We carry our bags into the front office around noon and when our reservation is confirmed we thank the van for waiting before they leave. Our paperwork from base said our room price average was $153 per night. We are getting the military rate at BD56, instead of the regular rate of BD92 for a two bedroom – not just a two bed. Two guys help Caleb with his canvas duffel bag to the second door to the left of the main entrance – room 9803, with a 5 above the door. One guy gives Caleb a tour of the place while I stand in the hallway in pure awe. I’m not looking at a hotel that I’m used to, not even a four-star one that my mother has described. What I see is a fancy apartment.
In the living room is a couch, loveseat, and chair with a flat screen on the opposing wall. There is a large window overlooking the pool and ocean that takes up another wall. There is an artsy dining table with four chairs across from a closet. I walk into the first bedroom and the houseboy is showing Caleb things outside another large window – all covered with thick blinds to keep the heat out. The houseboy leaves and I begin to explore.
The master bedroom comes with a large, stiff but comfy, bed and tall closets. The bathroom has standing shower with rain shower-head and a bathtub. The other room has another full bathroom minus tub. In the hallway is a half-bath. To the left of the entrance door is a lounge with a couch and a glass desk with similar looking plastic chair that also has a full bathroom. Across the hall is the kitchen – complete with fridge, washer/dryer machine, and stove.
There are mirrors with fancy frames, abstract paintings and macro photos enlarged on the walls, and artistic main ceiling lights with plenty of other bulbs installed to get the amount of mood lighting that you want – each room coming with a set of three light switches or for the bathrooms – two lights and a vent. The walls are white and tan and the floor marbled tile or hardwood except for the closet that comes with a rough tile floor. After the initial excitement wears off – it’s time to take a shower.
Caleb starts to unpack his bag in the main closet. I can sit by the tub and shave and then use the stand-up shower. I turn the water on – perhaps not to warm it up but to cool it off – and then turn the switch for the rain shower head as there are two in the stand-up. I take one of the glass doors off its track trying to close it to keep the water in. I open it again slightly to reach my hand in. When I step in I realize it was pointed outward, not down.
The shampoo and lotion supplied by the hotel are scented for men – oops. The closets are stocked with cotton slippers and I put a pair on. They can keep our feet warm and free of the dust that is sure to accumulate. Caleb checks the visibility of our sheer living room curtain and all is private in our room. Once we don’t look like we’ve been on a plane for three days it’s time to explore. It’s not yet Ramadan but the three nearby restaurants are closed. There is a woman in a bikini near the pool with her three sons. I walk down to the beach at 1:30 and the water is nice, but I feel too tired to do anything else but go back to the room.
Caleb laid down on the bed – perhaps to text someone or look at the delivery menu. Earlier I had turned the thermostat from 19 to 22 (66 to 72) degrees because I was cold getting out of the shower. I lay down beside Caleb and then wake up three or four hours later, maybe more, and he has turned it up to 23 because he says I was shivering. Now it’s time to eat, so we head to the Lebanon/Afghanistan restaurant – Yamin Jana. Most of the outside tables are reserved, but we find a cozy spot along the wall on a bench and then Caleb notices the women in the back smoking the sheesha.
We are offered some, but Caleb declines and orders the bread antake with oven vegetables, fattoosh, and makdus with two teas. Our drinks arrive first in fancy hurricane-style glasses with mint and lemon and the taste is something special. We sip on them for a while and I’m trying to take in everything – the lighting, all the portable air conditioners, and the weaved pattern decorating a support beam. A large table near us is soon filled with men from Saudi Arabia and the U.K. They discuss what different words mean in their languages, talk about Robby Williams – a famous pop-star, and about working less during Ramadan while fasting.
We try the makdus first. The menu said it was stuffed mini-eggplant with walnuts, etc. and the waiter had discouraged Caleb from ordering it at first. I wondered if it was because it was too spicy or to plain, but it turns out it was more pickled than we expected. This didn’t stop us from enjoying it. Next was the fattoosh – veggies with fried chips and Afghan-style naan bread. It was light, refreshing, and flavorful. The fun came when our main dish appeared and I saw the chicken on it staring me in the face. Caleb tried a piece to make sure and verified that it was.
I laughed on the inside at this awkward moment as Caleb tried to take care of the ordeal, both of us not wanting to shout out, but not sure if we should approach them, wave our hand, or whistle. I finally got eye contact with one of the employees and motioned him over. Our waiter came and Caleb explained that the menu clearly states antake with EITHER veggie OR chicken – not both. The waiter returned with the menu for clarification and agreed to fix the issue.
