreshing hours in the pool. Followed by a rather nice but rather expensive restaurant dinner and bed.
A thught for Sui
Some culture is universal......

Saturday dawned bright, sunny and hot. Our first outing for Saturday was the National Craft Industries center. Open 7 days from 0700!
Yippee, yeah, but no. We got there to find closed doors and the only people there were the glass workers, must be a dedicated lot. They told us that yes the website says 7 days, but they're never open Fridays and Saturdays, not even the craft shop. So we looked at the glasswork -
Bahrain Fort
which we greatly enjoyed and then took off for the Qalat al Bahrain - Bahrain Fort.

A massive pile of rock it is and that is mostly what it is. A UNESCO site under restoration and excavation since the sixties. The fort was impressive, but the museum on the beach below was even more so, especially as the temp was well above 40. The fort grew over a few millennia and was in use until the late 16c when it was abandoned and by the sixties very little was visible above the encroaching sand. That's not the case now, as we walked the 300 meters from car to fort the true scale slowly became apparent. Wandering through the ruins and the excavated and intact parts of the fort was fascinating. Unfortunately the only signage throughout the castle were for the art installations, or a simple number for the audio tour -  which you had to get from the museum on the beach below, but as we went straight to the fort..............
It used to b e a well

It was hot and getting hotter so we retreated to the museum below and inhaled water. Then we hit the museum. We had already seem similar things the previous day, but there was enough interesting differences to keep us happy and interested. More seals for Katrina, some tombs and diorama's. I was most impressed with the scale model of the smelting furnace. There was stuff and other stuff mixed in with other stuff..

The smelting furnace

From there we headed for some shopping, after all we hadn't bought any souvenirs yet. On our way to the fort Katrina had noticed a large mall at the side of the highway boasting Bahraini made arts and crafts. We wended our way through some back streets to the mall and went in to the small stalls. In the end we came out with a drink coaster that has an image of one of those seals that Katrina so admired and a painted rock that kinda looks like a camel - so it's in our camel collection now.

As we drove around Bahrain I had wondered about the police cars parked in reasonable permanently looking posts where the police always seemed to be looking away from the road as we went by. Well that's because they were. In the streets around the craft mall there was a lot of graffiti and we saw two makeshift barricades ready and waiting to be put back in place. As we drove out a little man on a motorbike drove up to one of the police points to deliver the pizza lunch!  And that was Bahrain. We will go back.

Oh got in the car this morning to be greeted with "D'uh did you miss me?" from the GPS"
Me "Shut up I know the way to work!"

And as of today it's Ramadan. The Holy month of Ramadan a month of celebration and fasting. So in the spirit of the times "Ramadan Kareem" to you all.

I do have to say to our friend Bob - get well soon, falling off motorbikes is not good for you. Stop doing it!!

No comments:

Post a Comment