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July 2010

In Praise Of: Friday Brunch

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring the good, bad, unusual aspects of expat life in Bahrain!

IMG_3476  One of the weekend pleasures of life in Bahrain is Friday Brunch. This awesome local tradition is a great way to kick off the weekend. Nearly every 4 & 5 star hotel in Bahrain offers it's own version of the Bahrain Brunch, but they all have two things in common: all-you-can eat food, and all-you-can-drink champagne... 

Last weekend, a new friend invited us to Friday Brunch at the Golden Tulip Hotel. The brunch costs 19 BD (Bahraini Dinars), or about $51 per person. Friday Brunch ain't cheap, so it's something people usually only do once a month. But we definitely got our money's worth. The Golden Tulip's brunch is famous for its seafood, including the local fish, Hammour. Mr. Crab personally ate one fish, two lobsters, several grilled shrimp, and countless oysters and other critters of the sea.  You meander through the rows and rows of fresh fish, pick your poison, hand it to one of the cooks and he takes it outside to throw on the grill. Mrs. Crab enjoyed a filet mignon, other yummy treats and TWO candy floss -- that's Cotton Candy for my fellow Americans!!  The brunch at the Tulip runs from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. It starts rather quietly but by 2pm as the champagne is flowing like a river, the Filipino Band is in full swing, women are dancing in the aisles and kids (and a few adults) are running around with face painting and balloon animals. And I'm told the Golden Tulip is actually pretty tame compared to the Diplomat Hotel's brunch (it's on our To Do list). 

Every hotel brunch scene has it's own specialities and atmosphere. We're told the Diplomat is the party place, but the Movenpick supposedly has the best food on the island. We'll be testing those opinions for ourselves in the future. For a complete list and review of Bahrain Friday Brunches, check out this great article from Time Out Bahrain. 

Here's some more photos of Friday Brunch. 

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Bahrain: A month of "firsts"

IMG_3417   From Mr. Crab:  We've been rather remiss about updating this blog lately. My job at the embassy has been very, very busy. And Mrs. Crab has been very, very busy setting up our new home and making friends.

As an Entry Level Officer, I am quite surprised at how much responsibility and trust I have been given.A few months ago, I couldn't imagine life after A-100. Now I'm putting to practice what we learned at the Foreign Service Institute.  In less than three weeks at post, I've represented the Embassy and United States Government and meetings and receptions. I've met with dignitaries, sheiks and Bahraini and American business leaders. This week, I wrote and disseminated my first diplomatic cable. 

Over the past 25 days, we've been setting into Bahrain, exploring our little island-nation.On weekends and occasionally after work, we've been sampling Bahrain's plethora of restaurants, bars, lounges and shopping malls, from JJ's bar to Bushido's. We've paid $25 per person to see "Inception" in a movie in a "VIP" cinema, smoked fruity tobacco in a shisha bar, got our satellite TV and Internet Wi-Max hooked up. We signed up for loyalty cards and restaurants and shops around town. Yesterday, we attended another great Bahrain tradition: Friday Brunch with all-you-can-drink champagne. Today, we bought a car...the first time we've owned an automobile in more than five years.  Over the next few months, we'll profile various cool places and faces in Bahrain.  

A few scenes from Bahrain:

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Greetings from Bahrain!

IMG_3343 So, it's been about 2 1/2 years since I began this road to the Foreign Service and now we've finally arrived at our first post: Manama, Bahrain.  Our last week in America was a complete blur, as we were so busy preparing the last few days.

On Wednesday we boarded the 11-hour flight from Washington to Kuwait, followed by a 90 minute layover, then a short flight hop to Bahrain. (And can I just say that United Business class ROCKS! Thank goodness for Mileage Plus frequent flyer miles.) 

Our first impression of Bahrain came from the gleaming, modern international airport. We were met at the airport by an awesome employee from the US Embassy known as LES (Locally-Engaged Staff; previously known as FSNs or Foreign Service Nationals), who whisked us through the customs and immigration paperwork and helped with our luggage. Outside, our incredible sponsor met us and then we were escorted to our new home.  For security reasons I can't really say much about it other than to say, we love our new house and neighborhood!

We've spent the past few days exploring our little island. So far we're pleasantly surprised at the amount of great restaurants, bars, pubs and shopping malls galore. Bahrain must have the most shopping malls per capita than any place on Earth, with name-brand American and European shops from H&M and Carrefour to Kenneth Cole and Virgin. And there's no shortage of familiar fast food chains including Hardees, McDonalds, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Papa Johns and Chili's. Alcohol is mainly only sold in restaurants and bars that are attached to hotels, but the beer loving and resourceful Two Crabs have already discovered a few unsigned "off-license" liquor stores around the island. As for restaurants, the foodie Crabs highly recommend Casa Mexicana, which has a real Mexican chef and decent Mexican and Tex-Mex favorites. Also Sherlock Holmes pub at the Gulf Hotel is a nice pub with British pub grub and Guinness on tap.

IMG_3329  On Saturday we took the afternoon to do a bit of sightseeing. We drove about 45 minutes to the desert to see the infamous Tree of Life (above) and Oil Pump #1, where oil was first discovered in the Middle East in 1932, right here in Bahrain.  There is also an oil museum which unfortunately was closed on our visit. Driving in Bahrain takes some practice as people drive like crazy (but not as crazy as India) and there are hundreds of traffic circles (roundabouts); driving in Washington DC is great practice for Bahrain! 

We've also explored the grocery stores. Unlike our old grocery stores in London, the Bahrain grocery stores actually carry a good selection of American food and other groceries.  A few grocery stores also sell pork products in hidden "Sin Corners" in the back of the store. 

The most shocking surprise about Bahrain has been high cost of living.  It's an expensive place, way more expensive than Washington DC and only slightly less expensive than London.  Fresh fruit and veggies are especially pricey. A pound of fresh California red grapes is $11!!  And a pint of beer is about $6.  The only thing that's cheap here is gasoline (about 95 cents a gallon) and tobacco (about $18 for a carton of Marlboro Lights). 

Happy Birthday, America!  As my first official duty as a Foreign Service Officer, I'll be working at the Independence Day embassy party. Tomorrow is my first official full day on the job as an FSO. Wish me luck.

Friendly Reminder: NDA!

Congratulations to everyone who passed the most recent round of the Foreign Service Officers Test (FSOT). HOWEVER, it's come to my attention that many new candidates are either unaware or simply choose to ignore the seriousness of the NDA: The Non-Disclosure Agreement.  Several people have either posted comments on my blog or sent me private e-mails that are in clear violation of the NDA.  Let me remind you that when you took the FSOT, you had to sign a mandatory document that promised you would not reveal the specific contents of the exam including specific questions, essay topics, etc., in any format whatsoever including blogs, posts, comments, e-mails, posts on the FS Yahoo boards, phone calls or even private conversations with your friends. The Department of State's Board of Examiners (BEX) takes violations very seriously. VIOLATIONS OF THE NDA CAN AND WILL RESULT IN THE TERMINATION OF YOUR FOREIGN SERVICE CANDIDACY.

Thank you for your attention. 

PS: Please note that the comments feature on my blog is now moderated. If you post a comment, it will not be visible until I personally read and approve every comment.