I ate with my right hand and put my fork in my left, but noticed that the guys were using both of their hands to tear the bread so there would be less social awkwardness with me doing it too. I think they brought a guy our order and he sent it back too. We ate as much as we could with what was left on the table and then Caleb was ready to go. I heard one of the ladies in the back say loudly, “Excuse Me” and a waiter was quickly at the table. Caleb tried this and then had to slightly raise his hand to separate his voice from all the other men on the patio. He made the sign for box with his hands but asked for the check.
We got the bill while waiting on our corrected order to come out. Bahrain, like Canada, has the portable credit card machine – it makes the States seem so old-fashioned. Had we waited to get ours delivered to the table we would’ve gotten it sooner, but I was ok with the man dining with friends to get his corrected first. I’m hoping that with two mistakes in one night the restaurant may consider amending the menu.
Checks may include a 15% fee and a 5% government levy, but I didn’t see a spot for a tip and we didn’t leave anything on the table. We were given the option to pay in dollar or dinar and Caleb let the waiter choose local currency. I will find out if the exchange rate fee will be the same for paying with credit as getting money from the ATM. A man was seated at the table next to us and Caleb pointed out the bottom of his foot. I wonder if it makes a difference being under the table. We could smell his hookah and then our bag arrived.
Caleb found the music channel. Some videos have women beautifully dressed playing the piano, others with their butts hanging out playing the harp, and others dancing in tank tops and short dresses behind the man singing. I look forward to finding some new long dresses to wear. The dogs were due to arrive at 9:45 and at 10:22 I’m becoming panicky. It’s the weekend and I’ve been warned about drunk Saudis crashing their expensive cars in intersections. That’s easy to avoid if you stay off the road at night, but if our dogs don’t get to the airport until midnight… We might get lucky in that a lot of the clubs and bars stay open until 4am. In a country with extreme heat they are smart to make the most of the night-time, but we also have a curfew to think about that expires at 1am.
Master Chief texts Caleb at 11pm and says he will meet us outside in 15 minutes. Twice that amount of time goes by – and while we wait we see cars speeding through the one-way parking lot and hear the guys getting rowdy and starting to dance as they celebrate their soccer team on TV. I begin to notice all the different license plates, the employees ask if we want shuttle or taxi and offer for us to sit inside while we wait, and then Master Chief pulls up in a Mercedes-Benz that has a netting over the sunroof opening.
He’s super friendly and keeps us in conversation during the ride. He gets us close to the airport and then gets directions via phone on how to get to the open side of the DHL building where the dogs are. We give the gate guard our IDs at midnight in exchange for visitor badges and wait inside for ten minutes. The guy handling our paperwork comes back asking for doggy passports and then lets me go outside to see them locked in their crates with zip-ties.
Caleb and Chief go to the ATM to get cash to finish paying all the import fees while I sit and wait – and realize it’s 1am when my curfew is supposed to expire. The guys are interested in what country I am from and whether those are dogs or cats in the containers. I watch a man with Brazil either shaved or sharpied on the side of his head navigate a fork lift like I have never seen when he drops a box weighing 3,500 pounds. Another man offers me a seat and yet another an industrial fan that I point at the dogs.
They appear in one piece and a bit upset, but Piggy recognizes my voice. The last time they were offered water was at 9:40 and I don’t know if that was morning or night. I get another guy (there are lots that work here) to cut the zip-ties on the cage doors so we have one less thing to worry about. He lets me open the door but reminds me not to let them out. We have to drive the car around to the inside of another gate to pick them up and the man who handled our paperwork hands me a bottle of water for the dogs which Piggy begins to drink immediately.
Caleb loads the crates into the car with Piggy beside me in the back seat and Sparky behind her with the seat folded down. I’m glad to have them in the air cooling down and it encourages Sparky to drink. We get dropped off in front, Caleb delivers the dogs to the front door, and I drag Sparky in as he’s releasing Piggy. We put their leashes on, take them outside and down the stairs. We walk past the apartments on the sidewalk, where Caleb gets hit in the face with a piece of paper blowing in the wind and laughed at by the four passing girls, and around the corner to the grass. As we are walking back a guy slowly approaches and I wonder if it’s because Caleb and I are holding hands. He says hi as he rolls away and I realize he either took a picture or a video.
Chief was telling us about the exotic feature of dogs in the area and I begin to wonder if it could be what the guy in the car was fascinated with. Back in the room the dogs will drink another few ounces and eat a bowl and a half of food each. Sparky is enjoying rubbing in the carpet and Piggy is cuddled behind Caleb’s legs on the couch – a good spot to type this using the wide arm. Time to let them pee again and then go to sleep ignoring the loud guys at the poolside lounge.