Shopping Fair

With souk-sista, friend and fellow craft enthusiast – Heba, as my guide, I recently girded up with my scarf and comfortable shoes and together with thousands of Bahraini and Saudi shopping enthusiasts, headed into the Bahrain Exhibition Center for the Shopping Experience of the Year – aka, The Bahrain Autumn Fair.

Nine Days of bargaining, cajoling, haggling, arguing, debating, but mostly, in the true spirit of  this area – charming, customers into purchasing goods from all across the Middle East and  Asia.

Seven hundred and fifty stalls of wonder…

A rolling maze of a souk,

offering pottery from Hebron, Linen from India, Furniture from Syria and Afghanistan, carpets from Turkey and Iran, shoes from Oman, wraps, throws and scarves from Pashmina, spices and incense from all over and dresses from everywhere else…

Not to be outdone by their fellow traders though, the sweetest bargains on the floor came from the Yemen Honey Sellers. These guys roll a sale off their tongue as smooth as an Ed Sheeran lyric and back it up with quiet smiles and deep brown honey enhanced eyes. With seemingly little effort they draw you into a world of desert plains and forested mountains. One is assured that in these hills one will find the most special bees that produce the most special honey, in the world, a cure for many, many aliments including  marital-bed disinterest and child bearing problems. When Sarah suggested that a taster from the ‘Only For Married’ honey pot was perhaps not appropriate, being single and all – this too was not an insurmountable problem as the honey seller himself was still single ….

Unfortunately for him his camel and saber-tooth tiger count was a little short, and anyway Sarah, while enjoying the taste and shopping sensation, wasn’t falling over herself to hit the road with a Honey Seller, … but as far as the healing power of that divinely nutty, cinnamon, gingery, spiced honey goes, those ‘charm a minute’ honey guys might be onto something; the overwhelmingly delicious, heaven on a spoon, golden liquid, is fabulous.

Loaded with honey, pottery and other bits and pieces of gorgeousness, we did eventually managed to drag ourselves away from the sounds, colour and delight of it all – relatively unscarred and before the spend got a little haram; exhausted but inspirited with the knowledge that we had helped to make a small contribution to the continuation of trade in the Middle East.

Celebrating Middle Eastern Craft, Shopping and Honey- First Quarter 2017

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Festive Bahrain

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We arrived back in Bahrain on the 21st December after an admin trip home to South Africa, unsure what to expect as we headed towards Christmas in the Middle East. Our flight touched down in the evening and to our surprise Manama was ablaze with red and white lights.

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The 16 of Dec is Bahrain’s National Day and the Island State goes big!  Every inch of the city-scape is lit up – including the palm trees.The national colours, red and white… add to what feels like a Christmas atmosphere: This included an enormous Santa and his full crew of reindeer splashed across the side of a skyscraper! Eric pointed out this rather Christmas like theme to Anif, our driver, who insisted that these where National Day lights, not Christmas…but somehow it is hard to ignore 30 meters of the ‘Man in Red’ flying across a building..  Perhaps someone ordered the wrong box…but luckily red and white !

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The Middle East or certainly Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar celebrate the Gregorian New Year too, perhaps due to the influence of their huge expat populations?  Dubai currently holds the  number one position for ‘Place to Be’  with all number of events and rocking parties taking place on the 31st, at some seriously rocking prices.

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Since our arrival last year, Bahrain seems to have rolled from one celebratory event into the next..Shortly after landing we noticed the atmosphere warm up for Eid-al-Adha, an Islamic festival commemorating Ibrahim’s (or Abraham’s) obedience. There is a festive spirit in the air competing with the smell of goat, used by certain Southern Asian Muslim communities as a part of a sacrifice re-enactment ritual which might account for the increased presence of these creatures on the back of bakkies (pick-ups) at this time.

Eid  is rapidly followed by the Arabic New Year.  Lunar based, this date changes a bit each year and coincidences with Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca – considered the largest yearly gathering of people world-wide. Along the coastline of Bahrain, little baskets of plants can be found washed ashore – a Bahraini tradition created for the children who stay home while their parents take the holy journey. The seeds, planted at the beginning of the journey, begin to sprout around the time of the pilgrims return. These baskets are then sent off in the water in the direction of the holy place with love and wishes for a safe journey back.

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While many of the Arabic Elite spend this holiday period time hanging out in smart hotels with private beaches – where you will find gorgeous young bikini clad Arabic girls racing their wet bikes – or perhaps on the tracks racing their thoroughbred camels,

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the general populous let their hair down in simpler ways…

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The water-parks and Malls are packed out and as the weather cools in the early evenings families arrive to picnic and swim.

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Boys and their toys come out to play, including a bit of horse dipping,

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and as the sun sets the families pack up and the evening crowd arrive filling up the large stretches of empty land along certain parts of the coast line as the Bahrani gather for a bit of drag racing…

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as if there isn’t enough dust already..

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And now that 2015’s final quarter of festivities has come to an end, the post season sales are on and Bahrain is celebrating yet again with a 30 day shopping festival. SHOP BAHRAIN runs from late December through to the end of January and includes an outdoor Ice Rink among the attractions and sales that I suspect give London a run…

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all of which culminate in the final blast – The Bahrain International Airshow.

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So that’s how it rolls,this side of the Gulf, come year end, and as they say: A  Very Merry Everything and a Happy Ever After…

Celebrating Festive Occasions where-ever you may be…January 2016