Ahlan wa sahlan from Kuwait and Bahrain!
These two gulf states are so small we visited them in rapid succession, and what a trip they have been. Their infrastructure is more outdated than their neighbors, but holds on to more of their cultural roots. We just visited the ultra-modern, luxuriant Dubai and Doha, so it could be easy to compare destinations; however, the cities of Kuwait City and Manama were both lovely and had some real highlights for us. We actually appreciated their size because it gave us a chance to feel like we got the whole picture when we visited. For some places we travel to, the nations are so vast that we could spend a year there and never truly see half of it, but with these city-states, we felt we got a good sense.
While we always enjoy so many different aspects of visiting a new country. We found that our favorite thing about our time in both of these countries was the food. We ate so much: loaves of bread larger than my torso, boats of hummus, and dates, lots and lots of dates. Both nations had souqs in their capitals with stalls specifically dedicated to dates. This is not an experience that either of us had growing up, but it thoroughly cemented our love for the fruit now. We went ahead and purchased a whole assortment of dates and made our own make-shift taste test. We tasted the different varieties of dried dates and ranked them so we know which ones we prefer best in the future. During our stays, we tried them with coffee, tea, honey, nut butters, and all by themselves. It felt like our whole visit was viewed through date-colored glasses.
Even at the Souq Sharq, which was large and filled with some chain stores we were familiar with and several ones we were not, we enjoyed picking up a platter of Turkish sweets and eating them while overlooking the water. We did our best to get pictures of our sweet and savory dishes so that our Gastronomy posts for this cuisine are all dishes we have tried ourselves, especially since we loved so many of them.
We did do more than eat while we were here. One day in Bahrain, we got the opportunity to visit the Al-Fateh Mosque. In order to tour, I was asked to don an abaya. An abaya is a black, long-sleeved, floor-length dress that covered my whole outfit. This is worn in addition to my headscarf. The office had a whole closet of robes for me to pick from which made the process very easy. This was also a first for us because we got to have a guided tour through the mosque. Our tour guide explained the different parts of the building’s construction and where they sourced their materials for the woodwork, chandelier crystals, and hand-woven carpet.
On the side of the carpet, there were zones designated for teaching lessons. Our guide used one of the presentation areas to give us tourists a breakdown of the origins of Islamic beliefs and some of the rituals/steps that happen before and during the daily call to prayer. This was the first time someone had sat us down and given us so much information, and we really appreciated being able to immerse more authentically and learn first-hand about this place of worship.
Besides that, we spent much of our time here walking around the cities. We put miles into our shoes wandering up and down the avenues taking in the sights and smells. We made sure to take note of the most famous aspects of the city skylines, like the Kuwait towers and Bahraini World Trade Center. I am so glad we had the time to enjoy both of these nations and learn more, first-hand, about their history and culture.
Now our time here has come to an end, and our backpacks are packed. The next country on our list is known for being the center of trade for frankincense since 5000 BC. We look forward to reporting back on everything we enjoy there. Any guesses about where we are off to next?