Thursday, August 22, 2013

Manama, Bahrain

           A few of us from the base made a trip to Bahrain.  The drive from Riyadh to Bahrain is approximately four hours. Before crossing the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, we stopped in Al Khobar for a bathroom break then on to Manama which is the capital of Bahrain and also the smallest Arab nation in the Middle East. Upon entering the city, I immediately noticed the tall skyscrapers and exceptionally beautiful architecture.   

The living accommodation of choice was the Ritz Carlton. We all know that the Ritz Carlton is known for its uncompromising service and renowned lavish interiors, so we knew that we were not in for nothing ordinary at this Ritz and was not surprised by the picturesque view of the Gulf and the city of Manama. We immediately checked in so we could freshen up before having a bite to eat. As I was getting ready, I admired the night lit view of the manicured grounds from the 9th floor. I also wondered if my king sized bed covered with an antique white duvet comforter and bedding which is featured in many of the Ritz-Carlton’s, was as comfy as it looked. For now, hunger was setting in fast and I would entertain that thought later.

There were several restaurants located inside the Ritz. We were so famished that we just chose the first one we saw. It was called the Plums Restaurant. We were immediately seated. The restaurant was small but had a cozy atmosphere. The décor was modern, intimate and dimmed but the art deco brought the room to life with the interesting wall art of wine bottles and hats. For starters, we shared the calamari, which was very scrumptious. Since it was late, we decided to have a light fare, so I had the Caesar salad with shrimp with creamed spinach. My colleagues had the Seared Duck Foie Gras and grilled asparagus. We found out that if you ordered a steak, you actually get to select from an assortment of knives! The entrées were a bit pricey but the staff was accommodating and very attentive.

Manama is known for its nightlife and alcohol is legal but we were there during the beginning of Ramadan, so music and drinking was suspended until after Eid Holiday. After a great meal and shower, I had only one thing on my mind; try out the bed that looked like you are floating on a cloud. Well the looks were not deceiving because once I climbed into the bed all I remember was that the sheets were so big and soft….the rest of the evening was a wrap!

The next morning I got up early because I was well rested from my “Ritz Carlton sleep experience” and wanted to walk the grounds before it got too hot.  The view from the room did no justice as I roamed the manicure grounds. I walked along the path that ran adjacent to the hotel’s beachfront. What a welcomed sight to see green grass and blue water which is not the norm in Riyadh. So I strolled slowly and took pleasure in my surroundings as long as I could before the heat and humidity forced me to retreat indoors.

I decided to go to the Lobby Lounge located near the front desk of the hotel. The Lounge, while being very cozy with a view of the pool was a great place to sip on some tea (twenty different types) along with some scrumptious cookies, while I waited for some friends to pick me up for the day.

My friends and I decided to do some shopping and later grab some dinner.  We thought it would be too hot to shop at the Bab el-Bahrain Souk (means market in Arabic) district, which is a popular place in Bahrain. So we went to one of the largest malls in the area; Bahrain City Centre. Unlike Riyadh malls, there is a movie theatre and to my surprise a water park!  We had seen all of the movies that were playing so we decided to have an early dinner at P.F. Chang’s. Good Asian cuisine mixed with great company before meeting back up with the group I traveled with to go to VIVA Karting Track.
          For those enthusiasts who love to get the adrenaline rushing through the thrill of racing, VIVA Karting Track is the place to go!  The racetrack was about a 30 minute drive from the hotel. Once we arrived we went to the club house to register and pay for our racing sessions. I was a bit apprehensive to register being that I am in no way a thrill seeker of any sort. Speed and heights are just not my idea of excitement. But, I didn’t want to be the “baby” in the group, so I put on my big girl smile and slowly handed the attendant my fee.

          Next was for the ladies and gents to go to the changing rooms and “suit up”; overalls, gloves and helmets. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am so glad that we had a safety brief! This was my first time participating in this type of venue so I surely did not want to have to fake my way through this! Now it was time to get in our cars. Why did my car have to be the first car; leader of the pack!! The attendant yelled, “Take off!”  And take off, I did!! I pushed the accelerator so hard; I lost control of my car and ran virtually off the track! Once I regrouped and lined my car back forward, I decided to go a bit slower. After about 10 minutes and my group speeding past me twice, I decided to just call it quits, get unsuited and just watch everyone else race.  At the end of every race, the score is sent to your email. I came in tenth place.............I did say that speed wasn’t my thing!

I will have to go back to visit Bahrain when I have more time so I can visit some landmarks (i.e. museums, mosque and Tree of Life) and when it is not a Muslim holiday so I can check out the nightlife as well! 
All the best,

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